Expat's Guide to France

France remains a hugely popular destination for expats. The country offers something for everyone with its breadth of terrain, lifestyle, rich history, and culture. Whether a young family, retiree or somewhere in between, France is the perfect destination for moving abroad.

Living in France - Pros & Cons

France has long been popular with people of varying stages of life and from many countries. Over 200,000 UK citizens live in France, and the country has consistently been near the top of most expat surveys.

Pros

  • Access

    For UK citizens France has always been very convenient by ferry, Eurotunnel and Eurostar. And the cost of crossing the Channel is reasonably priced. For Europeans, France is one of the most accessible destinations. It has land borders with eight different countries, and the rest accessing France is a short flight or train journey.

    Once in France, excellent road and rail infrastructure means getting to your final destination will be quick and easy.

  • Diverse Landscape
    No matter your personality and interests, France has such a diverse range of landscapes and climates there will be an area of France that is the perfect spot for you.
  • Lifestyle
    Whatever your lifestyle preferences, France has something for everyone. Beautiful beach resorts for sunny retirement, stunning mountains and valleys for walkers and ideal climates for green-fingered gardeners.
  • Fresh food and excellent wines

    France’s exquisite cuisine has been declared part of the world’s heritage by the United Nations. You will find fresh food markets in every city, town or village. Most neighbourhoods have a boulangerie selling fresh bread, cheese, small grocery as well as a butcher.

    Integral to French life, the norm is a glass of delicious wine with lunch and dinner. You’ll be spoilt for choice.

  • A better quality of life
    OECD index ranks France above average in key indicators – income, wealth, housing, healthcare, security, and work-life balance.
  • Space
    More than twice the size of the UK, but a population not much bigger than the UK, there is plenty more space! And one of the reasons property prices in rural areas has remained very low.
  • Property Bargains

    There is plenty of accommodation, pretty much anywhere in France. While properties are not quite at bargain-basement levels, they are considerably below UK averages. For many years the French property market has been relatively static in rural locations outside major cities and tourist hotspots. You can still find beautiful houses needing some renovation for excellent prices.

    While travel rights may have changed for Brits after Brexit, your property rights have not. French property owners based in the UK continue to have the same full rights to their property.

  • Beautiful Weather
    While France enjoys all four seasons, it also enjoys long hot summers and generally more sunshine than the UK. And plenty of snow for the ski resorts.
  • Safety & Security
    Many expats choose France because there is less crime and can give their children more freedom.

Cons

  • Lack of amenities in more rural locations

    France has a lower cost of living compared to countries like the UK. While grocery costs are roughly at the same level as in the UK, eating out is cheaper, particularly in the countryside. And of course, the wine is less expensive and probably of better quality than exported wines.

    France is not a good choice compared to popular retirement destinations Portugal, Cyprus, Spain, and Greece. However, a France lifestyle has distinct benefits over these competing destinations. In more rural locations, you’ll find the quality of life is much higher, while the cost of living is much more affordable.

  • Bureaucracy
    Notably, during the initial phases of a move overseas, many find the bureaucracy frustrating, overwhelming and more. Overly complex paperwork in a foreign language, it is only natural that many find France’s unique bureaucracy annoying.
  • Language
    In Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Greece, a retiree can have a fulfilling and hassle-free life without learning the local language as most locals will speak English in these destinations. For anyone moving to France, you are highly recommended to learn French to get the most out of a new life in France.

Residency

Non-EU nationals

UK citizens can stay a maximum of 90 days in 180 days without requiring a visa. For extended stays shorter than 12 months, you will need to apply for a short-stay visa. For durations up to three years, you will need a long-stay visa.

If you plan to retire to France from a non-EU country, such as the UK, you will need a long-stay visitor visa. This type of visa means you cannot engage in any paid work. The visa application process requires a lot of supporting documentation, particularly if you plan to become a permanent resident.

Are you thinking of setting up a B&B or some other type of business? You will need a working visa. You will be required to provide detailed information about the company’s financial viability you plan to open. Getting this type of visa is difficult.

There are companies based in France that provide ‘relocation services’, who specialise in helping foreigners through the application process. Their expertise and experience will significantly reduce stress and potentially improve your chances of success.

Residency Investments

Two investment visa programmes are currently available.

– Business Investor Talent Passport – requires an investment of €300,000 in French business.
– French Residency Programme – requires an investment of €10 million in French business.

How much money do I need when retiring to France?

To qualify for a long-stay visitor visa, you must show your income is at least €1231 net per month. However, the process considers where you plan to retire, as the cost of living in some areas is more expensive. Your lifestyle choices will dictate your actual requirement, but as a rough guide, a retired couple can live very comfortably on around €2,500 a month.

Getting a Mortgage

French banks and mortgage providers are happy to provide finance to foreigners, as well as French citizens. While still having access to mortgage finance, UK buyers may be required to meet additional requirements and restrictions.

Currently, Brits can still get LTV (loan-to-value) of around 70 – 80%, the same as EU nationals. Only French tax residents can get a 100% mortgage. The minimum loan value available from finance providers is around €150,000 for EU and UK applicants.

Education

The public education system in France is excellent. French children can start federally sponsored nursery school at the age of three. However, school is not compulsory for children until the age of 6. Permanent or EU citizens can study in a French University for practically no fees. Non-citizens can attend public universities but will have to pay.

There is a wide range of school options to choose from in France. If your child does not speak French, public schools in the larger towns and cities or expat enclaves provide language initiation classes to help them settle in their new country. In some larger cities, schools offer an international curriculum that teaches French to non-Francophone students to help them integrate.

Another option is to send them to an international language school. It tends to depend on the child’s age. Younger children pick up languages quickly.

Taxes

France has 4 tax rates, with a top rate of 41%. However, France does offer tax deductions over the UK system. Retirees will have to pay French income tax on pension or retirement fund payouts, but it gives you access to services, such as health insurance. Even if your UK pension is paid to you in the UK, you will be required to declare this income in your annual tax return.

Healthcare

French health care service is one of the best in the world, and although it is contribution-based, it runs much more efficiently than the UK’s national health service.

Doctors are well trained and helpful in France, and many speak English. If required, they will make home visits even at night.

Pharmacists in France are a good port of call for minor ailments as they are highly trained and give good advice for free. They can dress minor wounds, and some have an emergency night service.

Brits of retirement age in receiving a state pension can access healthcare in France very cheaply.

Summary

France remains a top-rated destination for moving overseas despite strong competition from countries such as Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Greece; the country’s diversity, gastronomy and charm continue to draw retirees and young families looking for a new life overseas.

While the cost of living is comparatively more expensive than other popular retirement destinations, property prices are significantly lower than the UK. And of course, France has a “je ne sais quoi”.

We are here to help…

The thought of moving to France can be daunting, with so many things to consider and do to ensure your move to France is a success. With good planning and expert help, your dream can become a reality. If you have a question or need advice – Contact us

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