Moving to France (FAQs): Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to important and frequently asked questions about living in France and moving to France from someone whose done it already.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  
FAQ: Frequently asked questions about living in France and moving to France
FAQ: Frequently asked questions about living in France and moving to France

Whether you’re planning on moving to France or already living in France, it’s normal to have questions. 

I’ve prepared answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about moving to France and living in France, from visas and housing to cost of living, enrolling kids in school, and more. 

Before Moving to France

FAQ: Questions and Answers about moving to France and what to do after Living in France

Moving to France, or any other country, can be an exciting and life-changing experience filled with new adventures. However, it’s also a confusing path full of unanswered questions and unique challenges.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to prepare as much as you can before you embark on this road and prepare not only for the procedures involved in relocating to France but also for setting up your life while living in France.

Understanding these things and having a plan can help you prepare better and ensure a smoother transition to your new life in France. I should know I made plenty of mistakes.

No matter how much you prepare, there will always be hiccups and issues, but by preparing, you can minimize all that.

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Visas

Q: How do I obtain a visa or residence permit to live in France?

A: Tourist visas only allow you to visit France for a period of 90 days within a 180-day period. To legally live in France for an extended period, you’ll need to obtain a visa. There are several visas to choose from, and the one you choose will depend on your situation, the purpose of your stay, length, and sometimes the country you are from. Common visas include student visas, work visas, and long-stay visas.

You must apply for your French visa at the nearest French consulate or embassy in YOUR home country before moving to France. Another thing to keep in mind is you normally cannot apply for your visas more than six months in advance. Most visas are renewable, which you can do from within France. 

Consult the French consulate or embassy in your home country to understand the specific requirements and application process.

What kind of visa do I need to live in France legally?

Housing

Q: How do I find a place to rent in France?

A: Finding a home apartment to rent in France is not that different from finding a place to live in your home country. But if you’re doing it from afar, it can be quite tricky, especially if you are not already established in France.

Local Online Platforms: You can use online platforms such as leboncoin.fr and SeLoger.fr. But these work better for locals already established and living in France, in my opinion. The main reason is that landlords have certain expectations for renting their property which foreigners normally can’t meet such as such as having a French guarantor or proof of income in France.

There are. However, certain online portals that specialize in renting to people without all that rental formality, and more and more are popping up all the time. We had luck in the very beginning using a site called Sabbatical Homes. Some new ones to keep an eye on are HomeAlike and Housinganywhere.

Rental Agency: Another option is to use a rental agency that specializes in helping foreigners find rental properties in France. They can assist with the language barrier and the paperwork needed to secure a rental property.

One of my best pieces of advice is to go to forums where expats congregate, such as Expat.com and InterNations, which have a housing section with listings and advice for newcomers.

More detailed articles are coming soon on how to rent an apartment or house in France as a foreigner.

Q: What’s the best place to live in France with the best quality of living

A: France has this mystical reputation for its high quality of life, excellent healthcare, education, and cultural opportunities. However, like all countries, France has areas where the quality of life may be lower than what you are used to.

These areas are typically concentrated in larger cities, with higher cost of living, traffic congestion, and limited green spaces. France also has many economically disadvantaged areas, often characterized by higher unemployment rates and lower income levels. These areas face social challenges; public services like schools and healthcare facilities may have limited resources.

When considering where to live in France, it’s important to research specific regions and neighbourhoods thoroughly, taking into account your priorities and preferences, but don’t get too bogged down in the details. 

City Life in France-Exploring 10 Biggest French Cities to visit or live in 

Q: What do I do with my house when I move to France?

A: If you own your home, I highly recommend renting your home out while you live in France for several reasons. 

  • Income Generation: A steady source of income which can help cover your living expenses in France.
  • Offsetting Costs: If you have a mortgage on your home, renting it out can help offset the monthly mortgage payments.
  • Future Flexibility: If you’re not planning on living in France forever, renting your home out instead of selling it means you’ll have a place to move back into. 
  • Tax Benefits: Depending on the tax laws in your home country and France, there may be tax advantages to renting out your property, such as deductions on mortgage interest or property taxes.

How I manage my rental properties remotely while living abroad

Q: Should I bring all of my belongings with me to France or sell/donate some items?

A: The answer to this depends on a few factors. We chose to keep our things when we moved to France because we thought we would return after one year. Had we known we were going to live in France for over a decade, maybe forever, we might have taken a different course of action. If I had to do it all over again, I would have sold most of our furniture and belongings except for the sentimental things and heirlooms. 

Whatever you decide to do, you should start the process months in advance. 

Tips on how to downsize and declutter your house before moving (in 30 days)

Living in France: Getting setup

Healthcare

It’s a well-known fact that France has an excellent healthcare system and medical coverage. It’s called “Sécurité Sociale” or “La Sécu” for anyone not -employed by a French company, and “Assurance Maladie” is the healthcare coverage for employees working for a French company, which is the French National health insurance. 

The French healthcare system will normally cover 70% of the fees for a doctor’s visit and 80% of hospital costs. 

Q: How do I get public health care coverage in France?

A: If you’re not an EU citizen and plan on living in France for more than three months, you’ll first need to get private health insurance as part of your French visa application. Once you have your visa and arrive in France, you can then apply for French healthcare coverage once you become a resident, which is three months. If you have a job lined up in France, health insurance may be part of your employment package. 

EU citizens who have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can access the French healthcare system right away but should still need to register with the French social security system if they plan on living in France for six months or more. 

Money

Q: How much does it cost to live in France?

A: I hate this question because it depends on so many variables, from region, lifestyle and personal factors such as if you have children or special needs. It is safe to assume that larger cities like Paris are much more expensive compared to smaller towns and rural areas in terms of housing, groceries, entertainment and transportation. 

If you come from a small rural town, you’ll definitely get sticker shock in Paris, but if you are from London, the San Francisco bay area, you’ll  be used to the high cost of living in Paris. 

I wrote an article about how much it cost our family of five to lie in Marseille, France, for 12 months, broken down into categories. 

Cost of Living In France for the year: Our actual detailed Cost Breakdown

Since rent usually represents the largest part of a person’s budget, let’s look at the average prices for a 2-bedroom apartment in the center of 9 major cities in France based on data from rental listings and real estate websites.

  1. Paris:  €1,500 to €3,500 per month. Prices increase dramatically in more desirable and affluent areas. 
  2. Marseille: €800 and €1,500 per month.
  3. Lyon: €1,200 to €2,500 per month.
  4. Montpellier: €900 to €1,600 per month, depending on the location and property type.
  5. Toulouse:  €900 and €1,800 per month.
  6. Nice:€1,200 to €2,500 per month.
  7. Cannes: €1,500 to €3,500 per month
  8. Bordeaux: €1,000 and €2,000 per month.
  9. Lille:  €900 and €1,800 per month.

Q: What is the most cost-effective and secure way to transfer money internationally?

A: When planning your move to France, you likely have to transfer money internationally from your bank in your home country to your French bank account. While you could send yourself a wire transfer, it’s actually the most expensive way to transfer money for several reasons. The most important is that they don’t give you the best exchange rates, and they are not transparent about their fees. This is especially true of Paypal. Never use your PayPal account to transfer money internationally into another currency. It’s even more expensive. 

Instead, use an online money transfer platform. These platforms bypass excessive bank charges and give the real exchange rate. I have been using an online money transfer company called Wise for years. 

For more information, read my guide on the Cheapest way to transfer money internationally. (Hint: it’s not your bank.)

Taxes

Q: Do expats have to file taxes in France?

A: You are generally required to file your first tax return after you become a tax resident, which is after your first full calendar year living in France. This means that if you move to France in 2024, you will become a tax resident in 2025 and must file your first tax return in 2026 for the previous year.

However, tax rules can be complex, and specific requirements may vary depending on your circumstances, such as your income sources and whether you have any tax treaties between your home country and France. Always consult with a tax advisor who can help you file your taxes, which you can do yourself, or hire a local accountant who specializes in expat taxes

French tax authorities (Direction générale des finances publiques or DGFIP) 

Q: How do I handle my taxes if I have income from sources outside of France?

A: If you have income from sources outside of France, yes, you need to declare it for tax purposes once you become a tax resident of France. France has tax treaties with many countries to prevent double taxation. 

Do US citizens living abroad have to pay income tax?

My Taxes For Expats Review For Americans Living Abroad: Are They Legit?

Kids

Q: What is the education system like in France?

France offers a high-quality education system for children of expats moving to France.

A: France has a high-quality education system, including public, private, and international schools. Public schools follow the French curriculum, while private and international schools may have different teaching approaches. An example is Montessori schools. International schools will teach a bilingual or multilingual curriculum, usually in English and French, but many other options also exist, such as German and French, Italian and French, and Spanish and French. Research the options available in your region and consider your child’s needs when choosing an educational institution.

Q: What is the cost of education for expat children in France?

A: Public schools in France are free, even for children of expat parents moving to France. However, private and international schools have tuition fees.

The most affordable private schools in France are almost always Catholic schools because they are subsidized by the government, costing anywhere from 500 euros per year at the elementary level to 3k to 5k per year at the high school level. International schools can be public or private.

Public international schools are free, but Private international schools are on the higher end, roughly 7k to 30k per year for more elite schools. Again, research schools in your area and their fee structures if you plan to send your children to private or international institutions.

Work

Q: What are the typical working hours in France?

A: The standard workweek in France is 35 hours. Job opportunities vary by region and industry. Major cities offer more job options, especially in tech, healthcare, and hospitality.

Q: How can I increase my chances of finding a job in France?

To increase your chances of finding a job in France, focus on French fluency and Customize your resume (called a CV in France) the way French employers are used to seeing, which may differ from your home country. Research industries, utilize job search platforms, and stay patient and persistent.

Want To Find A Job In France? Here’s How To Create A French CV / Resume

French Culture

Q: What are the cultural expectations regarding tipping in France?

A: Tipping is a little nuanced in France. It’s not expected or required like it is in some countries, such as the US and Canada. And when people do choose to leave tips, it’s nowhere near 15% to 20%. It’s very common for people in France not to leave a tip. When people do choose to leave a tip for good service, it’s usually a euro or two for a meal in a restaurant or to round up and leave the change for a café you drank on a restaurant terrace. Leaving 15% to 20% for a tip is unheard of except by tourists, usually from the USA or Canada. 

A guide to tipping in France!

Q: Are there any cultural norms or etiquette I should know?

A: There are many French cultural norms that may differ from yours. For one, French culture values politeness and has strong rituals around food. Here are a few that stand out. 

Cheek kisses: Greetings amongst friends often involve cheek kisses, called “la bise.”

Say Bonjour: It’s also a must to say “Bonjour” (hello) when entering a room, before ordering your baguette at the French boulangerie, and even at the bus driver as you get on board. Learning and respecting these cultural norms will help you integrate more smoothly.

The French Apero: Aperos, short for “apéritif,” is a French tradition and social ritual that takes place in the early evening, typically around 6 or 7 PM, before dinner. It’s a time for friends and family to gather, relax, and unwind after work. During apero hour, it’s common to enjoy a glass of wine, beer, or aperitif drink like pastis, often accompanied by small snacks such as olives, nuts, or cheese.

APÉRO: French aperitif traditions demystified: A beginners guide

Weird French traditions and customs: Normal in France but strange to tourists

Language

Q: Is it necessary to learn French to live in France?

A: While you can get by with English in larger French cities and areas with large expat communities, learning at least basic French is highly recommended. It will make daily life easier and help you integrate into the local culture more effectively and build relationships, especially if you want to find employment opportunities.

Q: What are the best ways to learn French while living in the country?

The best way to learn French is through a combination of formal study and immersion, and here’s why. 

  • Formal Study gives you the foundation you need in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. 
  • Immersion allows you to apply what you’ve learned in real-life situations through speaking, listening, and understanding the language with contexts which helps you develop fluency, and confidence to understand and communicate effectively in a variety of situations. 

How you go about doing these things will depend on how much time you have, your budget, and whether you live in a French-speaking country or have access to native speakers. Here are some suggestions. 

  • Watch French movies on YouTube.
  • Take formal classes or higher a tutor.
  • Learn French with Pimsleur or another language app.
  • Find a language exchange partner. There are sites for this, like HelloTalk .
  • Read French newspapers, books, online publications, etc.
  • If living in France, make French friends; don’t just stick with those who speak your language.

FRENCH IN ACTION: Yale’s Free cult French Video Lessons

Q: How long will it take me to learn French?

A: I think you already know the answer to this and that it really depends on so many factors, such as your age, how much you study, and your aptitude for learning languages. 

I’ve written a comprehensive article about this topic. 

How long does it take to learn French? Why you may never be fluent

Food

Q: I’m a vegan; how hard is it to live in France?

A: Living in France as a vegan is doable but can have challenges. While major cities like Montpellier and Paris have seen an increase in vegan-friendly restaurants and grocery store options, traditional French cuisine is often centred around meat and dairy. However, you can still find vegan-friendly eateries, and most supermarkets carry plant-based products, such as Beyond burgers, coconut or soy yogurts, and even soy-based or nut-based cheeses. Learning some basic French phrases related to veganism and dietary preferences can also be helpful when dining out. So, while it may require some extra effort, being a vegan in France is entirely possible.

Related: French grocery stores and supermarkets in France: A tourist guide

Transportation and travel

Q: Can I use my foreign driver’s license to drive in France?

A: Yes, you can typically use your foreign driver’s license to drive in France, but there are some conditions and exceptions. If you are a tourist or visitor with a valid driver’s license from your home country, you can use it to drive in France for up to one year from your entry date. However, suppose your license is not in French or accompanied by a certified translation. In that case, carrying an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) along with your license is recommended, as it can provide additional verification of your driving credentials. Remember that if you become a resident of France, you may need to exchange your foreign driver’s license for a French one after a certain period. But not all countries can do this. It’s recommended to check with the French authorities or your local embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date and specific information regarding driver’s license requirements in France based on your situation.
Driving in France as a tourist: Must know the rules of the road

Q: What is the transportation system like in France?

A: France has an extensive and well-connected public transportation system, including trains, buses, trams, and metros. A car is not always necessary, especially in urban areas such as Lyon, Paris and Montpellier because of public transportation. Most major cities also have bike-sharing programs. The national rail service, SNCF, also has excellent connectivity across the country.

Banking

Q: Can I open a bank account in France?

A: Yes, many banks in France allow expatriates to open bank accounts, and having a French bank account is important for several reasons, especially if you live, work, or study in France. For example, if you’re employed in France, your employer will typically ask for your “French bank identification number,” called a RIB, to set up salary transfers. When you open a bank account, you’ll automatically receive your RIB, which is short for “Relevé d’Identité Bancaire.” 

When you set up utilities, sign up for public French health insurance, or make automatic bill payments, you’ll also need your bank RIB, including to receive tax refunds and social benefits.

You’ll typically need proof of address, identification, and sometimes a French tax number to open a French bank account. 

Other

Frequently asked questions about moving to France and Living in France

Becoming a French citizen

Q: How do I learn about and apply for French citizenship?

A: Becoming a French citizen typically involves residing in France for several years, demonstrating integration, and passing a language and culture test. The specific requirements can vary based on factors such as your family situation and nationality. Consult the French government’s website or a legal expert for precise information.

Q: What are the best ways to meet people and make friends as an expat in France?

A: Joining local clubs, taking language classes, and attending social events are great ways to meet expats and locals. Online expat forums and social media groups can also be valuable for connecting with others in your area.

If you have children, get involved with the school, especially volunteering to be a parent chaperone for school outings. You’ll meet lots of other parents who can potentially become friends. Another way to meet friends is through work. Or just becoming a regular at a local hang-out.

Meet your neighbours: What Happens On Neighbours Day In France at La Fête Des Voisins?

Wrapping up common questions about living in France:

Living in France is an incredible adventure packed with culture, vibrant cities, and stunning scenery. But let’s be real: saying goodbye to friends and family can be tough. However, don’t let that stop you from embracing the chance to dive into a new way of life, discover France’s beauty, and soak up its amazing culture. It’s a journey worth taking!

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Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog annieandre.com for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.

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