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Moving to France

More Details coming soon as I complete the process during the spring/summer of 2024

You have visited this country, and loved it as much as I do, so is it time for you to think about moving to France?

Below, I will spell out what I have learned in researching my own move.  While doing my own research, I found it very frustrating that so many expats will sell you on the fantasy of moving to France, but not explain the reality. I hope I can provide a balance here so you can decide if the reality is something that you would still want to move forward with.  

My experience will be moving from the U.S., so your experience may be different coming from other countries.  But, largely, many of the issues and processes will be the same. 

Timeline

There are many steps in the process.  I hope my experience will help you make it easier. I am listing my personal timeline in hopes that it may make it easier for you to plan. 

Book an Airbnb for a temporary address - April 9th

submit the online Visa application and make appointment - April 10th

buy travel health insurance for July 13th start date - April 11th

Get bids for moving the car and goods - April 

Appointment for visa - May 15th

Drop car off at the port for shipping - July 12th

Overnight flight to Paris - July 12th

Arrive in Paris and take train to destination - July 13th

Pick up car at port - 

Buy car insurance for the EU -

Register car - 

Get driver's license -  

 Sign up for healthcare - 

Budgeting

It is important to find out what it really cost to move to, and live in France. If you are reading a blog, or watching a video that just talks about rent, metro card, and food; then you do not have to full picture. After all, are those the only expenses you have at home? Why would it be different in France? There are so many things to remember to include, like utilities, insurance, visa fees, etc. 

If you are moving to a city like Paris or Lyon or Bordeaux, then you are probably coming for the culture, so why not include expenses like annual museum passes? If you are planning on exploring the countryside, why not include the monthly cost of gas/petrol? After all, it is much more expensive then in the U.S. Plus, do not forget about road tolls. They are ubiquitous in France, and not cheap.  

Also, don't forget to add in the cost of a possible scouting trip. Unless you are willing to sign up for a home without visiting, you may need to budget for a trip to France to find somewhere to live.  You need to do this ahead of time for a couple of reasons. First, you need an address for your visa application. Second, if you are bringing things with you, you need an address to ship them to before you send them from your current home.  A way around this is to book a temporary address like an Airbnb, then change it once you find permanent housing. Also, if you are indeed shipping your goods overseas, you could send them to a storage facility if you don't have an address yet.  

Additionally, unless there is a French consulate in your hometown, you will need to budget for a trip to the consulate city for the visa application interview in person.

Passport photos $19.83

Fees to VFS Global including $200 premium for using the Seattle office $227.83

 Travel Health Insurance for a year  $564

One way flight to Paris from New York $540.80

Train to Avignon from airport

Visa fees payable to France $108 (99 Euros)

Courier fees for return of passport $35

Shipping car*

rental upfront fees

rental deposit

car registration

buying appliances

shipping or replacing household goods

*shipping my car was from Newark, NJ to Le Havre, France. I chose that route because it was cheaper and faster. That was despite the fact that I was moving from Seattle to southern France. So, I had to add in expenses to travel with my car across The States, then across France, which were not inconsiderable. But, still worth it to save the time and money on the shipping route.  So, in my car shipping total, I am including the expenses of gas for the trip across The States. Also, the train to Le Havre, plus one night in a hotel in Le Havre. Finally, the petrol and tolls to get back to Southern France.

On a personal note, for me, the decision was made easier by the fact that I also wanted to do a 3 week cross country trip anyway to visit friends and family around The States before I headed to France.

Health Insurance

Carrying health insurance will be mandatory when you move to France, and the insurance you have in The States will not suffice. 

If you are going to France for work, after 90 days, you will be able to enroll in PUMA, the national system, but for those first 90 days, you will need private insurance.  To meet the minimum requirement to get my visa, you need to show insurance paid for the first year with coverage of at least $30,000.  I was able to purchase a year's worth of travel health insurance. It will not provide me with traditional insurance benefits in health care, but it will get me into the country. I chose Visa Travel Insurance through Mutuaide, and the cost was $564 for a full year. This coverage will just essentially get me treated and repatriated if I get sick or injured.  Once I arrive, I will look for full service insurance options. 

Applying for a long stay visa

This is a process that will have to be done while in your home country. You cannot apply for this visa while in France. So, allow for some time. It may take from a few weeks, to a few months. And, unless you want to spend extra money for at home services (starting at $1000), you will need to visit one of the Consular cities around the country (there are 9 of them). I got lucky, as there is also a service in Seattle for a slight premium. For just $200 extra, I can apply in Seattle instead of traveling to a consular city like San Francisco.

The first step is to submit an application online and set up an interview appointment. The recommendation from the embassy is that you should allow at least 2 weeks, but no more than 3 months before you intend to be in France. To complete this process, part of it was on the website for VFS Global, and part was on the French consular site.

  visa.vfsglobal.com/usa/en/fra/apply-visa

france-visas.gouv.fr/en-US/web/france-visas/

I submitted the application online 3 months ahead, but the first available appointment was 6 weeks out. So, plan accordingly.

To fill out the application, you will need an address in France, along with a phone number and email address. I am using the Airbnb I booked for my first week.  Later, after getting to France, there is a required online registration where I can change the address.

Items needed for the application interview

Passport must have at least 2 blank pages, and expire at least 3 months after the end of your long stay period. You must also scan every page of the passport that has stamps in it.

Passport photos (sized for French standards - not the same as the US passport photo)

Bank statements for the last 3 months to prove you have the income or savings to pay for living in France.

Proof of health insurance to cover you for the year that you will be apply for. Travel health insurance with coverage up to $30,000 will suffice. Your insurance from home will not work. 

Proof of accommodation (a deed, lease, or letter from someone providing your housing).  However, this doesn't have to necessarily be a permanent address. I am going through the process using an Airbnb while I look for a place to rent.

 

My appointment on May 15th had a hiccup as they sent me to the wrong place. But, after figuring out where to finally go, I arrived a bit late. Luckily, it was in the same building and they were running even later. Once the appointment started about 40 minutes late, it went quite smoothly. They collected the list of documents that I prepared, asked a few clarifying questions, took my fingerprints, collected payment; and that was it. It took 15-20 minutes.  I am told it will take 15 business days to complete now, and in the meantime, I will get text and email updates along the way.        

 

Finding a home

I will focus on renting here, as that is what most people will do upon first arrival, including myself.

Possibly the most exciting, and also most daunting part of the process.  There will be some interesting nuances here, like the fact that French rentals often do not come with appliances like an oven, a dishwasher or a refrigerator, so budget for buying those after arrival. Also, if you are coming from The States, you will not be used to having to pay upfront agent fees when getting a rental property. These can range from a little under $1000 to more than $2000 (normally based on he size of the rental home). Plus, paying the initial rent and deposits. 

So, when you add up the initial rent, security deposit, agent fees, and possible appliances; you may have to shell out a bit of money up front. 

Open a bank account

You are going to have bills to pay in France, and will need a bank account to handle that. As well as opening the account, you will need to fill it from home by transferring money.  Finding a way to transfer money from your home currency at an affordable rate will be an important step in budgeting.  

Moving time!

You must consider shipping costs, import fees, storage fees. Also, do not discount the challenge of waiting for 1 -2 months for your household goods to arrive.  Setting up timing will be one of the challenges, as your goods coming by ship could easily be weeks late. Therefore, you will have expenses of temporary housing, and likely buying some new things to supplement yours, and to hold you over while waiting.  

Many people simply choose not to move goods over, but to start over in France.  This can be tempting to avoid the hassles of shipping, but don't discount how much you will need to spend to start over with an entire household.  For myself, this is the route I am choosing. I do not have that many things as I have pared down due to years of full time travel. I essentially have enough things for a one bedroom apartment, yet the bids I received for moving those things to a new home in France ranged from $5600 to over $14,000. At the low end, I am expecting overages and extra port fees that would take the total price to about $7000. I cannot justify that cost so I will be spending that instead on new things when I arrive. My decision was also made a little easier because I am taking my car in a container, and I will be able to put a few things in the car.  

To alleviate some of the costs, you can also look for fully furnished rentals. But, then you will be limited as to what you can choose. 

You may find that 30-40% of the rentals are "furnished". Which sounds like great news. But, "furnished" is a generous term in French rentals. Most of these homes will include only very basic furnishings, and you will still be forced to purchase many things. Many "furnished" rentals will actually not include any furniture. But, they will include kitchen appliances. 

The reason they are listed as "furnished" is that furnished homes can be rented for one year. In France, an "unfurnished" home has to be rented for a 3 year term and many landlords do not want that long term commitment.  Especially because rights for renters in France are strong, and a landlord may not want to be stuck for 3 years with a problem renter. 

Set up Utilities

Whether you rent or buy, you will still need electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash, and internet services.  Many rentals will include some of these services like sewer and trash, sometimes even water and occasionally heat.  But, at the very least, you will need electricity and internet.  And, again, you will need a French bank account to set up these services.

Getting a French phone number

You may find this helpful while trying to conduct business there such as banking and utilities. There are plans in The States that will allow you to keep your American number for a while (i.e. Google or T-Mobile One World), but eventually, they will object to the permanent roaming and cut off service. Both of the mentioned plans above have a stated rule that any data in a single month needs to be at least 50% from your home country. So, you can see that the second month may be a challenge.  Now, to be precise, I have spent months at a time abroad with my T-Mobile plan, and they haven't cut me off yet.

But, eventually, you will want a phone number from France.  

Registering your car
Getting a driver's license

You can bring a vehicle into the European Union for up to 180 days without officially importing it. But, if you plan to stay longer than that, you will need to import and register your car. 

This can be a tedious process and that is why there are paid services to help you.

For your driver's license; one from home will work for a year, but after that, you should get a French license. Luckily, you will not have to take the extensive driver courses. You can get a French driver's license with the information from your American license. 

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