Thinking of moving to France? Moving abroad can be very complicated and confusing, especially in a foreign language, but we are here to tell you that everything in France is 10x more difficult! No, just kidding – kind of! In all seriousness, things in France do tend to be just that much more confusing which is why we are here to help you get started.
Whether you are coming for just a few months on your own or plan on spending years here with your family, there are our 5 major steps that should be followed to help make your move go as smoothly as possible.
1. Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork!
Before you even think about starting the moving process, make sure that you have valid passports for everyone in your family that will be valid through at least the first year of your stay. Now make at least 3 copies of the ID page. To add to this, make sure that you have all birth certificates, marriage certificates, letters from health insurance providers stating that you will be covered abroad, full bank details plus a letter from your bank saying that you have the funds to support yourself and your family while abroad, new employment contract, letter of motivation stating why you are moving to France, and all medical records, school transcripts for your kids and any other piece of important information you can think of.
Sound overwhelming? It is at the beginning. We recommend that you have all of this organized in a folder. Originals followed by at least 2-3 copies of each. Make sure that all birth certificates and marriage certificates are all translated into French by an official translator. It is a good idea to have all letters, like your motivational letter, in French as well, however, this is not always required.
*If you are moving with children, this is the time when you should also be researching which schools to enroll them in. English-speaking schools fill up quickly in Paris so start this process early.
This is a huge topic and much depends on your employment situation as well as the reason for your move to France. What is important to know, however, is that without a job lined up in France, it is next to impossible to get a work visa. We recommend the Visa D Long-Sejour tourist visa that will allow you to live in France but not work. This is the easiest visa to be granted, aside from a student visa, and will allow you to live in the country until you have figured out an employment situation. All of the above paperwork (and probably more) will be required for this step. This is the first thing that should be accomplished before making the move. Check with your nearest French Consulate for further details.
3. Finances & Bank Account
Opening a bank account in France is a little bit of a catch-22 as most banks will not let you open an account without a visa or a residence in France. For this reason, we suggest that you speak with your bank about transferring your account to a bank in France before your arrival. If this is not an option, HSBC has an Expat system set up where you can open an international account with them from practically anywhere and have a “French” account that way before you even arrive. Barclays has a similar option.
You will also have to prove, unless you have a job, that you have enough finances to support yourself and your family for an entire year in Paris. This might take some time to gather the funds so it is worth thinking about in advance.
4. Apartment Hunting
Another thing that gets people stuck in the visa process is that some consulates require you to have an address of residency in France before your visa is issued. Some consulates will accept a hotel as temporary residency but others may not. It is worth renting a furnished apartment for a few months if you plan to stay long-term. This way you will have an address in France and have the flexibility of taking your time and visiting places yourself. If you are working with a relocation company (or us!) then you can get a letter from that company explaining that they are in charge of finding you your residence while in France.
What we recommend when looking for an apartment is to decide on a list of areas that interest you as well as a minimum size and maximum budget. When discussing a budget, it is also important to mention that there are a great deal of additional costs including renters insurance, security deposits, agency fees and, with foreign tenants, it is almost always required to have what is called a caution bancaire where you are required to put usually a year’s rent into a blocked account. All of this should be taken into consideration when defining your apartment budget.
5. La Vie Quotidienne
Once all of the major hurdles are taken care of, now you can start the search for all of the smaller things that you need to make France feel like home. Whether it is finding a dog walker, making sure your kids are enrolled in the right schools, getting a gym membership, cell phone contracts or setting up your home internet. None of these can be taken care of until the first 4 steps are done, so hold off until you are set to go!
While this is just a simplified version of everything that you need to make the big move to France, you should be able to categorize everything into these general steps. Nothing in France can be done without a bank account and you can’t enter the country without that visa so get organized and we are here if you get stuck along the way.