river in the foreground, stone bridge and stone church in the middle of the photo and green hills in the background

Moving to France on a Long Stay Tourist Visa

Moving to France on a Long Stay Tourist Visa, Episode 192

In this episode Claire and Annie chat about how Claire and her husband moved to France on a long stay tourist visa. Because Claire was born in France and moved to the US at age 4, she thought she could to move to France as a French citizen and apply for a visa for her husband. But the French Consulate in Chicago told her she wasn’t really French (we never elucidate why!) and she applied to move to France on a long term tourist visa instead.

Moving to France on a long stay tourist visa worked perfectly and on today’s show we go through all the steps she had to go through. Things went smoothly, and like we found on Episode 131, Moving to France on a Talents and Abilities Visa, things go smoothly if you are prepared with all the necessary paperwork!

Some of the questions we address are where do you start? How do you get an address in France? How do you get a bank account in France? What about moving your dog or pets to France? How fast can you get access to French healthcare? Do you have regrets since moving to France?

Recommended on this episode: Expat Forum, Living in France Made Easy, Moon Living in France, Retiring in France.

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man and woman smiling: claire and tony armstrong
Claire and Tony Armstrong.

Moving to France on a Long Stay Tourist Visa Timestamps

[2:21] Claire was born in France, but the French Consulate didn’t consider her to be a French citizen when she applied for her national identity card. The rules are explained here, in French. We’re not lawyers or relocation specialists, please don’t ask us about your particular case.

List of Papers Needed to Move to France on a Long Term Tourist Visa

[05:32] How to get your Consular appointment and list of paperwork they will require for a long term tourist visa.

[06:46] Health insurance requirement and how to easily fulfill that.

[07:31] Proof of residence requirement is harder to get and how to do it the easy way: rent a Gîte. If you speak French, another great tip is to use Le Bon Coin, there are lots of rentals by owner listed there.

[12:39] Proof of sufficient means to support yourself for the time you’re going to be there. Details of what that means exactly.

[15:30] Signed statement that indicates what you intend to do while in France and another one that states that you will not work in France.

[16:10] Application Fee. They do not accept credit cards even though their site says they do! This whole thing happened in one day because they had all the paperwork ready. They left their passports behind and got their visas a couple of weeks later in the mail.

[17:18] Filling with the OFII when you get to France. Medical exam and sticker.

[19:14] They will give you an appointment at the Préfecture that you cannot change. Providing the paperwork all over again for the yearly renewal and getting an actual card.

[21:53] In France, never take no for an answer. Plead your case! Restate your reasons. Don’t give up too fast!

smiling woman holding a file folder
Claire and one of her folders.

Qualifying for the French Health Card

[23:42] Dealing with French health care and getting a carte vitale.

[25:08] Reasons why French health care is so wonderful.

Opening a Bank Account in France

[26:58] Opening a bank account in France.

[27:18] Start with getting an address and proper proof that you have an address (i.e. a lease or deed of ownership).

[28:00] You can’t walk into a bank and open an account in France. They will want you to make an appointment and come back 2 weeks later.

[28:43] Some French banks will not open accounts with Americans.

[29:53] Americans living in France are supposed to file and pay taxes in the US. Dealing with filing for taxes in France also.

Move Your Stuff or Sell It?

[35:18]  Moving your stuff over to France and what to pack, what to sell?

[36:00] Bringing American appliances to France, worth it or not?

[37:45] The sticker shock of moving companies and all the paperwork you will need to keep.

Moving a Dog to France

[39:24] Moving a dog to France: use Air France, your dog can fly on the same plane as you do.

[43:04] What was the most painful part about moving to France?

[44:48] Life in a French village is really slow.

[46:48] What was a pleasant surprise about moving to France? Rural areas in France are cheap, and French people are not big consumers.

[49:11] When people around you don’t understand why you’d want to move.

[50:47] Resources recommended, see list above. Those books were good because they provide checklists and steps of what you need to do to establish your household in France.

[52:22] Container showing up late, very late. It’s important to get the timing right.

black labrador dog sitting at a café outdoors
Claire and Tony’s dog enjoying the good life at a French cafĂ©

Is It Important that You Speak Some French?

[54:58] How important is it to speak French? It’s vital! At least one of you needs to have decent French or life will become so full of misunderstandings, you’ll get discouraged and hate it.

[56:08] How do you decide where to move to in France? How did you pick your place?

[59:52] Can you share any tips for buying a car in France? Again, things take time. You won’t drive off the lot with the car the day you choose it. You have to line up the payment and paperwork, even if you’re paying “cash”.

[62:17] What do you wish you knew before you moved to France?

[63:09] Get involved locally and integrate. Find associations for sports or hobbies or volunteer opportunities.

[65:17] Life in small villages in France: how small is too small? Small places don’t have enough businesses.

[68:18] Why didn’t you move to France when you were still working?

[69:16] Finding work in France is very difficult. Come as a retiree, or get your job to transfer you, or if you’re a freelancer who can work from anywhere.

[70:04] Even freelancers get health insurance in France, so if you can pull it off, it’s great. And if you pay for medical care out of pocket in France, it’s still crazy cheap compared to the prices in America.

[71:08] When French people complain about our health care (which we do!) it’s usually because some medicine has been taken off the list of reimbursed drugs due to the fact that enough studies have shown that it does nothing.

Making Payments in France

[72:50] Direct withdrawals in France, “prĂ©lèvements”, the need to have a RelevĂ© d’identitĂ© bancaire with you. Different ways to conduct transactions in France.

[74:47] French administration is very picky and paperwork hungry. Set up your utilities bills in both names if you have a significant other!

[76:39] Because French administrators are prickly, if you show up for your visa meeting without all of your documentation, they will make you come back two months later or whenever another appointment opens.

[77:31] If you hate papers, France is not for you. But Claire thinks that living here is so nice, it’s worth putting up with the red tape!

Tony walking on a scenic rural road in France
Photo Claire Armstrong.


2 thoughts on “Moving to France on a Long Stay Tourist Visa”

  1. Just wanted to relay my experience with the French Consulate in San Francisco. I am a Franco-American born and raised in the US. I recently went to the consulate to inquire about obtaining my first French passport. All I had for evidence of my French heritage was a long expired carte d’identitĂ© and my parents (both deceased) livret de famille. I was able to get an appointment within a week and exactly one week later I had my new passport! Very helpful staff.

  2. A very interesting podcast. A couple of our observations: the French Consulates have differing rules for visas. An example, the consulate in Miami accepts credit cards. It retook our finger prints and pictures. The staff were very helpful. Our passports with the visas were returned within 10 days. We sent our Golden Retriever for a second trip on Lufthansa with great results.
    We purchased a small house ,furnished, in Monpazier. The process was incredibly smooth with a knowledgeable Notaire. We have a bank account, purchased a car, looks like a toaster, and are super happy, le chien aussi.
    There are differences. As an example, It took a bit to understand EDF, the French electric company, such as why we were charged 300 euros while the electricity was shut off at the breakers . We learned.
    Learning French is very important, and by the way, we are in
    France. Learn to speak French!
    Thus far, this has been an incredible experience.

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