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Take the Time to Prepare
Susan and Tom wanted to understand the process getting this visa before they acted on anything. They also took some French lessons, but they found that the French they heard in France is much faster than what the teacher was saying.
Don’t Apply Too Soon
Don’t apply too far in advance. Spend time learning about the process and gathering documents, then when all your ducks are in a row, apply! The French Consulate recommends applying 2 months before you actually want to move.
You Can Do It Yourself
If you have the time and you are fairly organized, you can do this yourself without the help of a consultant. Just be aware that French administration LOVES paperwork! Keep everything bit of paperwork they ask for, including envelopes!
Moving to France and Getting Acclimated Was Smooth
Moving to France, getting settled in and finding the stuff they needed was smooth and easy. Tom and Susan were surprised how easy it was actually.
Requirements to Move to France on a Visitor Visa
Refer Back to the Consulate Website, the requirements can change at any time. Follow the instructions on the French Consular website carefully. The Consulate responds to specific questions very quickly, but don’t ask them questions that are too general and where the answers can be found by reading their site.
You Have to Prove that You Have a Place to Stay Before You Get to France
The Consulate will want to see a lease or proof of accommodation. You can even use a residence hotel (such as Apart’Hotel) reservation or an apartment lease by the week or month, but you have to show them something! You can do it with a Gîte.
You Have to Prove that You Have Medical Insurance
This is just in case you have an accident or get sick while in France. There is a specific requirement for repatriation and this can change. Some travel insurance that has enough coverage for emergencies. There are medical brokers such as Medi Brokers that will give you exactly the coverage you need.
You Have to State that You Have No Intention to Work in France
When moving to France on a long stay visitor visa you have to state in a formal letter that you have no intention to work while you are in France.
You Have to Prove that You Can Support Yourself for One Year
You can use US bank statements to prove that you have enough cash to support yourself for the duration of your visa in France which is 1 year. How much money do you need? The website states a certain amount per day, they want to see minimum wage at least, which is far too low in our opinion.
What’s the Standard of Living in France
You may be asking yourself how much will I spend in France? You’ll probably spend as much per month in France as you did in the US, but not on the same things.
Some things are cheaper in France: certain food items, wine. Mobile phone service and internet access is much cheaper in France. Clothing is a little more expensive in France overall. Furniture is a little bit more expensive unless you go to Ikea.
Downsize Before You Move to France
French accommodations are much smaller in France. Everything is smaller and more crowded in France. Sell most of your stuff before you move to France! You probably won’t drive a big gas-guzzler because gas is so expensive in France. You may well pay as much for smaller cars in France than you did for large cars in the US.
Most People Who Move to France Live in Smaller Accommodations
Almost nobody lives in a 5,000 sqf house in France. Of course there are exceptions, but they are rare. You won’t drive a Hummer in France. You won’t have a gigantic kitchen or walk-in closet.
If you want to live in the French countryside you can have bigger accommodations, but not by American standards.
Don’t Bring Electronics and Appliances
Laptops and cell phones and anything that’s dual-voltage is fine, but don’t bring 110v items. Don’t bring your mixers, televisions, kitchen appliances. It’s possible to use a transformer, but it works poorly and eventually you will blow things up. You will have a tiny kitchen. No more walk-in pantry, no kitchen with 30 drawers, don’t bring much!
Have All Your Paperwork Organized
Have backup folders in case you lose one. When you get to the appointment you need to be able to hand every piece of paper they ask for on the spot. If you are missing something it will slow things down a lot and they won’t be too happy with you. French administrators love people who are prepared and organized.
You Will Need to Deal with the OFII
Once you arrive in France you will need to send paperwork to the OFII and they will contact you. For the medical exam all they really care about is that you don’t have tuberculosis, which you can prove with a chest x-ray. They will ask you about vaccinations, bring proof of vaccination if you have them. Vaccinations are mandatory for children who may be attending school in France.
Getting a Driver’s License in France
People who are moving to France on a long stay visitor visa can drive on their US driver’s license for the duration of their visa (1 year). After that, they need to have a French driver’s license. You can buy and insure a car based on your long stay visitor visa and your American license. But that will run out after 1 year.
A few states have a reciprocal agreement with France where you can exchange your US license for a French license. If you qualify for that you need to do it within the first year. You can find out on the website of the Prefecture where you live in France.
Seeing how difficult it is to pass the driver’s license test in France, Annie recommends that you look into getting a driver’s license from a state that has a reciprocal agreement with France BEFORE you move to France. That way you can just turn your US license into a French license. Totally worth the trouble!
You Will Need to Get Documents Translated
The US Consulate in the US will not generally ask for translations, but once you deal with a Prefecture in France, they will ask for a lot of documents to be translated. That’s usually expensive because only a few people per department are certified to do this work.
Ask your department of motor vehicle for a driving history because to exchange your license you’ll need that. You may also need to get an FBI background check to prove that you’re not a felon.
There Are Horror Stories
There are horror stories out there about people who embark on this without having taken the time to understand the requirements and show up at the French Consulate missing this and that. Don’t do that!
French government people are nice and helpful so long as you’re not yanking their chains with your lack of preparedness.
You Can Muddle Through Without Great French
But it is best to be able to speak the language where you can take advantage of a lot of things around you. Dealing with the administration is also easier if you can at least try in French. Cultural events will be in French for obvious reasons!
If you’re coming with kids, put them in French school. Kids who go to the international schools in French don’t really learn French.
Americans Have to File Taxes Anywhere They Live
Just because you move to France doesn’t mean that you won’t have to pay taxes in America. And you will also need to file taxes in France and potentially pay in both countries. There are tax professionals that can help you do that. Tom and Susan us Horton Tax Services and have been very happy with them.
You can get into tricky tax situations when you move. There are tax treaties between the two countries, but it’s complicated to figure it all out. Go to a tax professional.
Buying Property in France
Americans can buy property in France. There are differences in the process and closing costs are much higher in France. But then you don’t pay as much in France as you do in property tax.
“Un notaire” in France is a tax / property /closing attorney, not someone who watches you sign a document.
Renters Get More Protections in France
French people sometimes choose to rent forever because the laws protect renters a lot more than in France. Retirees may not be able to come up with enough cash for the down payment and closing costs, but renting is also a good option in France.
French Administration Will Never Give You Any Dates
Most Americans find this really hard to take, but French administration will not tell you a date by which the process is supposed to be finished. Some things take a long time, some take a short time. There is no way to tell at the onset of the process. Although, if you’ve got all the paperwork sorted out, things will happen eventually.
Get a Driver’s License from a State that Has a Reciprocal Agreement with France
There are Americans who have been living in France forever and still don’t have a French driver’s license. Most of them have a spouse who has a French driver’s license so their two cars are insured under that person’s name. But what happens if you have an accident and the insurance refuses to cover you?
If you don’t happen to be from one of those states that has a reciprocal agreement to exchange driver’s licenses with France, consider moving to one before you move to France! Honestly, you’ll be so glad you have that license from Texas or Florida or whatever!
Annie used to teach driving in France, she used to help prepare people for the test. The problem with the French driving test (the written part) is that they are looking to see if you understand the exceptions to the rules and not the rules themselves.
Of course they say you need to know both, but they mostly test on tiny details that most of us never encounter in real life. Plus there are lots of exceptions to the rules. The test is all in French and the slides go by fast. Even smart people who study hard and speak great French fail all the time. So get a driver’s license from Texas or some other state that has a reciprocal agreement with France!
Differences Driving in France
Roundabouts, Not Stop Signs
Not a lot of stop signs in France, but there are a lot of roundabouts. The flow is better, but you have to get used to it. If you don’t know where you’re going, just keep going around in the circle until you figure out where you need to go.
Speed Limits Are Implied
If France you’re supposed to know what type of zone you’re in, from which you will deduct the speed limit. Speed limits are NOT always posted.
As soon as you enter a city, you’re in a 50 zone. If sidewalks disappear, you’re now in a 30 zone.
There are still a lot of 90 signs around France, they are all incorrect, 80 is the new rule!
There Is No Allowance for Speeding in France
In France you can get a ticket for going 2 kilometers above the speed limit!
In America you want to be at zero points, in France it’s the opposite. As you get tickets you’ll lose points.
There Are Traffic Cameras and Radars Everywhere
In Paris they are even experimenting with radars that ticket drivers who don’t stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. Everybody hates those hidden radars, but they have made French roads much safer.
Some Things You Need to Know About France
- The country shuts down in August, not so much in Paris, but in the rest of the country
- In touristy places, some restaurants and hotels close for a few months until the visitors come back
- Visit the places where you are thinking about moving: do not buy sight-unseen!
- Make several trips over to figure out where you belong in France and stay for a while in a gîte so you can see if the lifestyle fits you
- People who can’t take serious heat should only live in Normandy or Brittany
Moving Will Change Your Life
Moving Will Change Your Life, make sure you think about what you’ll be doing every day after you move! It will change what you eat, what you breathe, it’s a complete new life. Make sure the one in France will suit you! Too many people move to France on some romantic idea and that’s the wrong way to go about it.
When You First Move to France You’ll Need the DIY Store
When you move into a new place you’ll need to fix things or make changes, make sure there is a DIY place not too far.
If you hire artisans, make sure you can talk to them. It’s hard enough renovating a place, make sure the communication goes through!
Good artisans are really busy in France, plan on everything taking longer than you think. Being impatient and calling other companies wouldn’t do any good. You have to be patient. When they get to you they’ll do a great job, but don’t be in a huge hurry.
The reversible AC/Heaters they sell in France are wonderful and really efficient.
The Emotional Aspect of Moving to a Different Country
It was easy for Susan because she grew up in a military family. Tom had a more settled childhood, but has traveled a lot for work. Neither one of them found moving startling.
Moving to France is much easier than moving to China where you can’t even read the signs.
You need to be open to the new culture and country. Don’t compare everything to the United States. Different countries, different customs.
Things You Can’t Find Easily in France
- You can’t find kale easily in France, but you can substitute with other green leafy cabbage
- You can’t find turnip or collard greens, but you can substitute with Swiss Chard
- Non-dairy creamer is hard to find, but it’s not good for your health, so don’t
- You can’t find as many over-the-counter medicines in France as you do in America, you may need to talk to a pharmacist
- We don’t have any stores that are open 24/7
- 50 years ago stores weren’t open 24/7 in America either!
Things You Can Find Easily in France
- Farmer’s markets
- Proper butchers who will give you advice
- Fruit and vegetable vendors who know you
- More personalized neighborly service
- Mom & Pop stores where people know you
- Try to go back to the same vendors over time, you’ll get better service that way
- Great cheese vendors that will joke with you
Is It Hard Making New Friends for a Guy in France?
Not really because there are so many activities offered by lots of associations. Accueil Ville Française is also really good. Social life happens through associations rather than churches in America.
If you make an effort to try a few organizations you’ll find ones that you enjoy. You will find people that you have something in common because there are a lot of choices for things like that in France.
Renovating an Old House in France Is a Big Dream
Renovating a house in France will be completely different from anything you know about construction. You may still want to do it, but don’t rush into anything!