France Relocation Guide: 8 Things to Know Before Moving to France

Last updated on April 24th, 2024 at 11:20 am

Planning to start a new life in France? You’ll probably be excited about the prospect of becoming a resident of one of the most iconic and exciting countries on Earth. But there are quite a few technical aspects of the move to take into account first, from applying for a visa to finding somewhere to live. Let’s take a closer look with this handy guide from the experts at Remitly.

1. Applying for a visa

If you’re heading to France from outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland, then you’ll have to apply for a long-stay visa at your local French embassy or consulate. This is the case whether you’re relocating to study or work full time, and you can begin the application process online at the official French government site.

Different procedures and requirements apply, depending on your situation. Applicants for long-stay visas will typically have to submit documents including:

  • Valid passport
  • Proof of health insurance from an officially accepted company
  • Proof you have a place to live (for example, a tenancy agreement)
  • Proof that you can financially support yourself, such as a recent bank statement

If you’re going to study in France, you’ll also need to provide your university/educational institution’s acceptance letter. If you’re coming here to work, your prospective employer will usually have to apply to the French authorities for a work permit before you can apply for your visa.

It’s worth noting there are different kinds of long-stay work visas available, including special ‘talent passports’, and you can find out more with our specific guide.

2. Setting up a French bank account

Opening a bank account in France makes life a lot easier. It can certainly be a lot cheaper than using your home country’s bank card to withdraw cash or make payments.

To open an account, you’ll typically have to show documents including:

  • Your passport
  • Proof of your address, such as recent utility bill
  • Student ID or employment contract

Bear in mind that documents may need to be translated into French by an officially approved translator. The good news is that you’ll often have the option of opening your account online, though some may prefer to make an appointment to do it in person.

Either way, it’s wise to do your homework ahead of time, and compare the different accounts and services on offer. You can learn more about our most recommended French banks in this guide.

3. Healthcare in France

To obtain your long-stay visa, you’ll usually have to prove you have adequate health insurance from a company that operates in France. The policy will have to cover routine medical appointments and emergency care, for the full timeframe covered by your visa. To be absolutely sure your policy is valid for your visa, it’s well worth contacting your local French embassy or consulate to check exactly what’s required.

4. Cost of living

Relocating to another country can be an expensive adventure, and it’s natural to focus on immediate expenses like the price of the visa application. However, it’s just as important to lay the foundation for a healthy financial future in the country. A good way to start is by laying out all your expected costs for your new life. This way, you can carefully budget for what’s to come, and not get caught out later.

The cost of living will depend a lot on where you live. Paris, for example, will tend to be a pricier place to settle than smaller towns across the country. Wherever you intend to go, here are some factors to budget for.

  • Your rent
  • Your household bills, from electricity to internet
  • The taxe d’habitation (council tax) if applicable
  • Food bills
  • Transportation costs
  • Entertainment/socialising costs
  • The amount you’re expecting to transfer back home to support family and friends

5. Finding accommodation

You may have a job lined up in the iconic city of lights itself, Paris. You may be all set to settle in the foodie metropolis of Lyon, or the picturesque port city of Marseille. Wherever you’re heading to in France, you’ll need to focus on finding the right accommodation in good time. Fortunately, there are quite a few property websites you can browse long before you fly to your new life in France.

These will let you filter your search by location (whether city or wider region), the size of the property, and the all-important factor that is the price. If you’re a student, you can look at the properties offered by the national organisation called CROUS. There’s a website which lets you browse the university accommodation available. You could also check out private rental properties for students listed by specialist real estate companies online.

6. Transport in France

France boasts one of the most iconic public transportation services in the world: the famous Paris Metro. This sprawling rail network is as well known for its ornate, Art Nouveau entrances as it is for getting millions of people around the capital city. Metro networks are also available to use in other cities like Lyon and Marseille, while tram services are widespread across the nation. Getting between cities is easy thanks to high-speed TGV trains.

As we touched on earlier, it’s a good idea to estimate your monthly transportation costs, as this can too often slip under the radar when working out how much you plan on spending.

7. General things to know before moving to France

We’ve given an overview of the really important things to think about when planning your move to France. But here are some extra things you might be interested to know about your future home.

  • Home of the Mona Lisa and countless other art treasures, the Louvre in Paris is the most visited museum in the world
  • France has 12 separate time zones, which is more than any other country on Earth
  • According to a widely-reported (if seldom enforced) 1910 law, it’s technically illegal to kiss on train platforms in France

8. Sending money back home

Amid the excitement of setting up a new home in France, your mind may well be on the loved ones you’ll be leaving behind, and the best way to provide for them during your absence. There are several options when it comes to sending money to those who matter to you. French banks will offer remittance services, and there are money transfer companies with brick-and-mortar premises you can access.

However, by comparing the different methods, you may find that companies based exclusively online may offer competitive exchange rates and fees for international money transfers. This is why it’s highly recommended that you shop around before making your decision.

Further reading: 8 Essential Apps for Immigrants Living in France