A total of 18,135 expatriates took part in the survey of the number of expats living in France, representing 178 nationalities and living in 187 countries or territories. British holding the highest percentage of 24% and is expected to grow given what the country can offer (Statista, 2021).
Read on to learn more about France and what you need to do to kickstart your move there!
Bienvenue en France! The largest country in Europe, not only a popular destination among expats but also a romantic holiday destination as well. France is incredibly beautiful, with unique architecture and spectacular sceneries. Furthermore, the country offers great stories from its rich history, so be prepared to engulf yourself in museum walks and amazing french cuisines such as champagne, croissants, and wines along the streets.
(Last updated on: 9 July 2021).
France embodies a simple way of living. Hence, having a healthy Work-life balance. Shops are closed on Sundays and in the afternoon every day for a two-hour lunch break. People do take slow strolls on the street, which they are known as Flaneur, to observe the surroundings to experience and enjoy the beauty at the moment.
French is the official language of France and many locals prefer to converse in French even if they could speak English. However, it is not limited to those spoken among the expatriate community in France, which includes English, Celtic, Germanic, Gallo-Romance regional languages.
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The cost of living is slightly higher than average by 1.91 times. Ranking 31st out of the 197 countries. The monthly cost of living is estimated to be about USD $2083 – $2483 per person which includes rent, transport, utilities, telecommunication, food, activities, and leisure.
Even though healthcare is close to free as 70% are subsidised by the government, France is still categorized as the higher than average country to live in.
Visa & Immigration
France has broken down the visa process into multiple layers, simple and easy to follow. The Requirement of a Visa depends on nationality, destination, and purpose of visit.
Recommend to submit application three months to two weeks prior to your departure date for a long stay and 6 months to two weeks to your departure date for a short stay visa.
Do not know how to start? Use Visa Wizard to quickly determine everything you need related to your Visa.
Short-stay visa (Less than 90 days)
- Uniform Schengen visa or National visa depending on your destination
Long-stay visa (More than 90 days)
- May grant equivalent to a residence permit if up to 12 months, subject to a validation procedure following your arrival in France.
Airport transfer visa
- Remain in the airport’s international zone while waiting for the transfer flight to your final destination, and your final destination is located outside the Schengen area
For European territory (mainland France), France complies with Schengen regulations related to the Schengen area, and issues a short-stay Uniform Schengen visa;
For non-European territories (French overseas territories), France issues a short-stay national visa;
For transit through a French airport without exiting the “international zone”, please check whether you need to apply for an “A” airport transit Schengen visa.
For Holiday, Airport transit, and Medical Visit, not for professional business activity.
1. For Business Travel, Trade fairs, Seminars, or Conference related to your professional activity:
- The request letter, the summons or the invitation from your correspondent in France accurately describing the activity, the purpose, the duration, and the location of the meeting, seminar or conference;
- Failing this, admission cards to trade fairs or conferences;
- Failing this, a commitment by the inviting organisation or company to cover all the visitor’s costs during his/her stay.
2. For Liberal Activity participate in a commercial, industrial, artisanal or agricultural activity or work in a liberal profession:
- Prove sufficient financial resources (minimum legal wage in france for a full time worker)
- Company needs to meet requirements in terms of qualification/diplomas as well as any other conditions
- For Salaried employment
- Fulfill your employment contract by completing a one-off mission in a French company (or organisation) in order to provide a service to a French client or on its behalf
- Supporting work permit
- You must have already chosen your training course or studies. For more comprehensive information about the courses and diploma preparations on offer, please visit: Campus France ;
- You must be accepted by a higher education establishment. Enrolment conditions differ depending on your nationality, please check the Etudes en France website to see if your country or territory is included in the online enrolment scheme. For other countries or territories, check the enrolment conditions in terms of specialities and level of education on Campus France.
- Certificate of enrolment in the higher education institution that has accepted you
Minor Child Education
- Child’s enrolment in a French school, his/her school reports from the previous year and a certificate about his/her knowledge of the French language, details about his/her accommodation in France, financial resources and insurance, parental authorisation and the contact details of a guarantor in France
Schengen visa and Airport transit visa
- Standard: €80
- Children between the age of 6 and 12: €40
- Non-Biometric Passport for national from the following countries: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Georgia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Ukraine for entry visas and short-stay visas under a facilitation agreement: €35
Short-stay visa for Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion, Saint Martin, and Saint-Barthélemy
- Standard: €60
- Children between the age of 6 and 12: €35
- Standard: €99
- Reduced rate for students whose application was considered by a Center for studies in France: €50
For a full summary of visa fees, click here!
Working In France
Up to €10,084: 0%
A minimum French tax rate of 20% for French-sourced income up to €27,519 and 30% for income above this threshold.
As of January 1, 2021, the corporate rate for small corporations on their first EUR 38,120 of taxable profits as well as realising turnover up to EUR 10million will be taxed at 15%
‘Taxe de Sejour’ or tourist tax, which is charged per person, per night and varies according to the quality and standard of the accommodation. The rates range from €0.50 (43p) to €4 (£3.45) per person, per night. For instance, Paris charges an extra 15% on the tax, meaning you’ll pay between €0.23 and €4.60.
For more information, visit service-public.fr website.
There are several ways to find employment in France, through employment agencies, or through job seeker sites. Likewise, you can also search for job opportunities by attending job fairs or events.
In general, You will require a social security number to get employed. ID number and represents your affiliation to the French social security scheme. You will need this number for many administrative procedures while in France. This includes benefits such as health sickness, accidents, and occupational disease, maternity and paternity, and more.
Top 5 Job Seeker Site
Working Hours & Public Holidays
A law to reduce the statutory working week in France from 39 hours to 35 hours in 2000, for companies with more than 20 employees and, in 2002, for companies with 20 employees or fewer.
- 1st January – New Year Day
- 1st May – Labour Days
- 8th May – Victory Day
- 14th July – Bastille Day
- 15th August – Assumption Day
- 1st November – All Saints Day
- 11th November – Armistice Day
- 25th December – Christmas Day
- 26th December – Boxing Day (only in the Moselle, the Bas-Rhin and the Haut-Rhin)
Banking In France
Some banks are willing to help you open an account before you move if you can provide the necessary documentation, while some banks offer non-resident accounts that can be opened from abroad.
To open a bank account in France, you would need the following:
- Identity Proof
- Residence status
In France, it is more common for expats to rent a house or apartment than to buy. If your stay is temporary, then renting is most likely your best option, as buying a property can be very expensive.
Type of Housing and Rent
In France, there are several types of housing options available for expats to consider.
- Pied-à-terre: A small unit or apartment
- Pavilion: A detached bungalow
- Maison Bourgeois/Maison de Maître: A large house with high ceilings and windows, and about four large rooms per floor.
- Château: A castle or palace. However, some of these properties are actually pretty small. Be careful of the upkeep and renovation costs that you will incur if you choose to rent in this type of housing.
- Domaine: A house (estate) in France with a lot of land such as vineyard properties.
- Fermette/Ferme: A farmhouse in the countryside. The amount of land can vary.
- Hôtel Particulier: A property that is not actually a hotel but a townhouse.
- Longère: A property of long rectangular shape and can range from a barn to a one-story house.
- Mas: A rural property.
- Maison à colombages: A home made of half-timber.
- Batside: These types of rentals are typically old, but you can find some new ones. They are detached, square stone buildings with flat, tiled roofs. These types of homes are generally located in the countryside.
- Villa d’architecte: Designed by an architect, this property is a modern home and built into a contemporary plan.
The prices of rent will vary depending on which part of France you are renting in and whether its in the city center or in the suburbs.
Average rents in France:
- 350 EUR/month onwards for a one bedroom apartment in the city-centre
- 500 EUR/month onwards outside the city centre.
Rents in Paris are generally higher than in other parts of France:
- 1,000 EUR/month for a one bedroom apartment in the city-centre
- 800 EUR/month outside the city centre.
Outside of Paris, the average price for a one bedroom apartment outside the city-centre is 350 EUR/month whereas in the city-centre can be about 500EUR/month.
Short Term Rentals
If you are staying in France for a few months or are searching for a more permanent home, then short-term rentals would be the better option. There is an active short-term rental market which includes furnished apartments which are available on a monthly basis or “long-term” rentals (called holiday rentals) which are available for 3 months.
These holiday rentals do not allow you to extend your stay hence, you must be ready to move out once the lease expires.
- Keep several copies of everything
- Translate all documents into French
- If you need a guarantor, make sure they live in France
- Always ask your landlord for receipt of monthly rental payment (called the quittance de loyer in French)
- Do you want a furnished or Unfurnished apartment?
Below is the process for renting a home in the UAE:
- Search for a home online or hire an authorised real estate agent for the search
- View the property with the agent and negotiate a good rate
- Prepare the following documents: passport, a copy of your residence visa, marriage certificate (attested by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs), work contract/salary certificate and bank statement.
- Sign the rental contract. Do note that rental contracts in Dubai or Abu Dhabi are required to be registered with the local authorities.
- Pay the deposit. Expats will need to pay the landlord a 3 month deposit and prepare pre-dated checks for the rest of the year.
- Move in.
In France, most landlords or agents will ask for a security deposit to be paid upfront when you move in. The deposit should be a maximum of 1 month rent and the deposit should be returned to you within 2 months of termination of lease less any money owed for costs. Once you have paid the deposit, get a receipt stating clearly the amount paid is a security deposit.
The tenancy agreement (called contrat de bail in French), is a written agreement between you and your landlord. It has to be signed before or on the day the lease is to start. At this point, you will need to pay the first month rent and deposit.
At the minimum the agreement should include the following:
- names of tenant(s) and landlord;
- details of property being rented;
- contract start date;
- duration on agreement (e.g., one year or three years);
- rent and rental deposit amounts;
- details on any other charges payable to the landlord (e.g., utility bills);
- information on notice periods;
- landlord and tenant rights and obligations;
- size of property (unfurnished lets only);
- landlord and tenant signatures
The agreement will be renewed automatically unless you or your landlord gives prior notice.
Depending on the tenancy agreement and the accommodation you rented, you may have to set up the accounts for electricity, gas, phone, internet and TV. This is likely the case in unfurnished accommodations whereas for furnished accommodations, your landlord will handle all this and bill you together with your rent.
Where To Find A Home
where you can search for the perfect home for you. These sites are easy to use, are regularly updated with new listings and allow you to search using keywords and also filter results. However, scammers have been known to use such websites to target people and so use the websites with caution.
Real estate agents (called agences immobilieres) will be able to help you to find the right home for you. Not only that, the agent will make the whole process easier for you than if you were to deal with the landlord directly, especially if the landlord is not able to converse in English. If you are in a rush to find an accommodation, then the agent will be a better option as well.
All authorised agents belong to one of the three professional organisations:
- Federation Nationale de l’Immobilier (FNAIM)
- Syndicat National des Professionels Immobiliers (SPI)
- Union Nationale de la Propriete Immobiliere (UNPI)
Ensure you only deal with agents who are a member of either of the three organisations.
There are agencies specialising in expat rental which offers English-speaking services and knowledge of the expat market in France. These are often brokers that have contacts with a number of real estate agents in France. Examples are, French Property, Long Term Lettings and Paris Attitude (to rent apartments in Paris)
If you know other expats in France, then you can approach them for recommendations for an accommodation based on your preferences. Many expats find a home through such a approach. However, this method will only work if you already have a network in France. If you don’t then you are better off using the methods stated above.
There are several options for moving within the cities or throughout the country such as cars, metro, trains, taxis and buses.
If you are an EU citizen relocating to France, then your national driving license allows you to drive in France. If you are not an EU citizen, then you will need to get an international driving license. The minimum age to drive in France is 18 years.
All expats will need to get a certificate of registration and a certificate of insurance. If you are staying in France for more than 6 months, then you will need a French driving license either by exchanging your license or taking the French driving test (only applies to non-EU citizens). You must also have your car inspected, registered and pay the French vehicle registration tax.
A very convenient and often the fastest way to travel within major cities. The metro system connects suburbs to the city center. The tickets can be used across all modes of transport in the cities enabling you to move around easily.
In Paris, single and multi-journey tickets are available. Single tickets are valid for one journey, including all connections, upto two hours. Multi-journey tickets are usually cheaper than single tickets.
You are also able to get Navigo monthly and annual passes which would be more convenient.
Taking the taxi can be the best option if you are heading to places with suitcases or you have missed the last bus or metro home. Taxis can be hailed from the street or you are able to call for one as well. It is advisable to carry some cash with you just in case the taxi you hail does not accept cards.
Besides taxis, ride hailing apps are also available in many large cities in France.
Travelling between different areas of the country can be done by trains. You will get to see wonderful sights of the countryside. High-speed trains and slower regional and intercity trains are available.
Book your trains in advance to take advantage of any deals to save yourself some money. Tickets can be bought at the ticket office at the station or online at the SCNF website, or other sites such as Omio.
The most prevalent form of public transport in France, you will find that the bus is the best option to travel within cities or to other parts of the country. Buses are operated at the local or regional levels serving towns or cities or connecting rural areas to cities or towns. You are able to purchase tickets from the machine at the bustop, or from the driver himself/herself. Try to use exact change as much as possible.
Tickets are available as both single or multiple journeys. Remember to always get your tickets validated when you enter the bus or you will incur a hefty fine!
France is considered to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world where 96% of the French population uses the public healthcare system. Private healthcare is also available for expats to use
Expats are able to access the French state health insurance system, although there may be situations when private health insurance is better. An example where private health insurance is better is for dental and private hospital care services such as specialist treatment, which are only available if you have private health insurance. Private health insurance providers in France are Allianz Care and Cigna Global.
Public Healthcare For Expats
It is expected of people living and working in France to have some form of health insurance. Paying for the French social security system is entitled to public healthcare which is taxed at 8% of an individual’s net income.
For expats to access the state healthcare system, you will need to register to use the social security system. Employers do this on your behalf but you must ensure it is done properly.
EU citizen expats are able to use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to pay the same rate as the locals. Non-EU citizen expats are only allowed to use the public healthcare system after paying for the social security system.
Expats may be required to pay upfront and then claim a refund from the state depending on the services used. The state healthcare insurance will cover most of the treatment costs but expats will need to cover a certain amount. Hence, it is advisable for expats to get private insurance to bridge any gap in their coverage.
Private Healthcare For Expats
Private healthcare is definitely a lot more expensive than public healthcare in France. State health insurance does cover some costs of treatment in private hospitals, but you will still need to pay more for the remainder that is not covered.
If you are moving to France with your children, then your child will be joining the French education system. Education is compulsory for children aged between 6 and 16 with many entering preschool at the age of 3. Public schools, private and international schools are available to enrol your child in.
Public schools follow the national curriculum set out by the Ministry of Education. Public schools are free in France for citizens and those who are able to show proof of residence (e.g. signed lease).
Many expat parents send their younger children to local nursery schools as it’s free and children are able to pick up languages easily at that age.
Private schools are either sponsored by the government or privately funded. Private schools tend to have smaller class sizes, more personalised learning, better facilities and greater access to teachers. Do note that most private schools are Catholic which means a faith-based teaching system.
French is the main language of instruction in most private schools but there are bilingual options as well. Private schools are more likely to put in more effort to help non-French students by having special classes.
Requirements for admission and tuition fees vary widely. Privately funded schools have much higher tuition fees compared to government funded private schools.
Expats will be able to find many international schools in France most of which are located in cites such as Paris. Such school’s curriculum and language of instruction will be similar to that of their home country or will subscribe to the International Baccalaureate curriculum or even teach in English. Expect tuition fees to be much higher in international schools.
Expats may consider international schools for their child as the language of instruction may be more familiar compared to French which is the language of instruction in public schools. Your child’s age and the length of stay in the country are also reasons to consider international school.
When arriving in France, you will need to ensure that you have your internet, TV, phone connection all set up. France has an extensive and well developed network with a wide range of providers to choose from.
Broadband internet is provided for by both ASDL and fibre connections. While Most large towns and cities have a good network, certain rural areas may have limited connectivity. Do note that you will first need to set up a landline connection with Orange before being able to choose your internet provider.
Most companies offer a range of packages for you to choose from. Often called “box” packages and are priced according to the download speeds offered and any extra features offered such as TV. Discounted rates are available if you bundle services such as broadband and TV together. Examples of service providers are Bouygues Telecom, Free, Orange, SFR and La Poste Mobile.
Despite most people using mobile phones these days, you will still need a landline connection if you want to access the home internet services. Landline connections are dominated by Orange despite competition from other players.
France has a unique but complex telecoms network where the country is split into “zones”. There are 3 types of zones:
- Zone de dégroupage total – In this type of zone, the local network has been “unbundled” whereby you are free to choose the provider for all services, although you will still need to pay line rental to Orange.
- Zone de dégroupage partiel – the local network has been “partially unbundled” where you are allowed to choose the provider of all services except your fixed telephone line which will be managed by Orange.
- Zones non-dégroupées – found only in certain rural areas, the local network remains “bundled” and is fully managed by Orange, although other providers are able to rent access.
If you wish to set up your phone service, find out which zone does your area fall under before proceeding to finding a service provider. Do not worry as most parts of France are either fully unbundled or partially unbundled which means you will be able to choose the provider for most services you will need.
France uses a digital terrestrial system (called TNT) where you are able to watch 20 channels for free. You will need to pay an annual TV license fee. Expats in France prefer to opt for additional services such as international sport and international movies. Increasingly, many providers are offering packaged deals together with home internet services. Examples of TV service providers are Bouygues Telecom, Free, Orange, SFR and La Poste Mobile.
Culture In France
Expats are likely to experience culture shock when they first move to France. Expats will face challenges in learning French and getting used to the unique social conventions that are in France.
Etiquette is important in France and you must mind your manners even if you are in a rush if you do not want to be ignored by waiters and salespeople. A brief ‘bonjour’ will suffice before making a request.
Kissing people on both cheeks is a form of greeting and is reserved for people familiar with one another. Usually the locals will initiate the greeting.
In France, if you are invited for a meal at someone’s house, unlike in other countries, do not arrive on time and instead arrive 15-20 minutes late. However, if you are invited to a restaurant or a business function, then is alright if you were to arrive on time.
The French are reserved in most interactions and friendliness is not something that will happen overnight. Expats will need to be patient when building friendships with locals.
Another cultural aspect expats should note is that mixing professional and private lives is rarely done. Socialising with colleagues after work hours is also something you will not see often.
The locals are direct which can be misinterpreted for rudeness. Expats should not take this personally.