From gaining a residency to buying property, this rough guide will take you through what you need to know when moving to France from the UK.
Rough estimates say that around 177,000 Brits reside in France. Plus, the UK’s appetite for crossing the Channel hasn’t been abated by the Brexit decision. From 2016 to 2018, another 10,000 UK-born citizens registered for French residency.
Geographically close but different in culture, France offers expat life not far from the motherland, but distant in terms of lifestyle. This makes it the perfect destination for Brits who want to experience new culture, food and weather; but want easy access to family and friends back home.
Whether you’re looking to work, bring the whole family or retire in France, this article will cover visas, healthcare, where to live and more.
If you want to live in France long-term, you will need a permit to do so. A French permanent residence permit allows you to stay in France for up to 10 years. The permit is renewable so, in theory, you can use this permit to live in France indefinitely.
Being a permanent French resident means you have access to many of the same rights as native French citizens; the exceptions being the inability to vote in public elections or hold public office. This also includes permission to work in France.
Before you apply for a French permanent residence permit, you will need to have lived in France for a minimum of five consecutive years. Once you’ve got five years of life in France under your belt, you will then need to visit your local French préfecture (town hall). They will offer you advice on what you can apply for and which documents you will need for your permit. These documents tend to be:
- Proof of residence.
- An employment contract.
- Copies of bank statements.
- Birth or marriage certificates.
- A medical certificate.
Based on your results, you can either apply for French permanent residency or EU long-term residence.
The cost of applying for permanent French residency differs based on factors such as your family situation and your reason for application. The most you can expect to pay is €269 for family reunification (this includes a base fee, plus €19 for the duty stamp). Veterans or people seeking asylum pay €19 (the smallest cost).
Healthcare in France
Citizens of France receive universal coverage from the French healthcare system regardless of their economic situation or age. The French healthcare system offers high quality public and private services including doctors, hospitals and specialists.
British expats with French permanent residency must have health insurance by law. This can be through the state’s public healthcare system or a private provider.
To qualify for public healthcare cover, you will need to have a French residence permit and have lived in France for three consecutive months. France’s Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA) system means foreign residents will be granted access to the same healthcare services as French citizens.
France’s public healthcare system operates on a co-payment basis. This means both the state and the individual contribute to medical bills. The state’s contribution differs based on the type of service you have received. For example, public health insurance covers around 70% of fees for visits to doctors and dentists, 80% of the total for a hospital visit and up to 100% of prescribed medication costs.
Residents usually pay any medical fees up-front and will receive reimbursement five to 10 days later. This does not apply to residents who hold a Carte Vitale (health card).
As well as residents, France’s public health insurance covers employees and self-employed freelancers and business owners.
Buying property in France
Once you’ve landed on your preferred place to live in France, you can start looking for property to buy.
The buying process of property in France is straightforward but has some differences in buying in the UK. In France, the sale becomes binding much sooner than in the UK, which has pros and cons.
On the one hand, it means you can go back home confident that no other buyer will be able to hijack your property of interest. On the other, it means you have to be sure of what you’re buying before you make any agreement.
Houses in France are sold privately, through notaires or estate agents. Brits tend to prefer using an estate agent as the process is more familiar to home. You’ll need to check any estate agent you use has the necessary credentials. This usually means being a member of a registered body, such as FNAIM, SNPI or UNPI.
Using an estate agent is likely to incur a cost of around 4% to 10% of the property price. It’s also a legal requirement in France for all purchases to be made through a notaire. This usually costs an additional 6% to 8% depending on the value of the property.
Making an offer for a property in France is not too dissimilar from the UK. If you’re going through an agent, they can give advice on whether the owner is likely to accept a lower offer.
When you come to sign for your property, you’ll need to put pen to paper on two key documents – the Compromis de Vente and the Acte de Vente (or Acte Authentique). The process from making an offer to completing the final contract tends to take around three to four months.Send money to France
Best places to live in France
France has plenty to offer with its romantic cities, sunny south and delicious food and drink, so deciding where to settle can be tricky.
For city and nightlife lovers, look no further than Paris as your place to call home. The ‘City of Light’ is known across the globe for its charming, lively streets. As France’s nightlife centrepiece, Paris plays host to over 4,300 bars. You can also find exquisite food and drink and marvel at some of the world’s most famous landmarks.
France has a world-famous culinary reputation, and if food and drink is your thing, Lyon might be the go-to choice. Although you’re unlikely to find anywhere in France that falls short in the kitchen, Lyon sits top-of-the-pile thanks to its range of ‘bouchons’. Bouchons offer a traditional, family-run dining experience, serving up century-old Lyonnais dishes.
If you’re concerned about your family and the language barrier, Montpellier could be the spot to settle. Thanks to its abundance of bilingual schools, the southern French city is a popular choice for Brits looking to place their children into education. The city is also growing and has plenty to offer families with playgrounds, museums and exhibitions.
France’s Mediterranean coastline is a favourite for UK holidaymakers, so why not make it a holiday every day with a life in Provence? Home to some of France’s best beaches, Provence is an ideal place to soak up some sun and relax.
For the full list, read our guide on the best places to live in France.
Sending money to France
If you’re already in the process of moving to France from the UK, then now could be the time to think about exchanging your pounds for euros.
Chances are, you’ve got experience of buying euros for holidays in France or its European neighbours. Yet, when it comes to transferring larger sums abroad — to buy French property, for example — then currency exchange becomes a serious business.
At Privalgo, we facilitate countless British-born citizens when they move to France from the UK. We do this through great exchange rates, zero hidden fees, and an unrivalled level of personal service. To find out more, follow the link below, request a quote (it’s free!) and we’ll be in touch with you shortly.Request a quote