Whether you need to acquire a visa, transfer your pension, or simply find a place to live — we’ll take you through all you need to know about retiring to France from the UK.
Retiring to France has always been a popular choice for Brits; thousands of UK citizens make the move every year, with the majority being of retiring age.
Whether it’s the exceptional food and drink, sunny southern weather, big cities, traditional towns or the proximity to home, the lure of life in France is undeniable.
So, if you’ve set your sights on life across the Channel, follow along with our guide on all you need to know about retiring in France from the UK.
Retirement visas France
Before you put your feet up and settle into retired life in France, you’ll need to sort out your visa. UK citizens have to apply for a long-stay visa if they wish to visit France for more than 90 days.
This visa is valid for up to one year and can be renewed. To make your move permanent, you’ll need to have lived in France for up to five years and obtain a residency permit.
To get your visa application started, visit the French Consulate in London website and create a France-Visas account. Make sure you have all the relevant supporting documentation with you as you go through the application.
This supporting documentation usually includes proof of finances to support yourself in France and evidence of valid health insurance. You’ll also have to show a valid passport, ID photographs and proof of residency in France (this tends to be a property title or rental agreement).
Once you’ve got to the end of your application, you’ll need to pay a fee before submitting it. You can track your application’s progress using your online account.
If you’re concerned about claiming your UK State Pension in France, fear not. As long as you inform the government office that deals with your UK State Pension about your move abroad, you can continue to receive income from your pension.
The UK and France have a double taxation agreement to ensure you don’t pay tax from both countries. Once you are classed as a resident in France, you will only have to pay French taxes on your pension.
Be careful when transferring a pension scheme over to France. HMRC removed France from the QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme) list in 2017, resulting in many pension providers refusing to make transfers. If your pension provider refuses to make the transfer for you, you may face a hefty 40% transfer tax.
French pensions are available to some expats if certain conditions are met. Foreigners need to have lived and worked in France for several years before they can apply for a French pension.
French citizens and residents must have contributed to the Securite Sociale (the social security system in France) before receiving a French pension. The Securite Sociale acts as the public pension reserve fund that all employees in France pay into. Because of this, getting hold of a French pension as a foreigner is tricky and can only be accessed once a range of conditions is met.
Transferring your UK pension to a French bank account
Pension providers refusing to transfer pensions to France isn’t the only issue UK retirees face. Many are also subjected to poor exchange rates and weighty transfer fees that come with using high-street banks.
When you’re regularly exchanging large amounts of currency, either to make large purchases or simply to fund your lifestyle, it’s essential to get it right. Not doing so can do serious damage to your budget.
It’s recommended that you use a specialist currency broker to exchange your pounds for euros. You’ll generally find that they offer far more competitive rates of exchange than banks do. For you, this means that you’ll receive more euros for your pounds.
Even better, use Privalgo. Not only do we offer market-leading exchange rates, but we also never charge any hidden fees. Plus, you’ll receive the guidance of a dedicated personal currency specialist. This expert will be able to create and shape your own foreign exchange strategy, enabling you to mitigate against market movement.
To request a free currency quote, follow the link below and fill in a couple of details. We’ll be in touch with you as shortly. Together, we can discuss your requirements, provide you with a quote and take you through some of our currency solutions.Request a currency quote
Retirement villages in France
Unlike the UK, retirement homes and villages are fairly uncommon in France. This is mainly because French citizens traditionally look after their elders at home — they are legally required to support their parents where possible.
Despite this, retirement villages do exist in France and are predominantly found in the south. They tend to have tight security, on-site services and a ready-made community. Residents enjoy communal leisure facilities such as swimming pools, lounge areas and gyms, and other amenities like restaurants.
If the south of France isn’t what you’re looking for, you can find retirement villages near Saintes in western France and Normandy in the north.
The villages usually comprise around 50 to 60 one and two-bedroom villas. The villas can be bought for around €70,000 to €120,000 or rented for roughly €300 to €600 per month. Villas in the south tend to be on the more expensive side.
The development may add additional costs for services. These can cost between €150 and €500. The fees may cover services such as air conditioning and heating, hot and cold water, satellite TV, cleaning, caretaking and administrative help.
Retiring to France after Brexit
Brexit has created new challenges for British citizens hoping to retire in France. If you currently reside in the UK but own a property in France, you’ll now have to hop a few extra hurdles before you can call it home.
Before 1 January 2021, Brits could stay in France for as long as they wanted without the need to plan. This was due to the EU’s rights to freedom of movement. However, with the UK now no longer a part of the EU, British citizens must apply for a long-stay visa if they wish to stay in France for more than three months.
This is applicable regardless of whether you owned property in France before Brexit; owning a property in France gives you a practical head start but doesn’t grant you any legal leeway.
For more details regarding living in France after Brexit, read our full article here.
Retiring in France pros and cons
The idea of moving to a new country for retirement is always going to need some consideration. There are many factors to think about, so we’ve weighed up some of the main pros and cons to give you a helping hand.
PRO: Relaxed lifestyle
The French generally enjoy a slower-paced approach to life than in the UK. Shops close and reopen a couple of times a day and never open on Sundays. Although this may be frustrating initially, it sets the precedent for the French’s chilled-out mindset you’ll soon adopt yourself.
CON: Heavy on the admin
Moving to a new country for retirement comes hand in hand with plenty of paperwork and administrative tasks. Applying for visas, transferring pensions, opening a new bank account and changing your driving licence are all burdens you can expect to bear.
PRO: Great food and wine
It will come as no surprise to see food and wine on the pros list of retiring in France. Food and wine are major parts of French life, so you can expect to find high-quality produce everywhere from small, remote villages to big, busy cities.
CON: Cost of everyday essentials
Many of the expenses you face in everyday life cost a pretty penny in France. Staples such as clothing, fuel and food are unquestionably expensive. France’s standard rate of 20% VAT is applied to the majority of goods and services, driving up costs of large-scale purchases such as buying a car.Request a currency quote