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Moving to France – A Guide for Immigrants, Expats, & Digital Nomads

Moving to France – A Guide for Immigrants, Expats, & Digital Nomads

January 23, 2024 1 min read

Two people laughing in front of Eiffel Tower in France

France is a dream vacation destination for many looking to enjoy time in Paris, wander through Provence’s famous lavender fields, or sample all the regional varieties of world-class cuisine.

For others, though, France is more than just a week-long destination. Immigrants, expats, and digital nomads often move to this Western European country for extended periods, enjoying all of the rich cultural traditions, economic opportunities, and modern amenities France has to offer.

In this guide, we’ll break down the basics so you can turn your daydreams of croissants, cafes, and picturesque countryside views into a reality. 

Things to do before moving to France

Before you pack your bags, make sure you take care of all the logistics. Here are some of the top considerations before your move. 

Make sure you have a valid passport

France is part of the Schengen Area, a group of 27 European countries that have removed border controls. This agreement allows both Schengen Area citizens and non-citizens to travel freely between these member countries.  

Technically, travel between Schengen Area countries doesn’t require a passport since there are no traditional border checks. However, it’s always a good idea to keep your passport on you when traveling between countries — especially with the possibility of temporary border controls. 

If you’re traveling from a non-Schengen Area country into France, you must bring a passport valid for three months after your exit date.

Ensure you have the proper visa

It’s relatively easy to get a French visa — and sometimes you don’t even need one. Here are your options.

Schengen visa — or no visa at all

Citizens from other Schengen Area countries do not need a visa to enter France, nor do citizens of many other countries, like Australia, Colombia, and the United Kingdom. Travelers are also exempt from an entry visa if they:

  • Are a close family member of an EU citizen
  • Have a valid visa for the European Free Trade Association countries, Japan, the United States, or Canada
  • Have a valid residency permit for the United States, San Marino, Andorra, Japan, or Canada

If none of that applies to you, you may need a Schengen short-stay visa. Here’s a complete list of the nationalities that require a Schengen visa to enter France.

Whether you need a Schengen visa or not, your initial stay is limited to 90 days. That includes any time spent in other Schengen Area countries. 

It’s important to note that the travel requirements for nationals of a Schengen visa-exempt country will be changing. Starting in 2025, these visitors must secure an ETIAS travel authorization before entering the EU. 

Long-stay visas

Regardless of your nationality, you must apply for a long-stay visa before entering France if you want to stay longer than 90 days. This allows you to remain in France — or other Schengen Area countries — for three months to a year

There are several types of long-stay visas that generally fall into these categories:

The long-stay visas for professional activities generally don’t apply to digital nomads. While some are for self-employed individuals, this refers to people who want to participate in and contribute to the French economy. If you’re working for a foreign company as a digital nomad, a personal long-stay visa might be more appropriate. 

Resident permits

If you fall in love with France during your long stay and decide to remain in the country, you can then apply for a residence permit. Note that some long-stay visas — like the entrepreneur/profession libérale visa — are equivalent to a residence permit. 

Again, there are several different types of French residence permits. Complete this questionnaire to see which one best fits your situation.

Gather the right documents

Besides a valid passport and visa, you need to present additional documents upon arrival. These include proof of the following:

  • Insurance
  • Financial means to cover the costs of your stay (65 euros/day with hotel bookings, 120 euros/day without hotel bookings, or 32.50 euros/day if hosted by an individual)
  • Accommodations for the entire stay (validated certificate of staying if hosted by an individual)
  • Return ticket (or financial means to get one)
  • Professional obligations (if coming for work)

Make sure you’re financially prepared to move to France

Meeting the minimum per-day financial requirements is one thing; moving to France is another. Those requirements exist to ensure you can pay for food and transportation, but you must consider additional moving costs like: 

  • Transportation to France (including any family/pets)
  • Visas
  • Shipping or storage units for all your belongings at home
  • Buying new essentials that you left behind
  • Rent/hotel for a few months

We also recommend setting some money aside in an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. A common rule of thumb is saving at least three months’ worth of necessary living expenses.

However, if you experience a financial emergency in France, your friends and family can always help using Ria’s simple international money transfer service. With Ria, you could receive a money transfer to France within 15 minutes. Learn more about Ria today.

The first things to do once in France

Well, maybe these aren’t the first things you’ll want to do after landing in France. After all, you might want a selfie with the Eiffel Tower or at least take a bite out of an exquisite pâtisserie. But once you’ve settled, here’s a checklist of things to do.

How to find a place to stay in France

France has zero restrictions on foreign nationals buying real estate. However, renting a home for a while is a good idea before purchasing a property. This way, you can explore France’s varied regions, cities, towns, and even neighborhoods. You may arrive in France thinking you’re a true Parisian, until you discover that the fairy-tale-worthy medieval town of Yvoire is your dream home.

Luckily, plenty of real estate agents can help you find a home to rent. You can also consult several popular rental websites like SeLoger or ParuVendu. These sites allow you to enter your criteria, such as how many bedrooms, maximum price, and desired square footage, to find the perfect rental.

How to set up your finances in France

Each French bank has specific requirements to open an account. The good news, though, is that you can open an account without a residency permit. For example, Crédit Mutuel requires new customers to bring a valid ID (which can be a passport) and proof of residency (like a light bill). 

You can then fund that account using an international money transfer service like Ria. You can quickly deposit funds directly into your new French account. Or you can skip the bank account altogether and schedule cash pickups. Family members and friends can help with this by organizing a remittance. Learn more about Ria’s services. 

How to find a job in France

France offers many ways for non-citizens to work in the country. 

First, EU nationals have a right to work in France without a permit. If you’re a non-EU national with ‘higher professional qualifications’ and a valid contract, you might qualify for an EU Blue Card in France. You can review the procedure and requirements here.

Other workers can apply for a long-stay professional activities visa. Medical practitioners can also apply directly for a long-stay visa that doubles as a residence permit. If you have skills that can contribute to ‘France’s economic attractiveness,’ you might consider the long-stay visa for international talents.

These specific long-stay visas generally apply to self-employed individuals. If you want to work directly for a French company, you must have a work permit, which only your future employer can request. Here’s a questionnaire to determine your steps to work in France legally.

Digital nomads typically don’t fall into any of these categories since they don’t directly contribute to the French economy. You can still work online for your foreign employer on a personal or tourist long-stay visa (or short-term Schengen visa). 

If you plan to work in France for a French company, look for jobs before you leave so the employer can request the permit. Try first checking with France’s employment agencies, Pôle Emploi and APEC. You can also explore other employment websites like JobtedMonster, and TrovitThe Local is another good expat resource with plenty of English-speaking jobs.

How to connect with other immigrants, expats, and remote workers in France

There are many ways to meet other expats in France — especially online. InterNations is a community that provides professional and social networking services for foreign nationals. There’s also a vibrant community, Expats Living in France, that can be found on Facebook. It’s also worth regularly checking sites such as Meetup.com for opportunities to get together with other expats.

How does healthcare work in France?

According to the 2023 CEOWORLD Health Care Index, France ranks 19th worldwide for the best healthcare. The country offers a universal healthcare system organized both at the national and regional levels.

Healthcare insurance rights for foreigners differ depending on their status and origin country. The French government’s website offers detailed requirements here

What are the best cities for expats & digital nomads in France?

There’s a bit of something for everyone in France. The best city for you as an expat depends on your desired environment and amenities.

  • Paris: While fairly expensive, Paris is popular for its history, culture, nightlife, restaurants, and museums.
  • Nice: Located on the French Riviera, Nice is very popular with beach lovers. 
  • Lyon: This vibrant, modern city with pleasant year-round weather is another expat hub. 
  • Toulouse: Those who enjoy a slightly slower pace, outdoor activities, and picture-perfect settings love living in Toulouse.

By renting, rather than buying, properties in France, you can try out several cities and regions and decide which one you want to settle down in.

Frequently asked questions about living in France

What’s the cost of living in France like? 

According to World Data.info, France is the 25th most expensive country. It falls below countries like Israel, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. An individual should budget for about 953 euros monthly, not including rent. A family of four might spend about 3,410 euros monthly. 

Keep in mind, though, that the cost of living varies by city, and Paris is the most expensive one by far. 

What will I need in order to move to France?

If you are moving there for less than three months, you need a Schengen visa (unless you are from an exempt country or meet other exemption requirements). To stay more than three months, you need to have a long-stay visa before entering the country. You must also have a valid passport, insurance, proof of accommodation, and enough finances to meet the minimum daily requirement. 

What are taxes like in France?

All French ‘tax residents’ must file tax returns. These include people who:

  • Spend at least 183 days in France during one year
  • Consider France their primary residence
  • Work primarily in France

The income tax rates apply to worldwide earnings and range from 0%-45%. Some people must pay additional surtaxes if their income exceeds certain amounts.

Like many other countries, France also imposes a value-added tax (VAT) on most goods and services. VAT is 20%, except for books and restaurant meals (10%) and groceries (5.5%).

What’s the currency in France?

France’s currency is the euro.

How long can I stay in France without becoming a citizen?

Both the residence permit and long-term resident card for EU nationals last for ten years, and you can renew them indefinitely.

What will I need to become a French citizen? 

There are several ways to become a French citizen. For example, foreign nationals living in France can become citizens by naturalization after five years of residency or by completing at least a two-year higher education program — among other options. You can review the specific requirements for your situation on the French government’s website

Does France offer digital nomad visas?

France doesn’t currently offer a digital nomad visa. However, there are several long-stay visas for self-employed professionals. You may qualify for them if you don’t work or freelance for foreign companies. 

How much does it cost to move to France?

The cost of moving to France depends on many factors, including who you’re bringing, where you’re traveling from, and where you plan to live. Aside from travel costs and an emergency fund, make sure you meet the minimum daily financial requirements

Is France a good choice for European expats?

France is a very popular destination for expats from other European countries, especially with the open borders in the Schengen Area. In fact, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Belgium rank within the top ten nationalities that immigrate to France. Plus, citizens of a Schengen Area country can freely enter the country, and EU citizens can secure jobs in France without a visa.

Is France a good choice for U.S. expats?

France hasn’t been at the top of the list for U.S. expats due to the challenges non-EU citizens face in obtaining residency. However, due to its excellent standard of living and world-class healthcare system, France is becoming a more popular destination for Americans abroad. Most U.S. expats live in the cities of Paris and Lyon.

Is France a good choice for Asian expats?

Asian expats have been traveling to France for decades, and their population is growing. The French government hopes to draw more and has even invited 30,000 Indian students to the country. You’ll find the highest concentration of Asian expats in areas like the Quartier Asiatique, which boasts many people of Chinese and Vietnamese descent.

Is France safe?

France is generally safe, ranking 27th on the global safety index. City visitors should take the kind of general cautions typically recommended, such as being aware of their surroundings and safely storing valuables.

Can I move to France without knowing French? 

You can move to France without knowing any French, but you won’t get far beyond the typical tourist destinations. To make the most of your time in France, it’s recommended that you learn at least some French. In addition, if you plan on becoming a French citizen, a basic knowledge of the language is a requirement.

Can a U.S. citizen live full time in France? 

U.S. citizens can live full time in France only if they have a long-stay visa or residence permit. Otherwise, U.S. citizens are limited to staying in the country for 90 days.

Is it worth moving to France from the U.S.?

There’s no simple answer to this question since it depends on personal interests and goals. If you enjoy French cuisine and historic areas, France might be worth it for you. The short-stay visa exemption for U.S. citizens is also a plus, as are the diverse long-stay visa options and minimal requirements.

Useful resources for expats in France

Here are some resources you might find helpful after you’ve moved to France or if you’re still in the moving process:

About the author

Lisa Hong

Lisa Hong is Ria’s Web Content Specialist. Born in the U.S. with relatives in South Korea, she values helping others connect with their loved ones through education on remittances and technology.

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