Thousands of British people have made the move to France in the past few weeks – and many more are still in the process – as they beat the Brexit transition door closing. So, what do you need to do as soon as you arrive?
1. Rent a property
If you haven’t purchased a property prior to your move to France, renting may well be the solution. Many gite and holiday home-owners are offering longer term rentals over the winter period this year, in order for people to establish residency. Renting is possible either through agents or privately.
Get in touch with expert estate agents, currency specialists and lawyers – your ‘Golden Three’ – today to kickstart your buying journey.
However, just be aware of the importance of having a legally binding contract. To use a rental property to establish residency, you will need either a rental contract or an attestation from your landlord along with their identification. For finding rentals, some useful reference points are Facebook groups for expats, “le bon coin” (one of France’s biggest buy/sell sites), and agent lettings sites.
2. Apply for residency
The latest update is that the portal for residency applications will now go live on Monday 19th October. Although the list of the specific documents required is yet to be confirmed, this will most likely require proof of stable accommodation and health care cover in France, as well as proof of income.
Primarily, you should be able to prove you are able to live and support yourself in France without dependency on the state. Your specific situation will dictate the exact documentation required from you. For example, if you are retired, proof of pension will be necessary as proof of income. Whereas if you are employed, a work contract will be required. If you are self-employed, proof of your business registration will be needed.
Primarily, you should be able to prove you are able to live and support yourself in France without dependency on the state.
3. Set up your healthcare
Unlike the UK, healthcare in France is not free. A proportion of your healthcare costs are paid for by either the French government or the UK government, depending on whether you are retired or of working age. It is strongly advised that you have top up health insurance to cover the remaining percentage. Only once you have been accepted into the healthcare system will you be able to attain top up insurance. Until that time, it may be wise to take out full health insurance in case of accident or emergency.
As a rule, doctor’s appointments and prescriptions costs are manageable without additional insurance. However, in the case of something more serious, hospital stays can be rather costly and without insurance you could find yourself in a rather unenviable position.
Find a doctor and register with them as soon as possible, as well as finding out where your nearest hospital is. Obviously, the last thing anyone needs is having to scramble around to find these details, should you have an immediate problem.
4. Open a bank account
In order to pay for household bills, let alone daily expenses, it is clearly sensible to have a French bank account when you move to France. As in the UK, many bills can be set up to be paid by Direct Debits (SEPAS) and unlike the UK, cheques are very commonly used. Banks tend to put low ceilings on the amount of cash and money you can spend both daily and monthly by card, which is another reason why cheques are popular.
To open a bank account, be prepared for the initiation into the French admin process. You will soon become all too familiar with the mountain of printed paperwork to take with you to the bank. The checks of these documents are stringent. If you are self-employed, you will also require a separate bank account for your work income so that you can easily show your bookkeeping, should you get audited in the future.
We can put you in touch with an expert, trustworthy Independent Financial Advisor today.
5. Sort out your currency
Currency and money transfers are at the forefront of everyone’s mind during a move to France. Rather than transferring money from UK bank accounts, which can be extremely costly in terms of exchange rates and fees, most people opt to use transfer companies. There are many to choose from, however Smart Currency Exchange were my choice.
Initially, the concept can be difficult for someone non-financially minded to get their head around. But once set up on their system, the process thankfully becomes easy and painless. With large transfers (i.e. house purchases) you can save thousands but it even makes financial sense to use Smart for smaller transfers.
Be warned that in many rural areas, credit card machines are not always readily available, so a small amount of cash is useful at all times. You certainly don’t want to buy a quick coffee somewhere only to find out afterwards that you have to drive 10km to the nearest cash machine!
6. Get a French contact number
When you first move to France, it’s sensible to immediately get some form of French telephone number. You may think you can get away with only having a UK mobile number, but many websites will not accept these. If you are expecting deliveries (you will probably have a few when you first move) courier drivers will simply not use foreign numbers, so you will need it.
The mobile provider you choose is obviously dependant on coverage in your area. Some providers offer a monthly package for as little as €2 so you can’t really argue with that! No one has the time or energy to chase a sofa around France for two weeks after it should have been delivered and no one made contact with you (yes, I *have* learnt this the hard way!).
Also, whilst no one likes to think about such things, you should make a list of emergency contact numbers easily accessible.
7. Car registration
Apart from residency requirements, there are some other things that you are duty bound to act on following your move to France. One of which is to import your vehicle. You have a month to start this process and it can take several months to complete. Whilst some may not have complied with this rule in the past, with the withdrawal date looming it would be simply folly not to get this done, should you wish to be considered legally resident in France.
8. Get familiar with the Mairie
In larger towns or villages, this may not be so relevant, but in smaller villages and communes getting to know one’s mayor can serve you very well. The Mairie (town hall) is your first port of call for local information or advice on rules and regulations, particularly important for those renovating. From building regulations, applications planning, advice on local tradesmen, information about local groups and social gatherings, this is the first place to seek advice. The mayor and their staff often know everyone and everything about their commune so can prove very useful in getting quick answers.
9. Take your lead from the locals
A great way to get to know what’s what in your area is making time to chat to the locals. They know how everything works, are accustomed to the way of life in France and could be a great source of information. Plus, being on speaking terms with your neighbours should make your transition into French life a little easier.
10. Sit back and enjoy!
And of course, amongst all of these “jobs and chores” please don’t forget why you came here! Wander around your local area, get involved with your community, marvel at the landscape and eat, drink and be merry. Just simply enjoy your new life in France!