So moving to France or any other country for that matter takes some planning. Banking, Long Term place to stay as you search a permanent home, health care, extending the first years visa so you can stay. Each of these require some thought. So where does one start.
I think we began on two levels. Knowing we would need cash and that at first the ATM would be our easiest means, I arranged with our AllU.S. bank to raise the limit we could withdraw on any given 24 hour period to $1000.00 rather than the normal $300.00. So this helped with cash flow and made life easier. Please remember the Euro is stronger than the American $ so today, $1000 equals about 890 Eu.
The second thing we did was to work on line to find a temporary place to live. In researching both VRBO and AirBNB, I found that Vacation Rental by Owner was a bit safer for the long term. They seem to control the description a bit better, and if a place is not as described they work with you to get your money refunded. PLUS VRBO tends to lease for longer periods of time. WE had decided to ship some antique pieces plus some artwork that we wished to keep, so knowing this process would take about 8 weeks to have it delivered, we arranged for a place for 2.5 months.
Banking in France, can tend to be a pain. We started with BNP Paribas, as it is one of the largest banks in France, and at first this was fine, but our two contacts that spoke English both left and it became difficult to deal with any issues, So we switched over to HSBC and are very happy. In France as you open utility accounts, (water, gas, electricity, internet, etc.) you are required to give them a RIB or basically a form that ID’s you to your account, and allows the business establishment to draw against your account automatically. There is NO paying on a monthly basis by check, it is all done Electronically. You do receive an ATM that I use for all our local purchases, food, wine, clothes, etc..
So finding a place to live long term. This proved to be a challenge. Realtors here do NOT have a multiple listing service. In fact the owner can list with more than one realtor regardless if the property is for sale or lease. Realtors tend to gather “listings” but when the person looking to buy/ lease comes to the office they expect you to do the work. So prepare a dossier on yourself, (bank, size of space, furnished or not, location in the city, etc.) and then blanket every RE office you see, and see them often. Then work the internet for sites listing places for rent, and follow up quickly. They go in a hurry. The one issue today is that like all other major cities, the Air BNB issue is taking the inventory off the market. It is more difficult to find a place. In some instances, the owner may require a full years rent be placed in an escrow account to guarantee he is paid. A monthly deposit is required as in the states for damage, etc. There is a very detailed inspection of the place as you enter and leave, so when taking the property, make sure every bit of damage is noted on the form( you get a copy). That way no surprises on exiting the place. Insurance is needed only for your own belongings. You are not required to have insurance on the building or space.
HEALTH CARE. France has one of the best health care systems in the world. The care is fantastic, and quick. The key is that after 3 months, one needs to visit the local CPAM office and apply for the Carte Vitele. This is your personal ID for the system. Somewhat complicated to complete, but the forms can be easily translated. They do require a bit of information gathering, but once this is finished you are basically golden. All your basic medical costs are covered, including pharmacy for most medications. What you do need to buy is an over the top insurance that covers long term hospitalization, surgery, etc. Plus this can be bought to include your vision coverage and dental as well. Just a quick comparison. We spent nearly $2500 per month on medical coverage in the states, today we spend about $290.00 per month and the health care is better. Some elective surgeries may take a while to schedule, but all normal type are scheduled immediately.
VISA. If you are staying past the 90 days covered by your passport, you need to have a VISA, and this is for a one year period. This must be done prior to entering the country. So find out where the local office is your the country you are planning to move to, and get this done months prior to leaving. It takes a while. So you are living in France and want to stay, you need to acquire a Titre De Sejour ( basically an extension of your visa). Again this takes some time, so go to the Prefecture, pick up the application which gives you the list of documents they will require and have this to the office before you have been there 8 months. Again it takes time. Plus be prepared to stand in line on the day of your appointment. The first five years requires you to do this every year, at the end of the 5 years, you are given a 10 year card. Yippee!
Driver’s License. If your current CA or other State’s license is still valid you can use this, in fact you can renew it and never get a French license. Some states actually have a reciprocal agreement that automatically gives you a French license. Sorry to say, CA is not one of those states. Be prepared to spend around 800-1000 euros for school. The actual driving part is pretty easy, it is the “code” that is tough. They have a lot of strange laws here, but on the other hand, once you understand the reasoning, they make sense. Just a quick note, the police will stop and ticket anyone not wearing a seatbelt, and they are really cracking down on drunk driving. Two glasses of wine means waiting over an hour before starting the car. If stopped and you refuse the breath test, immediate arrest and you are taken to the local police station for other testing.
Taxes: You will pay a tax d’habitation to the city/state based upon the size of your place regardless if you lease or buy. If you buy then there is also the real estate tax. VAT or value added tax is on every transaction, and the base rate changes based upon the class of item or service. The nice thing, it is already included in the price you pay, not added on after as in the states.
Income tax. If you have any income in France you are required to pay this tax. In our case we entered as retired long term visitors so we were required to sign a doc stating we would not seek employment. Getting a job in France is tough anyway, even if it is an American company. Get the job in the states first that will move you here. In our case retirement income is our only source of new funds, so we file in CA and submit a short form here. We pay in CA.
I think this pretty much covers most major area. Do try to learn some French prior to arriving it does help