Whether moving for work or are wanting a sunny retirement, whether attracted by the climate, the food, the culture or the natural beauty of France, there are plenty of reasons why people want to move across the channel. The largest country in the EU, France is a country with a huge diversity of climate and culture. This guide will help you understand the differences between the regions of France and also address issues like property prices in France, GDP per person, and the French healthcare system.
The first tip expats give to people wanting to move abroad is to try and remove the ‘romance’ of the area from the equation. Despite the beauty and culture of France, expats have said the ‘honeymoon period’ wears off fast. Building a career and whether you want to live long-term in the country should be the main things to consider when moving to France. Expats also stress that speaking the language well is crucial to integrating into French society.
As this article is aimed at UK citizens wanting to move to France, the UK is still a member of the EU, so UK citizens do not need a Visa to enter the country. Nor do citizens in the EU/EEA (European Economic Area) need a work permit or residency permit in France. If you are planning to move to France from outside the EU or EEA, contact your relevant government department to find out more about what is required. If you are coming over to work for a company in France, you should check with your employer what they arrange and what you will need to sort out yourself.
Once you have lived in France for 5 continuous years you will be able to apply for permanent residence. If you are a member of the EU or EEA you will be able to do this without having to provide details of employment or income.
Living and Working in France
Where in France?
The guide below will give you a brief description of the areas in France you might consider moving to, and below this section is a breakdown of costs of properties in every region of France along with GDP per capita.
Paris and the surrounding Ile de France area is one of the most attractive places for Britons to move to who are looking to continue working, with many already having company jobs to go straight into. Paris of course is the main centre of commerce and where the heart of France’s economy lies, and has an incredible history and beautiful city centre. As well as this, Paris is not far from the English border, and the Eurotunnel makes it easy for expats to visit family back in England. Both house prices and wages are significantly higher in the capital than anywhere else in France.
Including Brittany, Normandy and Pays-de-la-Loire, the area is not far from Calais and is easy for removal companies to reach and only a few hours from friends and family at home, meaning the area is very attractive to Britons. The area has a similar climate to the south of England and also has plenty of attractions to visit, like the beautiful Mont-Saint Michel. One of the main agricultural areas in France, with cities like Brest and Rennes in the area there are urban hubs where many Britons not retiring to the area may want to consider working.
The regions of Nord-pas-de-Calais, Picarde, Champagne, Alsace and Lorraine make up northeastern France, and many Britons move here due to the thriving cities in the area, such as Calais, Lille, and Strasbourg, as well as the fact that England is only a few hours away. With a beautiful landscape and many historic towns, the area has its fair share of attractions for tourists.
Regions like Burgundy, Centre, Auvergne and Limousin make up central France. A large part of the land in the region is used for agriculture and UK citizens move here for a country life, or settle in the Massif Central to the south, an area full of natural beauty. There are also major French towns in the area where other expats move to for work, such as Clermont, Tours, and Orleans, all historic and bustling cities. Orleans is also popular for commuters, only an hour away from Paris.
A popular tourist destination, southwest France includes the regions of Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenees. The area also attracts plenty of expats due to the great climate and coastal living, drawing others due to the strong economy and thriving cities in the area. Port towns like La Rochelle and Rochefort are popular with those wanting to work and have the coast. Further inland, Toulouse is a centre for those working in aeronautics, electronics or technology.
The area of southeast France includes the regions of Provence and Languedoc. One of the most famous holiday destinations in the world, the Mediterranean coast is perfect for retirees wanting some sun (there are also plenty of expat communities in the region), and for those wanting to work in one of the southern cities. Slightly to the north of the area is Lyon, the 2nd richest city in France with a huge technology and business industry, and Marseilles and Nice are fast growing and port cities with a booming technology industry. This region tends to have the highest priced property outside of Paris.
Working in France
Cost and GDP
The average price of property in France is around €195,000. Read the article Moving to France to find out the average cost of property as a whole in each region of France.
Healthcare in France
If you’ve ever been on holiday to France, you’ll know the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) covers you for treatment until you return to the UK. However, if living in France permanently, healthcare is more complicated than this. There are certain steps to take to ensure you are covered:
If moving to France, if already from an EU/EEA country a certificate of health entitlement is present to assist with free movement around the EEA. This is called an S1 form, and can be found here. Once you have received this it is advised you take the next steps as soon as possible.
You will then need to register with one of the state health insurance companies (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie – CPAM). If coming to work in France, your company won’t necessarily do the paperwork for you, so you may need to do this yourself. Once registered you’ll receive a "carte vitale", a green card which you need to present when seeing a health professional, or buying prescribed medicines. This card is very important as it facilitates your reimbursements so you won’t have to pay the upfront costs of medical treatment.
While there may be universal health service cover in France, the social security system usually only picks up a percentage of your medical costs, paying about 70% of official GP fees and 65% of prescribed medicines.
If you want to make sure you are fully insured and have your medical fees reimbursed, you will need to take out voluntary health insurance cover, which the French call ‘l’assurance complémentaire santé’ (essentially ‘top-up insurance’). This will reimburse the part of the cost that France’s social security system won’t cover, but won’t cover small costs like the recently introduced €1 surcharge for a doctor’s appointment.
PUMA – does it affect me?
Since 2016 France has had in place a new universal system of healthcare, called the Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA), aiming to unify France’s healthcare system which is already essentially universal. PUMA simply now grants an automatic and continuous right to health care in France for everyone.
PUMA makes no change to the legal residency requirements, which require EEA residents to have been a resident for 3 months and live in France for more than 6 months to be entitled to healthcare.
However, for early retirees, PUMA can be a problem, as they are economically inactive which can exclude them from PUMA. The laws on this can be very complex, so it is definitely worth doing more research if you fall into this category. www.french-property.com has a useful section on this topic found here.
If you want to know more about healthcare laws in France, which can be quite complex, visit NHS England’s Guide to Healthcare in France, the Healthcare Guide on French-property.com, or the Healthcare Guide on FrenchEntree.com
If you are buying property in France, it is worth looking over inheritance laws to ensure that your property goes to where you want it to go after you die.
Since 2015 EU Law has dictated that if you have moved to another EU country, you are now able to choose the law of your native European country with regards to inheritance law. This means you can opt to choose UK inheritance law instead of having to abide by French laws. In order to be entitled to this change of inheritance law, you need to make a will in France stating you want to adopt your native law as you are not a French citizen. Your will in the UK will not be recognised in France, as a will in France needs to be handwritten. It is worth looking into employing a French notaire to do this for you.
Find out more useful tips and advice about Moving to France here.