How to move to France: Step-by-step guide

Adam Rozsa

This step-by-step relocation guide will help you get started with the practicalities of la vie en France.

You’ll find information on visas, cost of living, bank accounts, health insurance, finding a job and connecting with other expatriates.

If you'd like to save on hefty international transfer fees, try out Wise - but more on this later.

Get a Wise Account today

Living in France - quick stats:

Here are some basic statistics about France:

  • Total population: 66.9 million
  • Capital: Paris
  • Currency: Euro (€)
  • Total number of expats: 5.3 million
  • Expats from the US: 100,000
  • Expats from Australia: 5,500
  • Expats from the UK: 300,000
  • Official language: French
  • Weather: France has a temperate climate. The average temperature in July is 20°C (68°F), and in January it's 5°C (41°F).
  • Biggest cities: Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Nice

Step 1: Figure out the legal requirements to move to France

For a short stay in France, obtaining a three-month tourist visa is easy. For longer stays, you'll need to apply for a one-year visa and renew it annually. Gaining indefinite leave to remain may take three to ten years. After one year, you must start paying taxes on your income and fulfill other French requirements, such as obtaining a driver's license.

To apply for a long-term visa, contact the French embassy or consulate in your home country and request the French application form. You'll need to explain how you'll financially support yourself during your stay. After submitting your application, it may take up to six months for approval. Once approved, you have a three-month window to travel to France.

Requirements for Australian citizens

Australian citizens will need a visa for a long-term stay in France. The best way to relocate is through your employer or through sponsorship from a family-member who already resides in France. Barring these options, contact your embassy in France to discuss your options. You’ll likely request a tourist visa to start, and then transition into a one-year permit.

Requirements for EU citizens

EU citizens don't need a visa to enter France, a fellow EU country. They’re free to pursue employment and accommodation opportunities with no limitations.

Requirements for American citizens

American citizens will likely go through a similar visa process as an Australian citizen, as noted above. They’re not able to stay in France without a visa once their three-month tourist visa expires. At that time, they must find a more permanent sponsorship option.

Requirements for UK citizens

UK citizens are considered EU citizens with respect to France’s employment and living laws. They don't need any visa to enter and stay in France.

Requirements for students

Students in France from the EU/EEA area or Switzerland simply have to secure a place on a course at a French university. After that, they must have a valid passport that remains valid for the duration of their course of study.

Non-EU/EEA students should apply for the long-term student visa in France. This visa can last up to three years for a bachelor’s degree, two years for a master’s degree, and four years for a doctorate degree. You’re expected to detail your academic background, your French language proficiency and your financial standing. Some students will be required to prove they have an income of around €700 per month.

💡 Moving to France? We’ve selected the most important France-related articles for you – check them out!
  • Opening a Bank Account in France
  • Buy Property in France
  • How to Get Citizenship in France
  • Renting Process in France Guide
  • Healthcare System in France
  • Getting Married in France Guide
  • France Work Visa
  • Buying a Car in France
  • Step 2: Make sure you can afford the cost of living in France

    Here are some estimated costs you can use to plan your budget in France once you arrive:

    Good or service in FranceApproximate Cost
    Rent, per month, outside city centre€600
    Rent, per month, city centre€720
    Casual lunch for two, including wine€35
    1 pint of beer€6
    Utilities, per month€170
    Fitness club membership, per month€40
    1 pair of jeans€85
    One-way ticket on local transport€1.70
    Monthly transport pass€62
    One gallon of milk€4
    One loaf of bread or baguette€1.5

    Step 3: Set up your finances in France

    Depending on your status, you can open a bank account in France as a student, a non-resident or as a permanent resident. A non-resident will have more limited options. One of the difficult things about France is that you often need a bank account to obtain a permanent address, but you need a permanent address to open a bank account. You may get around this tricky rule by speaking with your bank or finding a particularly lenient landlord.

    With a Wise Account, you can store and manage your money in dozens of currencies, and pay individuals and bills in several different currencies.

    Wise is a money service business, offering a multi-currency account, international money transfer services and a debit card.

    So, with Wise, you’ll get all these brilliant benefits:

    • Bank details in 9 currencies
    • The option to hold, send, spend and convert 40+ currencies at once
    • Send money overseas with low and transparent fees,
    • Order a Wise card for a one time fee of just $9 - for use in 160 countries
    • Mid-market exchange rates on all transactions.

    It’s quick, easy and free to open a Wise Account online. And there’s even a handy Wise app, so you can manage everything from your phone.

    Learn more about Wise

    Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up-to-date pricing and fee information.

    Step 4: Find a job and get to work in France

    A French proficiency is important if you want to find employment in France. The visa application process can be lengthy, so finding a job in France isn't something you can do on a whim. Especially for under 25s, the job market can be tricky. The best way to get a job in France is through an internal transfer of a company you already work for. Barring that, you should try to find a job in a large multinational corporation.

    To get started on your search, here are a few resources you can use to find jobs in France:

    Step 5: Get a place to live in France

    Because of the large number of expats moving to France each year, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding accommodation once you arrive. The rental market in large cities is thriving. The most common accommodation will be apartments that are rented out on a monthly or yearly basis. You’ll be able to find both furnished and unfurnished apartments, and join a group of roommates or live by yourself.

    Most people start by looking online in Fusac or le bon coin. Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Strasbourg are the most popular cities among expats. Price-wise, Strasbourg and Lyon are reasonable, while Paris tends to be more expensive. Smaller cities like Grenoble and Aix-en-Provence are budget-friendly.

    Step 6: Make sure your healthcare is covered in France

    France has universal healthcare, which grants the right to care for anyone who legally resides in France. After three consecutive months as a permanent resident, you can apply for coverage. You’re automatically eligible if you’re employed in France or if you pay into French social security. Even if you’re not covered by a plan, anyone in France can access emergency services at any time, in the event of a medical crisis.

    To find a doctor, you can search on the French Health Insurance site. It is in French, but it’s easy to find a doctor by region and specialization. You can also refer to the Yellow Pages (PaguesJaunes) directory.

    If you’re not eligible for universal healthcare, you must buy private insurance. It’s illegal to reside in France without healthcare. There are several reasonably-priced plans for expats that cover healthcare for foreigners.

    Step 7: If you haven’t already, learn the language

    Don’t expect French locals to speak English. Unlike many other European countries, French people don’t necessarily become fluent in English at a young age, especially not outside of the larger cities.

    You can always use an online resource to brush up on your French. Many people use Duolingo, Babbel or brush up with the BBC.

    If you prefer an in-person French class, you can sign up throughout the country via the Centre d’International d’Antibesor another accredited institution near you. Most universities will offer introductory courses.

    Step 8: Don’t be lonely - make friends and get in touch with other expats in France

    The following are forums for expats throughout France to connect with each other:

    Step 9: Make sure you’re prepared with important contacts in France in case of an emergency

    Following are some emergency contacts in France:

    France is a beautiful and unique country filled with expats from around the world. There are lots of logistics to think about, but it’s well worth it. Bon voyage!

    Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

    This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

    We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

    Money without borders

    Find out more

    Tips, news and updates for your location