7 min read

Moving to France: A Guide for Expats and Digital Nomads


Gabriele Culot


February 09, 2024

Last Update

July 08, 2024

Table of Contents

Step 1: Prepare your documents

The French Carte de Séjour

Step 2: Manage your finances

Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation

Step 4: Job market and working arrangements

Step 5: Accessing healthcare and education

Step 6: Ensuring your safety

Step 7: Embracing culture

Discover a warm welcome in France

Key takeaways
  1. With its relatively low costs and high quality of life, France has emerged as a popular choice for expats.
  2. Applying for one of the many French visas and finding jobs calls for thorough research and careful planning.
  3. Deel’s step-by-step guide shows you how to effortlessly navigate the French visa process and settle into your new home.

Set in the heart of Europe, France is steeped in history, culture, and stunning landscapes, from the Alps to the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean Sea. This makes it a very interesting destination for people looking to start an adventure abroad.

Many foreign residents call France their new home, especially as remote work continues to grow in popularity and global mobility becomes more accessible. Expats and digital nomads are drawn in by the high standard of living, cultural richness, and the joie de vivre that is part and parcel of French life.

France, being a part of the EU and the Schengen Zone, offers a variety of visa programs that make it easier for foreigners to gain permanent residency or even citizenship. However, moving to France demands preparation and confronts newcomers with a few challenges and paperwork. Thus, thorough preparation is crucial for a seamless transition. This guide walks you through all the necessary steps for a successful start in France.

Step 1: Prepare your documents

The first thing on your French expat checklist is to confirm your eligibility to stay in the country and apply for an appropriate visa. Here’s what to consider:

EU countries

If you hail from an EU country, you can live, work, and study anywhere within France without a visa. This applies to Swiss citizens too.

However, those planning to stay in the country for longer than 90 days need to secure a French residence permit from the relevant French authorities.

Visa types

The French government offers various visas to allow foreigners to enter and stay in the country:

  • Schengen visa: This visa allows a short-term stay (maximum of 90 days) mainly for tourism purposes
  • Long-stay visa: You need this visa if you intend to stay in France for more than 90 days. You can use it to study, work, or join a family member already residing in France
  • Entrepreneur/professional activity visa: This visa suits the self-employed or sole proprietor who wants to do business in France and has at least €30,000 to invest
  • Student visa: For those who want to pursue higher education in France
  • Work visa: To apply for this, you need to secure a job in France first, then your prospective employer will initiate the process
  • Family reunion visa: This visa is for family members who wish to join their relatives who are legal residents or nationals of France

The French Carte de Séjour

The Carte de Séjour, or residency card, is a crucial document for those staying in France, offering residence permits for various durations. The application process depends on the type of long-stay visa you hold.

Types of residence permit

  • Carte de Séjour temporaire (VLS-TS): A long-stay visa valid for four months to one year, serving as a residence permit when validated at OFII offices

  • Carte de Séjour for private and family life: For non-EU/EEA nationals with family ties to a French resident. Valid for one year and renewable. Eligible people include spouses, parents of French nationals, and family members of those under subsidiary protection.

  • Carte de Séjour for employees or temporary Workers: Temporary permit for foreigners engaged in paid activities. Valid for one year and renewable

  • France visitor card: For inactive foreign nationals staying longer than three months. It is also applicable to those exercising religious activities. Financial means of €1,170.69 net monthly are required for this option

  • Carte de Séjour compétences: Valid for up to 10 years. Eligible categories include highly skilled workers, seasonal workers, IT workers, and retirees

  • EEA Carte de Séjour: For EEA citizens and family members. Can be permanent or temporary

  • Carte de Séjour for students or trainees: For international students, graduates, interns, and au pairs

Visa sponsorship

Unless married to a French citizen or an EU national, non-EU citizens need a sponsor to work in France. The sponsor can be an employer or a French relative.

Essential document checklist

Prepare your paperwork before the French visa application process to avoid delays or other issues. Depending on your visa type, required documents may include:

✅ Passport (plus copies): Your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay and have at least two blank pages

✅ Passport-sized photos: The standard dimensions are 35mm by 45mm, and the photo must be no less than six months old

✅ Visa application form: Download, complete, and sign the form, meeting specific requirements concerning your visa type

✅ Proof of outbound travel: This can be your airline boarding pass or train ticket

✅ Health Insurance: Proof of minimum €30,000 medical coverage for your stay

✅ Accommodation details: Where do you intend to stay during your visit

✅ Proof of employment: If you're applying for a work visa, you need proof of your job offer or contract

✅ Criminal record check: Some visas may require this clearance

✅ Educational certificates: If requested, you'll need to show you're qualified to work in your field

✅ Financial records: Provide evidence of adequate financial resources during your stay in France

✅ Marriage and birth certificates: Required if you're moving with your family to apply for dependent visas

✅ Driver’s license: Especially important if you need to use a car and want to convert your current licence to a French, or international one

Importance of authenticating and translating documents

French authorities require certain documents to be legalized. If your country isn't part of the Apostille Convention, your local French consulate or embassy may need to authenticate your documents.

Translation of documents, such as birth or marriage certificates, into French may also be required. Use a professional service that can certify the translation’s accuracy.

Step 2: Manage your finances

France is well-known among expats for its high quality of life, though this comes with a relatively higher cost of living, especially in cities like Paris, Bordeaux, or Marseille. However, with careful budgeting, you can enjoy what this beautiful country has to offer. Here's what you need to consider:

Cost of living in France

Here’s a list of the costs you can expect when living in France:

  • Renting: A one-bedroom apartment costs around €1,200 ($1,300) in Paris and drops to €700 ($750) in smaller French cities and towns
  • Buying property: Real estate in France can be expensive, especially in major cities and the French Riviera, but it is considered a good investment. Initial setup costs include notary fees and taxes
  • Food and drink: Groceries are moderately priced, but opting for local and seasonal products can help save money. Dining out is more expensive than in some other countries, with a meal for two costing around €50 ($55) in a mid-range restaurant
  • Transport: France has an extensive public transport system, and high-speed rail connecting major French and European hubs. A monthly pass in Paris might cost around €75 ($80), while fuel costs are relatively high due to taxes
  • Utilities: Monthly utilities for a standard apartment can range anywhere from €100 to €150 ($110-$160), depending on usage and location


When planning your finances, consider taxation in France. It operates on a progressive tax system, with rates ranging from 0% to 45%.

Depending on their home country's tax treaty with France, expats might be eligible for certain tax returns and benefits during their first few years in France.

In addition to income tax, homeowners need to pay local taxes and a housing tax, though the latter is being gradually phased out for primary residences.

It's crucial to check if France has a double taxation treaty with your home country and to keep abreast of the current tax regulations.

Banking and currency exchange

Opening a French bank account requires proof of residence, ID, and sometimes proof of income. France has a mix of local and international banks.

The official currency is the Euro (€). Currency exchange is available in banks and dedicated exchange offices.

Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation

Securing suitable accommodation is essential not just for visa purposes but also for your comfort and ease of settling in.

Renting vs. buying

Housing prices in France vary widely depending on the location. City centers and the French Riviera are notably more expensive.

When considering buying, factor in the additional fees, including notary fees and taxes, which can add up to 7-10% of the purchase price, and the real estate agent fee, should you choose to use one.

Renting might be more suitable if you're not planning a long-term stay. Start your search early if you're moving during the high season or to a sought-after area like Paris, Lyon, or Nice.

Finding suitable housing

France offers a mix of modern and traditional housing options. Historical buildings have the charm but could also come with maintenance issues.

To find housing, websites such as SelogerLeboncoin, and Lodgis cater to various needs, from short-term rentals to buying property.

Accommodation tailored to expats typically includes amenities such as high-speed internet and may come fully furnished, perfect for those looking for convenience.

Upon deciding on a property, carefully review the lease agreement, which should outline:

  • A detailed description of the property
  • Rent amount and payment terms
  • Security deposit requirements (typically one to two months' rent)
  • Lease term, commonly one year for unfurnished and nine months for furnished rentals
  • Your responsibilities and those of the landlord
  • Pet policies (keep in mind all pets must be vaccinated against rabies)

Step 4: Job market and working arrangements

France's job market is multifaceted, boasting strengths in luxury and fashion, aerospace, information technology, and tourism sectors. The national minimum wage ensures a basic income level, and there's a growing trend towards remote work, particularly in the tech industry.

Job seekers should explore platforms like LinkedIn, Pole-emploi, and Apec to find openings. French work culture emphasizes a work-life balance, formal interactions, and a clear distinction between professional and personal life.

A good knowledge of the French language is often crucial for employment opportunities, although multinational companies may operate in English.

Step 5: Accessing healthcare and education

Healthcare system

The French healthcare system, accessible to all residents through a universal health coverage known as Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMa), is renowned for its excellence. Expatriates must register with the French social security system to benefit from healthcare services, which offer both public and private options.

Education options

Education in France is highly esteemed, providing a spectrum of options from public schools, where instruction is primarily in French, to private and international schools offering bilingual and international baccalaureate programs. Higher education in France is distinguished by its public universities and prestigious "Grandes Écoles," which specialize in business, engineering, and sciences, attracting a global student body.

Step 6: Ensuring your safety

Safety overview

France is generally a safe country for expatriates. Yet, in French cities, as in any major urban area, it's advisable to stay cautious about pickpocketing and scams, particularly in tourist-heavy locations. The country is also vigilant regarding national security, with measures to protect its citizens and visitors.

Emergency contacts

In case of emergency, you can dial 112 (the pan-European emergency number), 17 for police, 15 for emergency medical assistance, and 18 for the fire department. Non-French speakers will find English-speaking operators, although basic French phrases for emergencies are beneficial.

Step 7: Embracing culture

French culture is diverse and multifaceted. From high-end fashion, literature, and arthouse cinema to different regional traditions to stunning wines and refined cuisine, the country has much to discover.

  • French customs: A light handshake or cheek kisses ("la bise") are common greetings among French people, depending on the level of familiarity
  • Dress codes: Fashion is significant in France, emphasizing chic and understated elegance, even in casual settings. Professional environments may require more formal attire
  • Social norms: Courtesy is highly valued in French society. Always use "Monsieur" or "Madame" when addressing someone, and be sure to say "Bonjour" (Good day) and "Merci" (Thank you)
  • Café culture: Cafés are quintessential to French life, serving as places to unwind and socialize over coffee or wine. Enjoy the "terrasse" culture, particularly in Paris, where watching the bustling city life is a cherished pastime

Discover a warm welcome in France

From the iconic streets of Paris to the European heart of Strasbourg to the serene countryside of Provence, France offers expats and digital nomads an enriching experience.

If you are already living in France or are preparing to move there, connect with other remote workers in this location in our France Regional Group!

If you’re considering a move to France, careful research and planning can ensure a smooth relocation. For extra support, Deel can guide organizations and their employees through the visa application process and help them shop for insurance plans.

Discover how Deel can help you obtain a Long-Stay Visa, or explore the Deel blog for more information on relocating abroad.

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