Moving to France
Tuesday 30 May 2023
What are the procedures for obtaining a legal right to live in France? Updated 15th June 2023
We can consider the rules that apply as follows:
- Visiting France
- Relocating to France
Since 1st January 2021, UK nationals not protected by the WA are only able to visit France for up to three months in any 180-day period as a tourist or on business, without the need for a visa. France has agreements with many countries concerning visa-free travel for tourism and the UK is not an exception to that general rule, as was confirmed in the UK/EU TCA.
The Political Declaration between the UK and the EU, signed alongside the WA, also states that: 'In line with their applicable laws, the Parties will explore the possibility to facilitate the crossing of their respective borders for legitimate travel.' However, until a new broader agreement is reached UK nationals will be subject to Schengen area border controls.
In the coming future, if you are proposing to visit France under the visa waiver scheme (60+countries including the UK, US and Australia) for up to three months you will be obliged to obtain a travel authorisation before you leave. You can read more at Visa-Free Travel in Europe and ‘ETIAS’
Under the Schengen rules 'third-country' nationals (including UK nationals) have to leave at 90 days and not return for 90 days. It is a rolling 180-day period, so you can visit as many times as you wish, except that at each visit it is necessary to calculate whether by the end of your most recent visit you will have exceeded 90 days in the previous 180 days. If you overstay you can be prevented from returning. The entry date is the first day on which you spend any time in Europe, the exit day is the last day you are in Europe.
It is important to note, therefore, that the 90/180 day rule applies across the whole of Europe, which means that if you make other visits to Europe other than to France, the days spent elsewhere will count towards the total. However, as there is freedom of movement across Europe, where borders are open (Covid and terrorism permitting) it is not clear just how such a rule can be enforced.
If you married or in a civil partnership with an EU national, and you travel with them in the Schengen area the 90/180 days rule does not apply. It would only apply if you were travelling on your own. You would be well advised to ensure you have documentation to support your joint travel. Note, however, that you can only stay up to 3 months in one country before you need to apply for a visa.
Since Brexit there have been several reports in the press of British nationals staying in France beyond the 90-day period and receiving a fine from border officials as a result of overstaying. In the worst case, it is possible you could be banned from entering France again for up to 5 years.
If you seek to stay in France for a period of more than 90 days you must, in principle, hold a long-stay visa. This visa can only be obtained from the French consular authorities in the UK, which means that you must return to the UK to apply for a visa. The 90-day rule is cumulative with a visa, and the French consulate have provided us with guidance on the rule that applies, which you can find at French Visas and the 90/180 Days Rule.
You can enter France before commencement of your visa date, using Schengen rules, but you cannot stay beyond the expiry date of your visa. You need to quit France for at least 24 hours and then return using Schengen rules.
It may then mean that you would become tax resident in France if you spent 6+ months in France. However, it does mean you could spend up to nearly six months in France each year, without becoming resident, with careful use of rights under your visa and Schengen rules.
Note however, the Embassy do not issue a visa too far in advance of your visit, so it is unlikely you would be able to take full use of the 90-days.
You will also need health cover, which you can obtain through the new EHIC, called the Global Health Insurance Card.
Indeed, all third country nationals – including British nationals since 01/01/2021 – should be able, if requested, to produce to the immigration officer when entering France the following documents in addition to a valid passport. To be valid, the passport must be valid for at least 3 months after you propose to leave the EU and to have been issued within the last 10 years before the date of entry into France. The French authorities state: “a valid passport which is less than 10 years old and which will be valid for three months after the envisaged date of departure.” Be warned - there is considerable confusion about this rule by both airline staff and border officials. The passport CANNOT be more than 10 years old.
i. Evidence of accommodation in France:
- For tourism: hotel reservation (in the absence of a hotel reservation, the traveller will have to prove that he possesses at least 120€ per day, see point 2), rental agreement, property title, package tour confirmation;
- For a professional visit: letter from the employer, invitation from a French firm or organisation;
- For a private visit if accommodated by friends or family: confirmation of board and lodging (attestation d'accueil) from the host;
ii. Evidence of financial means of support : cash, travellers cheques, valid international credit card, bank statement,…(€65 € per day in France or €33 € if you have a certificate of board and lodging).
iii. Travel insurance covering all medical, hospital and funeral expenses which may occur during the entire period of your stay in France, including repatriation costs on medical grounds;
iv. Guarantees of return: return ticket...
Where you have only limited accommodation arrangements planned, as you will be touring, you should send in your vehicle rental agreement or copy of your vehicle log book, a copy of your driving licence and insurance policy, together will information on your proposed travel plans.
There has been widespread concern in social media of the formal requirement for UK nationals visiting family or friends to provide a validated attestation d’accueil from their local mairie, but the French government have stated that the invitation from the host will be sufficient. Your mails indicate that very many mairie know nothing about the procedure and that customs officials do not demand it. Nevertheless, if you are applying for a visa for a stay over 3 months, then such a document is important. One important reason is that if you have it the test of resources will be lower.
Second Home Owners/Long Term Visitors
As a result, though the property rights of second home/holiday homeowners will not be affected by the UK leaving the EU, it will constrain their ability to visit France.
Many second home-owners currently spend more than 3 continuous months in France and this practice is going to become more complicated, as they will be subject to the same rules as other non-EU nationals visiting France, i.e. visa, health insurance and sufficient resources.
In Dec 2020 the French government issued guidance for those with a second home in France, which states:
'If you are spending between 3 to 6 months a year in France, you are not considered as a resident in France and cannot pretend to a ‘Carte de Séjour’ under the withdrawal agreement. You will have to apply for a temporary Long Stay visitor visa ‘VLS-Temporaire Visiteur’. This visa is non-renewable in France. A renewal date cannot be earlier than 6 months after the expiry of the existing visa.
If you spend more than 6 months a year in France, you are then considered as a French resident and must apply for a Long Stay visitor visa (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour VLS-TS « visiteur »).'
Needless, to say, if you are 'considered as a French resident' you will be considered tax resident in France. We frequently hear from second-home owners who fear of becoming resident in France because of the tax consequences. In the vast majority of cases, we consider this pessimism is misplaced. Most people who relocate to France pay less in taxes than they would in the UK.
Ordinarily your passport will be date stamped on arrival and entry. You can read more in our article Brexit and Border Controls. You may also wish to read our article on Guide to Bringing Pets to France.
In addition, the EU is in the process of introducing an electronic travel information and authorisation system (ETIAS) for those travelling to Europe from visa-free countries. This means that your travel back and forth (including dates of arrival and departure) will be logged on a central computer system.
Although the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme will end for those not benefiting from the WA, as part of the trade negotiations the UK and the EU have agreed on a 'Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)' . The free GHIC can be obtained on application via UK Global Health Insurance Card.
The French Consulate in London initially insisted on full medical insurance (PHI) for those making a visit for up to 180 days, but since May 2021 that policy has been relaxed, with the Consulate now only requiring that applicants be in possession of either a GHIC or a PHI.
We have published an article about this change in our article Visa Health Insurance Requirements Eased.
For those staying longer than 3 months, you will also need to demonstrate that you have 'sufficient resources', which is normally equivalent to a daily minimum sum, starting at €32.50 per day per person. You can see more at Venir en France.
Second-home owners who decide to sell their property are also now subject to additional fees on the sale of their property, as we set out in our Newsletter article Tax Representative on Property Sales.
UK nationals going to France work for up 90 days will not require a visa, but you need to obtain temporary permit.
There are, however, exemptions on the need for a work permit for those travelling for a sporting, cultural or scientific event, a seminar or trade show, the production and broadcast of cinematographic and audio-visual works, modelling, IT/ asset management/ insurance/ finance/ design/ engineering audit or expertise missions.
Moving to France
In Dec 2020 the French government stated there would be no specific provision for the UK, and that 'the common laws on the entry and residence of third-country nationals would apply.'
The Political Declaration also makes clear the position of the UK: 'the United Kingdom has decided that the principle of free movement of persons between the Union and the United Kingdom will no longer apply.'
In due course, it is possible the UK and France may enter into a bilateral agreement, or there may be a new, wider agreement with the EU, but until and unless such an agreement is reached, the requirements that apply for those who arrive from 2021 onwards will be those that already apply to other non-EU nationals.
Those laws grant a right for non-Europeans to buy property in France, in the same manner as occurred prior to Brexit, a point that the French government reaffirmed in July 2021.
The conditions for entry into France of 'third-country' nationals are set out in the Code de l'Entrée et du Séjour des Etrangers et du Droit d'Asile (CESEDA).
The processes and the rules for entry visas and residence permits are complicated, and they vary according to the reason and proposed duration of your stay. In all cases, however, applications are considered on an individual basis.
Generally speaking, those seeking to relocate to France will need to make application for a long-stay visa called a visa de long séjour, of which there are different types, but most are valid for initially one year.
Specialist visas and residence permits are issued to those who have family ties to France, those with substantial wealth, non-European family members of an EEA citizen, students, artists, seasonal workers, or those with skills or talent which could make a substantial contribution to the country, which may be for periods shorter or longer than a year.
A British national married to an EU national will be allowed to stay in France for a maximum of 3 months per 6 month period without the need to obtain a visa. A British national married to an EU national wishing to move to France and settle over there will have to apply a French residence permit at their local prefecture. There is no need to apply for an entry visa. You can read more at Right of Residence of Non-EU Family members of European Nationals.
The most common long-stay entry visa effectively doubles up as a residence permit. It is called Visa Long Séjour valant Titre de Séjour (VLS-TS),of which there are several different types, other than specialist visas:
- Where you are not proposing to work or set up a business in France you will need a Visa de Long Séjour valant Titre de Séjour - Visiteur;
- Where you are proposing to set up a business it is called un Visa de Long Séjour valant Titre de Séjour - Entrepreneur/Profession Libérale;
- Where you have salaried employment it is a Visa de Long Séjour valant Titre de Séjour - Salarié.
It is important to note that if you obtain a VLS-Visiteur, you will be expressly forbidden from taking employment or starting a business. That includes working remotely from France. If you later decide to start a professional activity, you will need to change your residence permit at the local prefecture. Nevertheless, unearned income from royalties, dividends, interest etc is perfectly legal.
You must arrive in France within three months following the issue date of your visa.
If you have been issued with a VLS-TS there are validation requirements once you arrive in France, which then serves as a residence permit for the period of the visa. Validation must carried out within three months of arrival. This is a mandatory on-line process done via the prefecture and handled by the Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII). It is imperative you do it. You will (normally) be required to have a medical examination, which normally entails a lung-x-ray which will be organised for you. They will also organise an appointment for you to attend the OFII for a minor medical examination following the x-ray. The process is routine, although a fee of €200 is payable! No need for you to apply for a residence permit (Carte de Séjour) for the duration of the visa, normally one year as the VLS-TS serves as one, provided it is validated.
Alternatively, you may be granted a visa called a Carte de Séjour à Solliciter, which gives a right of entry to France and requires you make application for a residence permit in the two months following your arrival in France.
Where you are certain of not staying longer than a year you can apply for a Visa Long Séjour Temporaire (VLS-T). This may be the best solution for those with a second home, but the conditions on which it might be available have not been specified. Under current regulations, a new application would also need to be made each year.
As well as a visa application, you may also need to make an application for a work permit, although the double requirement will not always apply. Employers in France will normally take care of the initial formalities for a visa for a prospective employee.
If you are granted a long-stay visa, you remain entitled to travel to other European countries, subject to the 90/180 day rule. Travel to and from the UK can be on an unlimited basis.
No sooner that 90 days before you leave the UK (or other home country), you will need to apply for a visa from the French Consulate in your the UK. If you are living outside of the UK, then it should be made to the local consulate.
It is not possible to make application to the local prefecture in France; although if you are in France you can commence your on-line application and return to your home country before expiry of 90 days.
Only spouses of an EEA national do not need an entry visa and can apply to their local prefecture.
The main application is made on-line at France Visas. It is in English.
The administration of the process in the UK is contracted out to TLC Contact (VFS Global elsewhere), who have their own website at French Visa Application Centre, which is a useful source of information and which you will need to use as part of the application process, where you will need to complete a second stage application form.
When you have completed your TLS application you will need to make a personal appointment on the TLS website to submit the application. There are TLS offices in London, Manchester, and Edinburgh. You will need to leave with them the original of your passport. Delays are being reported in getting an appointment, particularly in London and Manchester, so make your application as soon as possible.
The TLS helpline is not functioning in full with the consulate informing us that: "the call centre was located in Ukraine and that it had to be relocated in other countries due to the Russian aggression on Ukraine. Only about 70 % of the calls can now be processed."
The French Consulate in the UK have also advised us that: "Long stay visa applications must be lodged in person. However, it will possible to have one’s passport returned by post in due course."
The guidance also states:
'You must attend your appointment with all the required documents. Also bring a copy of each document, including the passport and its ID pages.
The service provider (or consulate) will receive you, review your application, collect the visa fee, capture your biometric data (photo and fingerprints) and retain your passport and the copies of all your supporting documents in order to forward them to the consulate.
The visa application submission will take approximately 20 minutes at the visa centre.'
Once TLS have submitted your application to the consulate and a decision has been reached, you need to return to the TLS office to pick up your passport, which will (hopefully) have a visa stamp in it. Alternatively, TLS operate a courier service.
It is possible, after you have made your visa application, to change the start date of the visa, but this must be done before you attend your interview to obtain your visa.
NB: You can obtain up-to-date news from the UK government on travel restrictions between the UK and France at France Travel Advice.
You will need to produce a substantial amount of documentation - passport, promise not to exercise any professional activity in France, if applicable, health insurance, proof of income, including 3 months bank statements, marriage certificate, proof of accommodation in France. The documentation will not normally need to be translated into French.
However, consulates vary in their requirements for documentation and the list of required documents set out on France Visas website cannot be relied upon. The only official, legal list of requirement documents is set out at Arrêté du 30 avril 2021 fixant la liste des pièces justificatives exigées pour la délivrance des titres de séjour.
It is imperative that the application is completed correctly or it will be delayed or even rejected on procedural grounds. There is a tracking tool available on the visa application website. Although you will need to state the start date of the visa on your application, it is possible to later change the date at the time of your interview.
The visa is delivered by means of a stamp (vignette) on your passport.
A fee of €99 is payable, which is paid in Sterling. There is also an admin fee of £32.
As part of the process two important conditions will apply: sufficient financial resources and health insurance.
It may well be that practice will vary between the requirements imposed by officials in the UK, who will issue the initial entry visa, and prefectures in France who will be required to adopt the following main principles in the issue of residence permits.
You may be interested to read a piece published in France Insider, entitled Top Ten Tips for a Long-Stay Visa Application.
i. Test of Resources
In relation to the test of resources, if you are seeking permanent residence in France, the law requires that you have an resources at least equivalent to the minimum working wage (SMIC), which from 1st May 2023 is €1,383 per month for a single person.
The test is applied differently as between those who are economically inactive and those who are proposing to run a business activity, or who will become salaried.
Strictly speaking, if you are not proposing to work, the SMIC figure is per adult in the household, although in practice a lower test is applied.
The French Consulate in London have advised us that they will accept a minimum net income of 'around €2,000' per month for a couple with no dependants, provided your income is stable. For a single person it is €1,383 May 2023). This same policy is not one that will necessarily be adopted by other consulates around the world. We have published an article on the issue at French Visa Minimum Income Threshold.
In considering the level required for a couple/family, the consulate advise us that the figure will be examined "taking into account their circumstances and their project as a whole." That does suggest there is some room for discretion. Indeed, we are aware of several cases that failed to meet the resources test but were successful. However, they also remind us that the law states that the legal requirement for permanent residence is SMIC PER PERSON so there will be a limit to just how much discretion they will use.
Some relaxation of the SMIC rule also operates if you own your home in France without a mortgage, with the law stating:
'Lorsque les ressources du demandeur ne sont pas suffisantes, une décision favorable peut être prise si le demandeur justifie être propriétaire de son logement ou en jouir à titre gratuit.'
The same concession applies if you are proposing to be the gues of family or friends, when an attestation d’accueil will be necessary.
Similarly, if your income is below the minimum level, but you have capital resources that would enable you to live in France for at least a year or more, that can compensate for a lower level of income.
Indeed, the term that is used for the test is 'resources', not 'income', so it is potentially the case that provided you can demonstrate you have a capital lump sum of at least the equivalent of SMIC for one year, you may be given a one-year visa.
Clearly, however, if you are seeking more permanent residence you will need to demonstrate on renewal of the visa that you still have 'sufficient resources', to enable you to obtain a longer residence permit. If your capital resources are substantial it likely that will be taken into consideration.
ii. Business Owners
Those proposing to set up business will need to demonstrate the economic viability of their project, which requires you produce a business plan.
If you satisfy the authorities as to your prospective earnings the initial minimum income requirement can similarly be relaxed, provided you have other resources, with the law stating as follows:
'Afin de tenir compte des aléas d’un début d’activité libérale, vous pourrez, pour la première délivrance du titre, procéder à un examen assoupli de cette condition et prendre en considération les ressources propres dont le demandeur peut faire état.'
The same concessions concerning owning your home and capital resources that apply to retired persons also apply to prospective business owners.
All of which poses a dilemma for many prospective expatriates, who may be unwilling to invest in the purchase of a property in France unless they can be certain of obtaining a visa. One approach may be to purchase on a conditional basis, but that may not be easy to agree with a seller.
For some people, the best solution would be not make application for a visa to work, but to make application for a standard visa, provided you have the minimum level of resources. Once in France, two months prior to the expiry of your existing visa, you can make application for a new visa to run a business, when it will be easier for you to judge the market prospects of your project.
We have provided guidance on applying for a business visa, which you can find at Visa for Starting a Business in France.
In terms of remote working in France, we considered the issue in our article Remote Working in France on a Visitor Visa.
Many who seek to relocate to France plan to run a gite (meuble de tourisme) or a chambre d'hote. We set out the visa requirements and process for such applicants in our news article Visas for Running a Gite.
You can also read our Guide to Starting a Small Business in France for detailed information on the regulatory structure in France.
ii. Health Insurance
In addition, you will be required to show you will have health insurance cover.
For a full consideration of this issue, you need to read our article Brexit - Health Insurance for Visas.
Our general advice would to take a prudent view and to assume private health insurance will be required for the duration of your visa, not only to obtain admission to France, but also for your own protection.
Although there are many insurers you could use, for those who have a serious pre-existing medical condition such a policy is likely to be difficult to obtain. Age limits often also apply.
You can discuss your health insurance requirements with our English language speaking health insurance partner, who is able to offer competitive policies for both private health and 'top-up' cover for foreign nationals. They also offer a refund of the premium on your visa health insurance policy if your visa application is turned down for inadequate health cover.
If you are setting up a business, once you become business registered in France, you and your family have an automatic entitlement to join the French health system. This may well preclude the need for you to offer a health insurance policy as part of the visa application process. We cannot at this stage be sure, but we hope to be able to offer further advice in due course.
In addition, if you are retired or an early retiree, you have an entitlement to join the health system after three months' legal residence in France. Unlike EEA early retirees, non-EEA nationals are not subject to the 5-year residence rule that applies to EEA nationals.
Thus, the French government health website states: 'If you are not a European citizen ……………You can make an application after three months of residency.’ That statement is also confirmed in law.
Interestingly, although entry requirements state that health insurance is required, for those entering on a Visiteur visa, the guidance to prefets who grant a residence permit state that they cannot insist on such insurance, stating: 'Le préfet ne peut exiger, pour délivrer ou renouveler un titre de séjour portant la mention «visiteur», que l'intéressé justifie d'une couverture sociale. Le refus fondé sur l'absence de couverture sociale est entaché d'erreur de droit.'
We are seeking more information on this advice, but it is unlikely to apply to those who are granted a VLS-TS, as it will be consular officials in the UK who determine the visa requirements.
We published a guide to appeal procedures at Appeals against Visa or Residence Permit Refusal.
We offer a comprehensive visa appeals service, which you can find at Visa Application.
If you are relocating to France customs duties are not payable on personal belongings, provided you have owned them for at least 6 months and taxes have been paid in the country of origin. You will need to provide proof of change of residence, eg visa. Professional materials and tools are subject to duties.
You will also need to provide official proof of living outside of the EU for at least a year.
The rule does not apply if your property is a second home where you are bringing personal belongings (excluding those ordinarily required for the stay), when you may be liable for duties and taxes, notably VAT, although as a general rule the items will be duty-free. You need to produce information on values with, where possible, purchase invoices for high value items. In addition to personal belongings (not defined) you are granted an allowance of €300 per adult for other effects (€450 by ferry). Each child also has an allowance of €150. You can also produce your removals insurance certificate. Tools and equipment being brought over for temporary use need to be declared, but if you indicate clearly that they will be returning with you, they may grant exemption.
For permanent relocation, you need to bring the belongings within 12 months of your relocation to France.
However, you need to complete two copies of a customs declaration and attach to it a complete inventory, with values. The document may normally be handled by your shipping agent.
Customs officials in France state that: 'Customs formalities must be carried out at the transit office when you enter the European Union.'
If you bring your belongings over in several journeys, you must list all of them on the inventory submitted to customs at the time of the first transfer.
Strictly speaking, you are not entitled to relinquish (by sale, rental, loan, etc.) your belongings, which are duty-free, before a period of one year following their importation into France.
We have published a longer version of this advice at Brexit: Moving Household Goods to France.
Our guide to customs rules and procedures for importing a vehicle can also be found at Importing a Vehicle to France.
There are particular controls on the importation of plants and plant products, and animal based products as well as limits on tobacco and alcohol. You can read more on plants at Export plants and plant products from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
You may also find it useful to read our article Border Checks on UK Nationals
We provide information about driving in France and driving licences at Driving in France.
Between 2 and 4 months before the expiry of your long-term visa, you can either seek renewal of the carte de séjour, or make application for a different type of visa.
You will need to apply to your local prefecture. The application process can sometimes be fraught, as we indicated in our article French Residence Permit Process Under Fire.
If you are retired, you will normally make application for renewal of your existing Visiteur visa, although you may be able to obtain a longer visa if you have substantial, stable resources.
If you are employed or run a business, the residence permit you are likely to be granted is called a Carte de Séjour Pluriannuelle, which is valid for four years.
A fee is payable, recently reduced to €200 for most visas, although €50 for students and certain other categories of applicants. A tax (droit de timbre) €25 is also payable in most cases.
The conditions regarding the test of resources and health cover continue to apply.
Business owners in particular will need to prove they are generating adequate income from their business. If you are unable to meet the SMIC threshold from your business income, but you can do so from your total income, then one possible solution is to seek renewal of your carte de séjour on the basis of it being a part-time business activity.
As part of the process of applying for a carte de séjour pluriannuelle, or permanent residence, you will be required to participate in an integration process, called Republican Integration Contract (CIR), which includes a basic language course. You can read more at French Residence Permit Language Test.
However, if you are not ready for the test, you can renew an existing shorter-term visa. Where you have applied for a pluriannual residence permit, the government also grants up to two years for you to complete the requirements of the contract, but in such circumstances you will need to demonstrate you are taking the process seriously.
Those who are seeking renewal of a Visiteur visa have no requirement to participate in this integration process, but they will later be required to do so should they subsequently seek permanent residence in France.
After five years' legal residence in France you can apply for more permanent residence (Carte de résident de longue durée-UE étranger en France depuis 5 ans), valid for ten years, the issue of which remains subject to the conditions on income and health insurance. The residence permit allows you to stay in other countries of Europe for more than three months. Absences from France still count towards the five-year period if they are shorter than six consecutive months and do not exceed in total 10 months within the five years. Exceptional circumstances are also taken into consideration eg illness of family member, secondment.
Subsequently, you can you apply for a permanent residence permit (Carte de résident permanent d'un étranger en France), which is not subject to any further conditions relating to income or health insurance.
- Brexit and Residence Rights in France
- Brexit and Long-Term Residents of France
- Visas for Non-Europeans
- Travel to France after Brexit
- Brexit - Rights of Residence of Non-Europeans in France
- Brexit and the Right of Onward Movement
- Brexit - Importing a Vehicle to France
- Brexit - Tax Representative on Property Sales
- Starting a business in France after Brexit
- French Visa Health Insurance Rules
- Brexit - Health Insurance for Visas