Interested in moving to France? This is our simple France Immigration Guide, containing all the info you need to get started. From getting a visa to finding work and (eventual) citizenship – it’s all here. Read on!
France: Quick Facts
- The largest country in the European Union (EU), France has a population of ~67.2 million.
- The most popular tourist destination in the world (receiving more than 80 million visitors annually), France has a rich cultural and political history.
- With an area of ~644,000 sq. km, it is about the size of the state of Texas (USA). Aside from the island of Corsica, there are 5 overseas territories (French Guyana, Guadaloupe, Martinique, Mayotte and Réunion).
- One of the most modern and developed countries in the world, France is a major player on the global stage. Along with Germany, it is one of the top regional powers in Europe.
- Has a very diversified economy – major industries include services, manufacturing, technology, tourism, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications. A leading global economy, with a GDP per capita of ~34,000 USD.
- Known as one of the most desirable places to live in, France has a great quality of life (and a relaxed working culture).
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Spoken languages: French is the official language. Regional dialects are declining in usage.
- Major religions: Roman Catholic (84%), Muslim (9%), Protestant (2%), and Jewish (1%).
- Largest cities: Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, Lille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Nice.
Why move to France
- France is known for its high quality of life. The French take the time to relax, slow down, and enjoy the moment. While some may consider this a “slower” pace, it does not mean that locals are inefficient.
- There is a great sense of community, and the French don’t miss a chance to socialize with one another.
- France has a very rich culture – the arts are appreciated and respected. Many famous artists and musicians choose to live here for this reason. Museums and art galleries are everywhere.
- France has a relaxed work culture – five weeks of paid vacation is considered the norm.
- Getting around is easy – major cities feature excellent public transport systems, and an efficient national railway system makes intercity travel a breeze. France is a leading provider of high speed trains.
- The French take their food very seriously. Each region has its own characteristic cuisine, so there is much to explore. France has one of the most developed wine and cheese industries in the world.
- France is a beautiful country, and you will find just about every kind of scenery. From the sun soaked beaches of the south to the stunning Alps, there is something to do for everyone.
Reasons Not to Move to France
Note: these are common expat complaints, and may not apply to you.
- There is a high income tax, particularly for individuals earning over EUR 70,000.
- Knowing French is all but mandatory if you want to build a career here. Other varieties of the language (e.g. Quebec French) may be acceptable, but are still generally considered inferior.
- While the French economy is stable, there is great competition for jobs (especially considering the poor economic situation of neighboring countries). Networking is crucial.
- The bureaucracy is strong here – this may be unusual if you are used to getting things done quickly.
- The capital (Paris) is known for its very high cost of living – expect a lifestyle downgrade if you don’t have the requisite capital.
- Everything closes early. On weekdays, after lunch, most small shops close for a couple of hours. Just about everything is closed on Sunday.
Getting a Visa and Finding Work
- Nationals from the EEA (European Economic Area) countries and Switzerland do not need a work permit. EEA nationals may full all the administrative requirements by simply registering at the municipality of the city where they wish to live. Croatians, Bulgarians and Rumanians citizens (although part of the EU) do not have access to the free movement of workers yet.
- If you want to work in France, you will need both a work permit (autorisation de travail) and a residence permit (issued for the same duration as the employment contract).
- The work permit has to be requested by your future employer (the employer must also provide proof that they were unable to find suitable local/EEA candidates).
- The DDTEFP (Direction départementale du travail, de l’emploi et de la formation professionnelle – the Department Directorate of Work, Employment and Training) will review the application, taking into account your qualifications, your experience, and the current employment situation in France. Once the application is approved, the DDTEFP informs the employer and immigration authorities. This is followed by a medical examination and issuing of a temporary residency permit (carte de séjour temporaire, or CST), indicating the type of work permitted and where it will be done (what region).
- Temporary work permit (Autorisation provisoire de travail, or APT): given for workers entering the country temporary (that will remain on non-French payroll).
- The “Skills and Talents” residence permit (carte compétences et talents) is a temporary permit, valid for up to three years (renewable), for individuals that are deemed qualified to make a significant contribution to the economic development and influence of France. Applicants must propose , and who can present a project for this purpose and establish their ability to complete it.
- Blue Card: facilitates de entry of skilled and qualified people to work in France. The candidate must have a job offer for at least 1 year with an annual gross salary higher than €52,752.
- Working Holiday Visa: just like most EU countries, France participates in the WHV program. Citizens of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea (aged 18-35) may apply to live and work in France for up to 1 year.
- Note: citizens of a number of nationalities (including Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Taiwan, Uruguay, and others) may work in France for up to 90 days without a work permit.
Permanent Residency and Citizenship
- Permanent residence: you may apply for a French residence permit (carte de séjour) once you have lived (with no interruptions) in France for 5 years and currently hold a residence permit for a non-temporary purpose of stay. Common temporary purposes of stay include medical treatments, traineeships, exchange, seasonal work, orientation years for students, etc.
- Citizenship: one may apply for citizenship after having lived in France (or in one of the Overseas Territories) for an uninterrupted period of at least 5 years. Applicants must also hold a valid residence permit. If married to a French national, an application can be sent after 4 years of marriage and one year of living together in France.
Starting a Business in France
- Note: when starting a business in France, it is recommended that you retain the services of professional advisers and/or institutions, including commercial accountants, lawyers, Chamber of Commerce, APCE (Business Start-Up Agency – Agence pour la Creation D’Enterprises), Nacre (National Network Business Start-up – Nouvel accompagnement pour la création et la reprise d’entreprise), Trade Associations, and others.
- There is a new government agency (Centre de formalités des Enterprises) which has unified all the administrative and guidance procedures to help setup a new business. There are physical branches in every French city.
- The most convenient way to start your business up in France is through a “Skills and Talents” residence permit.
- Those making investments of foreign capital should apply directly to: the Economy and Finance Ministry (if the investor is creating a new business or buying a whole/part of an established French company), the Treasury Department (for investments exceeding €1.5M Euros), or the Banque de France (for investments exceeding €15M Euros).
- Note: if you’re cash-strapped (as many budding entrepreneurs typically are), consider starting your company outside Paris. The capital is expensive – not only for renting office space, but also for attracting talent. Other “hot” cities for startups in France include Nantes, Grenoble, and Sophia Antipolis.
Recommended Reading & Resources
- Living In France Made Simple
- Retiring in France
- France Diplomatie – official government website on immigration/visas
- Germany Immigration Guide
- Netherlands Immigration Guide
- Spain Immigration Guide
- Switzerland Immigration Guide