France and the US are 2 different countries and before moving, there is a few things you should know about France.

As exciting as it can be, moving to a new country induces a lot of work, as when I moved from France to the United States a couple or years ago. New language, new customs, new culture… A lot of learning will be needed.

If you’re planning to move to France, the first thing you will have to deal with is paperwork and administrative tasks, such as getting a new license plate or registering for French Social security. However, settling in France can be smooth if you organize it well before your arrival. Here are 5 things to know before moving to France.

before moving to France

1. Real estate : finding a new home

It might be too hard or risky to rent a place while you’re still abroad (mid or long term). However, AirBnb will allow you to settle in the short term, in order to find your permanent home later. Real estate companies might be the most straightforward way to find your new home in France in main cities like Paris. But don’t hesitate to check out real estate listing websites like Se Loger, Paru Vendu, Mon Bien, pap.fr, etc. You might get more options and maybe better deals by negotiating with a private owner. English fluency is pretty common among the population in big cities, so this should not be an obstacle.

There is no credit score in France, you will need to provide proof of income and in many cases, to get a a guarantor (who lives in France). Also, you will need to make a security deposit, the amount is around 2 months of rent.

2. Car registration in France

If you come to France with your own car, you’ll have one month after you have a permanent address to get a French license plate. If you just stay long term without a residency, you can drive up to 1 year with your foreign plate.

You can register your car in France via the ANTS website (in French only, online procedures), or via a licensed private company. Some of those companies, such as Eplaque, offer a car registration procedure in English, which can be convenient to overcome the obstacle of the French paperwork.

The following documents will have to be provided :

  • foreign car registration certificate,
  • proof of address,
  • proof of identity (usually the driving license, since you must have the appropriate driving license to register a car in France, and it can be used as a proof of identity),
  • MOT (Ministry of Transport security test) not older than 6 months (it can be a foreign MOT if issued in an EU country),
  • proof of insurance,
  • European certificate of conformity or “RTI” (individual conformity certificate, issued by DREAL or DRIRE),
  • “Quitus fiscal” (for vehicles from the EU) or 846A certificate (issued by the French customs),
  • form Cerfa 13750 (car registration request).

Getting your permanent “carte grise” (car registration document, also called “certificat d’immatriculation” in French) for a foreign car can take weeks or months. Therefore, it is wise to apply for a temporary registration certificate (WW) at the same time. With this temp document, you’ll be legally allowed to drive in France during 4 months.

Some U.S. States have agreements with France, so check to see if you are allowed to change you Driver Licence without having to pass all the tests again.

3. Get a French mobile number

In order to do everything that will be required to settle in France, you need to be able to find information and to communicate. Therefore, getting a French mobile number should probably be on the top of your to-do list “what to do once in France” (if you don’t have one already, of course).

Each operator offers specific perks and plan. It is therefore a good idea to research the subject before moving to France. Having identified the perfect plan beforehand will allow you to head directly to the chosen company without wasting time. As a reminder, the main mobile phone operators in France are SFR, Orange (or Sosh), Bouygues, Free Mobile and La Poste Mobile.

4. Registration for French Authorities

Once you have a permanent address in France, you have to register for the French authorities. If you are European, you’ll simply have to register in the city hall where you live (“Mairie”). If you are from a non-EU nation, you must apply for a residency permit (“carte de séjour”) at the prefecture or subprefecture. You must comply with visa requirements, if any, on top of this obligation towards French authorities. If you move to France in order to work for a company, they will probably take care of this, or at least assist you. Private immigration services can also provide help if you come on your own.

5. Health insurance in France

In France, having a health insurance policy is mandatory. This concept is well known among Europeans, but might be odd for Americans or people from Asian countries. As a foreigner, you should be eligible for the Universal Health Insurance Scheme (UHIS, or PUMA in French, as in “Protection universelle maladie”). It costs 6.5 % of your net eligible income. Those who are ineligible must sign up for a private health insurance scheme. It is offered by most big French insurers (Allianz, AXA, Groupama, Swiss Life, etc.). Those companies also offer extra protection which goes beyond PUMA. It will be very useful if you want to be insured for non-covered items.

As usual, do not hesitate to shop around, comparing prices will make you save money ! You can easily do it before moving to France.