Moving to France has never been so popular. Though living in France has changed for UK citizens post-Brexit (1 January 2021), there are many things which continue to attract Britons and other nationalities to life in France. And of course, you can continue to fulfil your dreams of a different lifestyle.
Fulfilling a dream is exciting – and at times, has its challenges! Here we give you some advice on the key things to do: Opening a bank account, getting a mortgage, arranging insurance and ensuring that you have adequate health cover.
How to open a bank account in France
Opening a bank account is an essential first step for living in France. And, it’s simple and straightforward. From withdrawing cash, arranging currency transfers, funding your property purchase, organising your insurance policies to setting up direct debits, standing orders or a savings account. A dedicated French bank account is essential for daily life in France.
You can open a bank account remotely. Supply the documentation online, saving you the hassle of visiting a branch.
If you run a small business in France, whether it’s a gite, chambre d’hôtes or another type of commercial venture, you must open a separate account for any business-related transactions.
There may be differences in how banks work in France from your home country, notably bank cards. In France, most people use débit cards, with the money deducted from their bank account immediately or shortly afterwards. Credit cards are less common. With a carte de crédit you choose a set date for payments to make budgeting easier.
A RIB (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire) contains all of your French bank account details. It includes your unique bank account number, your name, address of bank and other code information. When you set up your utilities to pay by direct debit, they will ask for your RIB.
Cheques are also still widely used in Frances. If you receive a cheque as a payment, sign and date it on the back before you pay it in to your bank account.
TIP: Most transactions are completed online giving you flexibility with your banking. It is useful though to have a few RIBs printed off for when you need them. Print these at home or your bank can supply them free of charge.
Getting a Mortgage
Compared to the UK, property is generally more affordable in France. And, there is a wide choice of properties available: houses requiring renovation, homes in pretty coastal or quiet countryside locations, city or town apartments. As well as land to build new homes that is often reasonably priced.
When it comes to French mortgages, they’re worth checking out. Interest rates are low at present and fixed rate mortgage loans for a 25-year term are widely available.
Important note: French mortgages are available to residents and non-residents.
Lenders look closely for proof of income and will calculate the total amount of household debt (it should not exceed 33% of your annual income). Get together all of your paperwork before applying online, including proof of income, outgoings, assets etc.
Note: Borrowers must sign a sale and purchase contract for their property before a lender will issue a formal Mortgage Offer.
Setting up a business
The majority of Britons currently moving to France are of working age, so earning a living is clearly key. Many choose to set up their own businesses and there are a variety of legal structures enabling you to do this.
Before moving to France you may find it useful to consult a French based accountant for advice on the best way of setting up a business. They can help register you correctly, complete the necessary paperwork and also advise on tax issues. If you do not speak French, there are English speaking accountants available.
House & contents Insurance
There are two main types of policy: ‘new for old’ cover that essentially pays for you to purchase replacements as new. The second type of policy reimburses you, however, there is a deduction for the age of the item.
If you’re bringing your UK registered car to France, there are several things you need to do including arranging your car insurance. You have up to 6 months to ensure your vehicle conforms to French regulations, such as changing the car headlamps and putting the car through its Contrôle Technique (like an MoT) to obtain a carte grise.
Note: Depending on the terms of the Brexit deal between the UK and EU, you may need to exchange your UK driving licence for a French one.
Registering your vehicle and exchanging your driving licence are both undertaken online.
In 2019 France launched a database called Fichier des Véhicules Assurés (FVA). This checks if vehicles are not appropriately insured – and is linked to other systems.
Top-Up Health Insurance
In France, the state generally funds 70% of healthcare costs. The other 30% is the responsibility of the individual. Top-Up Health Insurance is provided by mutual health companies. Referred to as complementary healthcare cover or the mutuelle, this system reimburses you for the remainder of the cost of your healthcare. Private health insurance is another option, but it’s more expensive.
In France you are legally required to have insurance for health, homes and property, motor vehicles, civil liability and even for children attending school. For those in self-employment business insurance is a legal requirement too.
A Carte Vitale is used every time you go to the doctor, dentist, a pharmacy or visit the hospital. You are eligible for a Carte Vitale if you have lived in France for at least 3 months.
Life in France after Brexit
The UK formally left the EU in January 2020 as part of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). You can find out more about the Withdrawal Agreement and how it affects British Citizens on the FranceRights.org website.
Of course, you can continue to buy property in France post Brexit, either as a second home or for a permanent move.
The official UK Government website (“Living in France”) contains information on many issues including health matters, pensions and working in France, as well as driving.