Everything You Want to Know About France and More...

Tips for settling in France

Village square with a fountain - very French scene

Getting established in any new country takes time. Here are some handy hints to help you settle in France…

It may seem obvious, but for anyone moving to France, first brush up or learn to speak some French – it will make life easier and, after all, it’s only polite!

There’s no getting away from it, France is bureaucratic and there is always going to be heaps of paperwork involved. So prepare a file with all your key documents and certificates – birth, marriage, divorce (if applicable) and children’s’ birth certificates, wills, driving licences and even pet passports. You’re also going to need a justicatif de domicile i.e. an electricity or phone bill. Get the documents and certificates translated into French by a registered translator – French authorities usually require a copy of the original and a translation, and it makes it easier to have everything ready.

Tie up loose ends in the UK – contact utility companies, the tax office and bank to make sure they know you are leaving the country. Apart from tidying everything up, these organisations might have useful advice to offer.

Register in the social security system

Once here, getting registered in the social security system is important – do this as soon as possible as it will provide access to healthcare as well as employment, education and various public services.  If your French is good, visit the French social security services website ameli.fr or family welfare services caf.fr.   For information in English the UK government website also provides an overview.


Before leaving the UK obtain an S1 form from the Department of Work and Pensions, take this to the local French healthcare authority (CPAM caisse primarie d’assurance maladie) once you arrive.

Puma: Protection Universelle Maladie. A universal system of healthcare was introduced in January 2016 The Puma system grants an automatic and continuous right to health care in France to those who are legally resident in the country, basically, healthcare rights come automatically with right of residency.

That right is not reliant on the user having paid into the system. In practice, Puma mostly refers to the system of access to healthcare for those who have not built up any rights through social security cotisations via a salary or self-employed work. It includes those who do not have an S1 form, usually held by EU state pensioners.

This group consists mainly of early retirees and state pensioners of non-EU states and requires the applicant to obtain a carte de séjour as proof of residency.  There may be a requirement to pay an annual fee, known as cotisation subsidiaire maladie (colloquially a “Puma cotisation”). You can fine more details on the French Government website: https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/F34308

You become eligible for French healthcare after three months’ residency or as soon as you start work and pay social security contributions. Then you can obtain a Carte Vitale, your employer can probably help you obtain this. Healthcare in France is excellent but as the state covers only 60 – 70% of health costs you need top-up insurance – a Mutuelle – to make sure you are adequately covered. The Mutuelle representative should be able to explain the process and also help you obtain your Carte Vitale.

Opening a bank account in France

Opening a French bank account quite easy. You can do this before you arrive in France if you prefer, and these days most banks have an English speaking service to make things easier. Take your paper- work and a letter (it may need to be translated to French for some banks) from your UK bank confirming your financial situation to the bank you choose as this will simplify procedures.

Childcare and education in France

When it comes to your children Family Allowance Allocation Familiale (AF) is paid by the CAF (Caisse d’Allocations Familiale) from the birth of a second (and any subsequent) child until they reach the age of 18 – should you only have two children payment ceases as soon as the eldest reaches 18. The Allocation Rentrée Scolaire is a one-off payment each September to all children in full-time education (excluding university) and the amount varies according to age. These benefits are only applicable if you work in France and are contributing to the French social security system.

Should you choose state education, the Mairie pays for primary (Primaire) education, so you will almost certainly have to send them to the local school. For Collège there is greater choice, but generally you cannot send children out of the département. Lycée is a free, national choice. To enrol for Primaire sign up at the Mairie, for Collège and Lycée do this directly with the school.

There’s no school uniform and no packed lunches – children stay for a three course meal or go home. You will be asked to provide a leaving certificate – certificat de radiation – from the child’s previous school – while this doesn’t really apply coming from the UK, obtain a letter from your child’s previous school before you move to avoid any unnecessary delays. Of course if you choose private or international schools you’ll have a completely free choice.

Pensions and tax in France

If you receive a pension from the UK, you can either keep the status quo and have it paid into your UK account and transfer as needed or sent directly into a French account – the choice is yours!

Once you become resident in France you will be liable to pay French taxes in May each year. To get into the system, go to your local tax office (Centre des Impots) or Mairie, or go online through www.impots. gouv.fr.

Even if you think you might fall below the tax threshold level it is still your

responsibility to file your return on time and, if you live or work in France for more than 182 days, you will be classed as a tax resident from the day after your arrival, so you will need to register.

Please note these details are correct as at time of publication (2019) and may change.

Thanks to Leggett Immobillier, the award winning estate agency in France for this article.

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