Find A Job
As with much of Europe, and even the world, unemployment rates in France are currently amongst the highest they have ever been. In fact, according to recent reports, there are over 3.5 million people unemployed in the country; that’s 10.5% of the overall population.
Of those in employment, around 80% work within the services sector, whilst approximately 18% work in the industrial sector, and 2% are employed with agriculture.
All EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals have the same right to employment as French citizens do and will not need a work permit to have a job, be self-employed, or set up their own business. However, due to the current employment market, with jobs being relatively scarce, it is perhaps not surprising that you will find it much easier to find employment if you can speak French.
Those from outside the EU will usually only be considered for a position if there are no suitable French or EU applicants. Non-EU/EAA nationals will also require a work permit and a residency permit to work in France. You will, however, need to secure a job before you can apply for your permit as you need a contract of work from your new employer before you can apply for it.
There are a whole host of large multinational companies based within France, who will consider applications from international graduates. Companies such as AXA, EDF, L’Oréal, Orange and Renault, all have large head-offices in the country. If you’re considering a move to France, it might also be worth looking for a job in your home country with a company that has offices in France and offers transfer opportunities.
However, it’s important to remember that, to find employment in France, you will need a suitable command of French – even if the role you are applying for requires your mother tongue; you will still need some French language abilities. If your French isn’t too good, it’s worth considering a TEFL job or similar that will allow you to brush up your French skills whilst you work!
There are a number of ways to find job vacancies in France, including advertisements in the local media and also recruitment companies. Whatever sort of role you are looking for, there are a whole host of recruitment agencies and job sites that can be used to find work, these include:
International Au Pair Association
Speaking Agency is a site specialising in English speaking jobs.
Any EU, EEA, or Swiss nationals can also use the European Job Mobility Portal (EURES) to search for jobs. The site also allows you to upload your CV so potential employers can find you.
In addition to private-sector recruitment agencies and job sites, the French National Employment Agency (Pôle Emploi) operates both online and through regional offices all over France. The agency lists a wide range of job vacancies including manual, unskilled, and casual positions.
Speculative applications (candidatures spontanées) are viewed favourably in France – those with the foresight to approach a company asking for potential work are considered to be ambitious and proactive. So it’s certainly worth contacting any companies within your sector for whom you’d like to work.
When you are invited for an interview, bear in mind that interviews in France are very formal and so you should always dress and act accordingly. Bear in mind that it’s not unusual for interviewers to ask questions about your personal life and future plans; so don’t be surprised if this is the case!
Once you have successfully found a role, your new employer will usually ask for proof of your identity and proof of your right to work. You will also generally need to open a French bank account, particularly if your earnings amount to over 1500 Euros per month.
Anyone working on a French employment contract is required to pay approximately 10% of their wage in Social Security contributions. If you qualify this will automatically be deducted from your wage and goes to cover health care, pensions, and unemployment benefits. All French residents, who are physically present in France for a minimum of 183 days a year will be liable to pay income tax, however much they earn. Any tax contributions made in other EU countries will receive tax credit on any income tax paid in another country.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
Long-term residence in France is tied up with your type of visa; see ‘Residency’ below. Rules for work permits vary depending on your country of origin; see ‘Work Permits’ below.
Citizens of a country in the European Union or the European Economic Area can enter and remain in France as a tourist for any length of time without a visa. Until the end of 2020, the UK is still regarded as an EU country for purposes of travel. It is not yet known what arrangements will apply after 2020.
Citizens of the following countries, together with close family members, can enter and remain in France for three months without a tourist visa: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela. After three months, a visa is required.
Anyone else who wishes to enter France for any length of time will need a visa.
If you are unsure whether you need a visa to enter France, the French government’s visa wizard can help you find out.
These are for stays of up to 90 days and come in three types:
• Schengen visa and airport transfer visa
• Short-stay visa for people from Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion, Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy
• Short-stay visa for people from New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Mayotte, and French Southern and Antarctic Lands
These are for stays of more than 90 days and come in two types:
• With the obligation to apply for a residence permit: you can stay in France for three months, but a residence permit is required to stay longer – see ‘Residency’ below
• Equivalent to a residence permit (VLS-TS: Visa de Long Séjour-Titre de Séjour): for visitors who already know they intend to stay longer than three months – see ‘Residency’ below
Applications can be made online, and are then followed up by a face-to-face appointment at an issuing authority. All applicants aged 12 or older must attend the appointment in person.
Once you have created an account, you can start your application at the France-Visas website, but you should not do this more than three months before your visit. Your application can be saved at each step of the process. Once you have created your first application, you can add up to five more people to create a group application.
Depending on your circumstances, you will be told which supporting documents you need. As a minimum, you will need:
• A passport that is less than 10 years old, which is in good condition and has at least two blank pages. For short-stay visas, it must be valid for at least 3 months after the date on which you plan to leave the Schengen Area. For long-stay visas, it must be valid for at least three months after the expiry date of the requested visa
• Two recent ID pictures, as PDFs in ISO/IECI format (see the France Diplomatie website for details)
Certain supporting documents must be translated into French by a certified translator, which can be found on the Directory of Sworn Translators from France website. You can determine which documents need translating at Service-Public.fr. Once translated, the documents can be certified at the French consulate or embassy in your own country, or at your country’s consulate or embassy in France. You must pay the cost of translation.
Once the application is complete:
• Print out the application form
• Book an appointment at your local issuing authority via the France-Visas website. Your appointment must be no more than three months and no less than two weeks prior to your departure date.
• Bring your form and all supporting documents to the appointment, as well as money to pay your fee
If you submit a group application, then everyone in the group will be called to the appointment.
All visas issued by France are biometric. Biometric data (photo and fingerprints) will be captured at the appointment.
A table of the fees associated with different types of visa can be found on the France-Visas website. The fee is retained even if the visa is denied.
If application fees are received by an external service provider, there may also be a service charge, but this will not exceed €30 per application.
On entering France, visa holders may be required to show supporting documents. Spouses of French citizens do not have to present supporting documents.
In addition, anyone who fits the below criteria must present a Reception Certificate on arrival, as proof of accommodation:
• You are visiting France on a private or family visit, to stay in a specific household
• You are not from the EU, Andorra or Monaco and do NOT hold a Schengen visa or a long-stay VLS-TS visa
The intended host of the visitor must apply for the Reception Certificate at their town hall.
Visitors From The European Economic Area And Swiss Nationals
You can look for work, and work as an employee or an employer, without a work permit. However, you must be demonstrably in work within six months of entering France, unless you can show that you are actively seeking work or that you have a good chance of being employed shortly. Allowances are made for temporary incapacity to work or involuntary unemployment.
If you have a valid long-stay visa, then you may look for work. Before you commence employment, however, your future employer must apply for a work permit on your behalf – this must be done at least two working days before you’re due to start. Once your work permit is approved, you must take a medical examination.
Postings To France
You may be exempt from requiring a work permit if you are a salaried worker posted to France by a European employer, or are working in certain capacities for less than three months.
Citizens of a country in the European Economic Area, or Switzerland, can stay in France for more than three months without a residence permit, but can apply for one if they wish through their department’s prefecture or sub-prefecture.
Anyone else wishing to stay in the country for more than three months should have a long-stay visa or an EU Blue Card.
If your long-stay visa contains the words ‘titre de séjour à solliciter’ (‘residence permit must be applied for’), then you must apply for a residence permit within two months of arriving in France. In Paris, you can do this at police headquarters. In any other department, you can apply to your prefecture or sub-prefecture.
If you have a VLS-TS visa, then you must validate it within three months of arriving. This can be done online on the Foreign Nationals in France website. Once validated, this visa gives you the same rights as a residence permit but not a work permit.
EU Blue Card
This is for highly skilled nationals from non-EU countries. To be eligible, applicants must find a job in France in the field that matches their skills and educational qualifications. The job should have a minimum gross income of €53,837. Applicants must have a high level of proficiency in French.
The EU Blue Card is valid for up to four years and is renewable. If an employment contract is for less than four years, but for more than one year, the Blue Card will be issued for the length of the contract.
To apply for an EU Blue Card in France, contact your nearest French consulate. You will also be required to apply for a VLS-TS long-stay visa.
Anyone who spends five years in France, legally and without interruption, may apply for permanent residence. Look for details on your prefecture’s website.
Get Health Insurance
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Rent Or Buy Property
There are three main options for those wanting to rent property in France.
1. Private rental (particulier à particulier / person to person)
About half the rental market is done this way. The lease is usually very straightforward, and templates can be bought in your local newsagent (tabac). Tenancy periods are generally for three years, and landlords will resist negotiations to make them shorter.
2. Through an estate agent (agence immobilière)
Rents tend to be 10% to 15% higher than if you rent privately, because the landlord has to pay the agency a monthly fee, and they simply stick this onto the rent. However, they cannot charge you more than they are paying the agency. You will also have to pay an administration fee, which should be published on the estate agent’s website, and this will average around €8 to €12 per square metre.
This process is very bureaucratic. You will probably need to provide your last three months’ French pay slips – or your last three years’ tax returns, if you have not been working in France – plus proof of previous residencies, your legal status in France, your identity, and references from previous landlords. The full list of what you may legally be asked to show is available on LegiFrance.gouk.fr. You will need to provide the above in French, so make sure you budget for the cost of a certified translator, if necessary. You will also have to pay between one and 12 months’ rent, up to the price of three months’ rent as a security deposit, and an administration fee. The process can take over two months.
Make sure your agent is a member of one of the three main professional bodies: Federation Nationale de l’Immobilier (FNAIM); Syndicat National des Professionnels Immobiliers (SPI); or Union Nationale de la Propriete Immobiliere (UNPI). The individual you deal with should also have a carte professionnelle, which shows they have the necessary qualifications and experience.
3. Long-term holiday rental
This can be a short-term solution if you do not have a previous financial history in France, helping you establish a presence, so that you can go on to pursue either of the other rental options. Tenancies are generally for up to a year, and the paperwork is much less onerous. These properties generally come furnished.
Tenancies can be furnished or unfurnished. Leases for unfurnished properties tend to be for three years, with longer notice periods, while for furnished properties they are usually a minimum of one year, with shorter notice periods. Rent is generally per calendar month, and a deposit is required as security against damage. Landlords may increase rents once per year, in line with inflation or what has been specified in the lease.
Sample leases (contrats de bail) for either kind of tenancy can be viewed at ParuVendu.fr. As a minimum, they should include the names of both parties; details of the property (address, size, whether furnished or unfurnished); a start and end date; the amounts of rent and deposits due; details of anything else payable to the landlord, for example, utility bills; any further obligations on the tenant and landlord; and the notice period.
Before you sign the lease, your landlord must provide you with an energy rating, a lead report and a risk/safety report for the property.
You will also have an Etat des Lieux, which is a very detailed inventory that documents every item in the property belonging to the landlord, together with its condition down to every existing mark, chip or flaw. Once you have signed this, it becomes a legal document that may be used in court to settle any disputes. It will also be used as the basis for negotiations about returning your deposit when the tenancy ends.
Note that French law does not recognise the concept of wear and tear. At the end of your tenancy, the property will be expected to be in at least the condition in which you found it, with any new damages repaired and any fresh marks cleaned up. If anything is on the verge of breaking down when you take over the property, and then does so during your tenancy, it is your responsibility to repair it.
Your agreement and Etat des Lieux must be signed, and your first rental instalment and security deposit paid, before your tenancy can begin.
For furnished rentals, tenants must give a minimum of one month’s notice, and landlords must give at least three months’ notice. For unfurnished rentals, tenants can give between one and three months’ notice, depending on local laws in their area, and landlords must give six. If neither landlord nor tenant gives notice, then the lease will renew automatically.
You are allowed by law to keep pets if you want, but you will be liable for any damage they cause.
When it comes to finding properties to rent, there are plenty of useful websites available, including:
Local newspapers are also a helpful source, or you can look for notices outside properties declaring ‘A Louer’ (to rent).
The more typically expat your location, the higher rent is likely to be. Rents in Paris can be 50% higher than in other towns, while the apartments are often smaller. On average, a one-bed apartment in Paris costs between €850 and €1,150 a month, and a three-bed apartment costs between €1750 and €2,600. Across France, the average cost for a one-bed apartment is between €525 and €665 a month, and for a three-bed apartment is between €965 and €1,300.
Rents in some high-demand areas are controlled (zone tendue). You can enter a property’s postal code on Service-Public.fr to find out whether it is in one of these areas.
If you are renting privately, you will need to be fluent in French.
Some landlords may be unwilling to let foreigners rent their properties, in case they leave the country. They may require a higher deposit, or even the full rent for the rental period, in advance. If they do take you, then they may require a garant (guarantor) to guarantee your rent. They will be named in the lease, so must be decided upon before this is drawn up. Your employer may be able to fill this role.
‘Furnished’ is a legally defined term that means practically everything you will need is in place. Landlords may claim to offer a furnished property due to the shorter minimum periods involved, without it actually meeting the legal standards. Check this when you sign your Etat des Lieux.
Once you have moved in, you will be liable for a property tax (taxe d’habitation). Inform the French Revenue Service (Centre des Impôts) when you take up residence.
There are currently no restrictions on foreigners buying property in France.
Most properties are found, bought and sold through an estate agent (agent immobilier), who will prepare the sales contract (compromis de vente) once your offer has been accepted. Thereafter, the legal side of the process must be handled by a notary (notaire). You can share the services of the seller’s notary or nominate your own.
You will need up-to-date copies of certain legally required reports that will be included in the compromis de vente: energy performance; checks for termites; checks for asbestos or lead; and electricity and gas safety certificates. If the seller cannot provide these then you must commission your own.
The compromis de vente is a legally binding sale and purchase agreement that states the terms of the deal and the obligations on both the buyer and seller. It should include a detailed description of the property, including surface area, boundaries and exactly what is included in the sale, such as outbuildings, fixtures and fittings; the findings of the legally required reports, and responsibility for any remedial action; any vices cachés (hidden defects) or conditions suspensives (conditional clauses giving a legal interest in the property, such as easements); a penalty clause for failure to fulfil any of the conditions; and how your purchase will be financed.
There is a seven-day cooling-off period after you sign the compromis de vente. After that, neither party can pull out without potentially facing legal action and a claim for damages. The buyer puts down a 10% deposit at this stage.
After you have signed the compromis de vente, the notaire will conduct a full legal and financial investigation of the property, which takes about three months. While this is happening, a date can be set on which the acte de vente (bill of sale) will be signed.
Once all due diligence has been done and you are ready to make your payment, you and the seller will sign the acte de vente at the notary’s office. This will be read aloud to you before you sign – it’ll be read in French, so you might need to provide your own interpreter.
You then pay any outstanding taxes and fees. Properties over five years old are charged 5.8% stamp duty, while newer ones are charged at 0.7% plus 20% VAT. Some homes are sold toutes taxes comprises (TTC), which means that all taxes are included. There are still two residential taxes: land tax (taxe foncière) and housing tax (taxe d’habitation). These are due every 1st January, so you will pay a pro-rata amount for the time between moving in and the end of the year.
Once everything has been signed and paid, the deeds are registered at the Land Registry in your name and the property is yours.
If you sell the property, capital gains tax of around 35% to 40% will apply. You may not be able to sell soon after purchase without the additional costs outstripping any potential profit.
French banks have no problem, in principle, with issuing mortgages to foreign buyers. However:
• While a typical French mortgage is for 70% to 80% of a property’s value, some lenders may limit the loan to 50% for buyers from outside the EU
• You may be required to open a savings account with enough money in it to cover at least 24 mortgage payments, and to take out life insurance equal to 120% of your mortgage, naming the lender as beneficiary
Under French law, to receive a loan, your entire set of present and projected liabilities (rents, mortgages and other regular expenses) must not total more than 30% of your net household income. If you are aged over 65, the banks will disregard earned income and only include pensions and other passive income sources in their calculations.
Move Your Belongings
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: France health insurance
To register for healthcare in France, you will need to register with CPAM, although the organization which will evaluate the amount of your contributions is the Unions de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d’Allocations Familiales or URSSAF – the social security authority.
Your employer may do this for you, but check that they have done so as it is not a legal requirement for employers. If you do this yourself, it must be within eight days of starting your employment. You will also need to register for a social security number. To apply, you will need:
• application form 736
• birth certificate
• marriage certificates if you are intending to register your spouse as well
• deeds, lease or rent receipts (CPAM might not ask to see these, but be prepared)
• bank account details (any reimbursement will be paid directly into your account)
• proof of income
• a utility bill (to demonstrate that you will be living in France long-term)
You may need translations of some of these documents (for example, your marriage certificate) that have been certified by a French court.
You will have to register for a Déclaration de Médecin Traitant, in order to choose your doctor, too (usually this will be at your local clinic).
You will be able to register for your carte vitale (green card), which is your national health card, at the same time. You must take this with you to your GP or the hospital, as proof of your eligibility for treatment.
This can take time to be issued, however, so you may also request a document called an attestation de couverture sociale, which will prove that you are eligible for healthcare until your green card arrives. One expat reports that it took two years for their card to be issued, so your attestation is important.
You can also do this by post. CPAM has an English helpline: 3646 (from France) or +33 811 70 3646 (from abroad).
Open A Bank Account
If you are relocating to France, you will need to understand the banking processes and regulations. As with most European nations, the banking system in France is sophisticated, well organised, and generally easy to navigate. There is a high level of consumer protection in France, and their banks are amongst the strongest and most reliable in the world.
There are a number of local, national, and international banks to choose from. Many expats do, however, tend to opt for open accounts with larger banks as they are less likely to encounter language barriers. The main national banks include BNP Paribas, CIC, Credit Agricole, and Societe Generale.
You can also choose to open an account at the French Post Office (La Poste), this can be particularly useful for expats living in more rural areas as you will be able to access your account from almost every village in the country.
Internet-only banks are becoming increasingly popular in France and they usually offer lower fees and charges than other accounts. There are now a number of trusted internet-only banks operating in the country, including ING Direct, Groupama, BRED, and Monabanq.
With the influx of UK and US nationals to certain areas, many major banks within these regions now have English speaking staff within their branches, which can be a huge help to expats whose French skills are not yet up to the job.
Standard banking hours vary from branch to branch depending upon the location, the bank, and the size of the branch. Typical banking opening hours in cities and towns are Monday to Friday, 08:30-900 until 16:00-17:30, some banks are also starting to offer extended opening hours one day per week. Smaller branches and those in rural areas usually close between 12:00-14:00 each day. If you choose to bank with the Post Office, branches are generally open from 08:00 until 18:00 or 19:00 Monday to Friday, and 08:00 until 12.00 on Saturdays.
Opening a bank account in France is generally a straightforward process, although the exact requirements will vary depending upon the bank you are opening your account with and the type of account you choose to open. Although it is possible to open an account before you arrive in France, many people find it easier to wait until they arrive in the country, as fewer documents are required.
There are various types of accounts on offer, many of which are similar to those available in other countries. It’s important to note, however, that expats who have resided in France for less than 3 months are only permitted to open a non-resident account (compete non-résident), which usually will not entitle you to an overdraft or any form of credit.
Non-residents will be asked to present proof of identity and proof of residence when opening an account. You may also need a letter of recommendation from a financial institution and an initial deposit of up to 10,500 Euro.
Alternatively, to open a resident’s account, you will usually need proof of identity, proof of earnings, proof of residence (carte de sejour), and occasionally a reference from your employer or a financial institution.
There is a high level of consumer protection in France, and their banks are amongst the strongest and most reliable in the world.
Although many businesses accept debit cards (carte de debit) and credit cards (carte de credit), not all of them do, particularly when it comes to smaller businesses or smaller transactions. In rural areas, many shops and restaurants operate on a cash-only basis, so it’s advisable to ensure that you always have a supply of cash with you.
Some expats are surprised to find that cheques are still often used to pay for all manner of goods and services. When paying with a cheque, however, always ensure that you have enough funds to cover the payment as a declined cheque is considered to be a severe fraudulent offence and the account holder may be placed on a blacklist with the Banque de France, meaning that they may be prevented from opening any further accounts in France or receiving any form of credit.
French banks are extremely cautious when approving loans and overdrafts, so if you are applying for either of these products, expect to be asked for proof of residency and income (which will need to be stable and regular).
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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Learn The Language
If you are intending to move to France to live and work, and are not currently a French speaker, how easy will you find it to communicate in the country? How widespread is the use of English throughout France? Which languages will you need in the workplace? We will answer some of your questions below.
The official language of France is, of course, French, but there are many other languages spoken in the country as well, including:
There are also a large number of minority languages such as Franco-Provencal, Alsatian, and Breton: some of these are endangered but others are still going strong and are spoken by a large number of people.
The French are stringent about protecting their language and there is some considerable resistance to adopting English as a lingua franca. French is required in government publications and in the workplace. If you are moving to France to take up employment, with the possible exception of some international organisations, you will need to speak French to a reasonable standard. If you are visiting the country for a short time, it is a good idea to memorise some basic phrases relating to the following categories:
• meet and greet
• days of the week/months of the year
• shopping and food-related vocabulary, including eating out
• some basic medical vocabulary (e.g. asking for a doctor’s appointment)
• some basic banking vocabulary (e.g. opening a bank account)
Expats report varying experiences in response to their efforts to speak French to locals, ranging from friendliness and enthusiasm, to disdain, but it is suggested that you perservere, out of politeness if nothing else.
If you have an interest in the language, or are planning to spend a long time in the country, you may wish to take French language classes. You will find plenty of provision for these, with many schools and classes across the country at a range of different levels: from immersive classes for Business French to conversational practice for beginners, or from year-long exam based courses to short summer schools which you may wish to choose by location.
Paris is of course a major centre, but France has many large cities with extensive language provision, including Nice, Antibes, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Lyon. Most areas will have regional accents, although the French taught in language schools is likely to be fairly standard.
Since French is a Latin-based language, some of the vocabulary will be familiar to you as an English speaker, since English is influenced by, though not based upon, Latin. It is relatively straightforward for native English speakers to learn and many Britons will have learned French at secondary school level: if this is the case much of the vocabulary will probably come back to you fairly quickly once you are on the ground.
It is possible to sign up with the universities, such as the Sorbonne, but this can be an expensive way to learn the language – particularly if you are based in Paris. Language tuition in some of the smaller cities can be cheaper.
The French government has devised a quality mark for language teaching: the Qualité Français Langue Étrangère label. This is the result of a quality-assurance process undertaken by the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Its aims are to identify, recognize and promote the French language learning centres at which high-quality teaching and services are guaranteed. You can check whether your chosen language school is registered under this scheme.
Around 39% of the French population is estimated to be English-speaking, and particularly in the cities, you should find people with whom you can communicate in English.
You may be moving to France to teach English. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) as this is a requirement in many schools.
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality. Business English is always a good specialisation, but if you have experience in TEFL for children, this may be helpful as well if you are applying for work in summer schools.
You will require at least a Bachelor’s degree: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Teaching experience is also required. Average quoted salaries are in the region of €700 – 1600. If you are coming from outside the EU, you will need a work permit. Main hiring periods for general teaching take place in the autumn, but there is work in summer schools available as well: you will probably need to apply in January for these.
There are some specific schemes, such as the Teaching Assistance Program in France (TAPIF) run by the French Ministry of Education and the Cultural Services of The French Embassy that places Americans between 20-35 years of age as assistant English teachers in elementary and secondary schools throughout the country (the application deadline for this is January 15th for an August start).
You may wish to take up translation or interpreting work, but obviously your French will need to be of a high standard and if at government or university level, you would be expected to have the relevant formal qualifications. As with teaching, you will need at least a Schengen visa if you are coming from outside the EU: France is an EU member, and if you are from an EU nation as well you will find it easier to get work.
Choose A School
The French education system is one of the best in the world by many metrics. Its literacy rates are consistently high, at around 99%, and France ranks well above average amongst OECD reporting countries on the percentage of GDP spent on education, at around 6%. The nation’s PISA rating is also very close to the world average.
State education in France is very well developed and well regulated. It is controlled by the Ministry of Education. Lessons are conducted in French, but several other languages may be taught throughout the system, including English.
If your child needs French language training to be able to attend state school, this can be organised locally (typically a minimum of 70 hours would be required), and extra support can be continued at school.
The French education system is divided into several levels. Nursery/kindergarten (pré-maternelle/maternelle) is widely used in France, with many children receiving this level of pre-schooling. Primary and basic secondary tuition is then compulsory from age 6 – 16, and all tuition is provided free up to secondary school graduation. University education is provided at low cost to EEA citizens, and there is a grant system for other world students.
Primary schooling covers ages 7 – 11, while secondary school runs from ages 11 – 15. Upper secondary school (lycée) runs from ages 15 – 18, ending in the baccalaureate, but many students will enter a vocational or technical college at age 15, with the aim of gaining qualifications in their chosen trade. The duration of tuition here will vary depending on the profession or occupation chosen. For those attending the vocational colleges or taking apprenticeships, there is also the chance of further advancement through technical universities, and there are many institutions for professions such as teaching.
For those continuing their studies in the state upper secondary system, a final graduation exam is taken at the end of studies, with many then expected to go on to university, depending on exam grades.
Approximately 50% of 18-21 year olds in France are in some form of higher education.
Homeschooling is legal in France, and the procedure is relatively simple. You must register your intent annually with the mairie and the local school inspectorate. You will be visited regularly to ensure the educational welfare of your child, and certain standards in many subjects will be expected. Although the numbers of children being educated in this way is small, homeschoolers in France are well-organized and helpful.
There are around 6,000 private schools in France offering tuition at various levels, many faith-based. Their curricula will generally be closely aligned to the state system, with additional classes and activities depending on the philosophy of the individual school.
There are also a large number of fee-paying international schools catering more specifically for expat children of all ages, some with day care for infants, but separate pre-school kindergarten (ages 3-6) is also available privately in the larger cities. Several of these schools offer the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), and most are based on tuition in English under various national education systems.
Here are a few of the international schools in France:
• International School, Paris (IBDP, multilingual)
• American School, Paris (IBDP, plus international placement program)
• Cours Moliere, Paris (bilingual to Baccalaureate)
• British School, Paris (English curriculum)
• International School, Bordeaux (British to A Level)
• International School, Toulouse (English, IBDP)
• Mougins School, Mougins (British curriculum ages 3 – 18)
Extra-curricular activities will vary considerably, and need to be ascertained from the individual school. Demand for places at international schools is always high, and it is important to contact the school of your choice as early as possible. Fees will also be quite substantial, and need to be ascertained with the school. It is always important to read the small print – additional expenses can mount up – for example many schools have additional contributary capital funds for improvements/repairs.
Secondary school or international school graduates will have the choice to continue their studies in one of the many French universities, which generally have excellent reputations, but many students, local and international, will want to pursue their higher education abroad. Successful graduation from French schools (public or private) will give your child an internationally recognised high standard qualification, which is accepted at major universities worldwide without the need for additional assessment tests.