How to move to
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
As in most countries, rents in France can vary dramatically depending on the location, type, condition, and size of the property. As a general rule, however, rents tend to start from around 300 Euros per month for small apartments in less appealing areas, and increase to around 1000 Euros for a two-bedroom apartment in larger cities. Of course, rents in the capital, Paris tend to be considerably higher still.
When looking for a rental property, it’s most common to use estate agents with dedicated letting departments, local classified papers, rental websites, or by asking around in the local area. Before you begin your search, it is important that you understand the process of renting in France and have a good idea as to whether you’re looking for a long or short term let on a furnished or unfurnished property.
Rents in France are completely down to the discretion of the landlord and the tenant, and both are free to negotiate an acceptable agreement between them. However, when it comes to rent increases, the landlord cannot implement an increase unless this is specified in the tenancy agreement.
By law, a tenancy agreement (bail or contrat de location) must be provided if the property in question is the main residence of the tenant. The tenancy must be signed on or before the tenancy start date and does not need to be witnessed by a notary (notaire).
There are also certain clauses that must be included within the tenancy agreement. For example, the commencement date of the agreement, the duration, the amount of tent, and the amount of the deposit must all be outlined clearly in the tenancy.
Equally, there are a number of clauses that are prevented from being used in a contract, so it’s worth keeping a look out for them when signing your lease – an obligatory payment or the rent by standing order, or the obligation to take out an insurance policy chosen by the landlord are both forbidden by law. Interestingly enough, it is also against the law for a landlord to refuse to allow pets to reside in the property.
You should also note that an unfurnished property must have a minimum tenancy of three years, whilst a furnished property must be at least one year. If you require a shorter tenancy for professional reasons, then this can be arranged however it must be agreed between you and the landlord in advance.
The tenancy agreement should also include a condition report and survey report for the property, including energy performance and asbestos.
The majority of French Landlords require a damage deposit (depot de garantie) to cover any damage to the property or rent arrears, should they arise. The amount of the deposit for unfurnished properties is fixed at one month, and law regulates this. When it comes to furnished properties, however, there is no limit on the amount of deposit a landlord can request.
For annual tenancies, the landlord must return the deposit to the tenant within 2 months of the contact ending. If any amount is deducted from the deposit, it must be clearly accounted for and justified.
As a general rule, tenants of unfurnished properties have a much greater level of protection than those of furnished properties. However, whilst the regulations and requirements surrounding furnished (meublèe) and unfurnished (vide) properties vary in the French legal system, there isn’t actually a legal definition in terms of what makes a property furnished. With this in mind, it is crucial that, when viewing a property, you check how much of the furniture will be left for you.
When leaving the property, a three-month notice period is the standard practice, although tenants can technically give notice at any time. Landlords, however, must give six months’ notice if they wish to end the tenancy and they must also have a good reason to do so.
The good news for tenants is that the legal system in France is extremely pro-tenant, meaning that tenants have considerable rights, as well as the option of taking legal action against their landlord should those rights be compromised. For example, once the tenant has the keys to the property in their possession, the landlord no longer has the right to enter the property without the tenant’s expressed consent. What’s more, if they enter the property without consent, they can be charged with trespassing or harassment.
The process of buying a property in France is generally simple, straightforward, and well regulated. Property can be sold privately, through public notary (notaires), or through an estate agent (immobiliers), although most expats tend to buy through estate agents as the process is more familiar and it is more likely that the staff will speak English.
Choosing an estate agent in France can be daunting, especially if you are new to the country. To ensure you receive the best possible service, always ensure that your chosen agent is a member of a registered body such as FNAIM, SNPI, or UNPL. You should also always visit their office before instructing them to act on your behalf.
The process of buying a property in France usually takes between 3 and 4 months, from the initial offer through to the final signing of the contract. There are a number of stages involved and, unlike the UK, there is no such thing as a subject to contract sale, although you may be asked by the estate agent or the seller to formalise your offer in writing (offer d’achat).
Once your offer has been accepted, the process begins, starting with the Compromis de Vente (the first contract), which outlines the main terms of the agreement between the buyer and the seller. When signing this contact, the buyer is usually required to pay a 10% deposit, which will then be held by the notaire until the sale is complete. The Compromis de Vente is a legally binding contract that can only be terminated if one of the conditional clauses (Clauses suspensives) isn’t met.
The Clauses suspensives are clauses added into the Compromis de Vente that allow the buyer to withdraw from the purchase under certain circumstances, such as if the buyer’s mortgage is refused, planning permission is declined, etc. Any clauses can be added into the contract, however both the buyer and the seller must agree to them.
Once the terms have been agreed and both parties have signed the Compromis de Vente, the buyer is allowed a 10-day cooling off period to consider their purchase. During this time, the buyer can withdraw their offer without incurring any sort of penalty before it becomes legally binding. It’s important to note that this cooling off period doesn’t apply to the purchase of single building plots or to purchases that are made through a French property company (an SCI).
The final stage in the process is the signing of the final contract (Acte de Vente or Acte Authentique). The buyer must sign this himself or herself or the power of attorney if this isn’t possible. It’s important that you arrange to view the property of the day that the contract is finalised and signed – there is a clause in the contract stating that the property is ‘sold as seen on the signing date’ so it’s important that you check everything is in order. You won’t receive the keys to the property until the funds for the property and the fees are in the notaire’s bank account, so ensure mortgage and finances are in order in the lead up to the signing date.
There are a number of professional surveys that must be provided by the seller as part of the selling process; these are collectively referred to as the Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT). These surveys must be carried out before the completion of the sale takes place and you should not sign the sale and purchase agreement without having seen the reports.
Estate agent fees are generally between 4% and 10% of the overall property price, these fees should be included in the advertised price of the property so look out for FAI after the price to confirm that this is the case. The notaire’s fee, however, isn’t usually included in the asking price so you should always budget for this separately.
French notaire fees (Frais de Notaire) include the total fees and taxes for the purchase of the property (such as stamp duty and VAT), and the actual notaire fee itself, which usually represents approximately 1% of the total fee. The fees and taxes payable will depend upon the age of the property. The total fees and taxes for existing properties are usually between 7% and 10% of the overall purchase price (excluding estate agent fees). When it comes to new properties, fees and registration taxes are around 2% plus VAT at 20.0% on the purchase price.
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
The official language of France is, of course, French, which is the first language of 88% of the country’s population. It is the official or main language in some 55 countries across the globe and French is spoken by almost 300 million people.
The standard French spoken today is derived from the variety of the language used in the area surrounding Paris and the Loire Valley.
There are, however, also a number of minority languages and dialects that can be heard across the country, particularly in regions surrounding the country’s borders. None of these languages have any official status within the country, however.
Breton, a Celtic language similar to Welsh and Cornish, is spoken in the Brittany area by approximately 1.2% of the overall French population and has approximately 200,000 everyday speakers. Other minority languages and dialects spoken in France include Flemish (in north eastern France), Provençal (in the south east), and Alsatian (a German dialect in Alsace and Lorraine).
In Southern France, over 7 million people speak Occitan dialects but, again, these do not have official language status. Occitan is also known as Provençal or Langue d’oc and is used in Southern France as well as the Aran Valley in Spain and some areas of Italy. Whilst it is not recognised by the French government, Occitan has approximately 610,000 speakers, many of whom speak French as their first language.
Other minority languages have been brought to the country thanks to immigration – there are communities across France speaking Arabic, Chinese, English, or one of many North African languages as their primary language.
The French education system has a strong focus on language learning and students start learning additional languages from an early age. Within cities and large towns, therefore, it is not uncommon to find that the majority of people have at least a basic command of English.
Despite the fact that much of the French population can converse, or at least communicate, in English, it goes without saying that anyone considering moving to France should make a concerted effort to learn the language. Not only will it give you a head start when it comes to finding a property, a job, and navigating all of the related red tape, it will also help you to settle into the social aspect of your new country. The more skilled you are in French, the easier you will find it to settle into your community and make friends, as well as deal with doctors, shopkeepers, officials, and anyone else you might need to engage with. So, whilst English is widely spoken amongst the French and you could technically survive without learning the local language, if you want to make a success of your new life, it’s certainly advisable to learn it.
Expats have plenty of opportunities to learn French once they have arrived in the country. With the amount of English speakers moving to the country increasing, language schools are popping up to accommodate them and, with night school classes, intensive courses, and even one-to-one tuition on offer, there is sure to be a class that fits around your needs and your lifestyle.
Although it is always advisable to learn the language of the country you are moving to and mastering the French language will certainly help you to settle into the country both personally and professionally, there are a number of jobs available that don’t necessarily require expats to speak French.
With so many Brits and Americans moving to France, it’s not surprising that English-speaking estate agents are in demand. As a result, there are numerous estate agents who are crying out for purely English speaking staff. Other expats find work as bartenders, English tutors, ski-instructors, tour guides, and even freelance writers or editors. Many French families also look for nannies whose native language is English, in order to give their little ones a head start in language learning!
BBC Learn French website
LanguageGuide.org - Francais
The French Tutorial (standard edition offered free)
Alliance Francaise (AF) - non-profit state-approved language training
Hachette (publisher of guides to improve childrens language skills)
Choose A School
Within the French education system, schooling is compulsory from the age of 6 to 16, during this time; education is also free, unless you choose to send your children to Private school.
French schools are divided into three stages – primary school (école), middle school (collège), and high school (lycée). Primary schools cater for children from 6 until 11 and then students attend the Collège (middle school) for four years, until age 15.
After Collège, French students move on to the Lycée (high school) – 16-18. There are two different routes available to students depending upon their learning preferences and their future intentions – the General/Technological Lycée is designed for those students that wish to continue on to higher education, whilst the Vocational/Professional Lycée is aimed at students who wish to go directly into employment.
At the end of their compulsory secondary education, students receive the Baccalauréat qualification. Usually taken at 18, the Baccalauréat is required to enter university or a professional vocation.
Although most French students attend free, local schools, there is also the option to enrol your child into a state-contracted private school, a fully independent private school or an international school. Depending upon the age of your child and the permanency of your move to France, you might decide that continuing their education using the English language and curriculum will be beneficial.
The French education system is generally considered to be amongst the best in the world and maintaining this reputation has always been a priority for the Government, which is consistently reflected in their Education budget.
Similarly to the UK, the majority of French schools follow the national curriculum, which is set by the country’s Ministry of Education. Since reforms were passed in May 2015, however, schools are now permitted to set 20% of the curriculum themselves.
According to the French education system, children must attend a school within a set distance of their home. If you want your child to attend a school other than the one assigned by the Town Hall, you must submit a request (dèrogation) stating your reasons.
When it comes to enrolling into a French state school, you will be required to submit an enrolment file (dossier d’inscription) at your town hall for primary schools or at the rectorat school service for secondary schools. The file must include the child’s birth certificate or passport, proof of immunisations, proof of residence, and proof of insurance.
Although most students in France attend school for between 24 and 28 hours each week, the structure of the school week depends very much upon the region, with different authorities choosing to spread learning hours over four, four and a half, or five days. The typical school day begins at 08:30 and ends at 16:30, although this can be later for older students. The timetable generally includes two breaks (known as rècré) and at least an hour and a half for lunch.
With a total of 117 days holiday each year, French schools have the longest holidays (vacances scolaires) in the world. Whilst students only attend school for approximately 160 days per year, they make up for this with long school hours and ample amounts of homework.
Compared to countries such as the UK and the USA, France’s state schools are somewhat lacking in the extra-curricular activities department. To the surprise of many expats, they don’t tend to have sports clubs or teams, extra-curricular music, drama, arts, or crafts accessories. Local sports associations often arrange both sporting and non-sporting activities in the place of school provision, however, there are usually fees involved.
Upon completion of their compulsory education, students can opt to take one of a number of paths into Higher Education. Over 50% of 18-21 year olds in France are in full time education. The French higher education system is split into three levels, in line with the rest of Europe – students begin with a Bachelor’s degree (Licence or Licence Professionnelle) and then have the option to progress on to a Masters (Master) or a PHD (Doctorat). As higher education is funded by the state, tuition fees for French students are very low, especially in comparison to fees in the UK and the USA.
For more information, take a look at the Ministry of Education.
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