The Tour de France has returned to England for the first time since 2007, and British terrain accounts for the first three days of this year’s Tour. After stage one (Leeds to Harrogate), stage two (York to Sheffield) and stage three (Cambridge to London), the cyclists will head off to France. Fancy joining them? You’re not alone.
More tourists go to France than anywhere else in the world. Some 82 million people visit every year, and more than 300,000 Brits have moved there permanently. From ski to surf and fantastic countryside, there’s something for everyone. The weather’s generally good, and the fact that it’s relatively close to UK makes it even more attractive. So if you’re planning on making France your home, here’s your guide to the essentials.
Where to go?
So you want to move to France, but not sure where? Well, our advice is to do your homework. Research everything from the climate (a big country brings many variables) to access; if you, or friends and family are planning on making trips back and forth to the UK, how easy will that be? Do you want something urban or rural? Is it important that you’re near other expats as a safety net (Try the Dordogne if that’s a clincher)? Obviously, you have to be able to afford where you’ll lay down roots, and be on the lookout for deals that look too good to be true.
Buying a house
In France, a Notaire has a legal obligation to check the contract and agreement of property you’ll sign. This person may handle matters on both sides (buying and selling), but some people decide to appoint their own Notaire. If you can get advice from other expats on the process of using a Notaire, that would be beneficial. The Notaire is obliged to make sure you understand what you’re signing.
It’s a given that you’ll need a valid passport, but there’s no need to apply an EU resident permit within the first three months of arrival or a work permit. Until you’re granted permanent residency, you must show a European Health Insurance Card to receive emergency treatment. Then, you should take out private health insurance. For driving, the law is that your UK licence is legal in France, but having to explain that every time you’re asked to produce it to officials that are unaware, means that it might actually be easier to get a new French license. Beware that driving rules are strictly enforced, and the penalties severe, and remember to drive on the right!
If you can’t set up a French bank account before you leave, you should be able to get by with your home credit card. But you should make getting one a priority, because you’ll need it so your wages can be paid, and as a guarantee of payment for other services. Choose a bank with a national presence, so you know they’re there if you need them. You’ll need ID, proof of your new address, and maybe proof of earnings.
When it comes to paying for the property, or making mortgage or maintenance payments on the house, make sure you get the best exchange rate when making the transfer. A currency exchange company like World First will give you better exchange rates than you’ll get from your bank, so your money will go further. They can arrange regular transfers that are easy to manage, and by fixing an exchange rate in advance, you’ll always know what you’ll pay and will be protected if the exchange rate goes against you. Click here to find out more.
If you’re retiring in France, you can claim your UK state pension as long as you have contributed enough qualifying years of national insurance. And your pension will rise each year in line with pensions paid in the UK.
You’ll be taxed as a family unit rather than individually, but a single person without children will clearly pay a different amount compared to a family of 5. Tax is paid in arrears. As well as paying income taxes, workers on a salary will also pay social charges, a bit like national insurance. Rates vary depending on your status but are about 20%-25%. Self-employed people pay about 40%. You think you pay a lot of tax now? It’s not going to get a lot better; France has one of the highest tax rates in Europe.
Leaving the UK at last!
Make sure you cancel or sell the things you won’t need anymore. Cars, furniture, property; that sort of thing. Shipping can be expensive, so decide whether to bring things with you or just buy new possessions. Also, cancel things like gas, electricity and TV subscriptions. Let friends and family know your new address, and pay any outstanding bills and debts. Looks like you’re ready to leave, then. Bon chance! Bon voyage!