Moving to France from US Guide | Atlas International

Moving to France From US Guide

With iconic landmarks, breathtaking geography, a celebrated arts and history culture and world-renowned culinary experiences, each corner of France is popular among expats looking for their new home. Atlas International is a leading full-service provider that offers personalized planning and guidance for streamlined moves to France and other international destinations.

Why Choose France?

Life in France comes with some of the world's most highly coveted amenities and infrastructure. Rich in history and culture, France appeals to US expats with its renowned cuisine, architecture, fashion, art and scenery. Its geography offers a bit of everything, such as the Parisian metropolitan, balmy Mediterranean cities, breathtaking French Alps and rolling meadows of the wine regions, making it easy for expats to find a French home that suits their lifestyle. 

France also maintains a high standard of living, with laws to protect employee work-life balance, a 35-hour workweek and an emphasis on downtime and vacation. Even with a culture that prioritizes a work-to-live mindset, France remains a global economic force that provides citizens with stability and strong social services and infrastructure for health care, education, public transportation and more.

Preparing for a Move to France

A smooth and streamlined move to France requires some logistical preparation. 

Visa and Residency Requirements

US citizens can apply for the Schengen visa, which allows them to remain in France and the rest of the European Schengen zone for a total of 90 days within a 180-day period.

Those who want to move to France or exceed the 90-day tourist visa allowance can apply for a long-stay visa, which allows you to stay for 3 months to a year for personal or professional purposes, such as family visits, studying, training and working holidays. Two long-stay visas are available, including a regular visa, which entitles you to entry and requires a resident permit, and the VLS-TS, which doesn't require a residence permit. Visa applications typically require valid travel documents and identification, documentation of your plans and a completed application with paid fees.

For stays longer than a year, US citizens must apply for a resident permit when they arrive in France. The Carte de Séjour pluriannuelle is a multiyear resident permit that lasts for up to 4 years, and the Carte de Résident is a resident card permitting you to stay in France for 10 years or longer, depending on the type. While you can apply for the Carte de Séjour with just a long-stay visa, a Carte de Résident has more involved requirements, such as a specified duration of uninterrupted stay in France. In addition to a valid preexisting visa or residence permit, resident card applicants may need to provide proof of income, health insurance, French knowledge or other details.

Where to Live in France?

While Paris may house a large portion of the country's population, France has many popular cities and areas that offer unique appeal. If work, study, family or other obligations don't restrict your choices, consider options throughout the country.

  • Paris: Expats often choose Paris because it offers a metropolitan lifestyle and a strong arts culture, and residents benefit from prestigious education and competitive work opportunities. The city has infinite culturally enriching entertainment options and a strong social culture, giving expats endless opportunities to find fulfillment in their new homes. However, these perks come at a relatively expensive cost of living, and this city has some of the world's highest rental and real estate prices. Tourism also contributes to inflated prices and overcrowding.
  • Lyon: This city offers more affordable rental and real estate options with spacious apartments and homes. It has many similar amenities to Paris, such as museums, theaters, public murals and historic sites. The ​​Rhône and Saône rivers and other scenery complement Lyon's Roman architecture and tranquil city streets. Between fresh produce at local farm markets and a high density of Michelin-star restaurants, Lyon is one of the most attractive spots for foodies.
  • The French Riviera: The French Riviera is home to Nice, Cannes, Antibes and an assortment of low-key villages. It's also an appealing option for US expats eager to enjoy the warm French Mediterranean climate. The cities offer a glamorous yet laid-back atmosphere, and small towns, generally a short drive from the major cities, have a welcoming and rustic charm with cobblestone streets lined with fresh produce vendors and unique shops. Cannes, Nice and comparable cities may have high real estate prices due to luxury vacation homes, but Cotignac, Carcès and other areas can be more affordable options.

Costs of Living & Moving to France

Depending on various lifestyle preferences, France generally has a lower overall cost of living compared to the US. The main differences are in social services, such as health care and public education, which typically have lower upfront costs than comparable services in the US. Rent, groceries, utilities and other day-to-day expenses are typically cheaper in France, and local public transportation and an extensive train network connecting cities and the rest of Europe make commuting affordable.

With all of France's amenities, however, come proportionate taxes. France has higher taxes than the US, although they largely contribute to its robust social welfare system that allows for a high quality of life and still leaves plenty of your paycheck after deductions. Real estate is also more expensive on average in France compared to the US, although departing from tourist-centric cities may provide more affordable options.

Atlas International Can Help You Move to France

Atlas International is a reliable and experienced full-service global moving company that can simplify your move to France with one-on-one support and helpful guidance and tips. We don't just pack and move. We're with you during every step of the moving process, from visa applications to customs clearing support and other logistical advice. 

We'll personalize your packing and shipping plan and facilitate the entire move. After clearing customs and reaching your new front door, we'll unpack everything for you. If you're not ready, we'll keep your items in storage until it's time to settle into your new French home.

Moving to France: The Process Explained

Even with excellent moving services, downsizing can be a good strategy ahead of your relocation to France. Consider storing or selling furniture, household goods and other items that may already be in your new accommodation or are easy to purchase, especially electric devices that don't fit French outlets and voltage standards. Many newly purchased items may be subject to France's standard 20% value-added tax (VAT) and about 10% in customs duties, although personal items in your luggage are usually exempt. You'll have to provide an itemized list of imported items in your moving shipment and either receipts for these items or extra paperwork.

Car imports are also subject to VAT and duties, unless you've already lived in France for over 12 months. Moving your car to France also requires you to obtain a certificate of conformity to verify the vehicle's condition meets European standards and a vehicle registration document, which can be difficult with older vehicles. You'll also have to supply additional documentation to clear customs, such as the vehicle's title and the US Customs & Border Protection Vehicle Export Cover Sheet. Once you've arrived, you may need to get a French drivers license.

Moving pets is generally less complex. Dogs and cats don't need to be quarantined upon arrival if they have valid microchips, vaccines and health certificates. France maintains a ban against mastiffs, pit bulls, tosas or other dogs that may resemble these breeds.

Embracing Your New Life in France

A new life in France offers a few potential nuances and challenges that benefit from mindful strategies.

  • Culture Shock: The French lifestyle is a noticeable shift from the US. Take time to familiarize yourself with the metric system, French grocery stores and restaurant and meal conventions.
  • Language Barrier: Many people in France speak limited English, so plan ahead and learn a few essential phrases. Consider enrolling in French classes before and after your move, and make sure to start every conversation with "bonjour."
  • Bureaucracy: Expats sometimes struggle with French bureaucracy and its frustrating paperwork. Follow instructions precisely, keep digital copies of all your documents and use a password manager system. If possible, use the French version of sites to avoid translation errors and be persistent with calls.
  • Getting Settled: Once you arrive, enroll for essential services, such as banking and health care. If you're a student or have school-aged children, organize their school enrollment and consider getting an assessment from local non-francophone schooling organizations to address language gaps. These services generally require you to be a resident of France before enrolling.

Start Your International Move With Confidence

Moving to France is an exciting opportunity, and Atlas International prioritizes quality and stress-free moving so you can start settling in and enjoying your new home. Wherever you are in the relocation process, we'll provide a personalized moving consultation and a free detailed moving quote. Call 206-526-1137 or contact us online to start your international move.