We provide all the information you need to know about French immigration for expats looking to live, work, and study in France.
EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals who are moving to France to live, work, and study, will not need a French visa or permit. They won’t need to show any other documentation besides a valid passport or national ID (now including EU member state Croatia, who as of 2015 has free access to the EU labour market with no need for additional work permits). There are, however, some other processes that may apply after you move to France.
Family members of EU/EEA/Swiss citizens can also live in France, even if such family members are not from the EU themselves. They will, however, require the appropriate permit for longer stays in France.
EU/EEA/Swiss nationals moving to France
For EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, moving to France is easy. It’s no longer a requirement to register as a French resident at your local mairie (town hall) within three months of living in France, as long as you possess a valid EU passport and are either employed, self-employed, a student, a family member of an EU, or unemployed with proof of financial means (if you are under 65, you must have EUR 537 per month if you are single with no children, and EUR 805 if you are a couple with no children; rates increase for each additional number of children. Rates for those over 65 are EUR 805 if you live alone and EUR 1,247 if you are a couple).
Since France is a European country, there is no legal requirement to apply for a residence permit (carte de séjour) but you can do so if you wish. It’s free of charge and valid for up to five years. You’ll need to show your passport or ID card and proof of employment or registered self- employment. Contact your préfecture or mairie for where to go to apply in your area.
Remember to keep your passport or ID with you when you are living in France, as you will be asked to present it in certain situations.
Non-EU/EEA/Swiss family members
If your family (spouse, children under 21 and dependent parents) are non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, they are entitled to relocate to France with you, but will need to apply for a residence permit (carte de séjour) from the préfecture within three months of arrival. You’ll need to show documents proving your family relationships (e.g. marriage/birth certificates), proof of your relative’s employment in France (e.g. contract) or financial resources (e.g. bank statements), and health insurance.
The permit (membre de la famille d’un citoyen de l’Union), which is free of charge, will be issued within six months. It is valid for up to five years and must be renewed two months before it expires.
Brexit and UK citizens in France
There were over 150,000 British citizens living in France as of 2011, and there will be no change to the rights and status of UK nationals living in the EU while the UK is still in the EU, but moving to France from the UK could now become more complicated in future years, although it’s currently too soon to tell exactly how, or if, Brexit will affect British citizens in France or British citizens hoping to immigrate to France.
After five or more years
Once you’ve lived in France for five or more consecutive years, as an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen, you have the right to permanent residence and the option of holding the permanent residence ‘EU permanent stay – all occupations’ (UE séjour permanent, toutes activités professionnelles). If you leave for more than two years, you lose this right.
Non-EU/EEA/Swiss family members
Family members who have lived in France with their relative/s have the same rights to permanent residence after five years, but the permanent residence card is obligatory rather than optional. You must apply for this two months before your carte de séjour expires, and you must meet the same requirements as when you first applied for a resident permit (proof of family ties etc.). You retain this permit even after divorce or the death of your EU spouse.
For more information:
- France Diplomatie – this web page is the English version of the website for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for more information on visas and migration to France.
- DIRECCTE – this is the French language website for the French Labour Ministry Directions régionales des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l’emploi. Go to the main website and get redirected to the French region you need.
- OFII – this is the English language version of the website for the L’office Francais de l’immigration et de l’intégration, the French agency in charge of migration (click the “EN” in the top right corner for English.) There are offices all over France; look on the website for contact details of your nearest one.
- Service-Public – this website is for the French government’s public services (in French). To find the contact details of your local mairie (town hall) click here, and for other local departments and public services, click here.
Note: the information in this article is for general information only and you should always seek advice from the French consulate if you have any queries about your particular circumstances.