Top Ten Tips for Moving to France

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Tracy’s Top Ten Practical Tips for Moving, Living & Working in France

If you are reading this, it’s probably because you have a dream….. And that dream involves moving to France, living in France and maybe like me you want to set up your business in France. Well my dream became reality, but there were a few difficulties along the way ….

It’s a beautiful country, the language is romantic. Its well-known for the delicious food, the arts, La Tour de France and the wine is to die for and let’s face it who wouldn’t like to have more sun, sand and sea……But you know it’s also renowned for its difficult bureaucracy and time wasting processes. And over the years I’ve learnt that the only way to deal with this is to be PREPARED! If you’re not prepared, the dream can resemble a nightmare … read on …..

MY STORY – The Dream

Having travelled quite a lot, I finally decided to come to live in the South of France and was over the moon planning my trip. I revised my school French grammar and had a few lessons, so when I came to France in 1992, I had a relatively good level of French (or at least I thought I did!). The reality was that I couldn’t believe how difficult it was trying to make myself understood. Calling the electricity company to get my electricity switched on took me 5 calls! In those days Europeans needed work permits so waiting in line at the Nice Prefecture only to find out I had yet 2 of 10 another piece of paperwork missing was torturous. I distinctly remember trying to get a stamp for my envelope at the local ‘tabac’ and despite my numerous attempts to pronounce ‘timbre’, they just didn’t understand me.

I thought the language would be the least of my problems, how wrong I was – although I could understand them, they never understood me! Maybe it was my Yorkshire accent! What was supposed to be a dream had elements of ‘nightmare’ in there.

After having my first child, I received no child allowance because due to the time it took the prefecture to get my carte de séjour together, the limit for my back payments had run out. It was a crazy vicious circle that had me crying out in frustration at times!

So maybe you’ve already found your dream home and you are in the process of organising the move. If this is the case, you need to read on – allow yourself to gain time by benefiting from my experience and avoid some of the paperwork traps and more importantly get some help if you can’t manage.

The Reality

Businessman overwhelmed by the paper uses the language of signs and messages written on paper to communicate

TOP TIP 1 – Your Paperwork

Make a List: This has to be the most important.

Bring all your official paperwork, birth certificates, marriage certificates, tax returns, driving license, medical files, insurance policies, social security cards. You will need these for the different processes in France. Ensure that your birth certificate shows your parental affiliation. This may seem obvious but so many of my customers waste precious time in certain processes due to not having a full birth certificate. For some situations you will need a translated birth certificate. A list of legal, sworn translators can be found from the local Town Hall (Mairie). LBS works with many legal translators and can facilitate this for you.

TOP TIP 2 – Setting Up Local Utilities

The French energy market is open to competition so you may choose your supplier. However EDF (Electricity) and GDF (Gas) do compete with the new arrivals on the market to offer a price and one where the price is set by the state (tarif réglementé). To prepare your move remember that for the electricity and gas you will need to inform them at least 2-3 weeks before your move, to ensure your electricity is switched on. There is a small cost for this.

English website:

If it’s a new build then they may need to visit the apartment in which case if you call early enough, you can arrange this for the day of your move in. You will need to provide them with the 14 digit number on your meter or it can be found on a previous invoice.

You should also think about getting your telephone line connected and what internet options you need. The main operator in France is Orange (previously France Telecom) There are also many other providers on the market (SFR, Free, Numericable) offering similar all inclusive packages like Orange so you might want to do some research. For new builds you may not have as much choice of operators, at least for the first 6 months. They will want proof of your address for all of these so ensure you have your rental agreement ‘bail’ or your buying contract ‘promesse de vente’. Note that your Bank account will need be set up in order to get your utilities set up.

With LBS’s Clarification Pack, we can provide you with all the relevant information for your internet package and you go ahead and do the rest!


TOP TIP 3 – A Bank Account

Read the small print: If you are buying in France, you will probably already have a French bank account. Setting up an account isn’t that complicated but you would need proof of address so if this isn’t possible yet, open up a non-resident account. Also banking in France has a cost so do check out the different services the bank offers and how much this will cost you. Also think about savings you might make via currency transfer for either regular mortgage payments or lump sum amounts for property purchase – it can be huge.

Contact Tracy at LBS if you need a contact for this.

Note that going overdrawn in France is not tolerated, so you should negotiate an overdraft facility if you think you need this.

TOP TIP 4 – Health Cover

Be pro-active: Health cover in France is very good but it’s not free! Like any health care system, you need to pay into it before you can get anything out of it!! If you are coming to work for a company in France, your company should do all the paperwork with the local CPAM to ensure health cover for you and your family, managed by Ameli.

For more information from

If you are setting up your own business in France, you will be entitled to health cover but this will be managed by the RSI (Régime Sociale des Independents). You can also find more information at

For people travelling to France from one of the EEA countries & Switzerland, who are not working, setting up a business or who are not yet receiving their retirement fund, ensure you apply for the European Health Card (EHIC).

I would advise any one to discuss their options with their local NHS before leaving the country. If you need help deciphering your options, LBS can help you understand the process and the documents you will need with their Clarification Package.

TOP TIP 5 – Claim Child Benefit

Be patient: If you have 2 or more children and are a resident in France, you can claim child benefit in France. This benefit is not revenue tested at the moment (this will change in July 2015) and therefore, is accessible to any resident. It can be a long process but child benefit can be back dated up to two years for those who haven’t quite got round to putting their claim in yet.

Before leaving your home country, ask your local child benefit office for a letter certifying that you are no longer receiving child benefit for your children. You will need this for your application here in France and it will speed the process up if you have it already.

LBS has a 100% success rate for child benefit files! With the Compilation Package, LBS will check your documents with you, complete the applications forms for you and assist you through the follow the process.

More information at

TOP TIP 6 – Your Driving License

Drive carefully! If you are non-European, you have one year to transfer your license over to a French one. After that, you will need to take the French driving license. Before you leave your home country, ask your local driving office to give you a letter stating that your rights to drive are not suspended or cancelled and the year that your licences was given to you. You will need this for your driving license application at the Prefecture.

Since 1st July 1996, it is not an obligation for Europeans to change their driving license and you may continue to drive in France with your driving license. However France works on a points system and if you commit a driving offence where points would be taken from your license, it then becomes an obligation to change your driving license to a French one, so drive carefully! Driving license changes are done at the prefecture.

TOP TIP 7 – Car Registrations

Don’t wait too long: If you are bringing a car over to France, you want to consider the costs of obtaining the French registration ‘certificat d’immatriculation’ If you get stopped by the police without the correct registration documents you can be fined up to 135 euros, so don’t wait 2 years like a previous customer of mine and then be surprised at a hefty fine!

This process is taken care of the Prefecture and the cost can be a little expensive depending on the country of origin. You need to factor in the cost of the registration of the vehicle plus a pollution tax for it. For older cars, before leaving your home country, ask the garage where you bought the car or the manufacturer for a ‘Certificate of Conformity’, this is a document stating that your vehicle conforms to european standards. Also check your car insurance policy as most only cover up to 3 months abroad and if you have an accident in France, you may find yourself without cover.

If you want to understand the process better, contact LBS and the Clarification Package will help demystify it!

TOP TIP 8 – Obligatory Insurances

Shop Around: You need insurance for your house, car and health. If you have children, you will also need to take out school insurance to cover any injuries caused to other children whilst at school due to accidents. For car insurance, ensure that you have your no claims bonus from your previous insurance in order to get a better price.

Shop around; there can be a big difference in price from one insurance to another. Also if you need a few insurance contracts, you can negotiate discounts. In France if you want to change your insurance you will need to give a 3 months’ notice of cancellation, sent my registered letter to your insurance company. People generally stay with the same one, so take the time to find the right company for your needs. LBS can help direct you to the right agency.

TOP TIP 9 – Visa & Carte de Sejour

Plan Ahead: For non-Europeans the visa’s and work permit situation can be extremely frustrating, I know I have been there! So patience is needed. You really need to plan ahead for your trip! Think about applying for a long stay visitors visa. If you are unsure of what the process is, contact LBS who can help you finding the correct process in formation with their Clarification Package.

If you need to deal with the Prefecture whilst you are in France, some extra tips:

• Always smile

• Don’t use paperclips; they don’t like them for some reason

• Keep your file in the order of the documents they request

• Always be prepared to go at least twice to the Prefecture

• Translate everything

• Take originals of your paperwork

Some information can be found here:

TOP TIP 10 – Business in France

Get the right advice: There are many options in France and depending on your aims, each business model has its merits, but none of them are simple, except perhaps the sole trader (autoentrepreneur) model, which has lots of advantages but also a few disadvantages!

LBS has helped many expats in business and will ensure you get the right advice with our Clarification Package Or why not have LBS manage the set up for you with the Full Completion pack .


It’s probably taken you a long time to find your dream home, so ensure that you take some time to organize your transition. Don’t waste your valuable time. Simply choose the package that is most suitable to you, and we will do the rest.

The 3 C’s:

Clarification – we help you understand the process and give you theapplication forms and off you go!

Compilation – we help you understand & complete all the documents for you

Completion – we go to the office for you or with you and follow your process through to completion

You will ultimately save lots of your time and avoid months of frustration!

Watch Leonetti Business Services(LBS) Video HERE

Contact Tracy Leonetti on +33 (0)6 59 04 01 51

Email :

LBS website:

Skype: Tracy.Leonetti2


Seeing is believing…

Taking some of the frustration out of France

France’s bureaucracy is notoriously slow and for many foreigners, very confusing. But life is about to become simpler as the French government unveils a new series of measures to ease interactions between the French State and its citizens. From driving penalty points to paying VAT, the new set of rules could make ‘l’administration’ more modern and user–friendly.

The new measures to simplify interactions between the State and the public could reduce waiting lines at town halls.  (Photo Credit: David Morris)

Among the most expected measures, the life of a carte d’identité (ID card) will be extended from 10 years to 15 years, saving money and many hours at town halls in the process.

The restaurant tickets system, whereby certain companies give their employees around eight euros a day to spend on lunch, will also be simplified. Before the end of the year, a rechargeable card will replace the paper system to make paying for food more convenient. Around 3.5 million French workers use the restaurant tickets system.

Checking how many points a motorist has lost on their driving license will also become a little less time–consuming since the data will be posted online for drivers to consult.

Businesses are also set to benefit from the government’s plan, with obligations for trading firms to register with French tax authorities to be removed. Those companies will only have to register with their chamber of commerce, cutting paperwork and costs by half.

Several administrative procedures for businesses will be achieved online, such as payment of the VAT, which represents five million bills sent to the State every year.

Prime Minister Jean–Marc Ayrault said the measures will save the country around three billion euros in 2014 by speeding up and simplifying the interactions between the French State and businesses, as well as those who live in the country.

Source/Credit: Mado Bayon for The Riviera Times Online

French Bureaucracy – Oh, la, la, la, la!

As followup to my previous post about the new driving laws in France, there has been a new development reported – there’s a new deadline!

The requirement to have a alcohol breathalyser in your car has been pushed back four months until March 1, 2013, due to continual problems in supplying the demand for the kits in time for the already revised deadline.

Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, reportedly stated that the increase in the time for the legislation to come into force would be used to review the effectiveness of even requiring motorists to have an ethylotest – Allez savoir !

MEUH (MOO) à la Préfecture in Nice!

This video depicts how I feel each time I successfully renew my carte de sejour (a long-stay permit): like a (herded), Dancing cow …… and here’s why!

When I first moved to Nice, I was required to apply for a carte de séjour. I knew about the infamous French bureaucracy, which requires tons of paperwork and multiple copies, and so, I went to the Préfecture (administrative center) to ask what documents I would need. I was told there are over 40 different kinds of carte de séjour, which would determine the list of required documents, and “NON”, the list was not available online – already this was beginning to get complicated! I was given a list of documents to furnish, along with official photos and and fiscal stamps (purchased at another location, of course!) I had my homework cut out for me, as I also noted that the department for “Etrangers” opened daily at 9:00AM.

OK, I was finally prepared, with folder in hand, and got to the Préfecture around 8:30AM — well, actually, just to the outside of a locked entrance gate that led to the sidewalk to the building’s front door. There I stood, along with hundreds of other people huddled at the gate. Not really knowing what the procedure was, I waited too, and around 9:00AM someone unlocked and opened the wide gate door. All of a sudden, everyone started rushing and pushing, with some people running fast towards the building’s front door (which was of course locked!) in order to get there and in line (so to speak!) ahead of all the others. It was a dangerous situation, and all I could think of was that it was like a cattle stampede – totally out of control, both physically and emotionally!

At this point, everyone was lined up (sort of) to again rush through the glass door, when it was opened, in order to run and stampede through the inside hallway to the back area where again, a line was formed in a roped off area, in front of a small reception desk. All this meant that it was a crazy, free-for-all from the start gate to the finish line area – but wait, that’s not all!

After waiting over two hours in line at thé Etrangers reception area, they announced that no more applicants could be seen for the day, and so, everyone still waiting could return the next day (to repeat this same scenario!) There were, understandably, a lot of people upset and complaining/yelling, so finally, the employees just got up, went behind closed office doors to remove themselves from the area – a sort of power-play tactic, which delayed the day’s process even more! When you do finally get seen, you are sometimes missing a document that wasn’t on the list (? what), or a copy of something, as copies are required with the original (again not listed how many are needed). It’s always something….and so, that’s why French bureaucracy is so notorious!

The carte de séjour is valid for only one year, so the stress-filled anticipation of the renewal process starts well before the card’s expiration date! Of course, there’s a more organized way to manage all this – just don’t count on getting up front in line to tell someone!

(Video source: YouTube)