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Relocating to France offers an attractive opportunity for UK citizens, with many choosing France given its proximity to other European countries, with Calais just a short trip from Dover for those with family members, businesses or careers that remain in Britain.

There is a wide range of destinations UK Expats choose to move to including the beautiful French Riviera in southern France, settling in the modern and vibrant culture of Parisian life or choosing a relaxing retirement in the wine regions around the Loire Valley or Bordeaux.

As with any international move, prospective expatriates must understand the visa application process, visit France before their move to make key decisions about where to live, and ideally speak French – or begin learning – to make the transition smoother.

Alongside all the practicalities of registering for a residence permit and taking out private health insurance, it is also essential you have sufficient financial resources to complete your move and support the lifestyle you aspire to in your new French home.

Applying for a French Visa and Establishing Your Tax Residency Position

UK nationals can travel to France without an entry visa, with short-term stays permitted of up to 90 days every 180 days, according to the withdrawal agreement rules for British citizens visiting any EU country. Longer stays will require an appropriate visa, residence permit or work permit for all family members.

Most expats relocating with a British passport initially need to apply via the French consulate in London or Edinburgh, with a visa fee payable and varied visa requirements depending on your circumstances. As a summary:

  • Those moving to France from the UK for part of the year and who own a second property in France can stay in the country for three months with a temporary long-stay visa, called a VLS-T visa.
  • Longer stays of over six months require a VLS-TS visitor residence permit, where the French home is considered the individual’s primary residence for the current year.

There are other French visa categories, such as a French study visa for students. Those moving to France to take up employment will need to apply for a work permit with options depending on their employer, whether the business is registered in France and their profession.

A French residency permit is called a Carte de Séjour, which can be granted for up to four years. Some residence cards need to be validated at the local town hall on arrival and should be renewed in advance of the expiry date.

Tax Residency When Living in France

Establishing tax residency is a separate process from applying for permanent residence. It can also vary irrespective of whether you are a long-term French resident.

Generally, you will be considered a tax resident and subject to the same taxation as a French national if your main home is in France, you spend over 183 days per year there and more time than in any other country, and your primary economic activity occurs in France.

These criteria can become complex, so we always advise seeking independent guidance if you have concerns about the correct ways to declare your income, particularly earnings from the UK.

France has a double tax treaty agreement with the UK. That means that if you are potentially treated as a tax resident by the French government but remain liable for UK taxes, you will not pay duplicate taxes on the same income or event.

Adjusting Your Savings and Wealth Before a Move to France

There are many things to consider before moving to France, from applying for the applicable long-stay visa category, verifying whether you meet any initial minimum income requirement, registering with the French authorities to pay income tax, and deciding how to manage savings, pension products and investments.

UK nationals will require a French bank account, and income and health insurance may be invaluable should you become injured or unwell before qualifying for the French health system or be unable to work after moving to France.

Organising Health Insurance Cover as a UK Citizen Living in France

If you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), this can help cover some healthcare costs, with older EHIC cards being replaced by the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) on renewal.

However, the support available is minimal, and nearly all French visa categories will require UK nationals to provide evidence of a comprehensive health insurance policy covering all family members before they are granted a visa or permit.

Once you have been a French resident for at least three months, you may qualify for coverage through the French healthcare system called Protection Universelle Maladie, with healthcare provided to expats through the same system offered to French citizens.

Foreign nationals who make social security contributions through employment deductions or are retired and have a GHIC card during a temporary stay are usually eligible for healthcare treatments – although income or health insurance remain important safeguards.

Working in France as a Non-French Citizen

Expats looking for employment can register with the Agence Nationale pour l’Emploi (French National Employment Agency) to search for career openings, with around 70,000 positions available for qualified applicants at any one time.

Having a good grasp of the French language is highly beneficial, and you will normally need to provide evidence of a French residence permit to be considered for a role.

Tax Planning Considerations for Third-Country Nationals

Before moving to France from the UK, it is important to establish how your status as a French resident will impact your wealth, with specialist advisers able to help with a comprehensive review, including:

  • Exposure to income tax, wealth tax, capital gains taxes and social charges.
  • Your pension, potential tax liabilities and varied options around transferring your pension to a French scheme, retaining a UK-based pension fund or opting for a self-managed alternative.
  • Managing investment products and assets, deciding how to access these funds from abroad, and establishing the best solutions to adhere to your expectations and income requirements.
  • Inheritance tax and succession planning, where advice is necessary for expats moving to France who have assets in both the UK and overseas since the rules around inheritance tax in France vary significantly from those in Britain.

While there is a lot to consider, sound planning can ensure you protect your financial future, understand your tax liabilities and tax-efficiency options, and can relocate with the assurance that your accounts, savings, investments and funds are in a good position.

For more information about moving to France, from opening a French bank account or understanding the French equivalent income tax bands, please contact the Chase Buchanan Wealth Management  team in Bordeaux, or our UK Administration Centre, for more tailored assistance. 

*Information correct as of August 2023