Moving to France is a goal for many Americans, with the weather, food and culture being super tempting to adventurous types. How does moving to France work for US citizens?

Buying property:

In buying property you are generally subject to the same lending criteria as EU citizens, particularly if you apply through a mortgage broker with international client experience, such as the FrenchEntrée mortgage advisers. The same documents will be required for mortgage application (proof of income, passport, etc.). You are also subject to the same taxes and fees (i.e. notaire fees, property and occupancy tax, and potentially capital gains tax).

Temporary residency:

For visits of fewer than 90 days, North American citizens need only a passport. If you are looking to stay longer, then you will need to apply for a visa de séjour temporaire (a temporary residency visa) from your nearest French consulate. This will have to be done prior to your visit since the French authorities do not allow you to change your mind once in France. The application process can take up to 2 months, so allow longer to obtain your visa.

If you would like to reside in France for up to 6 months, you will need to apply for a visa de long séjour (a permanent residency visa) from your nearest French consulate. At your French consulate you will talk to the Vice Consul.

Although it depends on your particular embassy, the documents usually required for the application are:

  • Passport with copies of the main pages.
  • Four passport photos of each family member.
  • Birth certificate, with an official translation if requested, notarised by a French lawyer.
  • Marriage certificate/divorce papers/custody papers.
  • If you live with a common law partner you will require a document from the town hall stating this.
  • Proof of residence.
  • Proof of medical insurance.
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources for the applicant and their dependent family members in France.These documents need to be translated by a translator or yourself with certification from a consulate member. The Vice Consul will require information about who you will be staying with and a confirmation fax or email from them. They will also need to see a copy of their carte de résident. If you are staying in a hotel the Vice Consul will require confirmation of the hotel / holiday let reservation.The application process for the visa de long séjour takes 6-8 weeks. It costs aroun $150.

    If you would like to reside in France for more than 6 months, you must, on arrival, book an appointment to apply for the carte de séjour. Where each department accepts applications differs; it may be at the préfecture, the sous-préfecture, the local mairie or the police station of the place of residence. Contact the departmental préfecture or the local mairie for information on where to apply.

    You will be asked why you wish to live in France, i.e. work, study or retirement. Depending on your situation a different visa will be needed. For example, if you are working in France, you will be applying for a visa travail, whereas if you are retired you will be applying for a visa retiree.

    The same documents as required for the visa de long séjour are needed, plus you’ll also need to undergo a medical examination (arranged by the préfecture), use an official translator for the documents, and pay a fee for your carte de séjour application. Once this has been done, you will be contacted by the préfecture when your cartes are ready for collection. On collection, you are required to disclose your medical examination results, stamped tax forms, and sign some documents. You will then be given your cartes, valid for one year.

    Non EU-national family members:

    If the main applicant’s visa application is accepted, their spouse and children under 21 years are granted the same rights to live and work in the country. All family members require a carte de séjour; the application process is the same as above. The permit is valid for up to five years. It is issued at no further cost.

    Carte de séjour renewal:

    You will need to renew your carte de séjour after one year. Similar documents are required to do this as for the original application. You may also need to supply proof of funds. If so, you will be asked for copies of certain documents such as payslips and bank statements. You may also be asked to provide proof of health cover and social security contributions.

    Permanent residency:

    A permanent residence permit (carte de résident) allows you to live permanently in France. Permits are valid for ten years and renewable. This permit is granted according to your personal circumstances (For example, this permit would be granted to an applicant who has been living in France for the last 5 years with a long-term visa and can prove that they intend to stay in France for many years – perhaps because they have bought a property and/or their children attend French school, etc.) and providing you can prove that you’re financially self-sufficient (with previous tax payments and a current employment contract). You can also obtain this permit if you are the spouse of a French national.

    Contact the departmental préfecture or local mairie for information on where to apply. You will be required to provide the following (this is subject to variation depending on your situation):


  • Birth certificate and official French translation
  • Spouse’s birth certificate and official French translation
  • Marriage certificate and official French translation
  • Proof of residency in France
  • List of previous places of residence
  • List of former employers
  • Names of all siblings
  • Names of all children
  • Photos
  • Two copies of the completed application
    The récépissé de demande de carte de séjour (RCS) authorises residence in France while an application for an official residence permit is being processed. It is valid for at least one month, is renewable, and can allow you to get a temporary work permit (APT).French citizenship can be obtained after living in France for 5 years provided the applicant has been living in France with a resident status such as a carte de résident.

    EU Nationals

    If you are an EU national you are entitled to live and work in France without a visa.

    •With thanks to Indra Balassoupramaniane, French Avocat

    *Prices are sourced from the French Embassy in Washington and were correct at time of writing.

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