Moving to France: 7 Things You Need to Do On Arrival


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Moving to France: 7 Things You Need to Do On Arrival

So, you’ve familiarized yourself with the steps to residency in France, applied for the relevant long-stay visa, and had your visa application approved. What now? Once you move to and become resident in France, there are certain legal requirements, formalities, and necessities that you will need to carry out.

From validating your visa to opening a bank account; if you are moving to France, these seven things should be top of your to-do list during your first year.

1. Validate Your Long-Stay Visa

Unless you are an EU citizen, the first step in your road to French residency will be a long-stay visa, and the most common is a 1-year Long-Stay Visa Equivalent to a Residence Permit (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour or VLS-TS).

If you’ve entered France with this type of visa, it will – as the name indicates – serve as a residency permit for the first year of your stay (after which you will be able to apply for your Carte de Sejour or Residency Permit). However, you MUST validate it within three months of arriving in France. This step is essential to ensure that you are legally resident in France and also to allow you to leave and re-enter the country whenever you wish.

The validation process can be done online, and a €200 tax is charged. You can see the full list of visas that need validating and also carry out the validation process here.

Note that it is not always made clear at the time of receiving your visa that it needs validating, so check the above list to be sure.

2. Open A French Bank Account

If you’re a French property owner, you might already have been able to open a French bank account, but most movers will need to wait until they arrive in France. Having a French account will be essential for everything from paying your bills to taking out a mortgage, so put this one right at the top of your to-do list.

You’ll need proof of a permanent address (such as a recent electricity bill in your name) as well as various other documents in order to open a French bank account – find out more about the process in our step-by-step guide.

If you’re managing income and assets between your new home in France and your country of origin, you might also want to open up a foreign currency account or a regular payment plan to ensure the best rate of currency exchange.

3. Get Your French Social Security Number

Permanent residents of France are legally required to sign up for France’s state healthcare system or ‘L’Assurance Maladie’. To join, you need to have been resident in France for three months, after which you’ll need to apply for a social security number.

Most new arrivals will first be issued a provisional social security number, which entitles you to access the state healthcare service. Once you have received your permanent social security number, you can also apply for your Carte Vitale – find out about the whole process in our healthcare guide.

To ensure you have full coverage, you might also want to sign up for a top-up health insurance or mutuelle.

4. Get Connected: Buy a French SIM Card

Having a mobile phone is essential these days, and getting a new French number should be high on your list of priorities. Many French micro- and nano-SIM cards will work with your foreign phone, and you can sign up for a phone plan online or in-store at any of France’s telecoms providers, large electronics stores or hypermarchés.

Some of France’s most popular mobile phone networks include Orange, Free, and SFR, and you might also consider a deal that includes phone, TV and internet. See our guide to setting up phone, TV, and internet in France, and once you’re connected, be sure to add France’s emergency numbers to your contact list.

5. Visit Your Local Mairie

While it’s not a legal requirement to register at your local Mairie (town hall), it can be a good idea, especially if you live outside of a major city. The Mairie can issue you with an official Certificat de Domicile, which may be useful when setting up household utilities and the likes. More importantly, they will be your first port-of-call for any questions regarding garbage collection times and recycling (in many communes, this is where you will pick up your yellow recycling bags), mains water connection, property planning permissions and neighbourly disputes.

Registering with your Mairie also means you can sign up for their email list and receive details of community events, activities, and announcements. Read our full guide to the role of the Mairie in France.

6. Exchange Your Driving Licence

If you’re planning on driving in France, you’ll need to make sure that your licence is valid. Depending on where your licence is issued, you may require an international licence to drive in France, or your licence may be valid in France for a temporary period.

The good news is that individuals who hold a non-European license issued by a foreign authority can still legally drive in France for the first year of their long-stay visa. However, if you plan to stay permanently in France, you will need to exchange your licence for a French one before the end of this first year.

Applications for a French licence can be carried out here. Note that there are different rules that apply to British drivers in France after Brexit. See our full guide to driving in France here.

7. File Your First Tax Return

When you become resident in France, you also automatically become tax resident, which means you will need to file a tax return. It is the legal responsibility of every French resident to file a tax return, whether or not you are liable to pay taxes or not. Tax returns are due annually in May or June (depending on your department) – find out more in our guide to filing your first French tax return.

Don’t forget to tell the tax authorities back in your country of origin that you have moved too. Depending on your situation and nationality, you may or may not need to file a tax return in both countries, so be sure that you understand the legal requirements.


For those of you moving from the UK, you might also want to read our article Who to Inform When You Leave the UK. For those of you arriving from the United States, check out our guide to Moving to France from America.

Moving to France?

From applying for your visa and opening a French bank account, to integrating in your new community – FrenchEntrée is here to help! Let our Essential Reading and Visa & Residency articles guide you through the whole process, then visit our Owning Property, French Tax, Healthcare, and Life in France zones for everything else you need to know.

Disclaimer: Our Essential Reading articles are designed to give an overview of the visa requirements and procedures for moving to France. We always check our information against the official government information made available to the public, however, please remember that all visa applications are considered on an individual basis and the exact requirements, fees, or application procedure may vary. Unless you are an EU citizen, obtaining a French visa is not a right, and we cannot guarantee that your visa will be approved.

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