From visas and residency to buying property and taking out a French mortgage, as well as travelling to France, pets, and French driving licences—here are 22 of the popular questions that you asked FrenchEntrée in 2022.
1. Can I still move to France post-Brexit?
Since Brexit, citizens of the UK no longer have the right to freedom of movement within the EU, but this doesn’t mean that a move to France is off the cards. It does, however, mean that you will need to apply for the relevant visa to move to France and meet the criteria, including proving sufficient funds and taking out private healthcare insurance. UK visa applications will be assessed as any other ‘third-country national’ (non-EU citizens), and each application will be considered on an individual basis. Our road to residency guide gives a comprehensive overview of the process.
2. Can I still buy a property in France post-Brexit?
Yes! Brexit has made absolutely no difference to whether or not Brits are able to buy in France, and the booming international property market is proof of that! The post-pandemic climate and rising inflation have had far more of an effect on the property market than Brexit, and there are no legal changes to the process of buying a French property now that the UK has left the EU.
3. Can I still get a French mortgage in 2022/2023?
With inflation driving up interest rates, banks have tightened their loaning criteria towards the end of 2022, making it more difficult than ever to secure a mortgage. Our partners at International Private Finance advise that it is still possible, especially for British buyers and UK residents, but the advice of an international mortgage expert will be invaluable in the current market. Co-Founder and Managing Director Fiona Watts shares some recent tips for international buyers in the video clip below:
4. How does the EU’s 90/180-day rule work?
If you’re a non-EU citizen, including Americans, Australians, and Brits, you can travel to France for up to 90 days without a visa. But the 90/180-day rule isn’t quite as simple as it seems, and it’s got many of you confused! To get a grasp on it, read our guide: Confused About the EU’s 90/180 Day Rule? Here’s How it Works.
5. Do I need a visa for France if my spouse is an EU citizen?
Another subject of great confusion is this one, with many travellers believing that they do not need a visa if they are accompanying their EU spouse. As the spouse of an EU citizen, you do have a right to travel with your spouse; however, you must also adhere to local visa rules and regulations. France is one of the EU countries that does require a non-EU spouse to apply for a visa if you wish to overstay the 90/180-day allowance.
We answered this question in greater depth here: Reader Question of the Month: Can I Travel to France With My EU Spouse?
6. What are the requirements for a French long-stay visa?
There are many different types of French long-stay visas, and eligibility requirements vary depending on whether you are applying for a work visa, visitor visa, study visa, etc. Our guide to long-stay visas is a good place to start, while our step-by-step guide to applying for a long-stay visa has a list of required documents to help you get prepared.
7. How many days can I spend in France without becoming tax resident?
In most cases, spending more than 183 days out of any calendar year in France will mean that you are classed as tax resident in France. This applies even if you don’t consider France to be your ‘principal residence’ or just want to spend extra time at your second home, so it’s imperative to understand the legal responsibilities that this entails.
Being classed as tax resident in France means that you are liable to file a French tax return and potentially pay French taxes, and it can also impact inheritance and capital gains tax, insurance policies, and access to state services such as healthcare. The bottom line is that if you do not wish to be classed as a French tax resident, you should not be spending more than 183 days in France – and, yes, this also applies to EU citizens.
Read our guide Understanding French Tax- Are You Tax Resident in France?
8. Can I Get a Carte de Séjour As A Second Home Owner in France?
There has been a lot of misreported information and confusion over the rights of a second-home owner to get a French carte de séjour. We’ve answered this question in more depth here, but the bottom line is this: a ‘carte de séjour’ is a residency card and obtaining one requires you to declare yourself as resident in France. Naturally, this subjects you to all the tax and legal responsibilities of being a French resident. If it is not your intention to become a French resident, you shouldn’t be applying for a carte de séjour.
9. What is the minimum income required to retire to France?
While there is no official minimum income amount, the “sufficient funds” required for a visa are based on the French minimum wage or SMIC. From January 2023, this is €1,353 net per month or €16,236 net annually. If your pension income amounts to less than this and you have no savings or assets, it’s unlikely that your visa application will be accepted. However, remember that each long-stay visa application is considered on an individual basis, and the combined pensions of a married couple, owning a home in France, and other savings and investments will also be taken into account. Read more in our guide to Retiring to France.
10. Do I need to use a fiscal representative to sell my French property?
If you are the foreign owner of French property and you are resident in a non-EU or EEA country (for example, the United States or Australia), it is a legal requirement in France to appoint a fiscal representative when selling a property in France over the value of €150,000. Since Brexit, this rule also applies to UK citizens resident in the UK or another non-EU country.
11. Can I buy a house in France as an American?
Absolutely! There are no legal restrictions on purchasing a French property as an American, and many Americans buy in France every year. However, just like for other foreign buyers, there are many things to think about before buying in France – which is why we put together our first (more to come next year!) Buying in France for Americans webinar this year, especially for our US audience:
12. Do I need to change my British driving licence to a French one?
The post-Brexit deal between France and the UK means that French residents with a British or NI driving licence that was issued before January 1st, 2021, are not required to exchange their licence until the licence or photocard expires. You can apply for a new licence within six months of the expiry date of either the licence or photocard (whichever is first). If you have a British or NI licence issued after January 1st, 2021, this is not covered by the reciprocal agreement, and you must exchange your licence for a French one within one year of becoming resident in France.
If you need help changing your licence, you can also follow my step-by-step guide to How To Change Your UK/Foreign Driving Licence for a French Permis de Conduire.
13. What are the notaire’s fees when buying a French property?
Every French property purchase must go through a notaire (even if it’s a private sale), and the associated fees are payable by the buyer. Notaire’s fees can vary depending on the region, property type, and other factors, but they are typically between 6% and 8% of the purchase price. This is no small sum, so it’s imperative to account for these fees when setting your property budget.
14. Can I get a pet passport for my dog post-Brexit?
If you have an EU-issued pet passport, this remains valid for travel. However, if you have a UK-issued Pet Passport, this is no longer valid after Brexit, and you will need an Animal Health Certificate in order to travel to France with your pet.
France recently clarified rules for UK owners looking to obtain an EU pet passport for their dog. Pets must now be registered with I-CAD (France’s national pet register) in order for veterinarians to issue a pet passport, and this is only possible if the animal is staying in France for longer than three months. This means it may be possible for second-home owners visiting on a temporary long-stay visa to obtain an EU pet passport for their pet, but it will no longer be possible for short-term travellers.
15. Can I claim back VAT on my purchases in France?
If you are a permanent resident in a non-EU country such as the UK or the United States, there’s a good chance that you will be able to claim back the VAT paid on items purchased during your trip to France. There are, of course, some restrictions, and there is quite a bit of paperwork involved, but the good news is that there’s a free app available that does it all for you! Read our guide to claiming back French VAT or watch my interview with ZappTax below to understand exactly how it works:
16. What’s changed about travel to France from the UK post-Brexit?
From pet passports to UK car stickers and the whole ‘seizing of the ham sandwich’ scandal (!), there have been many changes to travel between France and the UK since Brexit. Thankfully, we’ve put together our Everything You Need for Post-Brexit Travel Between France & UK: Document Checklist to help you out.
17. Can I open a bank account as an American in France?
A common difficulty for Americans moving to France or purchasing French property is opening a bank account. Due to the FATCA agreement, which requires all French banks to report to the IRS on all accounts held by US citizens, many banks prefer not to offer services to Americans. If you are resident in France, there are ways around this—read our guide to Opening a French Bank Account as an American in France.
However, if you’re a non-resident, it’s also important to understand that you don’t actually need a French bank account to buy in France (see question 18 below).
18. Do I need a French bank account to buy a property in France?
While opening a French bank account is undoubtedly useful if you are going to own a second home in France, it actually isn’t necessary in order to buy a property. And being as having an address in France can make it easier to open an account, many buyers do wait until after they have purchased to open their French bank account.
Opening a free account with a currency exchange specialist like our partners at Moneycorp means that they can make direct payments on your behalf, whether it’s putting down a deposit, paying your mortgage, or transferring a large-sum payment. In fact, even if you do have a French bank account, we still suggest using a currency exchange specialist to get the best rate of exchange, both for your property purchase and for ongoing transfers and payments between your home country and France.
19. What do I need to do to set up a gite in France?
Many foreign buyers still dream of moving to France and running a gite, but if you want to work and earn a living in France, you must have the right visa and work permits. We look at the visa requirements for running a gite in our reader question of the month, and you can find many articles on everything from marketing your gite business to welcoming your first guests in our running a gite zone.
20. Can I combine a temporary long-stay visa and my 90-day allowance?
Another visa question we frequently get asked is whether or not it’s possible to use both your 90-day allowance and a 6-month temporary long-stay visa, essentially granting you up to a full year in France. The answer, as always, is a little bit more complicated than that!
The time spent in France under a long-stay visa does not count towards your 90 days – however, you must leave the country in between and, crucially, you must not overstay a total of 183 days (see question 7) if you don’t want to become tax resident in France.
Find out all the details in our Reader Question of the Month: Does My Long-Stay Visa Count Towards My 90 Days?
21. Can I still opt out of French inheritance laws if I’m a foreign resident?
France’s succession law, which includes forced heirship (i.e. a proportion of your property will be inherited by your and/or your spouse’s children, regardless of whether that aligns with your own wishes), has long been a subject of interest for foreign property buyers in France. Thankfully, since 2015, the EU Succession Regulation has allowed foreign nationals to elect the law of their nationality to apply to their assets, providing the option, in many cases, to bypass forced heirship laws.
However, in 2021, France passed a law that essentially overrules this, and it’s led to even more confusion for foreign buyers. Here’s what Matthew Cameron, partner at Ashtons Legal, had to say on the matter:
22. What planning permissions do I need to renovate my French property?
Many French property buyers harbour plans to renovate their second home, build an extension, or add a swimming pool, but it’s essential to make sure you have the correct planning permissions in place. Our advice is to find this out before you buy, as Arthur Cutler from French Plans advises in our video clip below:
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