There are many things to consider when retiring to France, but perhaps the most important step of all is applying for residency. This guide will take you everything you need to know, from finding out whether or not you need a visa to the minimum income and healthcare requirements for pensioners in France. Here’s what you need to know about the path to residency for retirees in France.
Do You Need a Visa or Residency Card to Retire to France?
If you’re not a citizen of a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country (which now includes British citizens after Brexit), or the spouse/direct family member of an EU/EEA citizen, you do not have an automatic right to move to or retire to France. Instead, you will need to apply for a visa and subsequent residency card in order to become legally resident in France.
Unsure which kind of visa you need? Our Complete Guide to French Visas will talk you through all the options.
The Path to Residency for Retirees in France
If you are looking to retire to France, the path to residency is the same as for any other non-EU citizen hoping to move to France. You will start by applying for a 1-year long-stay visa, followed by a temporary and/or multi-year Carte de Séjour (residency card), and – after five years of residence in France – a Carte de résident permanent (permanent residency card).
Our guide The Road to Permanent Residency in France: A Step by Step Overview is the best place to start – it will take you through the entire legal process from start to finish.
What Kind of Visa Do You Need to Retire to France?
The first step in all roads to residency in France is applying for a long-stay visa. There are many different types of French long-stay visas available, and all of them have different eligibility criteria. There is no such thing as a ‘retirement visa in France’ (actually, there IS a residency card known as a carte de séjour « retraité », but this is NOT applicable for retirees moving to France. It’s for foreign citizens who were previously permanent residents of France but have since retired overseas and wish to visit France for stays of up to a year).
In most instances, retirees moving to France will apply for a ‘Visitor’ Long-Stay Visa (visa de long séjour visiteur or VLS-TS Visiteur). These visas are intended for those who want to stay in France long-term without working, and applicants must be able to prove that they have the means to support themselves for the duration of the visa (more on this below).
Note that if you do want to work or run a business in France as a pensioner, this is not possible on a visitor visa. You would need to apply for the relevant work visa (see our guide Your Right to Work in France – Visas, Work Permits, & Brexit). However, it does not prevent you from receiving other sources of income, for example, from a pension, rental income from a property you own, or profits from financial investments.
What Are the Requirements for Retiring to France?
As a retiree, you must provide proof that you are able to support yourself for the duration of your life in France. This means being able to prove that you have sufficient income (from a pension, savings, or investment), health insurance coverage, and accommodation. This proof will be required at each stage of your residency journey, from applying for your long-stay visa to applying for your permanent residency card.
Expect to be asked for the following when making your application:
Proof of sufficient income
Visitor visas have strict requirements on sufficient income– you must be able to prove that you can support yourself without any help from the French state. Sufficient funds are typically based on France’s minimum wage (SMIC), so in 2023 this would have been a monthly net income of more than €1,353 or €16,236 annually. Acceptable forms of proof might include bank statements, tax returns, or pension receipts.
Proof of healthcare
When applying for a long-stay visitor visa, you must provide proof of private international health insurance that covers the duration of the visa. Your health insurance policy must provide a minimum coverage of €30,000, medical repatriation and emergency/hospital treatment and be valid throughout the entire Schengen zone.
Once you have successfully enrolled in the French health system, you can cancel your insurance policy if you wish. You will not need this when it comes to renewing your visa/applying for your Carte de Séjour. However, you may be required to undertake a medical exam with the L’Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration (OFII).
Proof of accommodation
Expect to be able to show details of your accommodation, for example, proof of ownership of a French property or a copy of a rental agreement that covers your initial stay in France if you are looking to buy.
Follow our step-by-step guide to Applying for a Long-Stay Visa in France.
Retiring to France?
From applying for residency and understanding your pension options, to life in France for the over 60s – FrenchEntrée is here to help! Let our Essential Reading articles guide you through the whole process, then visit our French Tax, Healthcare, Wills & French Inheritance, and Life in France zones for everything else you need to know.