Guide to planning your move to France from the UK
France is undoubtedly a popular location for British emigrants, with almost 150,000 UK citizens resident in France. After Spain, it is the second most popular European country for British nationals.
Since 1st January 2021, it is no longer possible for British nationals to move to France and live freely as other European citizens.
The end of free movement as a result of Brexit has meant that it is now far more difficult for British citizens to move to France, although it is not impossible.
This page outlines many of the considerations for UK nationals when planning a move to France.
Since the Withdrawal Agreement and Brexit rules have come into force, there have been many changes to the immigration processes. Some of these may not apply to UK nationals living in France prior to the 1st January 2021.
Some of these changes include:
- You are not entitled to live in another EU country unless you go through the immigration system as a third-country national
- If you intend to stay in France for longer than 90 days, you must apply for a long-stay visa in advance of your travel
- If you wish to apply for French citizenship, there are a number of conditions you must meet. As a non-EU citizen, these may include language and integration conditions
- If you wish to work in France, you will likely have to apply for an appropriate work visa, find an employer in advance of travel, and abide by the conditions of your work visa
If you are a UK national who has EU citizenship due to dual nationality (for example, you hold an Irish passport), it will be much easier for you to move to France. It may be worth exploring alternative options if you wish to live in France.
Similarly, if you are the spouse or close family member of a French citizen or French resident, you may qualify for a form of family visa, which may mean that your options for moving to France are made more straightforward.
As well as this, if your spouse, partner, or eligible family member is a European citizen, it may be easier for you to move to France. If your family member meets the conditions of residence as an EU citizen in France, you can apply (similar to applying as a dependent in the UK system).
Working with an experienced immigration lawyer can help maximise your chances of a successful application.
Moving to France after Brexit 2021
If you are a UK national considering moving to France, some of the changes that you can expect to face after the 1st of January 2021 include the following:
- A UK national must hold a long-stay visa if they intent to live in France or a French Overseas territory for longer than 90 days (whether for work, study, visitor, or family purposes)
- Owners of second homes spending between three to six months a year in France are not considered residents and must apply for a temporary long-stay visitor visa (VLS-T Visiteur)
- Owners of second homes spending longer than six months a year in France are considered French residents and must apply for a long-stay visitor visa (VLS-TS Visiteur)
- Third country nationals and UK citizen family members living in France are no longer considered ‘family members of EU nationals’ (unless eligible under the Withdrawal Agreement)
- If you wish to work in France, you must apply for a long-stay work visa and fulfil the conditions of stay of this visa
- If you wish to study in France, you must apply for a French study visa if your course lasts longer than three months
- If you wish to join a family member in France for longer than three months, you must apply for the appropriate family visa
Depending on your circumstances, some additional changes may apply to you. If you have any questions about moving to France, it is recommended to obtain professional legal advice from a qualified immigration solicitor.
How to apply for a French residence permit
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for a French residence permit.
- Complete your residency application online
- Gather your supporting documents (certified French translations of official documents may be required)
- Print the application confirmation page for your records
- Attend the appointment at your local prefecture to provide your biometric details
- Wait for your residency permit to be posted to you
If you plan to settle in France after January 1st 2021, the below table outlines how to apply for a residence permit based on your circumstances.
|Type of applicant||Residence permit needed|
|Employee||Employees who were hired by a French company may be issued a residence permit that is valid for up to four years and can be renewed. Additionally, seconded employees staying for longer than three months will also need to apply|
|Business owner or director of a company||Self-employed British citizens can apply for the appropriate type of residence permit based on their circumstances|
|Investors||If you are an investor, you will likely need to apply for the Talent Passport Business Investor permit|
|Students||You can apply for a student residence permit as a student. If you have just graduated from a French institute of higher education, you can apply for a Job Seeker or New Business Creator residence permit|
|Family of British citizens||If a British citizen arrived in France before January 1st 2021, their family members may be eligible to apply for a residence permit. If the British national arrived after this date, they will likely be required to apply based on the residence status of their British family member|
To apply for your permit when you arrive in France, you must attend your local prefecture with the aim of securing your permit.
Each prefecture has different rules and you will be given information on how to apply and when you may collect it.
Use the website of your local prefecture or local town hall for further information, or contact the French consulate for further information.
How long does the French residence permit last?
The validity period for the permit depends on the type of permit, how long you want to stay for, and other relevant circumstances. When issued your permit, the expiry date will be displayed clearly.
Moving to France checklist
Below is a list of the top six steps you should follow if you have decided you want to move to France.
- Do your research on the cost of living in France compared to the UK
- Decide whether you meet the immigration requirements
- Obtain the appropriate French visa
- Identify the location you want to live in
- Register with the French authorities
- Set up a French bank account, French address, utilities, services, and other contracts
1. Research your new country
It is important to know what life will be like in your new country before you make the move.
As a country, France has a high standard of living, comparable to the UK. French culture is renowned all over the world, and 23% of the UK population have some ability to speak or understand the French language.
2. Meet the immigration requirements
If you are a non-EU citizen, you must ensure that you meet the immigration requirements to move to France from the UK.
These may include showing the French government that you have the appropriate level of French language skills, having adequate finances to maintain yourself, and having a pre-approved job offer from an eligible employer.
3. Obtain your visa
Getting your long-stay French visa is one of the most important steps in the process. After Brexit, you are required to apply for a visa and be successful with your application before you can legally work in France (in most cases).
Find out more information on the government’s France-Visas website.
If you lived in France before December 31st 2021, you are likely to be protected under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement residence permit and do not need to apply for an employment visa.
4. Best places to live in France
The most popular regions for British nationals to live in France are as follows:
- Île-de-France (the ‘island’ of France, a large region including Paris)
- Poitou-Charentes (situated in the west of the country, which is part of Nouvelle Aquitaine)
- Aquitaine (located in the south-west of France, with cities including Bordeaux)
- Midi-Pyrénées (this region is in the south of France and includes cities such as Montpellier and Toulouse)
- Brittany (one of the closes places to the UK, found in the north of France)
5. Register your details with French authorities
One of the first actions you should take when you move to France is to register with the appropriate authorities.
When you have obtained your French visa, you should apply for the applicable residence permit at the prefecture of your new home.
6. Set up your services
When moving to France and setting up utilities and services for your new home, you may be required to submit the following:
- Proof of identity (e.g., passport or valid residence permit)
- Proof of address or property ownership
- Details of your French bank account
- Details of the previous tenant (where relevant)
Note that the French equivalent electricity voltage is different than the UK and electrical sockets are also different, meaning you should be prepared when considering whether to bring your electrical items with you.
Do I need a visa and residence permit to live in France?
Visiting France on a short-term basis has not changed significantly after Brexit, and it is not necessary to apply for a visa to do so.
However, if you wish to stay in France for a period of longer than 90 days, you must apply for a visa. There are two main options for temporary stays of less than 12 months
- Long-stay visitor visa (generally issued for up to 12 months, allowing individuals to live and sometimes work in France (in certain cases)
- Temporary long-stay visa (for individuals intending to stay in France for between three to six months in a year)
The Schengen Area is a group of countries in Europe that allow visa-free travel for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.
The UK is part of a group of countries not in the EU nor participating in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) scheme. This means that eligible UK nationals wishing to visit France for a short visit may apply for a Schengen Visa.
The typical requirements include showing your passport, proof of health insurance, prebooked accommodation, and financial maintenance for your stay.
If you wish to stay in France for longer periods of time, you will likely be required to apply for the carte de séjour. There are a number of different types of residency permits available from the French government.
Some of these include:
- Long-stay visa: This visa is designed for individuals who wish to live in France (and may allow them to work). Sometimes known as the Talent Passport, it is typically valid for one year, but may be extended
- Temporary residency permit: This permit allows individuals to stay in France for a certain set of circumstances (including asylum seekers, voluntary workers, and family carers), excluding work reasons
- Multi-year residency permit: This is typically issued to individuals who hold a long-stay visa, allowing them to stay in France for up to four years. This permit may be issued to students, employed workers, self-employed workers, or on the basis of private or family life
- Retired persons residency permit: This visa is valid for up to ten years and is designed for individuals living independently through their own financial means
- Permanent residency: Individuals holding permanent residency may live and work in France. This is valid for ten years
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If you are a UK passport holder, you are entitled to stay in France for up to 90 days in a 180-day period visa-free.
If you hold dual nationality and have two passports, one of which is an EU passport (e.g., an Irish and a British passport), you can use this valid passport to stay indefinitely in France.
If you wish to stay for a longer period, or settle in France, you will be required to apply for a long-stay visa and a residency permit.
If you lived in France prior to January 1st 2021, you are covered under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement meaning that your right to claim benefits is protected.
If you move to France after this date, you must inform the UK government offices in charge of benefits, pension and tax. You may be able to claim UK benefits abroad, if you are eligible.
As a British national, your right to work in France has changed since Britain left the EU in 2021. This means that how you find work may be different.
The French national employment agency Pôle Emploi has listings of jobs. APEC is a national employment agency focusing on professional and managerial jobs.
Some other websites you can use to find work in France include the following:
To contact the French consulate in the UK, the contact details are below:
- Address: 21 Cromwell Road, London, SW72EN, UK
- French Visa team address: 6a Cromwell Place, London, SW72EW
- Phone: +44 (0) 20 7073 1200
- French Visa team phone: +44 (0) 20 3040 0460
We are a team of experienced immigration lawyers with expertise covering all areas of immigration law. Contact us for support with your move to France.
We can help you throughout each stage of the process, and provide you with the legal advice you need to make decisions for your family and your future.
If you are looking to emigrate to another location, we can also help you with the following:
- Emigrate to Ireland
- Emigrate to the USA
- Emigrate to Australia
- Emigrate to Canada
- Emigrate to Portugal
- Emigrate to Spain
- Emigrate to Russia
- Emigrate to Germany
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