Americans moving to France

My husband is a retired teacher....I am a special education. art and soon to be TESOL licensed teacher (English speaking only). We want to move to France before I secure a job or we purchase property so that we can explore and decide on where to settle. We know it will be Languedoc or Midi Pyrenees area.

I am looking for any advice and also information on obtaining residency etc.

If we buy a property and reside there 100 percent of the time do we get residency?

Also, has anyone had success in purchasing an open ended round trip airline ticket?

Hi Catherine,

I'm not sure as this was news to me. The link was recently forwarded to me by a friend so I have not yet investigated the costs. I am hoping that someone would have signed up and can share their experience with this program.


Wow yes. Thanks. You all are awesome!


I know non-EU and also EU passport holders who are French residents who are taking advantage of this but the article glosses over the cost. Isn’t it around 12% of income from all sources as declared on a French tax return?

So, income of 20,000€, roughly 2,400€ per year. Add to that top up, the cost of which varies greatly but for good coverage (excluding dental and eye) runs about 130€ per couple per month.

Is this accurate?

In the long run, this may be cheaper than private cover

You may find this of interest as well.. (begins Jan 2016)

PS. forgot to mention an important detail. The consulate, prefecture and sous prefecture will also ask you for health insurance coverage. Insurance for travel only will not suffice and you have to show that your US insurance, if any, will cover overseas living. We purchased on from April insurance and it was costly. After a year, I found US based insurance companies that cover overseas living (peace corps volunteers, study abroad) which are much more reasonable.

Hi Melissa,

As someone mentioned, you will need to check with your local French consulate for the relevant visa requirements. I will share with you what we went through to live in France for 18 months and, eventually, earned my carte sejour (residency permit to be renewed annually until after 5 years -- 3 for continuous living -- then you can get a 10 year residency visa).

- we already owned a maison secondaire in Languedoc which we used for holidays.

- we applied in Washington DC for a 6 month visa for French language immersion for our school age children; financial resources, health insurance, letter promising not to seek work or be employed, proof of residence in France, proof of school letter to accept children were needed. Consulate insisted that I accept additional documents to be filled out in France for long stay visa if we extend more than 6 months.

- Then (as someone mentioned, things may change, and this was in 2013), we arrived in France, completed the rest of the paperwork, sent this to Montpellier, to the prefecture (which will be in Toulouse moving forward because they combined the regions), and I received notice to get a health check up. Went to Montpellier, passed the health exam, received document to bring to our sous prefecture in Beziers.

- Another set of paperwork (birth certificates, marriage certificates, letter not to be employed, etc all translated in French with copies of original plus the original in case they ask to see --- the sous prefecture will tell you what you need to bring in their website) together with the Montpellier document will be required. Then the onsite meeting/interview (which is to go through the paperwork but not really in-depth interview) for the carte sejour. They gave me a recipesse while waiting for the carte sejour in case I leave the country and need to show proof of residence.

- you will receive notice to pick up the carte sejour and bring stamps (timbre) in lieu of cash or check payment. And you have to pick up the carte sejour personally.

- then you will have to renew this annually until you get a 10 year visa. Paperwork varies by the year and whoever is in charge of the sous prefecture.

Conversation with the sous prefecture and the prefecture is in French, BTW. Even if your French is not good, it is much appreciated and welcomed.

Also, you can be self employed but you will have to apply for the relevant paperwork in the sous prefecture which can take ages and cost euros. I know retired Americans have done this so they can pay into the system and receive a carte vitale. You cannot apply for carte vitale with an annual or 10 year carte sejour as an American citizen. Like the US, you have to pay into the system to enjoy the benefits. However, the out of pocket doctor visits, ER visits, diagnostics and preventive treatment, I think, are still cheaper than the co-pays in the US.

You can email me at for more info.

Bonne chance!


Hi Roland, can you recommend a good shipper from the West Coast? Thanks.

WOW Merci to head is spinning! Correct me if I am wrong but it sounds like we need to apply for a 6-12 month visa and then if I get a job and buy property apply for permanent?

Hi Melissa,

I run the website Paris Unraveled ( and help people get the appropriate visas for moving to France.

Here's the thing: you can live in France while retired with the status of visitor, however, you have to sign a promise not to seek employment in France. This includes any self-employment work, even work that you may do online as a freelancer/contractor for companies outside of France. If you spend more than 183/365 days in France, you will declare your taxes in France, and if you *are* earning income, it is subject to French social charges (again, even if it's earned abroad).

That means that unless one of you is an EU passport holder, you will have to apply for a visa that enables you to work if you plan on seeking a job. Alternatively, you will have to provide proof of sufficient resources to support yourself without working.

Please feel free to email me at if you have questions or would like help navigating the process.

First things first :

Select the appropriate category and follow the instructions to the letter.

The initial application will need to be filed, in person, at your nearest French consulate.

I received my Visa in about three weeks after filing in LA.

Hi Katherine, it's Roland, we've exchanged messages before. I am PMing you to ask a question or two. Thanks.

Hi Melissa,

I'll share what I girlfriend and I decided to visit France for a long time to decide whether we want to move here from San Francisco. We are here now, month 2 of our 6-month stay. In the process I've been learning a lot about exactly those sorts of things.

(Please keep in mind that the rules for EU citizens are quite different, which is why you might receive contradictory information. Contrary to what you might have been told, it is quite easy for an American to obtain a 6-month visa. I applied two months in advance, showed them my bank account, return ticket, and current health insurance policy statement -- voila!)

We also learned that a one-year visa is also possible, but you need to (of course) show more money in the bank and go over a few more hurdles. We decided on the six-month option because we thought that it would be more than enough time to explore the three regions we like, and buy a piece of property.

We also faced the question of a one-way ticket. We tried to buy a six-month round trip ticket that corresponded with our travel period, but found a much cheaper one for 6.5 months. Hmmm, what to do? I worked it out with the consular office, but I'm not going to share that information here, on line. I'd be happy to share that info with you directly or in separate emails.

You can become a permanent resident if you reside in France continuously for three years, and go through a slow but essentially simple process. There are five ways to qualify for residency -- I won't go into them here, but in your situation -- a) retired; b) employable with special skills; c) property will happen. Property ownership is not linked with residency, though, unless...more later.

Once you become a permanent resident you are then qualified for participation in their medical system.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that different government administrators interpret the same rules differently. I've found the same rules explained differently with different requirements even on government websites from one department to another. One criteria that seems to hold true is that they expect you to know French. The better you know it, the more likely they are to interpret the rules in your favor.

The rules that I followed to get here and will follow to stay here are subject to change, practically every year.

By the way -- we even imported our car here. It is cheaper than a) renting ; b) purchasing -- even for six months. This is another interesting topic that would require more explanation.

You can find me by writing to -- and I'd be happy to Skype or Facetime as well.


Hi, American here. It’s doable if you want it enough, but it is a bit complicated. I lived in Ireland for 11 years and moved to France four years ago. I can give you some advice, and also steer you in the right direction as to where to find the information you need. Please PM me if you would like help - I am always willing to try to help a fellow American :-).

Hi, we live in tarbes midi Pyrenees and it is beautiful and property is cheaper. I will be renting my flat if it of interest to you both. Good luck with the move. I am Irish and my girlfriend is South African.

Do either you or your husband hold a passport from an EU country (does not have to be France)? If not, the maximum amount of time you can spend in France is three months, after which I believe you have to leave for either 90 or 180 days before you can return.

I researched this before we moved to France because it was not exactly clear what I had to do as a U.S. citizen married to an EU passport holder.

So,if no EU passport, you and your husband will need to apply for a long stay visa by making an appointment with the French consulate closest to where you reside in the U.S. The requirements are always changing slightly but in general you must prove sufficient funds to support yourselves, adequate health insurance, no criminal background and pass a physical examination.

I don’t think, but am not sure, whether buying property automatically confers residency. You should ask the consulate. There may not be any restrictions to buying a holiday home but you may only be able to use it for a limited time each year without a long-stay visa.

Seriously, only listen and act on what you are told by the consulate, and that includes what I have written here.