11 things to do before you move to France
From learning French to sorting out your finances, here are 11 things you need to do before you move to France
1. Brush up on your French
It may seem obvious, but your early experience of living in France will be so much simpler if you can speak the lingo! You will find the French much more welcoming and willing to help f you can say at least a few sentences in French. Fluency will come after a prolonged period of immersion, but you can prepare in advance by taking French lessons before you leave. Practise a little every day by listening to French radio, reading a French newspaper website, or why not try to find a French person who would like to exchange language conversation via Skype?
If you have children of school age, consider sending them on an immersion language holiday in France in the months leading up to the move. It will give them confidence in the language and give them a little taste of the lifestyle.
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2. Research the social security system
Before you go, research what is needed to be registered in the French social security system. It’s important to get registered as soon as possible after you arrive as this gives you access to healthcare and welfare services, as well as to employment, education and the various public services. If you have a good level of French, visit the French social security services website ameli.fr and the family welfare services website caf.fr. For information in English, the UK government website gives a good overview.
3. Sort out your health care provisions
Make sure you get an S1 form from the Department of Work and Pensions before leaving the UK. Take this form to the local French health care authority (CPAM caisse primarie d’assurance maladie) on your arrival in France – it ensures eligibility for state health care in France for three months under EU reciprocal arrangements. You officially become eligible for French health care after three months’ residency, or as soon as you start work and start paying social security contributions.
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4. Photocopy key documents
For each member of the family prepare several photocopies of key documents such as passport, driving licences, birth certificates, wills, marriage or divorce certificates, pet visas, as well as several passport-sized photos. If possible, get the documents translated into French by a registered translator as the French authorities usually require a copy of the original and a translation.
5. Collect your bank statements
Get copies of recent bank statements or, if possible, a letter in French from your bank in the UK confirming your financial situation. It could come in handy if you need to prove your financial status for any reason, for example to rent a property.
6. Tie up loose ends in the UK
Contact the utility companies, the tax office, you bank, the DVLA and make sure they know that you are leaving the country. Apart from tying up loose ends, these organisations could have some useful advice to offer.
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7. Work out how you will earn a living in France
Unless you are planning to set up your own business in France, it is definitely best to have secured work before setting off, even if only a short-term contract or seasonal work. Or in the case of a couple or family, at least one of you should keep their job in the UK while the other goes ahead to look for work. Prepare a CV in French and in the French style, check how to write a good covering letter and get registered with the local unemployment office as soon as possible. Translate any work references into French and include them with job applications. Finally go to the job centre and enquire about contributions-based Job Seeker’s Allowance. You may be entitled to receive UK unemployment benefits for up to three months while you search for a job in France.
8. Find somewhere to live in France
Make a few trips across the Channel ahead of the move to sort out some living accommodation, even if only temporary. As well as a roof over your head, an address is the gateway to a life in France – you need one to open a bank account, register for social security and apply for jobs. In general, it is advisable to rent accommodation for a period of time to see the lie of the land, and assess lifestyle and employment options before committing to a property purchase.
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9. Research the local schools
You won’t be able to register your children for a school until you have moved, but you could ask to visit local schools. Although there is no equivalent of an Ofsted report in France, you can check out the brevet results of a collège (secondary school) online and the baccalauréat results of a lycée (sixth-form college) at france-examen.com. Be mindful, though, that exam results alone are not necessarily the best indication of a school’s performance.
10. Sort out your bank accounts
Check out what international banking options your UK bank offers, in case it is not possible to open a bank account in France immediately. You will need proof of residency, usually utility bills, depending on your circumstances, you may not be able to provide. An international account could be the simplest way to manage your finances in the short-term after arriving in France, or possibly even the long-term if you continue to work in the UK.
11. Get financial advice
Consider visiting a financial advisor so that you are fully aware of the financial implications of moving to France, in terms of your pensions, investments and assets. If you have the full picture you will be better places to manage and organise all your finances going forward in your new life in France.
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