Despite a fair number of websites and message boards out there in Internet Land, I receive several emails every month from Americans who are interested in moving permanently to France and don't know how or where to begin.
After spending hours composing individual, dissertation-sized emails explaining the process, I've decided to simply write a series of posts about what it takes to actually get here.
Voilà: A Short Tutorial on Moving to France.
The process of moving to France as a legal resident is not easy, nor should you expect it to be. There are several stages required and many of them can be fraught with headaches and delays.
Patience Is Key.
I believe that it is France's intention (maybe in a somewhat demented way?) to require its future residents to jump through countless hoops and prove resiliency and determination for the opportunity to live within her beautiful borders. I've heard it is just as difficult to get residency in other countries, but since I have no experience in this matter I can't comment.
Or maybe I should say that the process wasn't easy for us.* Months of searching for information followed by NO answers, followed by confusing and often incorrect answers, delays, difficult fonctionnaires, etc.
I hope that this Short Tutorial will offer some help.
Please remember though that I am not, repeat NOT, the last word on this subject, nor do I have control over French Consulates or French bureaucracy in general. If you have trouble with any of the steps (or people) involved in the process, all I can tell you is to keep trying and not get too discouraged.
The first step: Answer the following question.
Why do I want to live in France?
I recommend that you don't just pack up and move for la vie en rose, the markets, the bread, wine and cheese, (well, maybe for the cheese) and expect every day to be filled with idyllic three hour lunches, strolls along the Seine or pastis soaked games of pétanque in the shade of the plane trees.
Because the day will come when you'll find yourself wasting several hours at Bricomarché fighting for your right to return a toilet seat that doesn't fit your toilet and trying to convince the manager that no, you didn't bring the toilet with you from England because you're not English, so that is not the reason the French seat doesn't fit your French toilet, and no, you don't want to come back in 10 days for another toilet seat because you live 30 minutes away and you just want a refund. Now. Today. An hour later you will finally get your money back because they just want the crazy anglaise/américaine out of their store.**
Or you'll discover that the piles of paperwork you provided three months ago for your Carte de Séjour renewal has been misplaced and you'll be called into an office only to be told that it is your fault that your Carte has expired because you didn't reapply for it on time. Exhausting arguments in French will ensue.
Believe me, I'm not trying to burst your bubble. You will have time for those delightful, leisurely lunches and hours will be spent enjoying a game of pétanque, strolling along riverbanks and soaking up some sun at the local café. However, there will be moments when you'll wonder why things always have to be so damn difficult.
That's why the wine is so important - you'll need it to keep calm.
So before the tutorial continues, I want you to answer that all important question. Why do I want to live in France?
Part Two to follow...
*If you had a better experience, then bravo and félicitations. And we wish we had been you!
**This exact situation probably won't happen to you, but you should expect similar kinds of hiccups.