Settling in France
Find a place
I was lucky enough to have a place available to rent and live in when I arrived in France, I did not need to go through a bunch of administrative tasks ot provide specific documents. However, it seems like renter usually require various guarantees to let you move in. Proof of employment, bank account balance information …
- Proof of employment – If you still work for a US company and if you are planning on renting in Paris, you can probably provide a proof of employment in English, property managers usually know enough English to accept these
- Bank account information – You will probably want to open a French bank account. The issue is that in order to open an account (BNP or Societe generale are the ones I dealt with ) you will need a French address, which of course could cause an issue if you are trying to rent a place. I am unsure of what the process would be here. If you are able to setup wire transfers from your US bank to the property owner/manager, you should be fine though
Boxes should be delivered to your door just need to make sure that everything you sent arrived.
Unfortunately for my case, the boxes got opened during transit and things got stolen. The company which handled my shipment from the French port to my place had identified this before delivering to my place. A few electronic items got stolen. In theory you would think that the insurance would kick in without issue, unfortunately it took me multiple phone calls and months to get some sort of compensation. For a laptop and small additional items, I got reimbursed 200 euros which is far less than what was the value. Needless to say that I was disappointed with the moving company I used.
Immigraton – carte de sejour
As a French citizen, migrating back was not an issue. However my wife had to go through the whole process of “carte de Sejour”
We got married in France, pretty much right after we moved in. This allowed us to submit a request for “titre de sejour” for her. This needs to be submitted at a French consulate abroad. The wait was about 3 weeks for her to be able to get inside the country with a “temporary titre de sejour”. Throughout the first 6 months in France, she had to go through the OFII process ensuring that she can be properly “integrated” in France. French classes at local school were provided to her. After a year the “temporary titre de sejour” has to be renewed with a “titre de sejour”. This is a matter of taking an appointment at the prefecture ( Paris 1er prefecture requires 2 months wait to get an appointment, so schedule your appointment early enough ). The appointment consists on providing multiple documents proving that we live together. Even though it does not seem I needed to be present for this appointment it is probably a good idea.
A few tips :
- If you are living in Paris, beginner level French classes are at the “alliance francaise” this is a pretty decent school with a few locations across Paris. You will be eligible to A1 and A2 classes. These level basically allow you to “get around” in the country with basic French. If you are leaving in the suburb of Paris, you will get free classes in the “department” you are living in; the quality of their classes is not really good from what I have been told. Some of my wife’s classmate would rather pay the classes in Paris/Alliance Francaise instead of taking the free classes in the suburb.
- Even though this is not written anywhere, you would need to bring a proof of employment at the prefecture when you apply for your carte de sejour (if the immigrant has a job, that would be hers, if she does not have a job, it would be the petitioner). The first time we did the carte de sejour renewal we did not have to bring this document, the second time we did.
As mentioned earlier, our civil wedding occurred a couple weeks after we moved in to France. We got married at the town of Villeneuve le roi. It was very easy to obtain a time slot especially since this was during the middle of the week during winter. There is a minimum wait of 12 days between the time you submit your request to get married and the day to be married. Translated birth certificates need to be provided. The “mairie” can provide you a list of official translators.
The wedding itself requires an official translator to be present so that whatever is read during the ceremony is translated by him so that it could be fully understood by everyone. You can obtain the list of official translators from the Mairie. My wife being a Japanese citizen but speak English fluently, we chose a English translator (which is much easier to find than a Japanese one)
I was able to find a job fairly quickly when moving to France. By getting a job in a French company, you get automatically registered in the French tax systems. There are 3 main tasks to pay, “impots sur les revenus”, “impots fonciers” (if you own real estate), “taxes d’habitation”. The first year, when you receive your tax filing documents, your salary will be probably pre-filled, but if you have other incomes in France, they might not necessarily know. In the US it is usual to get help from a tax preparer; when in France, I actually was able to use the “service des impots” on the phone. They are actually pretty useful, but you might need to be able to speak French to get help. Me and my wife filed jointly.
In the event that you want to work for a US company while working in the US ( which is what I did the first 3 months I moved to France ), the process is really simple: you pay taxes to the US government for the income you earned in the US. I had to call an international tax lawyer to get the details, and I suggest you do the same if you are planning on doing something like that. Here is the contact for the lawyer I used (and was really happy with the advices he gave me) : Albert S Golbert – 213-891-9641 firstname.lastname@example.org. Things might change when your salary reaches a certain level though, this would also need to be asked.
When getting hired in a French company you automatically benefit from the French health care system (I am unsure for someone who is not French though). My wife is also automatically covered. Most company provide a “mutuelle” which is a complementary private insurance that usually covers the remaining of the health care cost (to some extend).
In order to get my wife covered, things took a little longer since she did not have a social security number. After filling the appropriate papers, she gets assigned a number and provided a card. She eventually got a job a few months after moving in, this is when things got a little messy, she was assigned another social security number, which of course causes confusion. I am unsure if this is a glitch in the system or something we did wrong during the process. No matter what she has always been covered.
Even though the French unemployment rate is quite high, jobs in my industry (IT) are still fairly easy to find. I had the luxury to take a good month to search and obtain multiple offers. If you do have the opportunity to have some time to search, I strongly recommend you weigh your choices. Make sure to research “what you are worth” on the market, the fact that I was fluent in English opens up quite a bit of doors. To give a rough idea, Salaries for a job in the San Francisco Bay Area pretty much relate to jobs in Paris. I did not do any “research” on the topic but felt like this is what it was.