The process of leaving France to the US requires various preparation steps
- Immigration matters
- Financial preparation
- Job situation
- Shipping personal belongings
- Administrative tasks
As a French citizen and a US green card holder, all the immigration steps had to be taken on the US side.
- Notify your US lawyer of your move. The goal is to ensure that you won’t have any issues coming back in. As mentioned in previous posts, I had obtained a “travel document” before moving to France allowing me to leave the US for up to 2 years. Lawyer recommended to not “push” this deadline to the max. In my case I came back after 1.5 years
- Prepare all potential documents that shows your intent of moving back to the US. In my case, I had an offer letter from a company.
Ensure you have enough money (in France and in the US) to handle the move. Here are the main items to save for :
- Plane tickets.
- Shopping : There will be items/goods that you will not be able to find in the US, or at a higher cost. Before leaving I ensure to budget a “week of shopping spree” to purchase mainly housewares (kitcken items primarily). No need to think about buying food, these won’t go through customs if shipping via container
- Shipping : In my case, the equivalent of 4 M3 , 400KG shipment cost about 2000 euros. I will go in more details on the breakdown later on
- lodging when arriving in the US.
- If you don’t own a car in the US, you probably would want to buy one. In my case, I had kept mine at a friend’s place. Take in consideration the adjustment of the car insurance
- French taxes : “les impots” will contact you around April to file your taxes and require you to pay various taxes (revenus, locaux ). Keep this in mind. You can pay online nowadays, so you can pay from a US bank account, but it is most likely cheaper to pay from a French bank account. I strongly suggest you keep your French bank account (more to come on W9 form)
3 month notice is very common in France. This usually applies if you are a “cadre”. You will want to notify your employer early in advance. My understanding is that if you leave earlier, they might try to recover some money from you. But I am unsure how this works. Some employers might also agree to let you go a few weeks/months in advance since they know that your productivity will be lower. This was not my case, I had to stick for 3 months. You might be able to ask to take all your remaining PTO towards the end of your 3 months, but this is likely to be declined.
From my personal experience (job at Heineken), you would think that 3 months would allow proper knowledge transfer to a new employees. Unfortunately, since it takes 3 months for someone to quit a company, it takes up to 3 months for someone to start in a company. I ended up doing knowledge transfer for just 2 weeks even though I had given my notice 3 months in the past
I was lucky enough to get re-hired in my previous US company. Obtain an offer letter early enough so that you could use this as proof of financial solvability to the custom agent (not really required, but nice to have)
Shipping personal belonging
Finding a good company that will handle your shipment from door to door can be challenging. You will find various companies online that handle this. Throughout my research, I checked reviews on these different companies. You can read horror stories from people writing that some of their items got broken, stolen or delayed by many many months. Unfortunately, I do not have a recommendation about a company. Both companies I use ( to move from US to and France AND France to US ) were pretty bad. ( see my post mentioning AES logistics ).
From my perspective, I started the process with low expectations and knew that “something” would happen (which it did).
To give a ballpark idea my shipment was :
- 4 M3
- Equivalent of a studio (without any furniture)
- door to door service
- Movers pack your belongings in boxes
- 2000 euros (payment is done when movers come to pack your items)
I will give additional information in a following post on this matter.
On the French side you will need to cancel/adjust various information:
- phone/internet/cell company
- the rule in France is that you can get out of your 2 years contract (which is the standard). You will have to pay a penalty fee, that’s basically 25% of whatever money you would have had to pay to complete the 2 years
- Make sure to request your cell phone if you had it for more than 6 months, you should be eligible for this and it could be use in the US with another provider
- Returning your internet box (livebox, bbox, freebox) is usually done in 3 different ways
- go to the store and return it when you cancel your contract
- ship it ( you should receive a packing slip when you cancel the contract)
- Go to a “point Relay” which are stores that are not a phone provider but are used as relay for those type of services
- Electricity/Gas : your landlord, in theory should assist with this (basically take over the contract)
- home/renter insurance
- Cable (CanalSat), they make it hard to cancel their contract if you have not reached the 1 year date. They don’t seem to do contract by the month, but by the year
- Assurance maladie : No need to do anything, when you quit from your company, they will know that you are not contributing anymore. After a year being out, you will not be covered anymore (to be confirmed though)
- Let them know your new address in the US when they have it.
- Because of some international tax law they will make you fill a W9 form.
- There is nothing that states that you cannot keep your bank account if you moved out of France. The only fee they charge usually is for a debit/credit card.
- Post office. Forward your mail, up to a year to your US address. This costs about 100 euros and can be done online on the “la poste” website