Moving to France as an American
Bonjour et Bienvenue! What pops into your mind when you think about France? Do you see people sipping champagne and indulging in traditional French foods like decadent pastries and coq au vin? Aside from food and drink, do national treasures like the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and châteaux in the Loire Valley come to mind?
Maybe you’re thinking about strolls along the French Riviera and taking in the beauty of the Mediterranean coast? Whatever you imagine, there’s so much to experience and explore in this iconic country! It’s easy to see why approximately 90 million tourists travel to France each year; making it the most visited country in the world.
While visiting is a great way to get a feel for the country, many Americans also live in France. Some perks to living in France as an American include access to stellar healthcare, proximity to other European countries, and stunning landscapes. The climate, (especially in the south), and walkability in many cities and towns are a couple more reasons why Americans have decided to make France their home.
As you go through this guide, you’ll learn a lot more about how to move to France from the USA. You’ll also get insight and inspiration when you read about two women who’ve made living in France a reality!
Can Americans move to France?
Americans can live in France but they will need to obtain a residency or work permit to remain in France for more than 90 days in a 180-day period. We’ll talk about the many visa options for living in France in the next section.
If one of your parents is a French citizen you may be eligible to obtain French citizenship. Unfortunately, unlike Ireland, Italy and many other European countries having French grandparents or great grandparents will not count towards citizenship by ancestry.
Visas for France
Americans interested in living in France for an extended amount of time have a few options of how they can move abroad. Depending on your goals, skills, and work and financial situation you may qualify for one of the following French visas:
Student visa: If you are enrolled in a course or university program you can live in France for the duration of your studies.
Work visa: As with most countries in Europe, getting a work visa is a challenge for a U.S. citizen, but if you are a skilled worker you may be able to qualify for a work visa more easily (see below).
Talent passport: This is a special work permit for individuals who have the potential to make a “significant contribution” to the French economy. To qualify you must be skilled in one of 10 categories.
French tech visa: The French Tech Visa is a simplified fast-track visa scheme for non-EU employees, founders, and investors to obtain a residence permit for France under the talent passport category for those in the tech field.
Self-employment visa: This little-known visa is an option for freelancers and small businesses through a relatively new micro-enterprise scheme.
Retirement visa: This visa option allows non-jobseekers the opportunity to live in France as long as they can provide proof of financial means.
For more information on all of the visa option for France and their requirements, get your copy of I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe. In this digital book you’ll find visa information for 50+ viable visa options to for the easiest countries to move to in Europe including France and 18 other counties!
Is it difficult to move to France from the U.S?
Moving to France from the US isn’t difficult but it will take some patience and planning. One of the hardest parts of moving abroad is leaning into your decision to make such a radical change. You might find yourself questioning if you’re making the right decision or it’s too late to make a move. If you need a reminder as to why you should listen to your gut and finally make a change, check out these 15 reasons to move abroad in your 30s, 40s, or 50s (and beyond!).
While you may face some hurdles such as not speaking French or having to navigate a whole new system, making a move from the United States to France is very doable and straightforward. However, while wanting to move to France is great, you need to be practical and see if you qualify for a visa that will allow you to live there long-term and if you can afford to live there.
How to move to France from the US
While you might be sure that you want to live in France, you may feel confused on how to make a move. To help you understand what steps to take so that you can say au revoir to your current life and bonjour to your future, check out our list of the 12 things to do before you move abroad. You’ll get an insight on what you need to start thinking about.
If you need more help join our Move Abroad After 30 Masterclass. It’s a 4-day LIVE training that teaches women age 30+ how to move abroad and create a plan that works.
Some good questions to ask yourself when thinking about relocating to France are:
- Where do you want to live? Are you interested in calling Paris home or would you prefer to reside in a smaller city or village?
- What type of weather do you like? This answer will help you hone in on a specific region within France.
- How will you support yourself? The response to this question will depend on your work status and current financial situation.
Along with answering these questions, one of the best ways to learn how to move abroad is by talking with others who’ve been on a journey like the one you’re embarking on. So, tap into She Hit Refresh’s community of 13,000 + members to get your burning questions answered. Last, search for expats groups in France for even more insight on how to move to France from those who have already done it!
Cost of living in France
You might be wondering how much it costs to move to France from the US. That will depend on the cost of living in France, and this vary greatly from city to city, as well as your personal lifestyle.
When it comes to the cost of living, it’s no surprise that Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Including the cost of utilities, a studio or one bedroom apartment in the city center will average $2000 – $2500 a month but they can go for a lot more!
However, compared to major cities in the United States, other costs like transportation, are more reasonable. For example, a train ticket is about 20% cheaper in France than what you’d pay in major American cities.
While some expenses are higher throughout France compared to parts of the U.S., the return on investment (ROI) might be worth it if you’ve always wanted to make France your home. And many people agree that their quality of life in France is priceless compared to the rat race back home.
Working in France
If you intend to work once you move to Europe, you’ll have a few options in France. This includes obtaining work sponsorship from a company in the country or applying for a self-employment visa.
It’s important to note that like much of Europe, getting a company to sponsor your visa is no easy task because companies are required to prioritize hiring citizens of the EU. But, if you have a skill that can’t be filled by someone locally, it may be possible to get a work visa through company sponsorship.
For details on work visas available to Americans who want to move to France, grab your copy of I’m Outta Here: An America’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living In Europe.
Best places to live in France
If you are considering living in France you’ll have plenty of options to choose from to call home. To narrow down where to go, check out the following profiles of some of the top cities that draw expats from all over the world.
Aside from being France’s capital, Paris is one of the leading cities in the world that’s rich in history, art, culture, and fashion. Since it’s also a popular tourist destination, you won’t have a problem getting by in English. However, speaking French will help you have a more immersive experience.
Although the cost of living is high, Paris is ideal if you want to live in a lively, diverse city that’s relatively safe and walkable. There are plenty of expat communities for you to join too.
While Paris has over 2 million residents, Marseille has just under 1 million inhabitants. As a port city located in the southern part of the country, Marseille is ideal for expats seeking an area that’s easy to get around and has lots of sunshine and access to the beach.
While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, part of Marseille’s charm is that it’s grittier and less polished than other cities in France. Another perk that attracts expats to living in Marseille is that it’s much more affordable than living in Paris. However, you’ll need to know French as English isn’t commonly spoken here.
Along with being home to one of the largest universities in the country, Toulouse has a growing tech scene, attracting talent from all over the world, making it ideal if you’d like to live in a smaller city with an international scene.
Expats who’ve moved to Toulouse cite walkability and the city’s transportation system as reasons for deciding to live in this part of France. And since Toulouse is near Spain, you can easily cross the border to visit France’s neighbor over a weekend.
For more information about why these French cities (and a few others) are ideal for American’s looking to live in France, get an in depth overview in our guide to moving to Europe.
Living in France pros and cons
Benefits: As mentioned, health care, low crime, expat communities, excellent transportation, and access to other parts of Europe are some of the perks you’ll experience when you’re living in France.
Another pro to making France your home is that you’ll feel like you’ve visited another world by simply traveling to a different region within the country. For instance, you can be tanning on a beach in the South of France one season and skiing in the French Alps the next.
Of course, there’s the wine and food too! In addition to Champagne, some of the best wines in the world are from the Bordeaux region of France. And since you’ll walk everywhere, you’ll be able to indulge in a croissant each morning too!
Challenges: While France is a relatively safe country, you should still be street-smart and mindful of potentially being pickpocketed.
Like Spain, expats living in France tend to deal with a lot of bureaucracy when it comes to all things visa related. This challenge, along with needing to complete seemingly endless paperwork, can be frustrating. Also note that similar to the Netherlands, taxes in France are high. However, the country’s excellent infrastructure and healthcare system are supported by your taxes.
Finally, it’s important to know some French when you move abroad. Aside from being a sign of respect for your new home, speaking the language will give you a deeper appreciation and understanding of French culture…not to mention make it easier to navigate your home!
Healthcare in France for expats
American expats in France are required to have health insurance. Depending on your visa, after living in the country for three months, you may be eligible to enroll in the state health care plan. Even if you are eligible for public healthcare you might want to supplement it with a private plan if you seek services not covered under the state system.
For more details about public and private health insurance in France check out I’m Outta Here: An America’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living In Europe.
Living in France as an American
If you’re a fan of Sex and the City, do you remember the loneliness Carrie felt when she moved to Paris? While the scenes are exaggerated for entertainment purposes, her struggle to adjust to living as an expat is very relatable to foreigners moving to a new country without knowing the language or having a community to join.
Reasons to move to France
Hitting refresh is all about doing what’s best for you. And, as you’ve learned in this piece, Americans tend to move to France for work, study, retirement, or simply to have an adventure. Regardless of why you’re planning to move to France, congratulate yourself for making your dreams happen.
Americans living in France
Diane, age 54, was born in Ohio. Six years ago, she made the move to France with her husband on a visitor visa that was valid for one year.
Prior to hitting refresh, Diane and her husband lived in New Jersey where she worked as a healthcare IT consultant. Since they both had grueling schedules, they decided to leave the stress behind, take a leap, and move to France!
Part of Diane’s refresh journey included planning the actual move. One of the first steps in her process was identifying a medium-sized city that had excellent public transportation, nice weather, and low crime. After doing in-person recon, Diane and her husband selected Toulouse – a charming city in the southern part of the country – as their home for the year they had visitor visas.
During her time in Europe, Diane found it challenging to learn French. Therefore, she recommends knowing as much of the language as possible before living in France.
Aside from getting some French under your belt, Diane suggests building community by joining Facebook groups such as Expat Life in France, Expat Women in France, and other online communities local to the region you plan on making your new home.
Another learning from Diane’s refresh in France was navigating how to find and create remote work opportunities. To figure this out, Diane and her husband returned to the United States after their visitor visas expired to focus on building her online photography business. They’re currently based in Northern California and hope to return to France in two years on an entrepreneur visa. In the meantime, Diane is networking, practicing her French, and looking forward to living in France once again.
Originally from New Jersey, Patricia, 54, spent 25 years in Virginia before deciding to make France her home. She was compelled to create this change after realizing she wanted more from life than a career as a project manager for a health insurance company. This aha came to light when she was in her forties; after the death of both of her parents.
Patricia initially went to France on a visitor visa and renewed it three times. During this period, she reflected on how she wanted to hit refresh long-term.
Patricia received her professional coach certification a couple of years prior to moving to Europe. When she initially arrived in France, she took time to create a business that combined her coaching skills with her passion to support women in finding confidence to make their dream of moving abroad happen. When her business plan came together, she applied (and was approved) for the French profession-libérale visa—a type of self-employment visa.
While figuring out what she wanted to do in France, Patricia explored where she wanted to live too. When she visited the village of Céret on market day, she thought it would be a nice place to live. So she followed her gut and moved 30 minutes from Perpignan (where she began her French life) to Céret. To this day, she hasn’t regretted this decision!
Like Diane (see above), Patricia recommends learning French sooner rather than later. She also encourages Americans considering living in France to do some soul searching about why they’d like to move to this European country.
Along with these suggestions, Patricia believes it’s helpful to be in the know before you go to France. For example, expats in France have one year to ship household items over before import taxes incur. Expats in the country are also allocated a year to exchange their driver’s license (if your state has an agreement with France) before being required to take lessons and pass the local driving test.
Like other members of the She Hit Refresh community who set off to live somewhere new, loneliness and self-doubt hit Patricia too. As a result, Patricia found herself questioning why she left a good paying job and her community to live in France. However, over time, Patricia’s been able to adjust, make friends, and happily embrace her new life as an American expat in France!
Next steps to becoming an American expat in France
Move to France as an American is a real possibility! If you need more resources to help you move abroad check out the following:
- Sign up for the next Move Abroad After 30 Masterclass to see if a move abroad is a possibility for you!
- Join our Facebook Group for women age 30 and up who want to move abroad
- Grab your copy of our Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe as an American
All information included in this piece is based on most recent information available at time of writing – January 2024.