The notion of packing up your normal life and moving to Paris is the typical romantic daydream, so much so that it borders on cliché. However, actually living abroad in France might be easier than you think. By visiting your local French consulate or embassy and applying for a temporary residency permit (Carte de séjour temporaire, CST), you could be well on your way to living la vie en rose!
At your consulate meeting, you’ll need to bring a series of required documents. The current list is, as follows:
- Valid passport, photocopy of passport, and two passport-size photos of applicant
- Application forms (can be found online or through the consulate), printed in black ink
- A long-term application annex, must be notarized
- Proof of finances (bank records/letter, pension, etc.) to support yourself in France
- Proof of health insurance extending for entire length of intended stay in France, minimum of $40,000 in coverage
- Lease, title, promise of lease, or letter from a French citizen that they will provide accommodations
- $140 for the visa fee
Upon approval, you’ll receive your temporary French residency permit. This grants you the ability to live abroad in France for up to one year. The type of permit you receive will be based on your intentions within the country. Approved permits include:
- Student: In order to qualify, you will need to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself during the duration of your studies (about €815 a month). With a student visa, you are able to accept employment during your studies up to 60% of the legal work year (around 960 hours).
- Employee: To obtain a work permit in France, you will have to have your job approved by the government and you will need a letter of employment.
- Self-Employment: You will need to prove proper certification/qualification in your field, and you must provide a business plan that will be evaluated for approval.
- Visitor: Valid for one year and allows for the spouse or children of someone living in France for 18 months to join them in the country. You cannot work on this visa and must show financial security for the duration of your trip.
- Trader (commerçant): Allows you to undergo commercial activity and trade while living abroad in France. You will need to have appropriate recognized authorization and qualifications to operate in this capacity.
- Scientific: Grants residence in France for scientific research and/or teaching in a university. You will need certification from a research institution or university showing your qualifications.
- Private or Family Purposes (vie privée et familiale), and you must be:
- A minor dependent of someone who holds a residency permit in France
- The spouse of a residence permit holder/French national
- One of the parents of a child with French nationality, and the child is financially dependent on you or you have custody of the child
- Note: This form of temporary residency usually allows holders to work freely in the country, in contrast to the visitor form. Exceptions include those from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.
If you decide that you’d like to plant more permanent roots, living abroad in France beyond one year, you can visit your nearest préfecture (administrative offices representing local government) and apply for a renewable residence permit (carte de séjour). Your particular reasons for being in France will determine how long the card will last before needing to be renewed.
Make an appointment with the OFII (the French Immigration and Integration Office) to finalize this process. You will have to pay resident taxes and may need a medical examination. After the meeting, the OFII will put a sticker into your passport indicating your level of residency and showing that you are legally allowed to live abroad in France.
Permanent Residency or Citizenship in France
You can apply for permanent residency after living abroad in France for 5 years. You can also qualify for French citizenship through naturalization at this point, which grants you the right to vote. For this, you will have to take a language test and prove that you have integrated well into French society.
Living abroad in France can be an eye-opening experience. The country is one of the most culturally diverse and storied nations in Europe. The first step is getting there. Fortunately, France has many different options for legal residence in the country, and the ease of obtaining permanent residency is high for the region.
Tyler Sorce is an American writer and digital nomad currently living in Lisbon, Portugal. In a past life he was a chef in Manhattan and Paris, follow his travels and favorite dishes on Instagram.