For potential expats looking to retire overseas, France is probably on the shortlist of landing spots. While other locations make significantly more sense from a financial standpoint (lower costs of living, better exchange rate, perks for retirees), it’s hard to beat France for natural beauty, culture, food, first-world amenities, and history.
In order to actually take the dive and retire in France as a U.S. or Canadian citizen (non-EU residents), you’ll have to undergo a few legal steps in order to reside in the country long-term.
In order to stay in France beyond the 90-day tourist visa, you’ll need to apply for some form of temporary residency permit (carte de séjour temporaire, CST). As France doesn’t have a specific permit designed solely for retirees, you’ll need to apply for one of the following permits:
- 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.
- 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.
Most retirees apply for the Visitor permit, though the other two allow you the opportunity to work in the country down the road if you ever wanted to take up minor employment. You will have to pay taxes in France on all income received both domestically and overseas.
These permits are valid for one year and are renewable annually. After five years of this temporary residency, expat retirees in France can apply for permanent residency or citizenship.
Note: If you are married to a French citizen, you will need to provide a marriage license, proof of spouse’s citizenship, and have adequate knowledge of the French language in order to obtain streamlined permanent residency this way.
Healthcare in France
In order to retire overseas in France, you’ll need to obtain some form of healthcare coverage. You’ll need to purchase international coverage before arriving in the country in order to qualify for the residence permit.
If you’d like to access the much lauded national healthcare system in France (though be aware, the government has already begun scaling back what this system will cover), you will need to either be paying into the social security system or fill out a E121/S1 form from the Department of Work and Pensions, if not working. The quality of treatment is high and on par with standards of the U.S., though premiums and cost of care are significantly lower.
Cost of Living
There is no way around it, France is not cheap for U.S. and Canadian expats looking to retire overseas. However, with the right approach and knowing where to look, you can alleviate the cost of living in this great country significantly. Let’s compare two popular locations for expats in France:
- Average monthly costs for a single person: $1,047 USD
- Meal for two at a mid-level restaurant: $60
- Groceries: 1 liter milk ($1.25), loaf of bread ($1.75), a dozen eggs ($3.51)
- Rent (monthly): one-bedroom in city center ($1,300), outside of city center ($998)
- Real Estate (per square meter): city center ($11,840), outside center ($8,120)
- Average monthly costs for a single person: $910 USD
- Meal for two at a mid-level restaurant: $48
- Groceries: 1 liter milk ($1.10), loaf of bread ($1.42), a dozen eggs ($2.70)
- Rent (monthly): one-bedroom in city center ($700), outside of city center ($560)
- Real Estate (per square meter): city center ($4,800), outside center ($3,580)
- Paris: One of the world’s greatest cosmopolitan cities. While it is deemed as one of the most expensive cities on the planet, housing prices drop significantly outside of the main touristy neighborhoods. There is also a great public transport system and you will not need a car.
- Bordeaux: Famed for its world-class wine and food, this region is a UNESCO world heritage site with a very large expat community.
- Provence: Perhaps some of the best food and most beautiful landscapes in France. Many English and American expat retirees call this region home, thrilled to be able to mix French culture with a warm and mild Mediterranean climate.
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.
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