The hidden costs of moving to France you need to know about

The cost of setting a up a new life in France does not just add up to your new home and the ferry or flight tickets. There are many hidden expenses involved in the move to France that are worth factoring in to your budget.

The hidden costs of moving to France you need to know about
Photo: RealCallahan/Depositphotos
Moving is considered to be among the most stressful things you can do in life and unsurprisingly that stress can multiply when you're moving to a foreign country. 
Most who make the dream move to France don't have much money to spare and have to stick to a tight budget.
But many are surprised by all the hidden costs that add up. Moving to France costs a lot more than the property you buy and the ferry and flight tickets.
Here's a look at some of the extra costs you need to think about when you're at the planning stage, thanks to those who have made the move.
Getting your possessions from one country to another is certainly one of the more substantial costs you'll face when moving to France whether you're coming from the UK or US. 
But it can be hard to get an idea of what you should be paying if you've never done it before and costs can vary dramatically depending on how much you're looking to bring with you, how big those items are and exactly how long the journey is. 
Photo: CandyBoxImages/Depositphotos
So, when you think about your move you'll need to factor in the size of the move, with the trip costing more depending on the weight and volume of what you are taking with you.
Then there's distance, route and transportation method.
Website reallymoving — a UK price comparison site for moving services — has collected data from households proposing to move to France from locations across the UK between August 2016 and August 2017.
They've compared the costs of moving the entire contents of a home, moving all items except large furniture and moving only smaller personal items.
The lowest average cost they calculated for a move from the UK to France was £1,039, for only small, personal items from a one bedroom property with the highest average cost coming in at £3,423 for taking the entire contents of a four bedroom property.
You can find a lot more detail here to give you an idea of how much you should be forking out for a move from the UK to France.
Meanwhile, if you're moving from the US it's a lot trickier to work out an average what with the distances potentially being covered varying so greatly. However several companies including MoveHub will provide you with several quotes from major international shipping companies. 
France-bound holidaymakers face Dover delays over French security checks
Photo: AFP
This is something you might not give a lot of consideration to when planning your move but it can have a big impact on the amount your move costs. 
The cost of transport, including trains and ferries, can go up dramatically at certain times of the year. 
So, if you have a say over when you move then doing so outside of popular holiday times could save you some money especially if you're moving to places people typically visit in spring and summer, such as Paris or the south of France. 
And remember that if you're planning to drive to your new home, you'll potentially face the cost of road tolls which can greatly affect the price of your journey.
The main auto-route – or motorway – heading south from Calais, for example, costs €22.10 if you are going to Paris in a car.
Meanwhile, taking the motorway all the way down to Lyon with a caravan will set you back a hefty €93.90.
Alternatively you could instead use the routes nationales — the French equivalent of our A-roads — which are free to use but will take you longer. 
You can use to avoid any nasty surprises on your travels. 
What you need to know about driving on France's motorways
Photo: AFP
It's something everyone dreads but if you're moving to France it will quickly become part of everyday life. And the good thing is you will soon get used to it.
And the admin that goes into keeping up with French bureaucracy, particularly when you've just moved to France, doesn't just take time, it can also come with a fairly hefty price tag. 
For example, when navigating applying for all the documents you'll need to start your life properly in France, you'll probably need a few copies of your birth certificate. 
But don't fall into the trap of feeling smug if you're one of the few people who has managed to hold onto their original copy… because you need one that's dated in the last three months and translated into French by an approved translator. 
So, when you're applying for your carte vitale (health card), remember that you'll need to factor in around €50 extra to cover the translation as well as whatever it costs you to order a new birth certificate. 
If you're someone who needs a visa to live in France, then don't forget to factor this into your budget. 
For US citizens, the application fee for a long term visa is $138.
Obviously, British citizens who want to live in France don't need to a visa although that could change after Brexit … watch this space.
During the planning stage, it's worth looking at which documents you'll need and working out how much it will cost you to get hold of them so there are no (or at least fewer) surprises down the road. 
READ HERE for a closer look at the documents you'll need when living in France. 
And bear in mind if you are American your local US consulate  might not handle the issue you need resolving.
One American who lives in Brittany told The Local they were forced to make several trips to the US embassy in Paris and back (which can be pricey) to sort out their kids' visas.

The essential documents you will always need in FrancePhoto: Mactrunk/Depositphotos

Bank accounts 

Some of you may be surprised to find out that simply having a current account in France will set you back a small amount each month. 

But while this might come as something of a shock, it won't dent your paycheck by too much. 

For a standard current account, people usually pay around €30 to €50 plus a year although exactly how much you'll have to cough up will depend on the kind of account and bank card you have. 


Moving into your new home is likely to come with all kinds of unexpected costs. 
For example, if you're planning on renting a furnished apartment, that might not mean what you think it means in France. 
The government defines a furnished (meublée) apartment as having bedding, a stove, oven or microwave oven, fridge and freezer, crockery, kitchen utensils, tables and seats, storage shelves, lighting and housekeeping equipment.
And while this can be a good place to start, the quality of furniture in an apartment can vary a lot and you might find that you don't have as much storage as you need which may mean you need to buy at least some of your own. 
Seven things to know before you buy that house in France
In the renting game, there's also the additional cost of agents fees, deposits and sometimes several monthly payments up front that you may need to cover. And while you will hopefully get your deposit back, that still means you need to have access to a pretty decent sum of money from the very beginning. 
Another hidden cost of renting in France is insurance from your apartment. 
No matter what type of apartment you are leasing, whether it's short or long-term you will need to take out an insurance policy in order to cover potential risks (water damage, fire, robbery). 
The subscription to the insurance is very simple and can be done on the internet for example on the French Furnished Insurance website.
It's called an “assurance d'habitation” in French and it can be provided by the bank or even from your country. But remember, if there is a problem the French law has the priority, which is the reason why it's a good idea to sort it out in France. 

When it comes to buying a house in France, there are obviously a lot of costs you need to take into account. But one you might not consider immediately, is the amount you will have to pay the notary (notaire) dealing with your purchase. 
The notary handling the sale collects all the fees associated with a purchase which are called the frais de notaire. However only around 10 per cent of these fees are for the notairy themselves while the rest are sums, including taxes and other expenses, that they will pay to the right people on your behalf.
Luckily, the government has set out guidelines which are regulated and transparent for how much this will all cost and are related to the price of the property you are buying. 
The cost of doing renovation on your new property is probably one the biggest “extra” costs of moving to France. Most people will have factured this into their budget when buying their property but more often than not new homeowners will underestimate the amount of work and cost involved in revamping their property.
This often pushes people to give contracts to rogue tradespeople because they are tempted by the cheaper estimates. And employing the wrong person to carry out building work has cost people their life's savings, so be warned.
If you have the money then this shouldn't be a problem but heed the advice of so many who have moved to France before you and make sure you know how much it will cost you to make your home live able before you buy that house.
Living in France: How to avoid being conned by rogue tradesmen

Six tips to make that daunting move to France run smoothlyPhoto: AFP

There are many of you who will be including your canine and feline companions in your move to France. 
And while you might not be able to bear the thought of leaving them behind, there are potentially some considerable costs that go hand in hand with bringing a pet with you. 
Firstly they will need to have a rabies injection and be micro-chipped — in that order. 
According to moving website MoveHub, the average cost of getting rabies injections is £15 in the UK and about the equivalent in dollars in the US. Meanwhile, in the UK it costs about £40 to get your pet micro-chipped and in the US it costs an average of $24. 
If you're moving to France from the UK with a dog, cat or ferret, you'll also need something called a pet passport which is a bit like a health certificate. The good news is that unlike the version for humans, it lasts for the animal's whole lifetime — the bad news is it will add around £120 to your costs.
Meanwhile, if you're coming from the US you will need a health certificate for your pet to show that they are okay to travel, with this document varying quite dramatically in price. Expect to fork out between $50 and $250 (including vaccination fees).
Photo: Ruslan117/Depositphotos

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Everything you need to know about your vital French ‘dossier’

It's a crucial part of life and an incomplete one can bring about a whole world of pain - here's what you need to know about your French dossier.

Everything you need to know about your vital French 'dossier'

The French word un dossier simply means a file – either in the physical sense of a plastic or cardboard item that holds documents together or the sense of a collection of documents. You might also hear civil servants use dossier to refer to the responsibilities they hold, as in English we might say their ‘brief’. 

But by far the most important use of dossier, particularly to foreigners in France, is its use to indicate the collection of documents that you must put together in order to complete vital administrative tasks, from registering in the health system to finding somewhere to live.

When you begin a new administrative process, you will need to put together a collection of documents in order to make your application. Exactly what you need varies depending on the process, but almost all dossiers will include;

  • Proof of ID – passport, birth certificate or residency card. If a birth certificate is required check carefully exactly what type of certificate is being asked for (and don’t freak out if they’re asking for a birth certificate no more than three months old, it doesn’t mean you have to be born again).

Birth certificate: Why you need it in France and how to request one

  • Proof of address – utility bills are usually the best, if you’re on paperless billing you can log into your online account with your power supplier and download an Attetstation de contrat which has your name and address on it and also acts as proof of address
  • Proof of financial means – depending on the process you might have to show proof of your income/financial means. This can include things like your last three months payslips or your most recent tax return. If you’re house-hunting you might be asked for your last three quittances de loyer – these are rent receipts and prove that you have been paying your rent on time. Landlords are legally obliged to provide these if you ask, but if you can’t find them or it’s a problem you can also ask your landlord to provide an attestatation de bon paiment – a certificate stating that you pay what you owe on time.

Paper v online

The traditional dossier is a bulging file full of papers, but increasingly administrative processes are moving online, so you may be able to simply upload the required documents instead of printing them all out. 

If you have to send physical copies of documents by mail, make sure you send them by lettre recommandée (registered mail), not only does it keep your precious documents safe, but some offices will only accept documents that arrive this way. 

If you’re able to send your dossier online, pay careful attention to the format specified for documents – usually documents like rental contracts or work contracts will be in Pdf format while for documents like a passport or residency card a jpeg (such as a photo taken on your phone) will suffice. If you’re sending photos of ID cards, residency cards or similar make sure you upload photos of both sides of the card.

If you need scanned documents there is no need to buy an expensive scanner – there are now numerous free phone apps that will do the job and allow you to photograph the documents with your phone’s camera and convert them to Pdf files.

Some French government sites are a little clunky and won’t accept large files – if you get an error message telling you that the file you are uploading is too big, you can resize it using a free online photo resizing tool. 


If the process requires payment (eg changing address on certain types of residency card or applying for citizenship) you may be asked for a timbre fiscale – find out how they work here


If you are looking for a property to rent you will need to compile a dossier and if you’re in one of the big cities – especially Paris – landlords or agencies usually won’t even grant you a viewing without seeing your dossier first, so it’s always best to compile this before you start scanning property adverts.

The government has put together a tool called Dossier Facile which allows you to upload all your house-hunting documents to a single site, have them checked and verified and then gives you a link to give to landlords and agencies, which makes the process a little simpler.

Find a full explanation of how it works here.


For foreigners, especially new arrivals, it’s often a problem getting together all the documents required. It’s worth knowing that if you don’t have everything you need, you can sometimes substitute documents for an attestation sur l’honneur, which is a sworn statement. 

How to write a French attestation sur l’honneur

This is a legally valid document, with penalties for submitting a false one, and needs to be in French and written in a certain format – the French government website provides a template for the attestation.


Déposer un dossier – submit your file

Pièce d’identitie – proof of ID eg passport, residency card

Acte de naissance – birth certificate. 

Copie intégral – a copy of the document such as a photocopy or scan

Extrait – a new version of the document, reissued by the issuing authority

Sans/ avec filiation – for birth certificates it might be specified that you need one avec filiation, which means it includes your parents’ details. Some countries issue as standard short-form birth certificates that don’t include this, so you will need to request a longer version of the certificate

Justificatif de domicile – proof of address eg recent utility bills. If you don’t have any bills in your name you can ask the person who either owns the property or pays the rent to write an attestation de domicile stating that you live there

Justificatif de situation professionnelle – proof of your work status eg a work contract – either a CDI (permenant contract) or CDD (short-term contract)

Justificatif de ressources – proof of financial means, such as your last three months payslips (employers are legally obliged to provide these), other proof of income or proof of pension payments or evidence of savings.

Avis d’imposition – tax return. Some processes ask for this separately, for others it can be used as proof of resources – this is not a copy of the declaration that you make, but the receipt you get back from the tax office laying out your income and any payments that are required. If you declare your taxes online in France, you can download a copy of this document from the tax website. 

Quittance de loyer – rent receipts

Attestation de bon paiment – a document from your landlord stating that you pay your rent on time

Un garant – for some processes, particularly house-hunting, you might need a financial guarantor. This can be tricky for foreigners since it has to be someone you know reasonably well, but that person must also be living (and sometimes working) in France, and they will also need to provide all the above documents. If you’re struggling to find an acceptable guarantor, there are online services that will provide a guarantor (for a fee).

En cours de traitement – this means that your dossier has been received and is in the process of being evaluated. Depending on the process this stage can take anywhere between hours, months or even years (in the case of citizenship applications).

RDV – the shortened version of rendez-vous, this is an appointment. Certain processes require you to first submit your dossier and then attend an in-person appointment.

Votre dossier est incomplet – bad news, you are missing one or more crucial documents and your application will not proceed any further until you have remedied this.

Votre dossier est validé – your dossier has been approved. Time to pop the Champagne!