Brexit: What you need to know if you’re planning on moving to France in 2020

Brexit: What you need to know if you're planning on moving to France in 2020
Buying your dream home in France is the easy bit - then comes the paperwork. All photos: AFP
After months of stasis during lockdown estate agents are seeing a surge in enquiries of people wanting to move to France - especially British buyers desperate to get in before the Brexit cut-off date of December 31st. But there are some things that potential buyers need to be aware of.

Moving to France is the dream for many, but the months of lockdown and travel uncertainty mean that some people have had to put their dream on hold.

Now businesses and travel are reopening, real estate agents are reporting a surge in demand, especially from British buyers keen to make the move before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st.

But if you are planning to make the move before the cut-off date there's more to it than simply being on French soil by New Year's Eve.

Here's what you need to know if you are planning on making the move this year.

Legally resident

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement gives all British people who are legally resident in France by December 31st 2020 the right to stay. However this phrase 'legally resident' is important and there is more to it than simply being present in France or even owning property in France.

You can find out the full conditions for being legally resident HERE, but broadly you can move to France either as a student, an employee, to be self-employed or to be economically inactive (the category that includes pensioners). If you are not intending to work you will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient resources not to be a burden on the French state.

READ ALSO How much money do I need to stay in France after Brexit?


Once freedom of movement ends for UK citizens, all British residents in France will be obliged to apply for residency permits.

Although the Withdrawal Agreement gives us generous protections, all UK citizens still have to go through the process of applying for the carte de séjour residency permit that makes non-EU citizens legal residents in France. You can find out more about how and when to apply HERE.

READ ALSO What is the Withdrawal Agreement and does it cover me?


In the past many British people have relied on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access healthcare if they need to, but if you are moving to France permanently you need to register within the French healthcare system.

Pensioners and some other categories continue to have the costs of their healthcare met by the UK under the S1 scheme, but you still need to register in the French system. In France you pay healthcare costs upfront to the doctor, hospital or pharmacist and then your costs are partially or fully reimbursed via your carte vitale (health card).

You can find out how to register for a carte vitale HERE and the full process of registering can be quite a lengthy one.



If you are a pensioner planning to move to France there is some good news. The Withdrawal Agreement guarantees the continued uprating of UK pensions for people resident before December 31st so you do not need to make any extra arrangements for this, although you will of course remain vulnerable to currency fluctuations which can be worth bearing in mind as you budget.  


There has been a lot of confusion about whether British people can continue driving in France using a UK licence after Brexit but French authorities have decided that they will continue to accept a UK licence, even for permanent residents.

Only in certain circumstances will you need to swap your licence for a French one – find out more about the requirements HERE.

If you are bringing over a British car, however, you will need to change its registration to French plates if you are planning on staying in the country for more than six months. This rule seems to be frequently ignored and some people drive on British plates for years, but it is in fact the rule and ignoring it can invalidate your insurance. Find out how to make the switch HERE.


This isn't something that you need to do straight away but you need to be aware that if you become a permanent resident in France then you need to fill in a tax declaration here – even if all your income comes from another country (such as a pension from the UK).

Tax declaration season is in April and you declare the first April of your residency – so if you move now you will declare in April 2021.

READ ALSO What exactly do I need to tell the French tax man about?

The tax declaration can be quite detailed, so keep all paperwork relating to your income from all countries.

This relates to your income tax and is separate to the two property-related taxes – taxe d'habitation which is paid by the householder (although this is in the process of being phased out) and taxe foncière which is paid by the property owner. If you own your own home you can end up paying both.

And finally, here's some advice from the experts; The Local's readers who have made the move to France and been through all the processes – 'Keep all paperwork and don't argue with bureaucrats: What you need to know about moving to France.

For more information on residency, citizenship, healthcare and driving after Brexit, head to our Preparing for Brexit section.

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