The good news is that it’s a relatively easy place to settle in compared to some nations. However, there are some quirks and nuances that you may encounter.
Together with fully mobile ‘challenger’ bank bunq we explore the process of starting your life in France and what you need to know to make it all easier.
STEP ONE – Get registered
Non-EU citizens arriving to work or study in France, on a visa, are required to register at a local town hall or mairie within a set period of time of their arrival – usually this is between two to three months.
If you’re an EU citizen, you are not required to register at all.
If you haven’t already, you’ll need a residence permit, or carte de séjour to register, which you can obtain at your local prefecture – that’s the centre of administration for the commune in which you live.
They’ll generally require your passport, proof of employment or study, proof of insurance if you’re studying and most importantly, the visa that was obtained prior to your arrival in France.
You will then receive documentation covering your stay, until you receive your carte de séjour, at which point you can visit the mairie to register your residence.
While it sounds complicated, most of the time it’s a fairly straightforward experience – don’t hesitate to ask questions of the staff there, and be sure to make a checklist of all the documentation you’re asked for. This can avoid delays and make the experience much smoother.
STEP TWO – Get insured
When you work or study in France, whether you’re a French citizen or an international worker or student, it’s compulsory to hold health insurance. If you’re studying, you’ll need to show proof of insurance before you can obtain your residence permit.
All workers are covered by what is known as the Protection Universelle Malade (PUMA), a system of universal healthcare paid from the income tax of individuals. That said, you’ll often have to pay up front to see a doctor, or get some medical procedures. You can claim this expense, and you’ll generally be reimbursed up to 70 percent of the cost.
This is where the mutuelle comes in. It might be easiest to think of mutuelle much like private health insurance, but there are a few key differences. They don’t give you access to better healthcare, or specialist clinics, and they can’t charge premiums for pre-existing conditions.
What mutuelle do is ensure that your costs are covered, generally up to 100 percent, and don’t leave you out of pocket after a medical emergency. They also often offer medical and dental coverage, which is good idea to have, especially if you’re going to be in France indefinitely.
Some workplaces offer membership of a mutuelle as part of their employment package. Otherwise, there are literally hundreds of them across the country – some serving the entire nation, some only a small area – and it pays to ask around as to which offer the best deal for your personal needs.
STEP THREE – Get a bank account
When The Local reached out to our readers to better understand the process of opening a French bank account, we had strong and singular feedback. As it turns out, opening a French bank account may be the most complicated part of getting settled in France – and that can pose difficulties, considering it’s where you’ll receive your pay or will want to use for accessing other funds.
As one reader, James, pointed out, French banks haven’t kept up to date with the streamlining that many other services have undergone, telling us: “Their systems and processes weren’t set up to deal with people who hadn’t lived their lives in France, had French passports and documentation.”
What this means is that you’ll often find yourself having to submit a lot of documentation when opening a French back account, in order to circumvent the need for banks to have specific identification. When you couple this with the fact that bank staff may not speak fluent English, the onboarding process to opening your account can be onerous, and you may end up without the flexibility of banking you need.
One way to get around this is to open an account with an online bank such as bunq. This is an especially good choice for those arriving in France, as bunq is now able to offer French IBANs. This is important, as it will make the payment of your salary, or money transfers within France instant.
Customers with bunq are also offered flexible banking. Those opening a new account can choose whether they receive a Maestro or Mastercard, credit or debit card, which opens up a wider range of payment options. When you bank with bunq, you can also transfer money between up to 25 sub-accounts, so you can save up for vacations and quintessential French experiences. You can also access spending insights and set up automatic saving, making saving money even easier.
Verifying yourself with bunq is easy. Video identification takes less than ten minutes, and you’ve got three months to confirm your place of residence and social security number once you’ve opened your account. Compared to hours spent in queues at your local French bank, or navigating language issues, it’s easy as can be.
Living and working in France can be the experience of a lifetime, once you’ve settled in. Getting to that point can take time and effort.