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Checklist: How to retire to France

For many this is a lifelong dream, but there are some practical issues to be addressed before you can begin your retirement in France.

Retiring to France isn't all sunbathing
Retiring to France isn't all sunbathing. Photo: Frank Perry/AFP

Long, lazy afternoons in the sun, picking fresh figs off the tree and then opening a bottle of rosé? Sure, retirement to France can involve all these things and much more, but first you need to think about boring but important things like residency permits, pensions and health insurance.

Immigration

Starting at the beginning, you need to ensure that you are living legally in France. For EU citizens this is fairly straightforward, but non-EU citizens (including Brits) will need a visa in order to start a new life in France.

If you’re retiring and therefore don’t intend to work in France, you probably want a visitor visa.

This requires proving you have sufficient financial means – either savings or an income such as a pension, rental income or investments – giving an undertaking that you won’t work in France and there’s also a fairly hefty stack of paperwork to assemble. Full details on the process HERE.

Once you get your visa and arrive in France that doesn’t mean that the admin is over, you will still have to register for residency once you get here.

Pensions

Once here, you will need to make sure you have enough money to pay for Cognac and baguettes, and for many that will be a pension. People who move abroad once their pension has already begun to pay out can generally have it transferred to their new address with few problems, although if your pension is not paid in euros, remember that currency fluctuations can have quite a drastic effect on your monthly income.

If, however, you take early retirement and move abroad before your pension begins to pay out, check carefully that this will not affect your payouts.

Countries need to have international social security arrangements in order for you to begin claiming a state pension from another country. For EU citizens this is covered by Bloc-wide pension arrangements, but other countries need bilateral treaties, and the lack of one between France and Australia has seen many Australians in France forced to move back in order to become eligible for their pension.

While Brits who were living in France before the end of the Brexit transition period kept their existing pension rights, those who move now no longer benefit from joined-up EU pensions, if they have worked in more than one country.

READ ALSO

Taxes

Once you are resident in France you will need to fill in the annual tax declaration – even if you are not earning in France. If all your income (eg a pension) comes from abroad and you come from a country that has a double taxation agreement with France (including the USA, UK, EU and Australia) then you won’t have to actually pay any income tax in France, but you still have to complete the annual declaration.

There are also property taxes and the TV licence to consider.

READ ALSO The hidden costs of owning property in France

Healthcare

Everyone will need healthcare sooner or later, but the rules here can be different for foreigners who worked in France before retiring than for those who have never ‘paid in’ to the French system.

In most cases if you move here on a visa, you will need to show proof of private health insurance for your first year.

Once you move, you can register within the French health system, but who pays your bills may depend on whether you are already in receipt of a state pension and whether your home country has an agreement with France.

While waiting for registration, EU citizens can use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) while Brits can use the new UK-specific version, the GHIC, although this does not cover everything and should not be used as long-term health cover.

READ ALSO Health insurance: What are the rules for new arrivals in France

Transport

You’ll also have to keep in mind how you will get around, and if you live in a rural area that will almost certainly mean a car.

If you’re an EU or UK licence holder you can swap your licence for a French one, but if your licence is from the USA then the State in which you obtained it is crucial – not all US states have reciprocal agreements on swapping driving licences with France and if you’re unlucky enough to come from one of those, you face taking a French driving test before being allowed behind the wheel.

In better news, once you get your French driving licence there is no upper age limit or obligation to renew it once you hit a certain age, although the local Préfet can order a medical examination in cases where there is some doubt about the driver’s fitness to be behind the wheel. This usually follows an accident.

More good news if you’re going by train, as there are discount cards available to over 60s, while the Paris region also provides a free monthly travel pass for over 65s.

Old-age care

While you may be fit and active when you move to France, at some point you may become ill or infirm and need extra help.

France has a strong system of home-care to enable people to stay in their own homes for as long as possible, but there are also residential care homes for those who need them.

There are no limits to foreigners accessing care but who pays for it can vary depending on your home country and whether you have ever worked in France. Full details here.

Reader question: Can I move into a French care home as a foreigner

Language

It might sound obvious, but you will have more fun in France if you speak the language. While it is possible to interact only with English speakers in certain areas of France, official functions generally have to be done in French.

Plus, the whole experience of moving abroad will be a lot richer if you can chat to the locals and understand the culture, so if you have long-term plans to retire to France, start now with learning the language.

READ ALSO How easy is it to move to France if you don’t speak French?

Social 

Consider also the social aspect of your new life.

At The Local we’re obviously big fans of moving abroad, but we would never deny that it can at times be difficult and lonely, and if you’re not working it can be harder to make friends.

So think in advance of how you will meet people and just how isolated your new place is – and if you’re moving to rural France, always make sure you have visited the area in the winter as well as the summer.

READ ALSO How to make French friends in France

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HEALTH

French vocab and prices: Your guide to visiting the dentist in France

From finding a dentist to treatment costs, plus the crucial bits of French vocab, here's everything you need to know about visiting the dentist in France.

French vocab and prices: Your guide to visiting the dentist in France

The dentist – as unjustly dreaded in France as they are anywhere else in the world.

But, while few, if any, of us enjoy visiting our friendly, neighbourhood chirurgien-dentiste, we all know that it’s important to care for our teeth and gums, so here’s what you need to know.

How to make an appointment

A simple web search for a dentiste or chirurgien-dentiste will bring up the contact details of local professionals. Then it’s a case of ringing up to make an appointment. There is no need to be registered with a dentist, you can visit anyone who has a free appointment, although you may prefer to keep your appointments with the same person if you are  having ongoing treatment.

Alternatively, sites such as Doctolib may allow you to book a slot online.

If you’re worried about remembering your French verb conjugation while you have a mouth full of blood, Doctolib also lets you know which languages your dentist speaks.

READ ALSO How to use the French medical website Doctolib

How much it costs

The government-set going rate for a dental check-up is €23 for dentists working in the public health system – which most do. As a result, 70 percent of that fee, paid at the time of the consultation, will be reimbursed for anyone who holds a carte vitale.

Check-ups last as long as the dentist needs to examine your teeth. If no additional work is required, it’s just a few minutes in the chair.

If you require additional work, then how much you pay goes up – along with the time it takes. A basic filling, for example, costs €26.97, of which €18.88 is reimbursed. Descaling adds €28.92 to the initial bill, but is again partially reimbursed.

The upfront cost of root canal work on a molar, meanwhile, is €81.94, while extraction of a permanent tooth costs €33.44. 

The full price list is available on the Ameli website.

For any procedure that costs more than €70, your dentist will provide you with a written estimate, along with a number of options. 

Remember, these prices are for dentists operating in the state sector. Fees at private practices are higher.

What about crowns, implants or dentures?

Your dentist might offer you the option of a crown or implant instead of the basic treatments of fillings and extractions, but these are expensive and are usually not covered on the carte vitale, so here whether or not you have a mutuelle is important.

The top-up health cover known as a mutuelle – find more details here – will generally offer dental cover, but exactly what is covered depends on your policy.

If you require special treatment, make sure to consult the price list, as you will often have to pay up front before you can claim anything back. 

Dental hygienist/teeth-cleaning

If you like to visit the dentist regularly for a scale and polish you will need to check whether your dentist’s cabinet employs a hygiéniste dentaire (dental hygienist).

Most practices do but not all. If you’re going to a new practice it’s generally better to make an appointment first with the dentist for a check-up, and then ask for regular hygienist appointments.

Useful vocabulary

Dental surgery – un cabinet dentaire

Emergency dentist – un dentiste de service

I would like to make an appointment – je voudrais prendre un rendez-vous

I would like a check-up – je voudrais une visite de contrôle

It is an emergency – c’est une urgence

A tooth – une dent

Wisdom teeth – les dents de sagesse

A filling – une plombage or un pansement

une dévitalisation – root canal

I have broken a tooth – je me suis cassé une dent

I have a toothache – j’ai mal aux dents

My gums are bleeding – Mes gencives saignent

I have a cavity – J’ai une carie

My gums hurt – J’ai mal aux gencives

This one hurts – Celle-là me fait mal

These ones hurt – Celles-là me font mal

An abscess – Percer un abcès

Nerve – le nerf

An extraction – une extraction

Injection – une injection/une piqûre

Local anaesthetic – une anesthésie locale

Denture/s – les dentier/s or une prothèse dentaire/les prothèses dentaires

A crown – une couronne

A bridge – un bridge

ARRRRRRGH – AIIIIIIIIE (hopefully you won’t need this one)

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