Reader question: Can I spend the winter in France to avoid huge energy bills?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 5 Sep, 2022 Updated Mon 5 Sep 2022 12:57 CEST
Reader question: Can I spend the winter in France to avoid huge energy bills?
In France gas prices are frozen at 2021 levels until at least the end of the year. Photo by BARBARA SAX / AFP

All around Europe energy bills are soaring, while customers in France are among the best protected from spiralling bills, thanks to the government price shield - but rules on immigration, tax and work mean that spending the winter in France to avoid big bills may not be feasible for many.


Obviously a lot depends on your personal circumstances - maybe you already own property in France, perhaps you have a friend or family member in France who is prepared to put you up for the winter, or perhaps you have a short term tenancy in your home country that you can cancel.

However, before you consider any of this, you need to look at France's rules on immigration, tax and work.


Here a lot depends on where you are from - if you have a passport from an EU country, then under freedom of movement you have the right to move to France with fairly minimal paperwork.


For non-EU citizens like Brits, however, it's more complicated.

Since Brexit the 90-day rule applies - you can find a full explanation of the rule HERE, but in brief you either need to limit your visits to 90 days in every 180 or get a visa.

The 90-day limit obviously rules out spending the whole winter in France, although you could just come here for three months during the coldest months, provided you haven't already used up some of your 90 days with trips earlier in the year - and it's important to note that the 90-day rule applies to time spent anywhere in the EU/Schengen zone, not just France.

If you want to stay longer than that, you will need a visa and you will need to decide whether you apply as a worker, self-employed, retired etc - full details HERE.

Visas come with a fee - usually €99, plus extra costs for having documents translated and trips to your nearest French consulate.


If you are retired then this won't affect you, but if you are of working age then you need to consider how you will support yourself in France, and again this comes down to which passport you have.

EU citizens have the right to both live and work in France, but non-EU citizens will probably need a visa if they intend to work.

If you are here under the 90-day rule you cannot work in France, since you are classed as a visitor. Likewise certain visa types, like the visitor visa, require you to undertake not to work while you are in France.

The two main visas for people who intend to work in France are the employee visa - which you need a job offer from a French company in order to get - and the self-employed visa. This visa type requires, among other things, a full business plan and financial details. 


So what about remote working? This is a bit of a grey area and plenty of people might log on to their laptop and do a bit of work for their employer back home while they are on a short visit to France.

If, however, you intend to stay longer in France then factors like the nature of your work, the length of your stay and your tax situation all determine whether this is allowed or not - full details HERE.


Which brings us to tax. The French government's position is that if you spend more than six months of the year in France then you are a resident, and all residents in France are required to file the annual tax declaration.

So while spending the winter in France might not affect that, if you also had a few weeks here during the summer you could find yourself slipping over the limit and being considered a tax resident.

Tax residency rules apply to everyone, including EU citizens.

Find out more about tax obligations HERE.


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