Moving To France From The USA – The Ultimate Guide

Are you considering how to move from the USA to France? Cut through the maze of logistics with our direct, no-nonsense guide. We cover visa application, shipping, finding a home, and adjusting to French life to ease your transition and help you get started with practical steps for a successful move.

Key Takeaways

  • Securing a long-stay visa is essential for U.S. citizens planning to live in France for more than three months. They must apply through the French consulate with all relevant documentation, including proof of income.
  • A smooth move to France requires a comprehensive pre-move checklist including health insurance coverage, planning finances, temporary accommodation, exchanging the driver’s license, learning French, and considering the shipment of belongings and pets.
  • Setting up life in France involves finding suitable accommodation, opening a French bank account, navigating the healthcare system, and integrating into French culture and language for a complete expatriate experience.

Your Essential Guide: How to Move from USA to France with Ease

For many people, moving to France from the U.S. is a dream come true. However, it requires careful planning and preparation. The first step involves obtaining a long-stay visa. This process requires an application through the French consulate and usually takes about three weeks. You must secure a long-term visa for stays over three months, therefore it’s advisable to research and understand these visa requirements well before your departure.

Ensuring all documentation is in order, including personal identification and proof of income, is a requisite to avoid unexpected hitches during the move. Furthermore, adjusting from the imperial system used in the U.S. to the metric system used in France can be challenging, necessitating changes in how measurements and temperatures are understood and converted. Also, comprehending the financial implications of relocating is vital. Accommodation costs in remote areas of France can be lower, with similar costs for utilities and groceries when compared to the USA.


The decision to move to France is often motivated by personal reasons, including an excellent standard of living, great job opportunities, and a perfect setting for regional travel and day trips. The allure of French culture and lifestyle is undeniable, with France being renowned for its beautiful language, rich culture, and exquisite cuisine.

The path to USA France is well-trodden, with nearly 250,000 U.S. citizens having already established their lives in France, indicating a supportive American expat community.

Planning Your Move to France

Before beginning your journey to France, it’s important to grasp the administrative processes you will need to navigate. This includes:

  • Obtaining a long-stay visa
  • Providing personal identification
  • Proof of income
  • Proof of residency
  • Estimating the associated costs, which average between $3000-6000.

Visa and Residency Requirements

If you’re planning to stay in France for over 90 days, you’ll need to acquire a French visa, specifically a Long-Stay Visa. You can complete this process at a French consulate or embassy located in your home country. It’s important to check the specific requirements and procedures in advance. Different types of Long-Stay Visas cater to different needs. For example, there are unique requirements for:

  • Student Visas: Students need to demonstrate financial means of around €700 (approximately $740) per month.
  • Work Visas: Requirements vary depending on the type of work you will be doing in France.
  • Retirement Visas: Retirees need to provide evidence of sufficient pension.

Make sure to gather all the necessary documents and meet the requirements for the specific type of Long-Stay Visa you are applying for, such as a tourist visa, au pair visa, student visa, or work visa.

Once you’ve moved to France, you’ll need to apply for a Carte de Séjour within a year. This enables you to reside in France for up to five years before needing renewal. The process of obtaining a Long-Stay Visa usually takes about three weeks, whereas a Carte de Séjour can vary from a few weeks to several months. The first step is determining the right visa type.

Pre-Move Checklist

Having a pre-move checklist before setting off on your journey to France is vital for a seamless transition. For non-EU/EEA nationals, obtaining a visa and residence permit is necessary to stay in France for longer than 90 days. It’s also crucial to arrange the transportation of belongings early. Many choose to use a global relocation company, such as UPakWeShip, to simplify this process.

If you’re bringing your furry friends along, understanding the rules and requirements for importing animals is crucial. The process may be lengthy, especially for non-EU countries. It’s also mandatory for all residents in France to have health insurance coverage, so it’s advisable to sort this out before the move. Additionally, before moving to France, make sure to:

  • Sort out your health insurance coverage
  • Plan your finances
  • Find temporary accommodation
  • Decide on educational options for children
  • Exchange your driver’s license for a French one
  • Learn French

These are all important tasks to tick off your checklist before moving.

Simplifying the Packing Process

An efficient and organized approach is necessary when packing for your move to France. Using advanced packaging materials and handling techniques provided by UPakWeShip ensures your belongings are secure and protected throughout transit.

What to Pack

A move to France isn’t just a location change; it’s also a shift in climate and culture. You’ll need to pack adaptable clothing appropriate for a moderate temperate zone. Prioritize staples like a good black coat and scarves for the fall and winter seasons. Shoes are crucial, especially for the extensive walking you’ll likely be doing in charming French cities. Focus on comfort and have a raincoat and portable umbrella ready for unpredictable weather.

Avoid packing clothing that hasn’t been worn in a long time or doesn’t fit comfortably. Laundry can be more cumbersome in France due to common air-drying practices. Consider purchasing electronic appliances in France to avoid issues with electrical compatibility.

Lastly, there are specific food items that might be hard to find in France, so consider packing these:

  • Molasses
  • Chili powder
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Almond butter
  • Pumpkin puree
  • Salsa
  • Cornmeal
  • Energy bars
  • Marshmallows

Prohibited and Restricted Items

While packing, be aware of the items that cannot be brought into France. Moving companies may prohibit items such as empty gas containers and backpack sprayers, even if they’ve been thoroughly cleaned. Luggage shipping services do not allow the shipment of liquids, gels, pastes, aerosols, plants, or fresh food, and there are restrictions on lithium-ion batteries.

Travelers moving to France must declare any currency exceeding 10,000 EUR (approximately $10,800). Other items with restrictions include:

  • narcotics, unlicensed drugs, and medicines
  • firearms and ammunition
  • various poisonous and explosive substances
  • plants with soil
  • wild animals and birds
  • certain meat and dairy products.

Shipping Your Belongings with UPakWeShip

While shipping your belongings overseas might seem intimidating, UPakWeShip ensures a secure process. UPakWeShip offers:

  • A door-to-door moving service
  • Customers can pack their belongings for an economical moving solution
  • The process is facilitated through a user-friendly online platform with dedicated customer support.

Customers can also monitor their shipments with UPakWeShip’s real-time tracking and rely on accurate estimated arrival times for peace of mind.

Understanding U Crates

UPakWeShip offers a range of U Crate sizes to accommodate different volumes of household goods. The options include the U Crate 50, U Crate 100, and U Crate 200. Each U Crate comes with a durable corrugated cardboard cover for added protection during transit. Customers who order multiple U Crates can benefit from discounts, making the option more cost-effective.

After packing, UPakWeShip collects the loaded U Crates from the customer’s home and ships them directly to the new address in France. UPakWeShip provides customers with packing guidelines for loading their U Crates efficiently and safely.

UPakWeShip’s Global Presence

UPakWeShip’s global presence is a testament to its reliability and efficiency. With its own offices across America, Europe, and the United Kingdom, UPakWeShip can efficiently manage international relocations, including moves from the USA to France. By handling 90% of all moves within its network, UPakWeShip maintains a high level of service consistency for customers.

Setting Up Your New Life in France

Finding suitable accommodation and establishing a French bank account are among the initial steps when setting up your new life in France. Additionally, researching French banks can help you make an informed decision on which bank account to choose.

These steps will help you establish roots and start your life in France.

Finding Accommodation

Rental properties in France include apartments (appartements) and houses (maisons), featuring architectural styles such as bastides, domaines, fermes/fermettes, pavillions, longeres, and mas. Before you begin house hunting, it’s important to prepare a ‘dossier’ with copies of your passports, visas, proof of income, and a guarantor’s details.

Furnished rentals in France include amenities and offer shorter leases, while unfurnished rentals allow for customization and feature longer lease periods and more tenant protection. The average monthly rent in France is approximately €600 (around $650) outside of city centers and around €720 (approximately $780) within city centers.

Opening a French Bank Account

Opening a French bank account is beneficial for easier property transactions and handling everyday local payments. To open a bank account in France, you’re required to present the following documents:

  • Driver’s license or passport
  • Proof of permanent French address
  • Proof of income
  • Local tax ID number

Bank accounts in France, also known as French bank accounts, are available for non-residents, students, and permanent residents, with non-residents typically having fewer banking options. A common challenge when opening a bank account in France is the need for a permanent address, which is usually required to set up an account, while an account is often required to secure a permanent address.

Navigating the French Healthcare System

Considering healthcare is vital when relocating to a new country. Thankfully, France’s healthcare system is renowned for its low cost and high quality. However, navigating this new system can be complex, involving registration for social security, obtaining a Carte Vitale, and understanding public and private insurance options.

Public vs Private Insurance

Public health insurance in France, known as Sécurité Sociale or the French social security system, covers around 70% of healthcare costs. All residents in France must be enrolled in the public healthcare system to benefit from coverage.

Private complementary health insurance, or mutuelles, offers additional coverage beyond what public insurance provides, covering the remaining patient co-pay. While public insurance covers a majority of healthcare expenses, it does not fully cover certain services like dental and vision care, which may necessitate additional private insurance.

Private insurance can also offer quicker access to specialists and more options regarding treatment facilities and practitioners.

Accessing Healthcare Services

Accessing healthcare services in a new country may seem daunting, but with the right knowledge, it can be a seamless process. To ensure you can access your necessary prescription medications in France, obtain a document from your US doctor listing the ingredients and amounts. This can help pharmacists in France find an equivalent product.

Embracing French Culture and Language

Residing in France as a French citizen involves not only handling paperwork and logistics, but also immersing yourself in the country’s rich art, fashion, cinema, and cuisine.

Learning the French language is a crucial part of this integration and enhancing your daily life and cultural experiences.

Language Learning Resources

The importance of learning French cannot be overstated. There are numerous resources available for learning French online, including:

These platforms offer diverse resources, including audio lessons, flashcards, exercises, and the thinking method.

Some resources for learning French include:

  • Pimsleur: focuses on oral language learning through listening and speaking
  • French Uncovered: provides a comprehensive learning experience covering story-based learning and detailed grammar explanations
  • Lingodeer: offers a comprehensive learning experience covering various aspects of the language
  • Speechling: designed to aid in spoken French skill development, comparing learner recordings with native speaker pronunciation
  • Lawless French: provides free supplementary resources for grammar and listening practice
  • italki: offers engagement with hundreds of French teachers for personalized instruction or participation in language exchanges

These resources can help you in your journey to learn French.

Cultural Integration

French culture is rich and diverse, known for its art, fashion, cinema, and cuisine. These elements are integral to daily life in France and a significant part of the allure of living there. Cultural life in France offers a continuous array of concerts, fashion events, museum openings, and festivals, particularly in cities like Paris.

Cuisine is another significant aspect of French culture. Classic French dishes have inspired many dishes served in fine dining restaurants in the U.S., indicating the wide-reaching influence of French cuisine. Experiencing this vibrant cultural life and classic French dishes will enhance your daily life and make your move to France even more rewarding.

Driving and Transportation in France

If you plan to drive in France, you must acquaint yourself with the local regulations. After residing in France for one year, Americans are required to acquire a French driver’s license. If your current U.S. driver’s license is valid, you can exchange it for a French one. However, if it’s expired, you’ll need to undergo the entire French driving test process.

The process of obtaining a driver’s license in France involves a theory exam with multiple-choice questions and a practical test, which includes driving a car, performing specific maneuvers, and answering safety questions. New drivers in France receive a probationary license with an ‘A’ sign on their vehicle. They initially hold six points and progressively earn up to twelve points over three years.

Third-party liability car insurance is mandatory before legally driving in France. Additionally, France offers an extensive public transportation system as an alternative to driving.

Bringing Your Pets Along

Relocating to a new country can pose challenges, and the complexity can increase when pets are involved. However, with the right preparation, you can ensure your furry friends make the journey with you. Pets moving to France must comply with health and identification requirements to ensure they are allowed entry. Dogs and cats must be microchipped and have an up-to-date rabies vaccination.

For pets traveling to France, the requirements are as follows:

  • Birds: A 30-day quarantine is required either before or after arrival.
  • Rabbits, hamsters, reptiles, and horses: Only a valid health certificate is needed.
  • Certain dog breeds, such as Staffordshire terriers, American Staffordshire terriers (pit bulls), Mastiffs, Rottweilers, and Tosas, are prohibited. However, they are allowed if registered with the American Kennel Club.

Exploring Employment Opportunities

Securing a job in a new country can appear intimidating. However, understanding the employment landscape in France, including the role of the French government in regulating industries, can make your job search more effective. The French job market exhibits a higher unemployment rate among the under-25 age group and tends towards short-term contracts. Key industries in France include aerospace, automotive, pharmaceuticals, and tourism. Major companies such as AXA, L’Oréal, and Peugeot are headquartered in the country.

Occupations currently in shortage in France encompass STEM professionals, medical practitioners, and ICT experts. It’s worth noting that American expats must secure employment in France before their employers can apply for authorization to work in the country. Enhancing job applications using professional online resources like can improve the employment prospects of job seekers in France.

Networking plays a critical role in the French job market, with many positions filled through personal contacts. Speculative applications are viewed favorably, reflecting an individual’s ambition and proactivity. Given the hierarchical nature of the French workplace, understanding this dynamic can be beneficial when trying to integrate into the local market.

Furthermore, mastering the French language is essential for job seekers in France, particularly when networking and attempting to integrate into the local market.

Education in France

If you’re relocating to France with children, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the education system. Education is mandatory in France from the age of 6 to 16. At the age of 18, French students take the Baccalauréat (le bac), an examination that concludes their secondary education.

Before entering the mandatory preschool, families can choose childcare options such as daycare or hiring an assistante maternelle. Preschool in France is compulsory from age three and usually, children attend until they are six years old.

Mandatory vaccinations for school registration include Diphtheria, tetanus, polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, influenza, pneumonia, and meningitis C.

Enjoying Leisure and Travel

Beyond the logistics and daily life, the opportunity to explore the beautiful country is one of the highlights of living in France. France boasts some of the world’s most visited tourist attractions. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and the Palace of Versailles are just a few of the iconic sites that you can visit. The Louvre is not only an iconic art museum in France but also home to world-famous artworks including those by Claude Monet.

When visiting these cultural landmarks, greet with ‘bonjour’ as an important cultural practice. Living in France also offers convenient access to traveling across European countries, with nearby destinations including:

  • Switzerland
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Spain

For a flexible and personal exploration of Paris, consider engaging in self-guided walking tours. Podcasts that delve into French history, museums, food, and wine, as well as tips to avoid tourist traps, can aid tourists in confidently planning their trips to France.


Moving to France from the USA involves several steps, from obtaining a visa to finding accommodation, setting up a bank account, understanding the healthcare system, learning French, and integrating into French culture. However, with careful planning and preparation, you can ensure a smooth transition to your new life in France.

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