Expat beginner’s guide to moving to France


Probably many people today ask them selfs or consider moving to another country for various reasons. France is among the top destinations, alongside England and Germany for expats. They either leave due to financial difficulties and go looking for better paid work or go to take recognized studies. I’m sure in every country the accommodation process is different, I’m going to tell you how it’s going down here. France is not exactly a country that makes your life easy when you are new comer: the bureaucratic system is remarkably similar to the one in my home country Romania,  and not in a good way: it is heavy, bushy and requires a lot of running around and patience to get the essentials papers you need. But let’s start with the beginning:

  1. I am starting from the premise that you are leaving your country with a secured job already and you’re visa status is ok.  If you go to any country without a clear source of income you have a good chance that you will just wander a little around and return to your country with your tail between your legs as soon as the money runs out.  First of all , make sure you take enough cash to survive a month or two until you find decent accommodation. Without  2000 EUR in your pocket,  do not even think to head for the airport. Secondly, be sure to take your Identity Card, Passport (not necessarily in the EU, but it helps a lot), Birth Certificate in Original and be sure to make a translation and a legalized copy of it before you arrive , because here it costs around 50-60 euros to make a legal translation of this document; Marriage certificate, divorce certificate if you have , all translated, a few ID size pictures of you, and if the company will not provide accommodation (permanent or temporary) you should start to look for cheap hotels in the city. A hotel if booked in advance and for long term (one month or two) can be relatively inexpensive, costing 35-40 EUR per night.

2. A local phone number: This is the easiest step to accomplish and you will need it to complete all the next steps. We have chosen the operator  Lycamobile, which offers for 15 Euro per month unlimited calls in France and 3 GB of internet traffic. In order to buy the SIM card, you will usually be required to present an ID for the number registration. Once you have the card, you can recharge it directly from the internet for 10 Euros, getting the same phone and data packet. Take great care not to lose the number and card, because on this number you will be registered with the bank and other institutions. In France there are also famous mobile operators like Orange, but they have incredibly expensive pricing on subscriptions (€ 20-40 per month).

3. A roof overhead: France is well-known for the difficulty of finding an apartment for rent, there is a fierce competition among potential tenants to put get their hands on an apartment and even the French folks have a hard time finding a good offer. Time is not on your side so the easiest way to find an apartment is through a real estate agency. Their services cost of course, as in Romania, the equivalent of a month of rent (between EUR 500 and EUR 700) is usually charged, but the good part is that they deal with all french papers and the notary. You can, of course, try to find an apartment on your own on websites like  Leboncoin , but keep in mind that in France most of the properties offered for rent are not furnished, and that the law is on the tenant’s side when it comes to disputes (once the rent contract is signed, it is very difficult to evict a tenant,  even if he is several months behind on his rent!), so the owners are very reticent and selective when it comes to who’s living in their apartment and they prefer white French workers with an indefinite period work contract. We have already experienced the refusal of 3 landlords on the basis of nationality and due to the fact that I currently have a fixed-term contract. As I said in the previous article “The first 48-days-in-france as expat” when you go to visit a flat directly to the owner, you have to act like you are in job interview.

Another popular solution among expats and students is to rent a room with other flat-mates, that is, to rent only one bedroom in a larger apartment, you pay less, but you have the common bathroom, kitchen and living room. Owners are less reticent in this kind of rent offer, because the rules are more flexible and they can get rid of you easier. And in the worst case scenario if you do not pay and they still have a source of income from the other tenants. Be prepared to pay in addition to the first month rent ,  a deposit equivalent to one month’s rent. In both cases, the tenant must make a home insurance by law. For a 2-room apartment with electric heating, I pay 12 EUR per month at the local insurance company Macif.

France has a rather diverse and extensive social aid system, but because we are part of the EU, we can not qualify for any of the integration and relief programs destined for immigrants and refugees. A rather big injustice I would say. And the programs that are still accessible for us , are very difficult to access due to complicated bureaucratic procedures.

4. Mobility: In this case in Marseille, you have to get yourself a Transpass card as soon as possible. The cards works on any means of transport (bus, subway, tram, local trains, ferryboat). To get it go to one of the main metro stations, where there are RTM transport station work points, take  your ID card and a ID size photo with you and you will receive the transport card on the spot. This card can be recharged with a certain number of journeys, or packages that are valid for one week or one month. The 30-day package with unlimited trips costs 48.5 EUR, so you will probably want to make a permanent subscription that costs only € 39 / month. To make this subscription, go back to the metro stations where you got your RTM card and you will be given a small dossier to fill in. You have to deposit the dossier before the the tenth day of each month ,along with a copy after your ID and a copy of your bank details (RIB) and than the permanent subscription will be active from the 1st day of the following month. Money is automatically withdrawn from your bank account every month. More details here

carte de transport RTM


5. Account and bank card: An absolutely essential step to integrate into France. Any employer and many institutions will ask for RIB (relevé d’identité bancaire), including on the previous step for public transport. This step is quite easy, you basically go to any bank, preferably call ahead and setup an appointment, and ask to create a bank account that comes with a card. Be sure to have with you at the appointment your ID card, employment contract and rental contract. If you stay at the hotel, ask for an attestation of stay at the reception desk so that you can receive your mail including the envelope with the card and separate the envelope with the card PIN. France is a country where the card is used pretty much everywhere, cash transactions are quite rare. At bars, fast food, and regular purchases ,people pay with the card.

6. Social Insurance and Health: Once you have settled and have where to sleep, you must begin to get your head around getting a “Numéro de sécurité sociale” This is essential not only for health, but also for any unemployment claim or other benefits. If your employer has not started the procedure, you will need to go to the regional office of the CPAM (Caisse primaire d’assurance maladie) and ask for Form 736 Demande d’ouverture des droits à l’assurance maladie. Once you have this filed up, you will have to wait a few months until you receive an envelope with a temporary insurance number “numéro provisoire de sécurité sociale.” If you change your address in the meantime, make sure to go to CPAM office and inform them. Once you have the provisional number , give it to your employer so that he will transfer retroactively all health insurance contributions to this number. After a few more months, you will receive another envelope from Ameli France containing a certificate stating that you are officially insured , as well as your permanent insurance number. In the same envelope you will find a small green form that needs to be signed and to which an ID type photo must be attached in the indicative box. You will see the indicative box already has glue under the foil, do not put any other glue, staples or clips on the form! With this attestation you can officially benefit from all the health benefits in France, so I recommend you do not get sick during the first months of your stay :). Take the green form with the picture, a copy of your ID in natural size (as per the instructions on the form) and the permanent social security number certificate and go back to the CPAM regional office and submit it asking for the Green Card “Vitale Card”. Like in many EU countries you will need to present this card when you go to the pharmacy and the hospital. Once you submit the green form, it takes about another month to receive the card. More details can be found on the official Ameli Fr site here, it is a very useful website in English, where you will find a phone number with an English speaking operator for any problem concerning state health insurance.

6.1 Additional Insurance: The State Health Insurance discussed in the previous step will provide basic services covered in France, which, although they are quite extensive , do not include specialist treatments or adjacent areas such as Ophthalmology. For these, you need to make a “Assurance Mutuelle” supplementary insurance, which for 2% of your salary (depending on salary) will cover the remaining medical expenses up to 100% wherever you go. It’s done at one of the private insurance companies in France, and here the procedure goes much quicker. The company has every interest to bring you in fast as a customer, so you’ll most likely get the complementary insurance card well ahead of the state health card. I have chosen the company Vivinter at my employer’s recommendation.

7. Work and source of income: Assuming you have enough money to stay for a few months or you come with your family, the first logical step would be to go to the Employment office called Pole Emploi. Enter the official https://www.pole-emploi.fr/accueil/ site, register there, and at the end of the registration you will be asked to schedule an appointment at the local employment office. Do not go to the office without and appointment because you will go for nothing. At the appointment you must bring yourself with the identity document in original, and preferably with a Europass CV in French language. The first session is just for entering the candidate in the database, and activating the candidate account on the site. With this account you have access to the national database of open jobs. Also at the first session you are assigned a personal counselor, with whom you will have the first meeting after about a month. His role is to help you complete the candidate profile on the site and to ease your search. I’m going to say to you now that if you have any thought of asking for benefits or unemployment , you have ZERO chances to receive something if you din’t work before in France. Of course you can search for a job on one of the numerous recruitment sites such as Indeed.Fr, Leboncoin and many more.

Warning! All the steps described above are almost impossible to accomplish if you do not speak at least some French, I think in any country you go this is valid. I asked around for free French lessons but is seems they do not exist, all government resources for this kind of programs have been allocated in recent years to refugees and immigrants from non-EU countries (we can not benefit from them because we come from Romania , EU, a super-developed and wealthy country right ??), Damn refugees!

Well that’s about it, if you’ve managed to get this far, you’ve probably pretty well settled in already. I hope the article was helpful and please do not hesitate to contact me if I missed something.

If you enjoyed this article, check out also my FB page Fb GarciaCalavera.ro  , where you can give a like


Check out other Expat living articles:  How to get PACS in France , First 48 days as expat in France , After six years at sea

Check out other trips: Circuit Romania – 7 zile cu masina, Budapest road trip   , Praga – vacanta de visExcursie Dobrogea: Enisala, Ibida, HistriaVacanta MadridDoua zile in Jacksonville USAParalia – Grecia cu masinaBrasov 12.2014Buzau quick stopLepsa & Vrancea countyChisinauNesebarBucharest weekends 2014 , Busan40 de zile in Cluj NapocaHunedoara CastleSingapore 2013Brasov 02.2014 , Istanbul 01.2014 , Cluj Napoca 08.2013 , Sibiu 07.2013San Pedro-Africa , Bucharest 2013 , Varna 2012 , Los Angeles 2012 , Budapest & Viena , Salerno , Cluj Napoca 2012 , Florenta , Brasov 02.2012 , Amsterdam , Antofagasta-Chile, Valencia , Lima-Peru , Bremen , Istanbul 2009 , Valletta , San Juan-Puerto Rico , Barcelona , Singapore 2010 , Los Angeles 2010 , Transilvania road trip , La Spezia , Bosphor by ship , Sydney , Melbourne , AucklandSan FranciscoTauranga

Alternative tourism: Detroit , Georgia , Burning gate of Turkmenistan , North Korea , Pripyat & the alienation zone   , Nouadhibou graveyard

Cum traieste cealalta jumatate / How the other half lives :  KarachiGuayaquil  , Lagos

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