Probably the most important piece of advice we can give to anyone considering a move to France is this: don't do it cold. If at all possible, arrange to spend at least a few days in the area you have decided to settle in before you make a final decision. If you are not single, bring your partner. Take the time to explore the area, look into the cost of housing, check the prices in a local supermarket, and so on. Most companies willing to move you and your household to France will agree to such pre-move visits. Even if you don't have a job lined up yet, do try to visit before you make a final decision to move.
Once the decision to move has been made, you have to take care of a bewildering array of tasks. Of course, you don't have to be reminded to arrange for your furniture and other belongings to be moved, to close your bank accounts, to advise your credit card companies, to cancel any club memberships, to re-direct your mail, to reserve your travel tickets, and so forth. However, a few things are worth noting:
The French absolutely adore papers! It is very unlikely that the items listed here are all you will need. When it comes to paperwork, there's only one golden rule: if in doubt, bring it! What you will need for sure (and for every family member) is the following:
As stated above, this is not an exhaustive list but it should certainly help you get started. Again, if in doubt, bring it. You should also check with your local French Consulate or Embassy as requirements tend to change.
If you are not a citizen of a European Union or European Economic Area member country, or Switzerland, you will need to arrange for a visa. This is easiest if you are being hired by a company located in France as your employer will in most cases handle the paperwork by submitting an application to the local authorities (the Préfecture). Once approved, this document will be forwarded to your nearest French Consulate or Embassy. If you do not have a job lined up in France yet, then the entire process will have to be originated by the French Consulate or Embassy in your area. Please read the page on Healthcare to find out how to obtain medical coverage in France.
It is a good idea to bring enough medication (both prescription and over the counter drugs) to last at least a couple of months since it may not be possible to obtain identical drugs in France. For those who wear glasses or contact lenses it may be useful to bring the prescription to allow for a quick replacement should the need arise.
If you wish to bring pets with you, you will be pleased to know that France is quite a bit more liberal than many other countries in this respect, at least as far as "conventional" pets (such as cats and dogs) are concerned. You will have to provide the following papers for your animals:
For unusual pets, check with the nearest French Consulate or Embassy about any particular regulations that may apply.
Electric power in France is 220V/50Hz. Small power converters (such as the ones sold at airports and in luggage stores) are fine for small appliances, but impractical for larger units. It may be possible to purchase made-for-export appliances that will work in France in one's country of origin. Obviously, whether this is a good idea or not depends on the relative cost of such items in the two countries, the shipping charges, the currency exchange rate, and so on. We bought a washer, drier, dishwasher, refrigerator, and toaster oven from an export store in New York prior to our move, and at the time this saved us a good deal of money. It is not certain whether it would be such a good idea today. Moving used major appliances, on the other hand, is definitely not worth the trouble in our opinion.
The television standard in France is SECAM, so TVs and VCRs that only operate on NTSC or PAL will not work. Multi-standard units may be purchased in France as well as abroad. Hi-Fi equipment may be operated normally in France, though an industrial strength power transformer should be used for components that run on 110V only. Game consoles that put out an NTSC signal will obviously only work when connected to a TV capable of processing NTSC. Consoles working with the PAL standard should not be a problem as most televisions sold in France work with both PAL and SECAM. Incidentally, mere ownership of at least one television set means that one needs to pay a tax. Starting in 2005, this tax is automatically added to one's income tax unless one specifically states not to own any television set. The tax applies once per household and amounted to 116.50 Euros at the time of writing (March 2005).
While importing an automobile from a European Union country is a relatively simple process, it can become a nightmare when the car is imported from outside the European Union, particularly from the United States or Canada. Remember that emission and safety standards vary from country to country, and the authorities may require you to make costly modifications to the vehicle to get it registered in France. There are three important points to consider:
With any imported car, make sure you have a certificate of purchase or proof or ownership, the current registration papers or an official document stating that they have been taken by the authorities in the country of origin. Upon claiming the vehicle from the customs officials in France, make sure you ask for a certificat 846-A which you will need to register the car in France. Other documents, all obtainable in France, will be required as well.
Items that are brought into France as a result of a move to this country have to be declared, regardless of how they were shipped (air or surface transportation). The requirements are different depending on whether the goods are shipped from within or outside de European Union (consult your shipping company for further details). The documents required by customs are:
Needless to say, it is wise to keep a personal copy of all these documents.
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