September 29, 2005

Curious, George: Immigrating to France How hard is it to move to France to live?

My boyfriend and I are thinking about moving to France to work and live. Both of us are from the States and have no relation to anyone in France. How hard would it be to immigrate to France? What are our options and what's involved?

  • Well let me give you a warning: oeuf means egg . . chapeau means hat . . it's like . . those French . . have a different word, for everything! /Steve_Martin
  • It's going to be difficult unless: 1. You're self-supporting. 2. You have skills that the French generally don't have but need (speaking English doesn't qualify here). 3. Something else.
  • 3. Something else. A certain je ne sais quoi...
  • Very difficult. Even if you come from one of the world's richest nations, can speak French, have a job offer, and your employer-to-be sponsors you for a visa, the perfidious bastards will still refuse you. True story.
  • Maybe it would help if you stick maple leaf signs to your clothing and luggage. :-)
  • I cannot imagine living in France. The cheese, dear god the cheese. I don't know how they stay so skinny. Seriously. Is it portion size? Because I would need about 12 portions of cheese, thank you very much. Ahem. I realize that was not entirely helpful, art vandal. But you should definitely consult an immigration lawyer to find out what you need to hear - which is that moving to France will be difficult. And expensive. And possibly very, very fattening.
  • Very difficult indeed. I wouldn't recommend it at all considering the information you've given - without any French relatives, at the very least, you need a firm job offer before entering the country, and even then, as ThreeDayMonk says, nothing is guaranteed. Self-supporting could work if you're rich though. Money, or as administrations see it, what you'd contribute in taxes, buys everything (in any country, not just France). I only gained residence because of my French now-ex-boyfriend, and even with a ten-year carte de rĂ©sident that allows me be to be employed anywhere, I basically can't be employed. (For info, I work freelance.) Employers are penalized for hiring any non-EU citizen outside of private language professors (non-EU citizens can't teach in public schools; you have to have EU citizenship to get positions there). The financial penalty basically means no company in their right mind would hire you when they can get an EU citizen to do the same thing for cheaper. (I've lived in France for six years, the last one without the ex. Several firm job offers, all ended up being turned down when the employer realized how hefty the penalty was. As for private language schools, they're filled to the gills by experienced UK teachers. The best bet for finding employment is Paris, where it's not impossible, but honestly, not worth the risk/trouble.)
  • Also, the French public service ("l'administration") is absolutely terrifying. Avoid, avoid!
  • Agreed - negotiating the French bureaucracy is difficult enough if you a) are an EU citizen and b) speak French, but a million times harder if you don't have either of these attributes. You don't mention if either of you speak French, but be warned, there is not that much English spoken in France (despite the efforts of all those teachers). However, if you're dead set on it, do a job that's needed in France and have the language skills, then go for it and investigate.
  • Ugh, I hate hearing all this. Well, he's currently in Ireland and we're planning on marrying when he gets citizenship. Also no, we don't know French but were planning on learning... sounding as if it will still be tough to move there. Not sure what we'll do. Thanks everyone for your responses.
  • i'd be more encouraging than several of the posters. what do you and your boyfriend do? some large and medium-sized companies will pay the necessary levy to hire people from outside the european union; it's necessary to convince them that you're the right person for the job. i live in paris where dealing with the administration can be difficult, but i've been told that in other areas of the country a visa application can be processed considerably more quickly. you can enter the country and stay for three months on a tourist visa - if you find a job and want to apply for a working visa, you'll probably need to make the application from your home country (though it may be possible to apply from, for example, ireland). once your boyfriend has irish citizenship (and you're married), you won't have any problem moving to france. as of last year, you don't even need to get a resident's permit (though they are handy to have for general administration purposes).
  • Yep, the Irish citizenship changes the picture quite a bit. You'll definitely need to learn French though. Aside from the administration (and Parisians ;) ), it's a wonderful country to live in. I talk about my experiences living here quite a bit on my blog, if you ever want to visit and read (see profile).
  • I like Parisians; at least you know where you are with them. I am aware this may not be a popular sentiment to express.
  • I've never had any problem knowing my standing with other French people.