I’m delighted to host another guest blog post today. Six years ago to the day, 13th December 2005, I arrived in France to do some final checks on Les Fragnes before we went ahead and signed the Compromis de Vente. I was so stressed out at the time – planning to move abroad is never easy – I nearly didn’t board the plane. But luckily I did, and discovered that our lakes weren’t legal. You don’t want to touch an unregistered lake with a bargepole, so we were able to add a conditional clause to our sale agreement to say that unless our lakes were made kosher, we’d pull out of the deal. The estate agent and vendor suddenlygot very busy sorting this out for us!
So it’s very appropriate on this auspicious anniversary that my guest post is about moving to France from the UK. It’s been written by Schepens Removals, who are one of the leading removals firms in the UK, and who specialise in removals to France.
1) Sending Your Child To School – If you plan to enrol your child at a school in your commune, initial enquiries should be made at your mairie (town hall), where you will be advised on who to contact and how to complete the various formalities. Don’t forget to ask about school transport – ramassage scolaire – at the same time if you are going to need it. The mairie generally handles enrolments to primary school. For older children you will contact the relevant collège or lycée directly. Children should be enrolled before June to start school in September. Home-schooling is legal, but you must speak to the mairie if you intend to take this route. France also has private schools and some international schools.
2) Finding Work – If your life in France is dependent upon finding employment, the wisest approach is to land the job before making the move. France’s high unemployment inevitably means keen competition for jobs, so patience is a virtue and good language skills are desirable. Although you must be prepared to go to France if offered an entretien d’embauche (job interview), viewing vacancies and submitting applications can all be done online, either via the government job search site or through private agencies. You can also send speculative applications to potential employers. If you are planning to be self-employed, then do your homework thoroughly. Prepare business plans and budgets and make sure you understand how to register your business in France. You should talk to an accountant or the local tax office – hôtel des impôts or centre des impôts – when you arrive in France who will advise you on how to go about this. A few professions only need to inform the tax office only. All others need to be registered through either the Chambre de Commerce et de l’Industrie, the Chambre des Métiers, or the Chambre d’Agriculture.**
3) 14th July – Without question, France’s biggest national extravaganza is what the British often call Bastille Day, but the French refer to as ‘le quatorze juillet’. Festivities start on the evening of 13th, with truly spectacular firework displays all over France and partying that is likely to continue all night and into the next day. The 14th is a national holiday, when even shops that opened on Christmas Day will almost certainly be closed. Many towns arrange fêtes, parades and all manner of street entertainments, sometimes a whole week of events. If you’re in France at this time, it’s well worth finding out what’s happening near you and going along. France’s 14th July celebrations are not to be missed.
4) Eligibility for Healthcare – If you don’t intend to work or run a business in France, and are not a dependant of someone who is in the French system, you will probably need a form S1 to entitle you, initially at least, to state healthcare. You should apply for an S1 well in advance of leaving the UK. If you’re retired, contact the DWP Overseas Healthcare Team (0191 218 1999); if you’re going to continue working in the UK, contact HMRC.
5) Healthcare – Carte Vitale – This card contains a microchip which confirms your identity and social security number. When you pay for consultations, treatment or prescriptions, you will be asked for your CV. Your reimbursements will then be refunded automatically into your bank account. If you don’t have a carte vitale, or the health provider doesn’t have a card reader, you’ll be given a document called a feuille de soins. This must be presented to your caisse d’assurance, along with proof of entitlement, to claim reimbursement. Top-up health insurance – la mutuelle – is generally recommended. Be aware that orthodontic dental treatment for children will only be partly funded by the sécu, social security, and only if it is started before the child’s 16th birthday.
6) Household Bills – Keeping on top of household bills becomes second nature when you’ve lived in the same place for a long time. You know what bills to expect and when, and how to pay them. You know how to switch suppliers, cancel contracts, change insurers, and who to call for technical assistance or to query an invoice. These are things you’ll soon find out when you start living in France, but here are a few tips to get you off to a flying start.
7) Bill Payment Options – Most utility companies offer alternative payment methods, schedules and tariffs. Paying by direct debit (prélèvement) is the norm in France, but there are other options. You may also have a choice between monthly or quarterly billing – trimestrelle. It’s worth spending a little time finding out what your options are, before agreeing to the method your supplier initially proposes.
8) Re-Registering Your Car – Essentially, this is a matter of assembling the required paperwork and paying the appropriate registration fee. On most cars the headlamps must be changed because headlights dipping to the right are not acceptable in France.
9) Car Insurance – French car insurance covers the car, not the driver as in the UK, and normally includes breakdown cover; consequently, France has no RAC/AA equivalent. Continuous insurance is a legal requirement, even for cars kept off the road; before cancelling your policy, your insurers will require evidence that the car has been sold or scrapped, or that you have arranged insurance elsewhere. A valid insurance sticker must be displayed on the windscreen.
10) Bank Accounts – Banking options include high street banks, the post office bank La Poste, internet banks, and Crédit Agricole’s English-speaking ‘Britline’ which offers services online, over the telephone and by post. To open a ‘résident’ account you must reside permanently in France, i.e. be a French taxpayer; otherwise, you should apply for a ‘non-résident’ account. In either case, be prepared to provide supporting documentation such as birth certificate, passport, proof of address, financial/fiscal statements and references, etc.‘Free banking’ is not a widely-known concept in France. The lowest-cost deals can often be found amongst online banks. Some French banks charge a monthly fee with additional charges for the issue and renewal of bank cards, internet banking, and other services. Others charge an annual fee. They normally offer a range of account packages, with tariffs to reflect the different levels of service.