Moving to France from the US: An Expat Guide

a street in a small French town

Whether due to professional opportunities, a partner, or a desire to improve their French, many Americans dream of moving to France. Fortunately, there are many ways to move to this beautiful, culturally rich country.

As a tax firm dedicated to expats with employees distributed worldwide, we know the intricacies of making a global move. Below, we’ve compiled a brief (but thorough!) guide on moving to France: learn about visa options, accommodation, taxes, and more.

Snapshot of expat life in France

  • Population: ~68 million 
  • Approximate number of American expats: Over 100,000
  • Capital city: Paris
  • Currency: Euro
  • Official language(s): French
  • Top cities for expats: Paris, Lyon, Nice
  • School-year calendar: Early September to early July

How to move to France from the USA: Types of visas

In most European countries, Americans need a visa to stay for longer than 90 days — and France is no exception. Stays in France beyond three months require a visa de long séjour (long-stay visa), aka type D visa. Some popular visa sub-categories among Americans include the:

  • Work visa: For those with a job offer from a French employer or transferring within their company to a position based in France. Lasts up to one year and is eligible for indefinite renewal, as long as you continue to meet the requirements.
  • “Talent passport” visa: For highly qualified professionals, researchers, self-employed individuals, investors, entrepreneurs, and performers. Lasts up to four years and is eligible for indefinite renewal if you continue to meet the requirements.
  • Visitor visa: For those who want to stay in France for an extended period of time for personal reasons or tourism. Must earn at least the minimum wage of €1,766.92 (~$1,899) in gross income per month from non-French sources. Lasts up to one year and is eligible for indefinite renewal, as long as you meet the requirements.
  • Student visa: For those pursuing education in an institution of higher learning (e.g. university, culinary school, language academy). Lasts up to one year and is eligible for renewal until your studies end. 
  • Au pair visa: For those 18-30 who want to stay with a family in France and work as an au pair. Must have a basic level of French. Lasts up to one year and is eligible for one renewal.
  • TAPIF visa: For those 20-35 who want to work as English teaching assistants in a French public school. Must have intermediate proficiency in French and be a native English speaker. Lasts for seven months and is eligible for two renewals.
  • Family reunification visa: For those who want to join family members (parents, children, or a spouse) who are EU/EEA nationals, French citizens, or foreign nationals who have legally resided in France for at least 18 months. Lasts up to one year and is eligible for indefinite renewal.

Applying for a long-stay French visa

To apply for a long-stay French visa, you will generally need to:

  • Make sure you meet the qualifications
  • Fill out an online application form
    • Attach required documents
      • Passport
      • 2 recent ID pictures
      • Any supporting documents necessary for your specific visa category
  • Book an appointment at your designated visa application center
  • Attend your appointment to:
    • Submit your application and all required documents
    • Pay a visa application fee, typically €99 (~$106)
    • Have your fingerprints and photo taken
  • Receive approval from the French government (typically within 15 days)
  • Collect your visa by mail or in person, depending on the consulate


Your visa application documents may need to be officially translated into French and/or apostilled.

Dual US-French nationality: Are you eligible?

In some cases, Americans may be able to apply for French citizenship. A few common ways to qualify include:

  • Being born in France or French territory
  • Having a French parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent
  • Being married to a French citizen for 4-5 years
  • Legally living in France for 5 years (sometimes less in certain circumstances)

France allows dual nationality, so you would not have to renounce your US citizenship upon becoming a French national.

Planning for a long-term move to France

Before moving abroad, there are several things you’ll want to do:

  • Gather official documents (e.g. passport, visa)
  • Build up your savings for upfront moving costs — ideally, you’ll want enough to cover a few months’ worth of expenses in your new home country
  • Book a ticket
  • Reserve temporary accommodations while you look for long-term housing
  • Create a packing list and pack your bags
  • Sell, donate, or store any belongings you won’t be taking with you
  • Bring a copy of your medical record and a three-month supply of any medication you regularly take (if possible)
  • If you own your current home, decide whether to rent or sell it
  • Cancel US-based services and subscriptions (e.g. cell phone plan, internet, certain streaming services)
  • Get a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees
  • Let your bank/credit company know about your move so they don’t freeze or block your account due to foreign charges
  • Set up a forwarding address for your mail
  • Research options for French banks and cell phone plans
  • Reach out to other US expats living in France for advice (try Facebook groups and relevant subreddits)

Best places for expats to live in France


Few cities are more iconic than Paris. The food, the Eiffel Tower, the museums… are just a few reasons people fall in love with the City of Light. Whether you’re a young professional, creative, or retiree, you’re sure to find a place for you in this city of over two million people. 

Popular expat neighborhoods in Paris include Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the Latin Quarter, and Le Marais.


Lyon stands out as the gastronomic capital in a country renowned for its cuisine. The city boasts 16 Michelin-starred restaurants and numerous markets. Besides food, Lyon is well known for its historical significance, cultural festivals, and thriving arts scene.

Popular expat neighborhoods in Lyon include Bellecour, La Confluence, and Croix-Rousse.


Nestled along the French Riviera, Nice has drawn artists, celebrities, authors, and musicians to its white sand shores for decades. When you’re not at the beach, you can enjoy fresh seafood, attend a jazz concert, or explore the historic and picturesque Old Town. And if you’re a nature lover, national parks and hiking trails are just a short trip away.

Popular expat neighborhoods in Nice include Gambetta, Libération, and Cimiez.

Do I need to know French to live in France?

According to recent estimates, 57.25% of French people are reasonably proficient in English. This number tends to be higher among younger people, those who work in hospitality, and major cities like Paris. 

You can often get by speaking English alone, but you may run into communication difficulties on a day-to-day basis. This is especially true if you live in a more rural area or interact with the older population. 

Learning at least a basic level of French will help you avoid miscommunications and make your day-to-day life a bit easier. It may also make it easier to befriend locals and help you integrate into your new community. Keep in mind, too, that several French visa options require a basic level of French.

Finding accommodation in France

As mentioned earlier, you may want to book short-term accommodation in France while looking for long-term housing. Many people find short-term housing options through:

  • Aparthotels
  • Hostels
  • Airbnb/VRBO 
  • Co-living spaces
  • Facebook housing groups
  • Real estate agents/agencies (although they often charge a fee)

Facebook groups and agents/agencies can also help you find long-term housing, as can sites like:

  • SeLoger
  • Bienici
  • Leboncoin
  • Particulier à Particulier (PAP)

How much is rent in France?

Like any country, rental prices vary widely in France depending on location and lifestyle. According to Numbeo, average French rental prices are as follows:

  • City center
    • 1 BR: €778 (~$836)
    • 3 BR: €1,469 (~$1,579)
  • Outside city center
    • 1 BR: €584 (~$628)
    • 3 BR: €1,168 (~$1,255)

Prices tend to be higher in urban areas. The Paris metro area is generally the most expensive of all the French cities. There, rent averages €1,350 (~$1,451) for a one-bedroom apartment and €3,119 (~$3,352) for a three-bedroom apartment.

How to open a bank account in France

Opening a bank account in France is fairly straightforward. First, you’ll need to gather the required documents:

  • Passport
  • Residency card (aka carte de séjour or titres de séjour)
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of employment (employees) or enrollment (students)

Many banks now allow French residents to apply for and open accounts online, although some more traditional ones still require you to come in person.

Best France banks for expats

Some of the most popular banks for expats include:

  • BNP Paribas
  • Crédit Agricole
  • HSBC France
  • Société Générale
  • La Banque Postale

Online banks may be an option

Online banks are becoming increasingly popular due to their convenience, simplicity, attractive rates, and low fees. Some popular online banking options for US expats in France include:

  • Wise (especially helpful for navigating cross-currency transfers)
  • Hello Bank
  • Boursorama

Filing US taxes in France

Moving to France won’t eliminate your US tax and reporting obligations. All American citizens and permanent residents who meet the minimum income reporting thresholds must file a federal tax return — even if they live abroad. 

Strategies for US expats to avoid double taxation in France

If you’re also a French tax resident, you risk owing income taxes to both countries. Fortunately, there are a few ways to avoid (or at least mitigate) this double taxation, like:

  • Foreign Tax Credit (FTC): The FTC lets Americans claim dollar-for-dollar credits on any foreign income taxes they’ve paid. Often, this not only eliminates your US tax liability but also gives you surplus credit you can use toward future bills.
  • Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE): The FEIE lets Americans who pass either the Physical Presence Test or the Bona Fide Residence Test exclude a portion of their income. For tax year 2023, that figure is $120,000 — for tax year 2024, it increases to $126,500.


Qualifying for the FEIE also means you’re automatically eligible for the Foreign Housing Exclusion/Deduction. This provision allows you to write off qualifying housing expenses like rent, rental insurance, utilities, etc.

  • US/France totalization agreement: This agreement prevents Americans living in France (and vice versa) from owing social security taxes to both countries. Generally, those who plan on staying less than five years will pay US social security taxes. Those living in France for five years or more will pay French social security taxes.


In some cases, Americans may choose to pay French social security taxes regardless to access social benefits (e.g., the public healthcare system).

  • US/France tax treaty: This agreement theoretically prevents double taxation, but rarely works in practice. A savings clause nullifies most of the agreement, but some individuals — especially teachers, researchers, students, and diplomats — may still benefit from it.

Reporting obligations for US expats living in France

While living abroad can qualify you for new tax breaks, it can also change or add to your reporting obligations. Two of the most common reports US expats must file include:

  • The Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR): The FBAR is mandatory for anyone with over $10,000 in total across all of their foreign financial accounts
  • Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets (Form 8938): Form 8938 is mandatory for those with over $200,000 in foreign assets on the last day of — or over $300,000 in foreign assets at any point during — the tax year

Partner with Bright!Tax for a smooth transition

Moving is chaotic enough as it is — add an international move, and things get all the more complicated. If you want to spend less time doing taxes and more time enjoying France, partner with Bright!Tax on your US expat taxes. We’ll help ensure an accurate, tax-optimized filing with minimal effort on your part.

US Expats in France in Line for IRS Windfall

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  1. Americans in France
  2. Long-stay visa
  3. Income requirements for French Residency & Long Stay Visa
  5. Prospective Applicants – French Culture
  6. Family Visas France
  7. French citizenship: which path to take
  8. Why the French are getting (a bit) better at speaking English
  9. Cost of Living in France
  10. Cost of Living in Paris
  11. The Ultimate Guide to Opening a Bank Account in France

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