Guidance

Living in France

Information for British nationals about Living in France; covering driving, taxation, elections, pensions and more.

Overview

France is our closest neighbour, but life in France can be very different. We have collated some key information for those living in France below.

Travel Advice

Please check the Travel Advice for France regularly and consider setting up alerts before travelling to France.

Identity papers

Anyone living or travelling in France must be able to prove their identity either by providing documents when asked or within 4 hours at a police station (information in French here). Identity documents can be a passport, a photo driving licence or other documentation provided by a government body.

Healthcare and Social Security

French health insurance is administered by the social security system; “Sécurité Sociale”, and your “Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie”. For residents in France, a “mutuelle” (top-up insurance cover) covers the cost of healthcare that is not covered by a Carte Vitale.

In order to obtain a social security card for health care; a “Carte Vitale”, you must first register with your local CPAM; you are advised to contact them in order to obtain details of the documents they require for registration. Mutuelle services are provided by insurance companies and there are many different offers to consider.

There was an important change to uk-funded healthcare for early retirees and visitors on July 1st 2014. See the NHS Choices pages for more details on EHIC changes and changes for early retirees in Europe.

You can find out more about how to plan for your healthcare if you are going to live abroad on a permanent basis on the NHS website. Before you go to France on holiday make sure you bring a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you, and take out private travel insurance.

Mental illness in France: support and information

If you, a relative or friend experiences mental illness while you are in France, this information pack gives some information regarding support with mental health in France.

Victims of rape and sexual assault in France: support and information

If you, a relative or friend is a victim of rape or sexual assault in France this information pack may help provide some guidance and support.

Death of a British national in France

Our guide may help provide you with information on what to do in the event of the death of a British national in France, including the coroner and post mortem processes.

Lawyers

See our list of English-speaking lawyers which has been prepared for the convenience of British nationals in France who require legal advice.

Lost Property

If you lose an item when in France, it may be handed into the police or a lost property office (‘Objets trouvés’). Contact the police in the area where you lost the object for more information.

Pets

For complete information on taking your pet abroad, please see here. If taking a pet to the UK please click here.

UK State pensions

The UK basic state pension is payable in France.

The state pension changed in April 2010. More people now qualify for a full basic state pension. Find out about the most important changes and what they mean to you.

To find out when you reach State Pension age, use the State Pension Age Calculator.

If you live but have not worked in France, you should claim your UK state pension by contacting the International Pension Centre (IPC) in the UK by telephone: +44 (0) 191 218 7777

Moving to France once in receipt of a UK state pension

If you are moving to France from the UK you should inform the IPC of the changes to your circumstances. This will prevent any problems with your pension payments. It will also help you to get the right access to healthcare in France.

If you are in receipt of a UK state pension, request an S1 form (previously E121) from the Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999. If you are in receipt of an exportable DWP benefit you can request an S1 form from the office which pays your exportable benefit. It is your responsibility to keep the Overseas Healthcare Team or office which pays your exportable DWP benefit up to date with any changes in circumstances which may affect your entitlement to an S1 (E121). When received, register the S1 form with your local state hospital or health facility, before you register with your local state authority, the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM).

You cannot get UK pension credit if you move abroad permanently.

Entitlement to a French retirement pension

For information on how and when to claim a French retirement pension if you have worked in France, or how your contributions in the UK can contribute toward your entitlement to a French retirement pension, you should contact your local pensions office, Caisse d’Assurance Retraite et Santé au Travail (CARSAT) . You will need to give as much information as possible about your working life.

Information can also be found in English on the CLEISS website and in French on the Sécurité Sociale website.

Voluntary contributions

You may also be thinking about paying voluntary contributions to top up your pension entitlement in either France or the UK. For further information on paying voluntary contributions in the UK, contact HMRC. For voluntary contributions in France contact CARSAT.

Information can also be found on the official French administration website.

Life certificates for UK state pensions

If you have received a life certificate from the UK Pension Service it is important that you reply as quickly as possible otherwise your benefit may be stopped. You’ll need to get it signed by a ‘witness’ and send it back, as instructed on the form.

Check the list of people who can witness a life certificate. This is now the same as the list of people who can ‘countersign’ a passport photo, although they don’t need to live in the UK, or have a British or Irish passport.

The British Embassy and British Consulates in France no longer provide life certificates for British nationals claiming a British pension abroad. If getting a life certificate in English will be difficult for you, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will accept a French life certificate (certificat de vie), which you can obtain from the French authorities.

Buying property in France

If you are planning to buy property in France please read our how to buy property in France guide that includes information for British national on legal advice, fraud, residence requirements, complaints and more.

Driving licences and vehicles

Importing your UK-registered vehicle from the UK to France

If you spend longer than six months of the year in France with your UK-registered car, French law states that you must register your vehicle with the French authorities. For information on how to do this, please contact your local prefecture.

Further information can be found on the official French administration website.

UK-registered vehicles being driven in France must comply with all UK requirements for road tax, MOT, and third party insurance covering the full time period the vehicle is used in France, up to the six-month limit.

Driving in France

  • the minimum age required to drive is 18 years
  • it is advised to at least register your UK licence with your local town hall or prefecture. This is because if your licence is lost/stolen/destroyed they will have proof that you held a UK licence which will help you in the process of replacing it with a French licence
  • you can alternatively change your UK licence to a French licence at your local town hall or prefecture
  • remember that your photo on a UK licence needs to be renewed every 10 years. This cannot be done if you live abroad and your town hall or prefecture will need proof that you are still entitled to drive before they can issue you with a French licence in replacement
  • if you ever need proof of your entitlement to drive you will need to apply for a ‘Certificate of Entitlement’ from the DVLA

France motor insurance regulations

French insurance regulations differ from those in the UK. It is important to check carefully what cover your policy provides.

Documents you should carry in the car

When driving in France, if stopped by the police you would need the following:

  • your driving licence
  • your car papers
  • your insurance paper
  • your MOT/Control technique certificate (every 2 years once vehicle is over 4 years old)
  • your ID document (ie, passport) and those of your passengers
  • a high-visibility jacket
  • a red warning triangle

Traffic fines

If you receive a traffic fine while driving in France (e.g. for speeding/parking incorrectly) you might be asked to pay on the spot. Be completely sure of the identity of the person before you hand the money over. Offer to give proof of address and ask if it is possible for the fine to be sent to you instead.

If you dispute a fine you have incurred and wish to appeal, this will clearly be marked on the document that you receive through the post. If it is an on the spot fine ask the officer politely how you would be able to appeal against the fine.

Voting in France

For information on how to register to vote in the municipal and European elections, while living in France, please refer to the French Ministry of the Interior’s website.

Passports

A valid British passport must be held for entry to and exit from France as a visitor. There is no minimum passport validity requirement but you should ensure that your passport is valid for the duration of your visit.

Apply for or renew a British passport.

Taxation

Britain has a double taxation agreement with France to ensure people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries. In accordance with French and international law, all residents in France (nationals and non-nationals alike) are required to declare assets or groups of assets held outside France. Assets may include bank accounts, securities, rights, insurance, annuities, property, etc. The declaration is a separate exercise to the annual tax return.

In France you would expect to pay income tax (impot sur la revenue) residential tax similar to council tax (taxe d’habitation) and home owners tax (taxe fonciere). Additional taxes exist, including a wealth tax.

Severe penalties for incorrect, incomplete or late reporting can be incurred and the legislation also means that criminal charges can be brought in the case of non-compliance. The requirement and potential penalties are in line with standard international tax practice.

Taxation is a complex issue and it is strongly recommended that professional advice is sought.

Visas

If you are a British citizen or British subject with right of abode in the UK, you do not require a visa to enter France. Other British nationals should confirm the current entry requirements with their nearest French Embassy.

Working with children

Many international schools and child-focussed organisations operating around the world employ UK nationals as teachers, workers and volunteers. The International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC) is a criminal records check for UK nationals or non-UK nationals previously resident in the UK who are seeking to work with children overseas. For more information, please see here. In advance of a job offer, some organisations will want a UK equivalent of a ‘casier judiciare’; this can be obtained from the ACRO Criminal Records Office.

Benefits in France

UK Benefits which you must apply for before leaving the UK:

UK Benefits which you can apply for after leaving the UK:

Non-exportable UK benefits

The following benefits are for people who are ordinarily resident in the UK and under no circumstances are they available in France:

Remember, if you are in receipt of benefits, it’s an offence not to tell the Department for Work and Pensions. If your circumstances change, for example:

  • you are going to live or are currently living in France
  • you get married, or if you separate, divorce or are widowed
  • you start work, increase your earnings or your savings

If you do not tell the DWP it could mean prosecution, imprisonment and even the confiscation of your home and possessions.

For more details visit the benefit theft website.

French contribution-based benefits

Working and paying contributions in France gives you entitlement to a number of French benefits. These benefits include unemployment benefit, and permanent and temporary incapacity benefit.

French unemployment benefit

Information on unemployment benefit in France can be obtained from Pôle Emploi. and further information on French unemployment benefits can be found on the CLEISS website.

French disability benefit

You should contact the Maison Départementale des Personnes Handicapées (MDPH) if you are entitled to a Disability Allowance. Several different allowances exist in the French system and it is advisable to seek advice before applying.

Further information on French disability benefits can be found on the official French administration website.

French Family allowance

To apply for Child Allowance, Family Income Support, Single parent Allowance or Housing Allowance, you should contact the CAF (Caisse d’Allocations Familiales). If you encounter difficulties in applying, you should request an appointment with the social worker at your local town hall (Mairie).

Useful websites

Disclaimer

Please note that this information is provided as a guide only. Definitive information should be obtained from the French authorities.

Published 10 June 2013
Last updated 15 April 2015 + show all updates
  1. Added information re: French law requiring the carrying of ID at all times in France.
  2. Added: support and guidance for British nationals experiencing mental illness in France
  3. Added two new paragraphs re: Travel Advice and Lost Property.
  4. Information added on changes to EHIC rules and health cover for early retirees.
  5. Information added for Britons living in France on how to register to vote in the French municipal and European elections.
  6. Life certificates information for UK state pension updated
  7. First published.