information for global expats

Family Members and Marriage for Expats in France

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: December 2013

Family Members

Ideally, when you immigrate to another country, you are able to bring your partner and children with you at the same time. If this is not financially or otherwise possible, you may need to spend some time working in France, and possibly sending money to your home country to help support your family. Once you have started to familiarise yourself with France, and found some suitable family accommodation, and perhaps looked into schools and such things, you may find it easier to move the rest of your family into the country.

Spouses and dependent children (under 21) of European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss citizens are free to live and work in France. This is also true for dependant parents or grandparents of such citizens, if they qualify. However, if they do not have on from an EEA country or Switzerland, these groups of people must apply for a residence permit within three months of arriving in France. They do not gain all the benefits from living in France that EEA and Swiss citizens do.

If you are an EEA or Swiss citizen, ensure you have obtained a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you leave your home country. This will grant you and your family access to healthcare in France.

Otherwise, if you are employed, your employer is obliged to provide you with a social security number. This enables you to obtain a social security card, with which you and your family gain partial reimbursement of all medical costs you may incur. The rate of reimbursement is capped at 75%. You can take out insurance with private companies to cover the remaining costs; your employer may have an existing scheme that you can use. The social security card needs to be renewed every year or whenever you move to another district.


Paris is considered the most romantic city in the world, especially in springtime. There are also plenty of romantic châteaux dotted around the countryside, so it is no surprise that France is one of the most popular countries for getting married abroad. Though most weddings are traditional, humanist wedding ceremonies are a popular choice among the non-religious.

In France, the wedding ceremonies are held in French. If you do not understand French, you will need to arrange for the provision of a translator with the local mayor. There are two wedding ceremonies: civil and religious, of which only the civil one is legally binding. Only once the civil ceremony is complete are you permitted to have a religious ceremony. To prove that you have already completed the civil ceremony, you will need to present your marriage certificate to the officiator. You are of course free to have the civil ceremony in your home country, then have the religious ceremony in France. This is a popular option with the many couples.

The documents you will need for the civil ceremony are as follows:

  • passport
  • birth certificate (with attached apostille certificate if you were born outside France)
  • Certificat de Célibat: certificate that proves you are unmarried. If your home country does not have this document, you will need an official attestation from your embassy.
  • Certificat de Coutume: an affidavit prepared by a lawyer who is licensed to practise in France and your home country. It certifies that your marriage will be internationally recognised and that both of you are eligible to marry.
  • medical certificate
  • proof of residence

Note that any documents that are not in French must have a certified translation.




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