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Retirement for Expats in France

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: December 2013

France is a hot holiday destination for tourists from all over the world. It has been reported that France’s fashion, food and wine, architecture, history and culture attracted over 81 million visitors in 2011, way over its population of 65 million in the same year. Many people choose France as their retirement home. However, bear in mind that you may need a visa to stay in France permanently.  

If you would like to retire in France and you are a citizen of a European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland you will not need a visa. If you are a family member of a citizen of France, an EEA country or Switzerland you can obtain a visa quite easily.

If you are not eligible for the above visa you can apply for a retirement visa, which may grant a long term stay for ten years. For more information about the long term visa, please check here: https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/. You should consult your local consular authority to get more information before you make any decision.

French citizens that have retired in another country can move back to France freely. Before moving back you should arrange for your pension payments to be paid into your French account smoothly. You should note that any income derived overseas will be taxable in France such as pension income, interest, rental and other incomes. The tax on these incomes may be reduced by the double tax treaty between your home country and France. For example, double tax agreements usually specify that tax is payable on pension benefits only in the country where the beneficial owner is resident. Hence benefits derived by a resident from a foreign pension scheme will be subject to taxation only in France. For more information you can check with your local tax authority or here: https://www.french-property.com/guides/france/finance-taxation/taxation/liability-income-tax/income/.  

Health care is another major consideration. For local residents health insurance is provided through local health insurance agencies, CaissesPrimairesd’AssuranceMaladie (CPAMs). About 89% of the population has insurance under the compulsory general scheme (Régime Général). To qualify for benefits, such as free medical services, claimants for health insurance must have paid a certain amount in social security contributions or have worked a certain number of hours within a given reference period.

Citizens of an EEA country or Switzerland should make sure to obtain a valid European Health Insurance Card before entering France. This will enable you to have the health services in France at a reduced cost or sometimes even free.  If you are not a citizen of an EEA country or Switzerland, you will be required to have adequate medical insurance when you apply for a visa. You can find a private health insurance covering all your health care expenses for about EUR1,500.

Most people would like to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. However, many find their savings will not last as long as they expect. For example, as stated in recent research from HSBC, UK retirement lasts 19 years on average and financial problems are likely to emerge after 7 years. The report can be found here: https://www.newsroom.hsbc.co.uk/press/release/brits_face_12_years_of_hardshi.  It is therefore recommended to have a detailed financial plan for retirement as early as possible. 



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