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Successfully moving to France : the steps to follow

Everything you need to do before leaving and need to plan while arriving in France in order to move successfully to France.

Before leaving your Home Sweet Home

Here is your list of things to do imperatively before your arrival in France

At the very end of this guide, you'll find a list of things you should bring with you when you come to France.

And here are the things you should do before you leave your current home:

  • get your long-stay visa (if necessary)
  • get your work permit (if necessary)
  • cancel your home energy contracts
  • arrange transport of your personal effects (possessions, vehicles, valuables etc)
  • make a customs declaration if you are from a country / region outside the EU
  • pay any customs duties and taxes. To find out exactly which procedures you need to follow, visit:
  • inform the tax authorities in the country / region you are leaving
  • open a bank account in France before you arrive
  • ask for a letter of introduction from your doctor
  • if you have any specific medical conditions

At your arrival in your host country

Here is your list of things to do before your arrival in France

  • confirm your long-stay visa with the Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration (French office for immigration and integration) within three months of your arrival (if applicable)
  • search for a home to rent or buy
  • subscribe to a mobile phone contract
  • subscribe to an Internet and home phone contract (most operators also offer a selection of TV channels with your contract)
  • certify your qualifications if necessary at the ENIC-NARIC centre. For more information, visit:
  • sign up your children in the French education system at a creche, school, college or university 
  • sign up at the Caisse d’Allocations Familiales (CAF) and find out if you are entitled to any social benefits, especially if you have children. To find out more, visit
  • declare your arrival to the French Tax system. Learn more about French tax at
  • insure your car and home. Children attending school also need insurance
  • join the compulsory Health Insurance scheme (Assurance Maladie) and request your Carte Vitale (health insurance card) from your local Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (health insurance office).To find your local office, visit
  • take out additional health insurance mutuelle if your employer hasn’t done it for you
  • open a French bank account if you haven’t done so. You will need this to receive a salary in France
  • register your vehicle with your department’s prefecture

To protect your home, HSBC Garantie Habitation(1) is a comprehensive home insurance policy that can be tailored to your needs, and includes your children's school insurance(2).

How to rent an apartment in France?

Here is the list of things to know before you rent an apartment in France

  • rents are calculated monthly as a function of the floor area in square meters (m2), the condition of the property and, above all, the location
  • most apartments are rented unfurnished
  • leases last three years for unfurnished properties (although you can leave earlier) and one year for furnished
  • pay attention to the property description. Many apartments do not have a fitted kitchen
  • you can often find the same property advertised by several agents at the same time
  • a relocation agency can help you find a home. Ask your employer to find out more
  • if you do not use a relocation agency, you will need to provide a full application dossier which must be accepted by the landlord
  • most French landlords will require that their tenants earn at least three times the monthly rent each month
  • if you like a property you should inform the landlord immediately and have your application dossier ready. Transactions are often very rapid in the rental market
  • as soon as you have signed the rental agreement, you must pay the agency fees if you have used an agency, the deposit, which is usually two months’ rent, and the first month’s rent

Is your dossier complete?

To apply for tenancy, you must provide a number of documents to the landlord:

  • your three most recent payslips (salary, pension, investment income, etc.)
  • proof of employment provided by your employer
  • your most recent tax return
  • if the landlord so requires, the agreement of a guarantor who undertakes to pay the rent should you no longer be able to do so

Your obligations as a tenant:

  • before receiving the keys, you must take out a multi-risk insurance policy in order to cover the contents of the property as well as your civil liability(2) (the landlord is obliged to insure building itself)
  • pay the annual taxe d’habitation (housing tax) if you are resident on January 1st, as well as the TV tax
  • pay the condominium fees where appropriate as well as the fees relating to your home (water, gas, electricity, internet, telephone etc.)
  • carry out minor maintenance on the building’s interior
  • to not use the building for commercial purposes
  • to not sub-let the property to a third party without prior permission of the landlord
  • to not make structural changes or carry out major works without the agreement of the landlord
  • to give notice in writing to the landlord, sent by registered mail, one month before quitting the tenancy

How to buy property in France?

The purchase process

  • iIt is mandatory that a notary, a government representative, oversees the purchase of a property in France. Neither the seller nor the buyer is able to carry out the administrative procedures relating to the purchase of a property
  • once initial negotiations between buyer and seller have concluded, an initial agreement, known as the compromis de vente (preliminary sale agreement) is signed. At the time of signing, the buyer must pay a deposit, which can be equal to between 5 and 10%(3) of the total sale price
  • the buyer then has a 10-day cooling-off period during which they can withdraw from the sale and recover their deposit
  • after the cooling off period it will take the notary 10-12 weeks to carry out necessary research into the property. During this time the buyer will apply for a mortgage(4) from the bank. The sale may be conditional upon the buyer being able to obtain the loan
  • following this period, the seller and the buyer, in the presence of the notary, sign the sale agreement, which is the final agreement transferring ownership of the property. On this date the buyer must pay the remainder of the purchase price to the seller. They will also pay the acquisition fees and property tax to the notary, who will transfer this to the tax authority. The notary is also responsible for submitting the title deed to the buyer and publishing the deed of sale with the regional Service des Hypothèques (Mortgage service)

Summary of fees related to the signing of a deed of sale

  • intermediary fees (research mandate, agency fees, negotiation fees) varying according to the price of the property with an average between 4% and 7%(3)
  • acquisition fees (commonly known as notary fees), representing approximately 7% to 8%(3) of the purchase price for old houses, and 2% to 3%(4) for new built
  • guarantee fees, such as mortgage fees or the Housing Credit Guarantee
  • administrative costs of your mortgage loan(5)

Additional costs to plan for

As soon as you buy a property in France, you are liable for property tax, which is calculated according to the size and location of the property.  If you occupy the building on 1st January (whether as owner or tenant)  you are also liable for housing tax.

A Relationship Manager available for you

Your HSBC Continental Europe Relationship Manager can help you organise a meeting with one of our mortgage experts(5).

(1) Property and casualty insurance policy taken out through HSBC Continental Europe with Allianz I.A.R.D and Protexia, companies governed by the Insurance Code.

(2) Civil liability protects you in the event of damage caused by your children.

(3) Typical rate.

(4) Subject to review and acceptance of your file by the bank. The borrower has a cooling-off period of ten days from the date of receipt of the loan offer. The sale is subject to obtaining the loan. If the loan is not obtained, the seller must repay the borrower the amounts paid. Any credit used to acquire real estate, to carry out construction work or secured by a mortgage is a real estate loan.

(5) Excluding Sundays and public holidays.

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