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Moving to France from the US

This comprehensive Moving to France from the US checklist will help Americans getting ready for their move. While relocating overseas is a life changing experience, it’s also a daunting challenge that requires some planning.

I organized things to do before moving to France in categories, not in chronological order.

Disclosure: This site is sponsored by ads and affiliate programs. I may earn money from the companies mentioned in this post.

Moving to France – Visa

Moving to France from the U.S. starts with applying for the right visa.

1- Apply for a visa

Americans need a visa to stay in France longer than 90 days. Read How to get a French long-stay visa to figure out which visa you can get based on your situation. Apply for your visa 3 months before your scheduled move to France, at the earliest.

2- Purchase travel insurance

Most long-stay visas require travel insurance for the whole duration of your stay. Read Travel Insurance for French Visa to get an affordable policy that meets your visa requirements.

Advertisement-Fab is a French broker who can help you get an insurance for your visa to France
Fab is an English-speaking French broker who can help you get an insurance for your visa application.

Moving to France – Finances

Opening a French bank account and being able to transfer money from the U.S. to France is a big step when moving to France.

3- Open a French bank account

The ideal solution is to open a French bank account from the United States if possible. Some readers have successfully opened a bank account with HSBC from the United States. If you can’t figure it out, don’t worry, you’ll open a bank account after you move to France.

Read Opening a French bank account as an American when you’re ready.

4- Create a Wise account

Open a Wise account and get a Wise debit card. You will use your Wise account to transfer money from the United States to France. You can use your Wise debit card to pay for purchases in France.

5- Get an international credit card

A credit card with no foreign transaction fees will get you going until you have a French bank account.

6- Update your bank account communication settings

Switch your bank 2-factor authentication security settings from phone to email.

7- Transfer larger amounts before moving to France

If you’ve already opened a French bank account and you need to transfer a big amount of money (from the sale of your home for instance), do it before leaving. You usually get higher limits on transfers you’ve initiated from the United States.

Moving to France – Belongings

You can’t pack up and go when moving to France from the U.S. You have to figure out which household goods to ship overseas and what to leave behind.

8- Ship your belongings to France

You need to decide early what you’re taking with you. Read Moving household goods to France to read the pros and cons of bringing everything as well as find recommended international movers.

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9- Sell what you don’t bring

Part with whatever does not make the cut: your home (or find a renter), your car, your furniture, your appliances…

Moving to France – Driving

Get an international Driving permit before moving to France
Get an International driving permit before moving to France

Your U.S. driver’s license is valid in France for the first year. Plan ahead and know your options if you want to stay longer than one year in France.

10- Order an international driving permit

Get an International Driving Permit from AAA for $20. You will use it in France as a translated version of your driver’s license during your first year in France.

11- Switch to an exchangeable state

Only a few U.S. states allow you to exchange your U.S. driver’s license for a French one. After a year in France, you cannot drive unless you have a French driver’s license. If you intend to stay in France for longer than a year, It might be worth it to move to an exchangeable state. Read U.S. Driver’s License in France for more details.

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12- Get a driving record from the DMV

If you are from an exchangeable state, get a long form copy of your driving record from the DMV. Your driving record should not be more than 3 month old at the time you apply for the exchange. Do not order your driving record too early but get it right before you move instead.

If you plan on taking the French driving test, it’s a good idea to start practicing for the theory test early on.

Get a head start today and familiarize yourself with the main French road signs.

13- Order a duplicate of your US driver’s licence

When you exchange your U.S. driver’s license for a French driver’s license, you need to give away your physical card near the end of the application process. Before you leave the United States, pretend that you lost your driver’s license and get a new one. You’ll use it after you hand over your driver’s license and you are still waiting for the French one.

14- Pack your previous driver’s licenses

If you have changed state recently, bring your former driver’s license to prove that you’ve been driving for over 3 years.

15- Bring your car insurance record

Get a driver history record from your car insurance company so you are not considered a new driver in France.

Moving to France – Health care

16- Learn about the French healthcare system

French healthcare system is very different from the U.S. system. Read French healthcare system to know what’s coming: scheduling a doctor’s visit, getting re-imbursed for medical costs, what’s covered, what’s not…and much more!

You can also read Going to the doctor in France to be ready when it’s time to see a doctor.

17- Pack your medicine

Check if your medication is available in France in the public medicine database from the French health agency. Bring some extra medicine if you can.

18- Bring your doctor’s prescriptions

If you’re under treatment, bring your prescriptions. Most pharmacists in France will refill a U.S. prescription if it’s fairly recent (less than six months).

19- Covid-19

Check the covid-19 latest regulations to enter France.

Moving to France – Documents

France is the land of paperwork and you will be asked for documents you did not think you’d need. Do not get your documents translated before your move to France. You’ll get them translated as needed by a certified translator in France.

20- Scan important documents

Scan all your documents and keep them on a USB stick or on the cloud. France is slowly getting digital and you may need quality scans (not cell phone pics!) for administrative tasks. Scan everything from credit cards (front and back), to driver’s license, passport, vital records or power of attorney. 

21- Order a couple of birth certificates with apostille

At some point, you’ll have to show a birth certificate. Getting a U.S. birth certificate is not as easy once you’re in France. Get a couple of copies with apostille of your U.S. birth certificate before leaving. Wait until you’re in France to get them translated as most of the time, you need to show a recent copy (less than 3 months).

22- Get copies of vital records

Bring copies of your marriage, divorce, death certificates.

23- Bring proofs of funds and income

Pack your latest U.S. bank statements and most recent tax returns. You will need these documents when you look for a place to rent.

24- Bring vaccination records

Most doctors in France can make sense of U.S. Vaccination records without a translation.

Moving to France – Communications

Do you want to keep your U.S. phone number? Do you want to have a French phone number right when you land?

25- Check your cell phone

Before leaving, make sure that your U.S cell phone will function in France.

26- Get a French cell phone number

Purchase an eSIM or a French prepaid SIM card to get a French phone number.

Bouygues Telecom my European SIM

27- Port your U.S. phone number to Google Voice

To be able to keep using your U.S. phone number from France, port your U.S. number to Google Voice. Your can use your Google Voice number with most American banks and companies that use 2-factor authentication

28- Install WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a free voice-over-ip app that’s widely used in France. Ask your family and friends in the U.S. to install WhatsApp so you can call them from France for free.

29- Forward your mail

It’s convenient to keep an address in the U.S. You can have your U.S. mail sent to a virtual online mailbox. Traveling Mailbox comes recommended by Americans living in France.

Advertisement- Traveling Mailbox

30- Learn French before moving to France

Don’t wait until you’re in France to learn French. The better you speak, the easier the transition.

Moving to France – Pets

Make sure your dog is vaccinated for rabies before moving to France
Pets need a rabies vaccine to enter France

31- Vaccinate your pets for rabies

Whereas the United States is a rabies-controlled country, France is a rabies-free country, which means that you need to vaccinate your dogs and cats for rabies. Check out the latest regulations from USDA for importing pets from the United States to France.

32- Check airline regulations for Pets

Plan ahead and check your airline company policy regarding pets. Pets can either travel in cabin or in the hold and you might have to get an IATA-compliant crate. Read How to Prepare your Pet from IATA.

Moving to France – Moving

33- Book your flight

Upon arrival to France, you have to present your return ticket or the financial means to acquire one at the envisaged return date.

34- Book your accommodation in France

Getting a long-stay rental in France from abroad is nearly impossible. Most French agencies won’t bother returning your call. Get a furnished place for your first few months in France from airbnb, Gîtes de France or Rent a place in France.

Use Rent a place in France to secure a long-term rental when moving to France.

use Gite de France to find accommodation for your first weeks in France
use airbnb to find accommodation for your first weeks in france

Moving to France – Miscellaneous

35- Power of attorney

Consider giving power of attorney to a trusted friend to handle situations that are tricky to deal with from abroad. Getting a U.S. Notary public notarization is not always possible, depending on the paper you want notarized.

Even though you can sometimes use online notaries, they are not accepted everywhere. This is a situation where a person in the United States with power of attorney can save the day.

36- Notify the IRS

Do not forget to notify the IRS of your change of address. When living in France, you still have to file your U.S. income taxes. If you want to know how to avoid double taxation, read Taxes for Americans in France.

37- Go paperless

It’s not only good for trees, go paperless whenever you have the option (banks…).

Moving to France – Subscriptions

When you’re almost ready to move, this is the time to cancel your U.S. subscriptions.

38- Cancel your utilities

Turn off your utilities (internet, electricity, water). Cancel your cell phone subscription only after you’ve ported your number to Google Voice.

39- Cancel Amazon Prime

You should probably cancel your U.S. Amazon Prime subscription as custom fees are very high and it’s not worth shipping anything from the United States to France.

40- Keep Netflix

Unlike Amazon, Netflix lets you use the same account worldwide. The only difference is that your selection of movies will be from the French catalog. To be able to access the American catalog from France, you can use a VPN such as NordVPN. If you want to learn more about VPNs, read How to Use a VPN Abroad.

41- Cancel your insurance policies

Don’t forget to cancel your insurance policies: car insurance, health and home insurance.

Relax and enjoy the journey

Don't be overwhelmed and try to relax while preparing your move to France.
Take it slow and relax

Moving to France from the US is a big deal. Take one step at a time. You will succeed. Breathe.

I hope this Moving to France from the US checklist helped you plan your relocation. If you need to let off steam, read French Idioms Used Everyday.

Nathalie Nahmani

About Nathalie Nahmani

Nathalie is the creator of ma French Life. She moved back to France after living in Los Angeles for 20 years. She writes practical articles to help expats in France. Nathalie lives with her family in the French Alps near Grenoble.

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2 thoughts on “Moving to France from the US”

  1. Thanks James!
    Household goods are only VAT-exempt when you move to a primary residence. From the official website “Les biens destinés à l’aménagement d’une résidence secondaire ne sont plus admis en franchise de droits de douane et de TVA.” on


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