Retiring to France from UK – A Visa & Relocation Guide

Retiring to France from UK – A Visa & Relocation Guide

Most of us at some point in our lives consider the possibility of retiring to another country.

When you are planning your “golden years” period, what is better than living in a warmer climate alongside an excellent lifestyle with a focus on a good quality of life?

There is no doubt that France is a fantastic location for retirees and one of the first countries in Europe many consider among the best.

It offers a unique and enriching experience.

With thousands of expats already living in France, the country boasts vibrant and welcoming expatriate communities throughout its regions.

Are you on a fact-finding mission to see if retiring to France would work for you?

Read on to discover how you could make the dream come true.

Our Retiring to France from UK – A Visa & Relocation Guide, will provide you with the information you need to go ahead and make the leap!

You won’t regret it!

Why is France Such a Popular Retirement Destination?

Paris at sunset

There are plenty of reasons that France is an excellent place to live. Image credit: Unsplash

Before we delve into the practicalities of retiring to France, let’s ponder the many reasons why so many have decided to spend their retirement time here.

Although it is difficult to be exact with numbers it is estimated that there are around 150,000 to 200,000 expats living in France.

Of course, not all these are retirees.

Many are families and singletons who have also seen the benefits of relocating to this amazing country.

France is a popular destination for various reasons, including retirement, work opportunities, lifestyle preferences, and the country’s cultural offerings and beautiful landscapes.

Before moving to a new country, it’s a good idea to check how far your money will go.

The cost of living in France is comparable to the UK in lots of areas, although groceries, in particular, can be more expensive depending on where you live.

Should you decide to make the move, here are some compelling reasons why retiring in France is an excellent idea.

Making Friends

It can be a lonely experience integrating into a completely new community. But you needn’t be nervous.

As so many have already made the transition you will find that you will be greeted very warmly by British ex-pats and others from countries all over the world.

Everyone was once a “newbie” to France. You may have to step out of your comfort zone, but making the effort will mean you reap the rewards.

Join local clubs and meetups. If you can play a sport, join a tennis club, bowling or the local Pétanque club, (an extremely popular sport for the older generation in France).

As soon as you can, sign up for French lessons. Most smaller towns provide these free of charge.

All these methods are fantastic ways to make new friends.


Arguably the most stated reason for retiring to France.

Relocating abroad to a warmer climate is always top of the list. Extra time outside for more of the year is very appealing.

With the annual number of sunshine hours outstripping the UK by a mile, ex-pats who have already retired in France confirm that the benefits of the warmer weather contribute to overall health and well-being.

Not to mention providing the opportunity to spend much more time outdoors relaxing.


Unlike some popular relocation destinations, France is so easy to reach. By ferry, road, rail, or air, you can get there within a few hours in some cases.

This convenient ease of access makes it perfect for visiting families and quick trips home.


Many aspects of the cost of living, particularly in more rural areas are cheaper when compared to the UK.

Aside from Paris and other French cities, the cost of buying a home is almost always much cheaper leaving you more cash in your pocket.


Good quality healthcare is an important issue when you are retiring – you will find the French system is excellent.

France has a universal healthcare system that provides comprehensive coverage to residents, which may result in lower healthcare costs compared to private insurance-based systems in the UK


France is generally considered a safe and secure country for retirees.

Low crime rates, reliable public services, and a stable political environment contribute to a sense of safety and well-being for residents.


The French passion for art, architecture, food, and wine, permeates everyday life, creating a vibrant and dynamic cultural landscape that is hard to resist and so easy to become accustomed to.

Beautiful Landscapes

From picturesque countryside to stunning coastlines and charming villages, France offers diverse landscapes to explore.

Retirees can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, or wine tasting in the scenic regions of Provence, the Loire Valley, or the French Riviera.

Retiring in France After Brexit

Retiring in France after Brexit

Retiring in France changed after Brexit. Image credit: Pixabay

As of January 1st, 2021, British citizens who wish to retire to France are no longer covered by the freedom of movement rights that existed while the UK was a member of the EU.

Instead, they are subject to the same immigration rules and procedures as citizens of other non-EU countries, commonly referred to as “third-country nationals.”

Though this change does not mean you cannot retire to France, it does mean that you must fulfil certain requirements and apply to obtain residency.

These requirements may include demonstrating financial stability, securing appropriate healthcare coverage, and meeting any other criteria set forth by French immigration authorities.

Needless to say, thorough research is required into the residency requirements and procedures, as they may vary depending on individual circumstances and the type of residency permit/visa sought.

With proper planning and preparation, British citizens can still realise their dream of retiring to France, albeit under the new immigration rules and regulations.

Obtaining a French Visa

French Visa

There are various ways to obtain a French Visa. Image credit: Envato Elements

For those retiring permanently to France, the first step is to apply for a long-stay visa. This must be done before you move to France, via a French Consulate in your country.

You must consider your residency and visa requirements very carefully.

While there are 28 visas available to British citizens, we are concentrating on the retirement requirements in our article.

There is not a specific retirement visa for UK citizens.

Most retirees opt for a Visa de Long Séjour valant or a Titre de Séjour – Visiteur (VLS- Visiteur).

If all criteria are fulfilled and you have the visa, you are ready to make the move.

Once in France, you need to apply for a temporary and/or multi-year Carte de Séjour (residency card). Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to apply as it can take time.

To obtain your Carte de Sejour again, you will need to fulfil certain criteria including proof that you have a regular income from your home country.

After five years of residence in France – a Carte de résident permanent (permanent residency card) can be applied for.

What Evidence Will You Need to Provide?

There are several stages that you will need to traverse before you can gain permanent residency.

The French are notoriously picky when it comes to administration.

Be sure that you have all the required documentation in place before attempting to apply for your visa.

In support of your applications, at each stage, you will need proof that you can support yourself both financially and you have sufficient private healthcare coverage.

Evidence of income is required. Acceptable forms of proof typically include bank statements, tax returns, or pension receipts.

As you will not have access to the French healthcare system automatically upon your arrival you must arrange a private international healthcare policy.

Your health insurance policy must provide a minimum coverage of €30,000, medical repatriation and emergency/hospital treatment and be valid throughout the entire Schengen zone.

Discover more about accessing the French healthcare system.

Proof of accommodation. For most, this will be providing a copy of your rental agreement. If you already own a property, the ownership documents will need to be submitted.

Other relevant documentation you must submit includes a valid passport, 2 x ID photographs and Proof of your socio-economic situation (retired, employed, self-employed, etc.)

Pension Implications for UK Expats

Retired couple walking

Retiring in France is a good option for many. Image credit: Pixabay

Accessing your hard-earned pension is always a sticky issue no matter where you move to in the world.

Like most things since Brexit, it is not quite as easy as it once was.

However, the UK has agreements with many countries, including France, which allow for the payment of UK state pensions and some other benefits to people living overseas.

If you already receive a state or workplace pension from the UK, you can continue to receive these when you move to France.

By setting up a French bank account as soon as you arrive, you can arrange for your payments to be sent directly to it.

It is important to be aware that your UK NHS and any private pension you have, may be subject to taxation both in the UK and in France.

Well before you embark on your retirement in France, it is advisable to seek professional assistance.

A tax professional will provide you with the information you need to manage your retirement assets.

Plus, it will give you the security you need to ensure you have sufficient income to achieve your expected lifestyle without unnecessary tax obligations.

Getting advice from qualified experts familiar with both UK and French pension and tax laws will ensure you don’t lose out in any way, financially or legally.

You can find out more information about drawing your pension when living abroad from the UK Government website.

Choosing the Best Retirement Location

Firstly, one of the vital components of living abroad and making a success of it is very often down to location. With France, you are spoilt for choice.

Secondly, you need to take into account your living costs. Property and general cost of living vary greatly between regions in France.

If you are on a modest budget, city living is going to be expensive. You are better off looking at a more rural location.

If money is no object, some of the French cities are among the most sought-after places to live in the world, take Paris or Nice for instance.

For most, a quieter slow-paced location not too far from the outstanding French coast is preferable.

Unless you already have a location in mind, to whet your appetite, here is just a small handful of the incredible regions you could live in France, should you decide to spend your retirement here:


The Dordogne region, located in southwestern France, is renowned for its picturesque countryside, charming villages, and historic landmarks.

The cost of living in the Dordogne tends to be lower compared to major cities and coastal areas, making it an attractive option for retirees.

Northern France

Regions like Hauts-de-France and Normandy are known for their affordability.

The region’s cities like Lille, Rouen, and Amiens offer relatively lower living costs compared to larger metropolitan areas.

Coastal towns and rural villages in Normandy may also provide affordable housing options for retirees.

Central & Eastern France

Regions such as Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, and Grand Est tend to have lower living costs compared to more affluent areas like Paris or the French Riviera.


Brittany, located in northwestern France, boasts a rugged coastline with picturesque fishing villages and sandy beaches.

While the region is still typically French and offers a lower cost of living, you can hop on a train, or take the ferry and be back on British soil in no time.


Normandy, also in northwestern France, is known for its dramatic cliffs, historic sites, and charming seaside towns.

Cities like Le Havre, Cherbourg, and Dieppe may offer affordable coastal living options, particularly in smaller communities away from tourist hotspots.

Côte d’Azur

The French Riviera is renowned for its glamorous coastal resorts, sunny climate, and vibrant cultural scene. Cities like Nice, Cannes, and Antibes attract affluent retirees with their beautiful beaches, luxury amenities, and cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Living costs are inevitably higher here but, retirees are drawn to the region’s high quality of life and Mediterranean lifestyle.

Whether you seek coastal living, rural tranquillity, or cosmopolitan amenities, France provides a wealth of options for enjoying a fulfilling retirement.

Accommodation Options in France

Houses in Colmar, France

Houses in Colmar, France. Image credit: Unsplash

When you have finally made your mind up about where to live in France, you then need to decide whether you will spend your time in a rental home or opt for buying one.

Renting is fine if you choose to spend your Golden Years moving back and forth between the UK and France.

But this can become very tiresome over time, particularly if you develop health issues.

Most agree that buying a permanent home elevates your chances of completely settling into the French lifestyle in a way moving back and forth cannot.

Plus, staying put and obtaining permanent residency will afford you the luxury of being able to access the French Healthcare system fully.

Next, set your budget and work out what kind of home are you looking for.

A large chateau, a Parisian apartment, a rural farmhouse, a waterside residence, or a small home with outside space conveniently close to amenities.

Whatever is going to work best for you, understanding the purchasing process is yet another serious consideration you want to be well informed about before diving in with both feet.

Expected Expenses when Buying a Home in France

Whether you’re looking to purchase a retirement home, a vacation property, or an investment, you can legally buy real estate in France as a UK retiree.

The process is relatively straightforward.

Here are some important considerations and steps involved in the purchasing process.

Residency Status

UK retirees can stay in France for up to 90 days within 180 days without a visa.

If you plan to reside in France for longer periods, you will need to apply for a long-stay visa or residency permit

Financial Implications

Buying a home means you will incur a number of costs beyond the purchase price.

Legal fees, property taxes, and ongoing expenditures such as utilities and property maintenance must all be taken into consideration.

Open a Foreign Currency Account (FX)

For those transferring large sums of money, having an FX account makes good financial sense.

FX companies offer better rates compared to high-street banks.

Better rates mean more money in your pocket.

Check out Halo Financial’s award-winning currency exchange and international payment solutions!

The French House Buying Process

Buying a house in France

Buying a house in France doesn’t need to be difficult. Image credit: Envato Elements

If your budget is set, your preferred location has been chosen, and you have found your dream French home, what next?

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you through the buying process.

  1. Make an offer. Don’t just accept the asking price. A bit of fair haggling is expected in France.
  2. Sign the Preliminary Sales Agreement (Compromis de Vente): A legally binding contract which outlines the terms and conditions of the sale, including the purchase price, deposit amount, completion date, and any contingencies or conditions. You have a 10-day cooling-off period.
  3. Property Survey. During the 10-day cooling-off period, you have time to arrange any surveys you think the home needs. Assess the condition of the property and identify any potential issues or defects, including structural surveys, pest inspections, and environmental assessments.
  4. Secure Your Financing. You may require a mortgage or a loan. You will need to make arrangements for this if necessary. Yet again, you’ll need to provide financial documentation and undergo a credit assessment to determine your eligibility for a mortgage. Do you qualify for a mortgage in France?
  5. Final Deed of Sale (Acte de Vente): Once the cooling-off period has passed and any necessary inspections or surveys have been completed, you will proceed to the final deed of sale, known as the “acte de vente.” The deed is signed at the notary’s office in the presence of both the buyer and seller.
  6. Transfer of Ownership. After the fees have been paid and verified, (applicable taxes and notary costs) and the Acte de Vente signed ownership is transferred to the buyer.
  7. Completion: Once all legal and financial obligations have been met, the sale is considered complete, and the buyer takes possession of the property.

Employing a Qualified Professional

When you are not used to the way the French operate, be it tax or property issues, finding a reputable professional to guide you through can seem like a bit of a minefield.

Most legal documents are written in French so finding help from someone who can speak English and read and write French fluently is essential.

There are several bi-lingual lawyers based here in the UK who specialise in all aspects of French property purchases.

A French-speaking lawyer can communicate with all parties involved in the transaction, including the seller, real estate agents, notaries, and government authorities, to ensure that the process proceeds smoothly and efficiently.

Their knowledge, experience, and language skills can help streamline the transaction and minimize the risk of potential legal issues or pitfalls

After all, when you are spending large sums of money, you must make sure you do everything to the letter to avoid any nasty financial surprises.

Planning for Your Retirement in France

As you can see, there are some major hurdles to get over before you finally get to spend your retirement years relaxing in the sun in your dream location.

It may seem like you have a mountain to climb but if it were that difficult so many British expats would not have already completed their living in France journeys.

Make the most of the weather while you are there.

It is so much easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle in warmer climates.

Take advantage of outdoor activities, cultural pursuits, and leisure opportunities available in France to stay active and engaged in retirement.

Start to build your social network as soon as possible. Friends are even more important when you are separated from loved ones for any length of time.

Join expatriate groups, community organisations, or social clubs to meet like-minded individuals and participate in social activities and events.

Embrace new experiences, challenges, and opportunities that come your way, and be willing to adapt to the unique culture and lifestyle of your chosen retirement destination.

By following these steps and carefully planning for your retirement in France, you can enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding retirement experience in this beautiful and vibrant country.

About White & Company Removals

WACO Truck

White & Company Truck

Ready to make the move to France?

White & Company provide regular services across the whole of the country.

Irrespective of the size of your move, large or small we cater to everyone’s needs.

From expertly packing all your belongings in the UK to safely delivering them to your new home in France, we’ve got you covered every step of the way.

We can also provide you with storage of your belongings.

You may want to get to France ahead of your consignment to find accommodation.

Perhaps you don’t want to ship everything all at once, no matter, our built-for-purpose safe, clean, dry storage facilities are an ideal option.

For more details on shipping your goods to France, simply give us a call.

Alternatively, fill out a quick quote form, and one of our team members will promptly get in touch with you.

There is very little we have not encountered since we began trading in 1871. We can assure you of our best attention at all times.

So go ahead and make the call, it could be the best decision of your life.

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