In this guide we go through what is required if you are looking to move to Paris, including where to stay and what proficiency of French is needed to live in Paris.
Visas and immigration requirements
If you are a citizen of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland, you do not need a visa to enter or live in France. However you must carry a valid passport or identity document when moving to France.
United States / United Kingdom Citizens
US / UK citizens can stay for a maximum of 90 days on a tourist visa before they must leave the country. To stay beyond 90 days, they must apply for the relevant visa and residence permit.
There are several types of visas that you can apply for when moving to France. There are three categories of visas, depending on the duration of the stay:
- Short-stay visa: When planning to be in France for less than three months.
- Temporary long-stay visa: When planning to be in France for up to a year (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour – VLS-TS).
- Long-stay visa: When planning to be in France for more than a year (visa de long séjour).
Visa de long séjour
This type of visa is valid for up to one year and allows the holder to enter and reside in France throughout its period of validity, without any need for the holder to apply for a residence permit (titre de séjour = residence permit). After the first year of residence, US or UK Citizens who wish to stay in France must apply for the residence permit that corresponds to their circumstances.
Categories of VLS-TS:
- The ‘Employee’ VLS-TS is for foreign nationals hired by companies located in France, for more than 1 year.
- The ‘Temporary Worker’ VLS-TS is for employees who are allowed to work in France for more than 3 months and less than 12 months.
- The ‘Research Scientist’ VLS-TS is for foreign nationals conducting research work
- The ‘Student’ VLS-TS is for students who wish to study in France.
- The ‘ICT’ VLS-TS is for intra-company transfer and their family for less than 12 months.
- The ‘Talent Passport’ is for specific people with highly sought after skills and professions such as financial investors, company directors and highly skilled workers.
What is needed when applying for VLS-TS
- Passport valid for three months after final day of stay
- Apply for a visa long de séjour. This form will require;
- Reasons for travel
- Proof of residency in the United States or United Kingdom
- Two passport-size photos
- Proof of financial resources (approximately $16,000 USD / £12,500 for 1 year)
- Proof of health insurance for duration of stay
- [From 2024] Registering with ETIAS before traveling will be required (European Travel Information and Authorisation System)
Traveling to Paris
UK citizens can opt to take the Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Gare du Nord. There are many trains departing each day and the trip takes around 2hrs 30mins. You are also able to bring large luggage with you. Please note that pets are not allowed onboard.
Be wary of fraudulent taxis and ubers just outside of the Eurostar exit at Gare du Nord.
Other EU citizens can arrive by train along the main rail lines that go into Paris city center.
CDG is north of the city center and is connected directly by the RER rail to the center of Paris (Gare du Nord station). Orly is south of the city center and is connected by the Orlyval metro and the RER rail service. Tickets for both can be purchased at a ticket machine in the airport.
If you have a lot of luggage when arriving to Paris by plane, it is recommended to take either a taxi (~€50) or rideshare (~€45) as it can be very busy on the trains serving Paris from the airports.
Where to stay when you first arrive in Paris
It can be tempting to try to rent an apartment ahead of your arrival, however it is very difficult to arrange this from outside of France. Renting in Paris is challenging but not impossible, however in order to land your first apartment, generally, you will need to physically visit apartments and make an impression with the landlord. As a result it is suggested to set up temporary accommodation, during which you can start applying for long term rental apartments and making physical visits.
AirBnB has long been a favorite of expats in their first weeks and months. The benefit of staying in an AirBnB is that it can allow you to meet your hosts and start building your network in Paris. It is not uncommon in Paris to find an apartment through a personal recommendation, skipping some massive headaches entirely. Paris tourism can get very busy in Spring and Fall, so you may have to stay in several different AirBnB’s.
Tip: Packing light will make life easier when moving across the city to another AirBnB.
Hotels can be very expensive and very small. For this reason it is not recommended to book one for long term temporary accommodation. It makes it very difficult to unpack your things, cook meals, and wash clothes. Hotels also isolate you away from the city and its people, harming your ability to network and meet others in the same boat.
For those willing to take some risk in order to have long term accommodation organized before arriving, there are some websites that have served expats well over the years. Flatlooker is a French startup that allows renters to digitally view and rent an apartment without ever visiting in person. Be warned that whilst many have had good experiences with such a service, it is certainly not for everyone to enter a long term lease without physically visiting an apartment.
High end real estate agencies also exist should your budget allow for it. These agencies will find you an apartment very quickly but their fees can be as much as €5,000+. However be warned that a lot of them classify the property as a secondary residence, which can cause some tax difficulties down the road when declaring your income tax in France.
Paris is a safe city to live in. Like every large city, it is wise to stay alert of your surroundings and belongings. Below is an list of good neighborhoods (“Arrondissement”) to stay in when you first arrive.
- 11th Arrondissement – An affordable neighborhood filled with interesting bars and restaurants
- 9th Arrondissement – A very central, clean, safe neighborhood however rather expensive
- 18th Arrondissement – A neighborhood with a community/village vibe with cobbled stoned streets
- 6th Arrondissement – A charming neighborhood filled with art galleries and tourists
- 20th Arrondissement – An old neighborhood with a lot of charm, value and few tourists
Level of French proficiency required to move to Paris
You can move to Paris with limited spoken or written French. Unlike other European cities like Berlin, Amsterdam or Lisbon, English isn’t as freely spoken. However nearly everyone understands English, particularly in the more central/tourist areas of the city. The level of French required for moving to Paris is entirely based on your goals and aspirations.
If you wish to work in Paris, but have almost no French, your employment prospects may be limited to;
- Tech companies
- International companies with offices in Paris
- English language teaching and adjacent language based careers
- Research academic roles
- Startups with international business or ambitions
French bureaucracy and admin is where your lack of French may become a problem, as most civil servants have limited working spoken English. It is improving however, with dedicated English phone lines being set up each year. French friend’s and colleagues are always happy to help you navigate these language barriers, so it won’t trip you up too much.
It is recommended to pick-up some conversational French before you arrive so you can demonstrate to Parisians that you are courteous and curious about their language and culture. It can help you get by easier and start to build friendships and networks.