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Thinking of moving from U.S. to France - Need advice on my stuff

Thinking of moving from U.S. to France - Need advice on my stuff

Aug 3rd, 2007, 03:15 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,384

I can pretty much guarantee you you're not getting French citizenship in this lifetime (well, possibly in 5-10 years if you divorce and marry a French woman).

But you don't have to be a French citizen to buy property there. They will gladly take your euros if you find something you want to buy.

You cannot just buy a property and move into it, though, and say "I'm living in France now." Trust me - I've owned a property in France for 16 years and even so, if I decided, as I probably will, to retire there, I can't just go settle into my house there. You'll be spending a fair amount of time at the Frnech Embassy, your local mairie, and your notaire's office before that will happen.

Before you start worrying about power tools and shipments and tax writeoffs, you have a LOT of homework to do. You need to consult a tax attorney, look into healthcare options, and talk to the French Embassy. You need to look into mortgages (my information isn't necessarily current since I bought my house there so long ago, but I doubt you'll find an American bank that'll give you a mortgage for a French property purchase - I couldn't, which meant I had to have my French real estate agent and notaire handle that). You'll likely have to put down about 40% of the price of the property, and you'll likely have to agree to a 15-year mortgage at most. You should also go and live there for the allowable 3-month period on a normal VISA and see how you like it. In fact you should go several times, at several times of year, including dead of winter.Choosing the Limousin or Auvergne based on property prices is fine, but I'm guessing you haven't a clear idea of what spending February in a village in the Auvergne is like.

Finally, if your French isn't darn good, including being able to discuss plumbing, masonry, heating, ironmongering, sewage, roofing, and all manner of property issues, the first thing you should be doing is getting it up to speed. Even if you buy a relatively new property, you'll be dealing with these issues from the moment the géomètre sets foot on your property, and every day out from there, OR you'll be paying through the nose for translations or English-speaking workmen (and I'm guessing you won't even find one of those in the Auvergne).

Don't mean to burst your bubble. Living in France is a wonderful experience. Just offering a healthy dose of reality here. Which is what you asked for.
StCirq is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 03:58 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
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StCirq -- Thanks, I appreciate your candor, and I do realize there are tons of issues that need to be addressed before I can proceed with this major life change.

My best friend is a tax attorney, and we've already had some discussions on this possible move. (He wasn't much help, though, explaining as gently as possible that French law isn't one of his firm's areas of expertise.) I'm also getting up to speed on the processes for buying property in France, the involvement of notaires, etc. Additionally, I've become aware that I'll be able to collect Social Security overseas, and that France and the U.S. have a treaty that protects our income from double taxation. The health care matter remains a concern -- more so after these discussions -- but in short, I am planning on doing all the homework, even if initially I have some carts before the horses.

I will also talk to my wife about the advantages associated with my marrying a French woman, but I'm thinking this might be one of those show-stoppers.

Hopscotch -- Thanks for the link!!! A wealth of information there!
BunkerBoy is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 04:02 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 28
Looks like you're getting great help and advice. This is something we dreamed of, except it was for Ireland. I sincerely hope you can work it out. At risk of being nosy( really don't expect an answer)-- how young are the two of you? Best wishes
lsm8931 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 04:25 PM
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No problem -- I'm 55 and the wife is 52. Thanks for your kind words!
BunkerBoy is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 04:27 PM
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Really- I think the first thng you have to sort out is how to become a legal permanent resident of France. It's just like the US - you can't simpy decide to move here and become a citizen. You have to apply, under the various programs, plans and quotas - and qualify - with France, you must show that you have very significant financial resources.

(A friend of mine and her husband did buy a house and move to France. She was born in Argentina, then was hired by an American company and moved here and eventually became a citizen. He was born in Hungary but held Swedish citizenship, but permanent residency in the US based on his job. He managed a transfer to the French office of the company - and eventually they used that to gain permanent residence status. After selling their property here they bought a small apartment in Paris (while he worked) and a house on the Riviera (that they rented most of the year). But - this took them about 5 years to research, plan, organize and execute. And, they were very well off - as well as his having an executive position at a major multi-national to begin with - so finances were not an issue.

By the way, when they went they took with them only personal possessions (clothing etc), art work and collectibles (I think they shipped a couple of small antiques - nothing else was worth it - including her car.)
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 05:20 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
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It sounds like the weather is one of your top priorities. Have you considered movies to the west coast in the US? Oregon or smaller towns in California where the property value is relatively inexpensive?
smartcookie is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 01:40 AM
Join Date: May 2006
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We moved to London from the midwest USA on a perhaps permanent assignment 2 years ago. Our movers were paid for by my husband's company, but we left or donated about 2/3 of our posessions becuase of downsizing our space. The company paid $4,000 for an air shipment which got here in about 2 weeks and was 2 large containers with lots of stuff including my baby's crib, most of our clothes, computer, tons of toys for my kids. The surface shipment cost $14,000 and was the rest of our stuff - furniture and housewares for a 3 small bedroom house, no formal dining room, 1 living room, but really nothing that would go in an attic or basement. This was only a small portion of the expense of our move.

Before we left, we bought a TV and dvd player from an American company in Chicago that sells dual voltage/frequency electronics mainly to expats. That way we can use it if/when we ever go back.

We brought all of our lamps - just use a bulb from where you are and pop an adapter on the back.

Computers are generally dual voltage. There is a switch on the back of my Dell to convert the voltage. I had to buy a new printer.

I got converters for by Bose stereo and some alarm clocks because of the features I liked on these products that were difficult to find. They haven't blown out yet. I know people who put things like kitchen mixers on converters and they work fine.

You can bring your outdoor grill/BBQ but you will have to buy an adapter and a new gas tank when you get there.

We bought a cheapie TV and VCR here for a second room.

All of my portable electronics are dual voltage so they only need an adapter which is like $2. This includes chargers for camera, camcorder, portable dvd player. Be sure to bring a multiregion dvd player because US dvds can't be played in a european player. They have "codes" - you can google it if you are interested. I have perhaps a hundred US coded DVDs so it is important to me to have multiregion players.

Prelit christmas tree we gave away, as well as treadmill, small appliances such as blenders, mixers, toaster, hairdryers, etc.

We put our formal dining room in storage - we will send for it some day if we can afford a house big enough for it - or perhaps we will just move back to the US someday and use it then.

Good luck.
where2 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 01:46 AM
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Personally I think you should consider moving to a "better" part of the US and using the money you save doing so - no need to sell anything, no need to buy anything - on having holidays in France rather than "throwing baby out with the bathwater". what if you don't like it?
alanRow is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 02:32 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
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Have you looked at the weather in the Auvergne? it can be really hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter, just llike the place you are moving from.
I have 6 years of school French but still can't communicate at more than a very basic level with French people, certainly not in the AUvergne where they do not have much so contact with tourists.
You are both very young to be retiring completely - what do you intend to do with your time?
Have you spent any length of time in France - more than just a couple of weeks on vacation?
I hate to rain on your parade but I think you really should think about moving within the US to a better climate, than moving to a country where you share no past with the people around you, no common heritage, cannot sit over a wine and say do you remember...because they won't.
hetismij is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 02:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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To mention a few points about this subject.

If you have an insurance from a US company, when you move to France, they're going to increase your rates beyond your belief. I had my company's health insurance I carried into my retirement. The first year it increased about 30%, the second year it was about 50% more and the third year I had to drop the insurance. The premium was more than my pension. Give some thought about your health coverage.

You won't expect to have free health in France. I have a Canadian who doesn't any health care here in France. He had a heart attack and put him into the hospital. They gave him good care and then he's received a bill for this treatment. He's been asked to take monthly payments (direct from his bank account)and remember there's no free lunch. France will cover the poor, etc. but if you have money, they expect to get paid.

Citizenship in France: It's very difficult to get citizenship. It takes a minimum of ten years of the Carte de Sejour (requires yearly applications and full disclosure of where your money is coming from and how much. You'll have to have proof of your medical insurance, and a bunch of other papers - each year.
When you've made this ten years of Carte de Sejour, you can possibly get the Carte de Residence, which allows you to work. Previously you cannot work with just a Carte de Sejour.

More Citizenship Thoughts: If you take citizenship and become a Frenchman (or woman), you will have to giveup your American citizenship. This is mandatory, except for some dual people.

This Citizenship in France probably affect your Social Security. This agreement with France/US it allows Americans receive their pensions while in France. Great. But if you're a French citizen you will probably pay taxes to Uncle Sam and it will be right forward. The taxes will be taken from the Soc.Sec. check. You cannot pull out that old chestnut and say "I'm an American and I'll pay taxes later". You won't be anymore being an American. Now maybe this is one of your "ShowStoppers".

The web site previously noted gives some help but it's not 100% appicable. Give a look at Google and click on Expat. You'll find hundreds of sites which give some good insite into moving to France.

You have chosen a few areas for living in France. These were cheaper than the other areas. How about weather. Let us know what you're expecting. Give us a few ideas of what you expect. As an example, there are cheap flights from France to the UK. In my area we have cheap flights with Ryan Air and some other low-cost airlines. We have flights from Girona, Perpignan, Carcassone, some others. I really don't think you're want to be going to be hidden outback of beyond.

When I decided to bring with overseas and what got dumped was based on weight. Find the agency which will ship your goods and figure out it will cost per kilo. Then you can decide which is worth bringing. As an example, I had a box of good handsoap. I didn't weigh that and decided to leave it behind. But, the price of handsoap was very expensive. I hadn't used my own rule. Just look at the replacement in Europe and it will give you some idea of which should move.

Have I just wrote Sour Grapes? Nah! It's reality. I have done all of the items on this list. I did the move to France in 1994 and I'm happily living near the Mediterranean.

Again, google Expat and give a few looks at what they find.

blackduff is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 03:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,642
Don't sell the house. Rent it out furnished. You may find that life in France isn't what you wanted or expected and how nice it would be to come to your own stuff.

That said, we had most of our furniture shipped from the U.S. to Belgium when we moved to Europe (paid for by my husband's employer). We had some pieces (a sectional sofa) that aren't easily found in Europe and an ornately carved antique Belgian armoire that we didn't want to leave behind. The living room in our Brussels apartment was 550 square feet, so even our American furniture didn't fill it. We're still using it in our MUCH smaller UK cottage, where it's a bit too big for the space but too comfortable to give up (we call our sectional the Black Hole sofa...once you're in it, it sucks out all your energy and you can never leave). However, we'll regretfully be replacing it on our next move.

Computers move easily, at least the newer ones.

Before going further with the move, spend three months (off season) renting an apartment/home in the area of France where you'd most like to live. You may find that spending three months of the year in Europe is a more practical compromise.
BTilke is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 03:48 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 839
Fascinating discussion. As someone who has always been curious about retiring abroad, I am loving this. You all bring up great things to think about. Continue on...
Dejais is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 03:59 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 529
The shipping containers are not tens of thousands of dollars. When my DH moved to the US from Germany, while they pared down some of their "stuff", there were two HUGE antique German secretary's, some weird swedish leather furniture, tons of china that she (his practice wife) couldn't part with.
In fact, we're waiting on DH's grandmother's old dowry chest to find space in someone's container. Alas, it too is filled with more China. What is it with porcelaine and Germans?! LOL...I know, I know, I've gotten the history of porcelaine in Germany...
Andrian Leeds "ParisParlor" or some such is part of an organization that lends support and help to those who want to move to France. In the group are financiers, bankers, lawyers, etc.
Hook up with her group.
SuzieCII is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 04:21 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,397
Blackduff, just a minor correction of your informative post: you don't have to give up your American citizenship if you take citizenship in another country. This was said to be the case until several years ago, but no longer true. I know at least two Americans who have become British subjects and retained their US nationality. One of them is my daughter, who was born in the US, and had no right to British citizenship by birth or parentage. She checked this out very carefully with the US Embassy in London before making the move, and now has both US and British passports. I envy her every time she waltzes through the UK passport control at the airport, and I have to queue up in the "All Others" line.
Heimdall is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 04:50 AM
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>(How ira knew the details of its size and value, I'll probably never know.)<

The internet is a wonderful tool.

>I will also talk to my wife about the advantages associated with my marrying a French woman, but I'm thinking this might be one of those show-stoppers.<

Not necessarily. The French are quite liberal about a man living in a ménage à Trois with his wife and mistress.

ira is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 05:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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I guess you have a situation which is different what I mentioned. Probably I'm wrong. But, have a look at this site.

(2) taking an oath, affirmation or other formal declaration to a foreign state or its political subdivisions (Sec. 349 (a) (2) INA);

This is for Expats and in this case, you would have to say something to the French to accept their citizenship.

I'll try and see if I could find this Section 349, (a) (2) INA.

I wonder what really happens for an American that has taken a French citizenship, to the Social Security may change. I don't see any need for me to become French. I can do everything any other Frenchman can do, except voting. We all have our special agendas, so we will each decide ourselves.


blackduff is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 06:42 AM
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Blackduff, the key phrase in your reference is "with the intention to relinquish U.S. citizenship". My daughter has no intention of relinquishing her US citizenship, and would never have gone ahead with it if it meant that happening. As I said, she checked very carefully with the US Embassy before proceeding.

I was the one who found out she could do this. When attending a wedding in Oxford, the cleric who performed the ceremony was an American Episcopal priest who now lives in England. When he mentioned his dual citizenship, I had the same reaction as you, but he assured me it can be done. My daughter checked, and sure enough, he was correct. So now my daughter uses her US passport when entering the States, and her UK passport when returning to England. Needless to say, there are many other benefits of having dual citizenship.
Heimdall is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 06:51 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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I don't know French law on dual citizenship, though, so it is possible that they may not allow someone to take their nationality without reliquishing foreign ties. But if the French allow dual citizenship, then I don't think the US would stand in your way.
Heimdall is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 07:18 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2007
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Good morning, all. After digesting your input and spending time investigating some areas you've steered me to, I have some additional thoughts.

First off, I appreciate the suggestions to check out other, more palatable locales stateside (and I do love Oregon). But I should probably clarify that while climate is an important consideration in our deliberations, it's not the only one. Without getting into the details, I'll just say we'll likely either retire to France (or somewhere else overseas) or simply stay put.

That said, here's where I'm at now that I'm 24 hours older and wiser:

The citizenship thing isn't really a big deal for us. We wouldn't have a problem with remaining U.S. citizens while retired overseas. I just (naively) thought our becoming French citizens might be the best way to proceed for purposes of taxation, health-care, etc.

Therefore, it appears the Long-Stay Visa is the way to go. Although I'm unclear at this point how long a long-stay visa is effective -- (is it permanent? renewable?) -- the requirement section for acquiring one does include the language, "for people wishing to retire in France...."

More on the requirements for the Long-Stay Visa:

- You have to provide "proof of sufficient income". I'm not sure what the threshhold for sufficient income is -- probably some actuarial calculation we might not be privy to.

- You also need "proof of medical insurance with coverage valid in France." I checked our policy, and we are covered for "emergency treatment" while overseas. Hopefully that would be sufficient, but clearly we would want to pursue additional health care coverage in France if we did intend to reside there permanently.

- Finally, we would need to certify that we would not have "any paid activity in France". I'm not sure exactly what this means, but our intention is to live solely off our savings and pensions, so I'm guessing we'd be okay -- provided, of couse, our income meets the threshhold requirements.

I'm somewhat sobered by the length of time and amount of red tape involved in a move like we're contemplating. Then again, the time will allow us to be sure we're making a move that's right for us. I must confess that a lot of the excitement we're feeling right now is based on some of the properties for sale we've viewed online. Obviously, we're quite a ways away from making an offer on any, and it remains to be seen whether we will have the same level of excitement as the reality of the relocation process sinks in (and the sexy properties have sold off).

Thanks again to everyone for your input.
BunkerBoy is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 09:38 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 478
A couple of my observations/experiences:

1. Moving. My father moved the contents of his house and apartment in New York to Europe (apartment in Paris, a house outside of Cannes, and another small apartment outside of Zurich) around 10 years ago. He hired a moving company which (as another poster mentioned) provided a container which the moving company loaded. He also included a then-4 year old Mercedes into the container (it was still in great shape, and he couldn't get 1/2 the price of a new model if he sold it). I can't remember at all what he paid for this, but I would have remembered if it was more than $10,000.

It was very strange seeing the furniture relocated on another continent!

2. Dual citizenship issues for American-born. Most of the laws forbidding dual citizenship were struck down by the US Supreme Court in two cases: a 1967 decision, Afroyim v. Rusk, as well as a second ruling in 1980, Vance v. Terrazas. There are some practical and serious consequences when holding dual citizenship (i.e., you are not afforded the protection of the US government when in the foreign country which you hold citizenship; for younger males in some countries military service is an issue).

3. Dual Citizenship for French Born. My stepmother holds French citizenship and later acquired US citizenship; it is legal (but I don't have the legal citations at the moment) (somewhat ironically, when they moved to Europe).
Marc_David_Miller is offline  

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