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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all, hopefully someone can help me. My wife and I would like to move to France to live for some number of years. We're both quite keen on eventually obtaining French citizenship and would like to make sure that we have a good chance of doing so in the future if we are to spend a number of years there.

My wife is from Mexico and I am from the US. We are financial investors and can show adequate income/financial stability to satisfy the French authorities and need not work. As far as I can tell, we should be able to meet any and all requirements they may have to grant us residence visas.

The trickier part is understanding how difficult it may be for us to apply for citizenship in 5 years. The last thing we want to do is assimilate into a culture and spend a good portion of our young lives in a country that may kick us out, particularly if said country is somewhere that we would like to be citizens of. Does anyone have any insight into how difficult it would be for 2 such people to eventually obtain citizenship if we do assimilate into the local culture and are self-sufficient financially?

It really is important to us that if sometime down the line we will have the opportunity to become citizens.

Thanks in advance,
d
 

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The first big hurdle you have to overcome is getting a long stay visa in the first place. It isn't so much a matter of how much money you have (in fact, that attitude can actually get in your way), but rather what reason you can give for wanting to live in France - especially if, as you claim, you will not be working to support yourselves.

As French residents, your worldwide income is subject to French income taxes - so if you have income, you are considered at some level to be "working" while residing in France. If you are working in France and paying taxes, you have to sign up in some manner for the "cotisations" (social insurances - health, retirement and family allocation).

Once you are legally resident in France, however, taking French nationality is a fairly straightforward process. Acquisition de la nationalité française par naturalisation - Service-public.fr

There are, however, a couple of interviews you have to get through. I know one American couple that came up against an official who basically took a dislike to them (for some reason) and declared that as long as he was handling their dossier, they would never get French nationality. It had something to do with the official being a Communist and the husband of the couple being a big shot entrepreneurial type. I lost touch with the wife a few years ago, so I haven't heard whether or not they tried again for French nationality. But other than voting, it doesn't really make much difference once you have residence rights.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Bev, thanks for such a quick reply.

A few questions.

With regards to us getting the stay visas, does the reason we would like to live in France come up at the initial interview in the US? Does that mean it's up to the discretion of the person interviewing us?

My work is done through US investment firms and I'm actually not technically "employed" but am a full time caretaker of my financial portfolio. How is it that France can tax you on your foreign income yet you are unable to work? That sounds incorrect, at least in my circumstance. I'm sure you know what you're talking about but about what about double-taxation treaties?

Hope you can possibly answer those few questions.

Best regards,
d
 

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Most likely, but the issue of a long stay visa is eventually decided by a French ministry in Paris, as all applications are sent on for processing there.
This isn't specifically about France, but EU countries are getting hot on people who try to live in their country but deriving income from abroad. The authorities often decide that regardless of the source of income, the fact you are ordinarily resident (and presumably deriving benefit from living there) makes you liable to local income tax. As there is double-taxation treaty between the two countries, you won't be taxed twice (any French tax you pay will be fully deductible), but you still have to complete US and French tax returns.
As for naturalisation, additionally you both need to show you are well integrated into the French society and be able to speak French to a level of fluency that makes it possible. You will have an interview with an official, entirely in French. Exception is made for those who are married to a French national.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks Joppa, I appreciate your response.

I understand the EU's worry about people residing in the EU but deriving income from abroad. It makes plenty of sense and I'm sure there are double-taxation treaties that deal with this issue. I will have to research it more.

As per integration with society that is the least of my concerns. If we live in France for 5 years and manage not to enmesh ourselves in the culture and don't speak fluent French we've got other issues.

Cheers!

Most likely, but the issue of a long stay visa is eventually decided by a French ministry in Paris, as all applications are sent on for processing there.
This isn't specifically about France, but EU countries are getting hot on people who try to live in their country but deriving income from abroad. The authorities often decide that regardless of the source of income, the fact you are ordinarily resident (and presumably deriving benefit from living there) makes you liable to local income tax. As there is double-taxation treaty between the two countries, you won't be taxed twice (any French tax you pay will be fully deductible), but you still have to complete US and French tax returns.
As for naturalisation, additionally you both need to show you are well integrated into the French society and be able to speak French to a level of fluency that makes it possible. You will have an interview with an official, entirely in French. Exception is made for those who are married to a French national.
 
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My work is done through US investment firms and I'm actually not technically "employed" but am a full time caretaker of my financial portfolio. How is it that France can tax you on your foreign income yet you are unable to work? That sounds incorrect, at least in my circumstance. I'm sure you know what you're talking about but about what about double-taxation treaties?

Hope you can possibly answer those few questions.

Best regards,
d
Residency is the deciding factor, as Joppa says. Six months and one day p.a, in France, and you will be subject to French taxation, including on investments abroad. If your family is ordinarily resident in France and you are out of France for more than six months, you can still find yourself caught in the net. As a resident benefiting from the likes of the French health system, you are expected to contribute as would any other citizen.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm confused how that would work. If I derive a $10k gain on the sale of some stock, does that mean France and the US would expect their fair share(~30-50% each)?! There must be a way around that.

Also, as a long-term stay visitor you are, from what I've read, required to prove that you have full healthcare coverage during the time you are a resident in France. Therefore you are not leeching on their social healthcare because you have comprehensive coverage from outside.

Can you clarify if you actually pay into the UK tax system and French tax system. That would mean that you'd pay somewhere between 70-80% of your income in taxes between the 2. I don't mind paying taxes to France, I'd rather pay it to France than the US at this point, so that would be fine with me. Just trying to understand this concept.

Residency is the deciding factor, as Joppa says. Six months and one day p.a, in France, and you will be subject to French taxation, including on investments abroad. If your family is ordinarily resident in France and you are out of France for more than six months, you can still find yourself caught in the net. As a resident benefiting from the likes of the French health system, you are expected to contribute as would any other citizen.

The double taxation agreement applies with respect to the UK to of course, and there is simply no way I can legally avoid taxation on my income, whatever the source. Believe me, I've taken a serious interest in this over the past twenty years! There were some convoluted tax haven trust loopholes in years gone by, but such options are rapidly diminishing.
 
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Once you are resident you are entitled to share in all manner of public service benefits - whether or not you take up those options is not really relevant. Imagine the paperwork involved in deciding who is and who is not profiting from those services - it would be an impossible task. It would be akin to saying 'why should I pay taxes to contribute towards repairing public roads - I don't have a car' :)

Many services in France are subsidised - if you send your kids to the local aikido club, chances are part of the subscription is subsidised. And obviously schoolteachers are paid for by taxes, police, defence, etc etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks, I guess not having used socialized healthcare I didn't imagine you can just walk in somewhere and not have to prove that you are covered by the state. From reading other people's posts I did see that there is a need to have your own healthcare insurance. I saw this on the French government's website dictating what one applying for a long-stay visa would need proof of. Why would that be if you're able to use the social healthcare and are paying taxes in?

If I didn't have to pay US taxes it would make sense but I trade US stocks on US exchanges and therefore it's hard to imagine that France would be able to claim those gains since they're tied tightly to US market. Sticky subject perhaps.

Thanks for the replies.
 
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Again, Bev is the one to ask about the situation for long-stay visa holders from outside the EU. But just to make a comparison, I have been (tax) resident in Thailand for a while. As such, dividends from shareholdings in UK companies, earned and paid in the UK, are taxable in Thailand. If I traded on a stock market abroad the same would apply. The profits are calculable on an annual basis, and this figure should go on the tax return. And in Thailand there is no socialised healthcare system.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
That is very strange that you're double-taxed. The only way I can see that happening is if the UK doesn't have a non-double-taxation law with Thailand which may be the case but seems doubtful. Anyway, thank you for your help and hopefully I can sort this out. It seems odd that you could end up paying 30% to the US govt and 40-50% to France.
 
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That is very strange that you're double-taxed. The only way I can see that happening is if the UK doesn't have a non-double-taxation law with Thailand which may be the case but seems doubtful. Anyway, thank you for your help and hopefully I can sort this out. It seems odd that you could end up paying 30% to the US govt and 40-50% to France.
Sorry for any misunderstanding
 

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As far as the tax situation goes, you would be in a very difficult situation if you were to manage what you're proposing.

As frogblogger says, once you establish "residence" in France you are liable for taxation there - work visa or no. There are tax treaties between the US and France so technically you won't be taxed twice, however what gets taxed where can get a little complicated, especially as involves investments. You do have to declare your worldwide income to both the US and to France for a start and then either claim the appropriate credits/accommodations or make sure they are properly granted on your tax assessment (i.e. that you filled out the right forms to show what's subject to foreign taxes and what isn't).

There is also a wealth tax in France, which is again paid each year based on your worldwide net worth (i.e. assets less debts). This you have to pay, hands down, because there is no wealth tax in the US to offset it, and you can't claim wealth tax paid against your US income taxes.

As far as your chances for getting a non-work visa, I assume you have studied carefully the local French consulate website on this. They are kind of deliberately vague about the terms of a non-work-related visa because they don't grant alot of them. Retirees with a reasonable pension are the only folks I know of who have managed to secure this type of visa. You can try your application, but be very careful how you fill in the part of the form that asks you the purpose of your stay in France.

As for the health care system, it's actually a combined public-private one. But it's also reimbursement based. You pay for your doctor visits and treatment and then are reimbursed - by the state and/or your private insurer. Once a year, when you renew your residence permit, you have to show you have private health cover if you aren't covered by the state system. But, if you aren't enrolled in the public system, you may find you have real difficulty proving that you are integrated into the society when it comes time to take nationality. Paying into the system like everyone else is a big part of the "social" in "socialist."
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Bev and frogblogger, thank you both for the explanations again.

You've both given me a lot to think about and consider.

Bev, considering that my wife and I are young and just want to be part of a difference society, would it be a bad idea to be honest and state that we want to integrate into the French culture, have a different life there, and possibly at some point start a business and have children? The non-work visa requirements do not look very vague to me, only with regards to the capital you're meant to be able to show in order to support yourself. I have read elsewhere that this amount should be roughly $1,800/person per month and I assume that would be for a period of at least 12 months.

Regarding the wealth tax, this may be of interest to you: French Wealth Tax

Just to clarify, are you saying that while we'd need private healthcare to satiate the needs of the French authorities, we are also able to enroll in the public program?

Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it.

As far as the tax situation goes, you would be in a very difficult situation if you were to manage what you're proposing.

As frogblogger says, once you establish "residence" in France you are liable for taxation there - work visa or no. There are tax treaties between the US and France so technically you won't be taxed twice, however what gets taxed where can get a little complicated, especially as involves investments. You do have to declare your worldwide income to both the US and to France for a start and then either claim the appropriate credits/accommodations or make sure they are properly granted on your tax assessment (i.e. that you filled out the right forms to show what's subject to foreign taxes and what isn't).

There is also a wealth tax in France, which is again paid each year based on your worldwide net worth (i.e. assets less debts). This you have to pay, hands down, because there is no wealth tax in the US to offset it, and you can't claim wealth tax paid against your US income taxes.

As far as your chances for getting a non-work visa, I assume you have studied carefully the local French consulate website on this. They are kind of deliberately vague about the terms of a non-work-related visa because they don't grant alot of them. Retirees with a reasonable pension are the only folks I know of who have managed to secure this type of visa. You can try your application, but be very careful how you fill in the part of the form that asks you the purpose of your stay in France.

As for the health care system, it's actually a combined public-private one. But it's also reimbursement based. You pay for your doctor visits and treatment and then are reimbursed - by the state and/or your private insurer. Once a year, when you renew your residence permit, you have to show you have private health cover if you aren't covered by the state system. But, if you aren't enrolled in the public system, you may find you have real difficulty proving that you are integrated into the society when it comes time to take nationality. Paying into the system like everyone else is a big part of the "social" in "socialist."
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Bev and frogblogger, thank you both for the explanations again.

You've both given me a lot to think about and consider.

Bev, considering that my wife and I are young and just want to be part of a difference society, would it be a bad idea to be honest and state that we want to integrate into the French culture, have a different life there, and possibly at some point start a business and have children? The non-work visa requirements do not look very vague to me, only with regards to the capital you're meant to be able to show in order to support yourself. I have read elsewhere that this amount should be roughly $1,800/person per month and I assume that would be for a period of at least 12 months.

Regarding the wealth tax, this may be of interest to you: French Wealth Tax

Just to clarify, are you saying that while we'd need private healthcare to satiate the needs of the French authorities, we are also able to enroll in the public program?

Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it.
All I can tell you is that the only people I know who have successfully gotten a non-work visa are retirees who can show that their pensions will provide them at least the requisite amount. And then they have to carry private health insurance. They renew their carte de sejour every year, and at renewal time have to show that their resources are still adequate and that they have the health insurance.

If you say you want to start a business at some point, you've just admitted that you are planning to work, and I would guess that could count against you in the visa application process. But give it a go and see how they react.

You've obviously misunderstood me on the health insurance. If you succeed in getting a non-work visa, you simply are ineligible for the state health care system.

If you were working in France, you'd be enrolled in the state system through your payroll withholdings and the contributions of your employer - and if you set up a business in France, you have to enroll your business in the various insurance plans - health, retirement and family allocation - and pay the contributions for yourself and your employees. The public system only reimburses about 60-70% of your health care expenses. Most employers provide a "mutuelle" - a top-up insurance - for their employees and for the boss, with the cost split between the employer and employee. The mutuelle is the "private" part of the French health insurance system, but it has nothing to do with the private insurance you are required to get if you are on a non-working visa.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Bev,

Yes, I understand that those are the only people you know who've done that but I assume that showing enough income/assets to fund yourself for a year should satiate the need considering that your visa must be renewed annually. I was just told that 5,000 Euros/month per couple is what the authorities want to see as far as income.

I wouldn't have likely said I want to start a business because the truth of the matter is that I don't. Not sure why I stated that other than that I've thought of it in the past and any business I do will not be located in France and would likely be stationed in the US.

I wholly understand your insurance post now. It confused me because I thought you stated that you were eligible for the state healthcare but that didn't make sense and I just got confused.

Thanks again for your time and effort,
d

All I can tell you is that the only people I know who have successfully gotten a non-work visa are retirees who can show that their pensions will provide them at least the requisite amount. And then they have to carry private health insurance. They renew their carte de sejour every year, and at renewal time have to show that their resources are still adequate and that they have the health insurance.

If you say you want to start a business at some point, you've just admitted that you are planning to work, and I would guess that could count against you in the visa application process. But give it a go and see how they react.

You've obviously misunderstood me on the health insurance. If you succeed in getting a non-work visa, you simply are ineligible for the state health care system.

If you were working in France, you'd be enrolled in the state system through your payroll withholdings and the contributions of your employer - and if you set up a business in France, you have to enroll your business in the various insurance plans - health, retirement and family allocation - and pay the contributions for yourself and your employees. The public system only reimburses about 60-70% of your health care expenses. Most employers provide a "mutuelle" - a top-up insurance - for their employees and for the boss, with the cost split between the employer and employee. The mutuelle is the "private" part of the French health insurance system, but it has nothing to do with the private insurance you are required to get if you are on a non-working visa.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Working in France

Bev

Please clarify this for me. If I receive income from retirement, dividends, soc sec, etc I am considered working and will pay taxes and "will have to sign up in some manner for the "cotisations" (social insurances - health, retirement and family allocation)." If I am being taxed for this will I be covered by the health care system or do I have pay for private insurance too?

RoyD


The first big hurdle you have to overcome is getting a long stay visa in the first place. It isn't so much a matter of how much money you have (in fact, that attitude can actually get in your way), but rather what reason you can give for wanting to live in France - especially if, as you claim, you will not be working to support yourselves.

As French residents, your worldwide income is subject to French income taxes - so if you have income, you are considered at some level to be "working" while residing in France. If you are working in France and paying taxes, you have to sign up in some manner for the "cotisations" (social insurances - health, retirement and family allocation).

Once you are legally resident in France, however, taking French nationality is a fairly straightforward process. Acquisition de la nationalité française par naturalisation - Service-public.fr

There are, however, a couple of interviews you have to get through. I know one American couple that came up against an official who basically took a dislike to them (for some reason) and declared that as long as he was handling their dossier, they would never get French nationality. It had something to do with the official being a Communist and the husband of the couple being a big shot entrepreneurial type. I lost touch with the wife a few years ago, so I haven't heard whether or not they tried again for French nationality. But other than voting, it doesn't really make much difference once you have residence rights.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Bev

Please clarify this for me. If I receive income from retirement, dividends, soc sec, etc I am considered working and will pay taxes and "will have to sign up in some manner for the "cotisations" (social insurances - health, retirement and family allocation)." If I am being taxed for this will I be covered by the health care system or do I have pay for private insurance too?

RoyD
No, income from retirement, dividends, soc sec, etc are not considered the same as salary (i.e. earned income, in US tax jargon). Depending on the tax treaties, some forms of retirement and investment income are subject to tax in the country where the income is coming from.

You pay cotisations on working income - salary, or if you are exercising a profession (self-employed, for example) in some manner.

If you're living on retirement, dividends etc you're not eligible for the French sécu system as a foreigner.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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No, income from retirement, dividends, soc sec, etc are not considered the same as salary (i.e. earned income, in US tax jargon). Depending on the tax treaties, some forms of retirement and investment income are subject to tax in the country where the income is coming from.

You pay cotisations on working income - salary, or if you are exercising a profession (self-employed, for example) in some manner.

If you're living on retirement, dividends etc you're not eligible for the French sécu system as a foreigner.
Cheers,
Bev
Nice concise summary... just one clarification (I know this thread is in a US expat context) - 'foreigners' being expats from outside the EU - retired EU citizens get the basic health cover under reciprocal EU arrangements.
 

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Retired EU citizen

Frogblogger

My wife is Swedish, I am American, we will move to France as retired. So as an EU citizen you are saying that she will be covered by the basic health insurance?


Nice concise summary... just one clarification (I know this thread is in a US expat context) - 'foreigners' being expats from outside the EU - retired EU citizens get the basic health cover under reciprocal EU arrangements.
 
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