I'm a retired UK citizen with an EU passport. My wife, also retired, is an American citizen. We've been living in America for the past twelve years, myself as a 'permanent resident'. We wish to spend our retirement in France. We have a good income and would sell our house in America to fund a property in France. My question is: if we buy a property can we just move there, or are there certain procedures to be gone through. Also, could we utilize France's healthcare system or would we need private health insurance? If the latter, any idea of cost?

Looking at your "EEA Family Permit" link it seems to require that my wife has a British Residency permit. She has never lived in the UK. I met her in America.

I lived in the UK for fifty-four years and worked there continuously until moving to America in 2002. I have a government pension from the UK, and my wife also receives one from the UK on my contributions.

  • 1
    Do you have any accumulated social security years in the EU, (UK)?
    – SztupY
    Feb 20, 2015 at 8:57
  • SztupY: I've edited my question to, hopefully, answer your question. Feb 20, 2015 at 20:45
  • The page quoted by @GayotFow is written with people residing in the UK in mind because it's on the website of the consulate in London but it's not a requirement per se. Your wife can apply for a visa and/or residence permit as appropriate under the same conditions from a consulate in the US. But she cannot apply in London.
    – Gala
    Feb 21, 2015 at 13:46

4 Answers 4


You have a right to live in France under EU rules if you qualify in one of four ways: working, having sufficient resources, studying or being the spouse of another EU citizen who qualifies. The requirements are detailed on the page on the “carte de séjour UE” on service-public.fr (in French). In fact, applying for this “permit” is not mandatory but you need to fulfill the very same requirements to have a right to reside in France, even if you forgo applying for an actual physical carte.

In your case, as a retiree, this means that you need to have “sufficient resources”, defined as above the threshold to qualify for welfare benefits. In France, for someone above the age of 65, you cannot in any case be required to have more than €9600 per year for one person (or €14904 for a couple) but it might even be possible to qualify with a lower income in some cases. These rules are based entirely on citizenship, having been a resident in the UK before moving to France is not a requirement.

If you do not qualify, you could probably move to France as a British citizen anyway because nobody bothers with tracking all EU citizens present in the country and you are not at risk of a fine or anything like that. But under EU rules, the French authorities could in principle ask you to leave at any time and you do not have any unconditional right to reside in the country. Most importantly for you, you would not be able to sponsor your wife (more on that below).

Regarding healthcare, as a retiree from elsewhere in the EU, you would not automatically be entitled to enrollment in the government's “universal coverage” scheme and having health insurance is actually one of the requirements to qualify for residence as “inactive person”.

But if you would qualify for statutory healthcare coverage in the UK, you should be able to transfer those rights to France. I don't know the UK system well enough to know if you would qualify and how to go about it but since you get a UK government pension, I would guess that it should be possible. In practice, what you need is called the “S1 document”. I found some info about that on nhs.uk and a forum for British expats in France.

Failing that, you would probably be required to get private insurance coverage. Since healthcare costs are lower in France, it should be cheaper than what you could get in the US but you still need to pay for it.

Your wife is in a very different situation. As a non-EU citizen, she needs a visa or residence permit to stay longer than three months and she does not have a right to reside in France on her own. So while holding a carte de séjour was optional for you, it is mandatory for her. Here as well, citizenship, not residence, defines her position. Having been a resident in the UK before moving to France would not generally make things much easier.

But if you, as a British citizen, reside in France then she can get a residence permit “membre de la famille d'un citoyen de l'Unionrelatively easily (that's more-or-less the French equivalent to the “EEA family permit” mentioned by Gayot Fow). She will have to prove her relationship with you (e.g. through a marriage certificate), your right to stay in France (e.g. prove that you fulfill the financial means requirement discussed above) and pay a small fee.

I am not entirely sure of her health insurance situation. If you are covered through one of the statutory health insurance schemes in France, she would also automatically be covered at no extra cost. But I don't know if this also applies if you qualify through the S1 document (I think it should). Private insurers have their own rules and will almost certainly require extra payments to cover her.

  • I am confused by one statement, viz:"...defined as above the threshold to qualify for welfare benefits. In France, for someone above the age of 65, it cannot in any case exceed €9600 per year for one person and €14904 per year for a couple." Our income is substantially more than that. Should your statement read "be less than" rather than "exceed"? Or, am I reading it wrong? Feb 23, 2015 at 23:39
  • @JohnGSmith I think the way to read it is "the threshold cannot exceed that, so having at least that much is sufficient."
    – cpast
    Feb 24, 2015 at 16:29
  • @JohnGSmith Yes, sorry, it's quite confusing, cpast interpretation is the right one. The threshold can be lower (in particular if a previous stay in France would give you the right to receive child benefits or something like that) and is determined on a case-by-case basis. But it cannot in any event be larger than the numbers I mentioned so if you have much more than that, you're fine. I just wanted to mention that it could still be possible with less. I will try to clarify that.
    – Gala
    Feb 25, 2015 at 9:14

I found this on the website of the French consulate in Chicago. It may be useful to other Americans moving to France with their European spouses, viz:

4- American family members of european passport holders Please note that you do not need any visa to enter and live in France for longer than 3 months if : - you hold a valid U.S. passport

  • and you are the legal spouse (marriage certificate) or child (under 18y.o.) of a citizen of the above listed [European] countries.

  • and you are accompanying your spouse / parent who is also moving to France.

However, you will have to apply for the residence permit ("carte de séjour pour membre de famille d’un ressortissant européen") within 2 months of entry into France, at the Préfecture of city of residence. Note that it is always advisable to contact the Préfecture BEFORE leaving the U.S., in order to get a complete list of documents to provide to apply for such permit.

Here is the link: http://www.consulfrance-chicago.org/spip.php?article488

  • 1
    +1 for noting that the OP's wife, an American, will not need a visa to enter France.
    – phoog
    Mar 5, 2015 at 21:41

You are a UK national with an American spouse and want to move to France. Your question asks if there are special procedures needed.

No problem. As a UK national it means your wife is a 'family member of an EEA national', and hence you qualify for an EEA Family Permit. This strategy will work everywhere in the EEA except for the country of the primary's nationality (in this case the UK). When you fill out the application, your secondary question about health insurance will be answered implicitly.

More good news... It's free to apply.

  • I found this from the French consulate in Chicago. It may be useful to other Americans moving to France with their spouses, viz: Feb 26, 2015 at 14:59
  • The OP's wife is American; she therefore does not need an EEA Family Permit. See John G Smith's answer for the reference.
    – phoog
    Mar 5, 2015 at 21:52

EU law on borders and visas

UK citizens already have to cross the ‘Schengen’ border when they visit other most other Member States (Ireland does not have to join the Schengen rules, and Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Croatia have not done so yet). However, the checks on UK citizens currently co-exist with EU free movement law, meaning that the checks can only be cursory, in order to verify British citizens’ identity and nationality at Schengen borders.

Following a UK withdrawal from the EU, the borders rules alone would apply, meaning that there will be more intrusive questions about the purpose of each British citizen’s visit, and checks on the intention to return and level of income.

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