If you’re thinking about moving to France, you’re probably aware by now that there is a LOT of bureaucracy to deal with, and you’re going to have to handle a LOT of paperwork while you’re living here.

The last thing you want to do is to have to order copies of documents from your home country and pay for them to be sent internationally, which can take 6-8 weeks or longer, so it’s best to ensure that you have some essential documents with you when you travel.

Aside from your passport and visa (if required), here’s a list of the documents you should consider bringing with you. A * means an electronic copy is sufficient. Anything in bold should be an original document.

For any official purposes like the préfecture:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • If married to a French citizen abroad – the marriage has to be registered through the French consulate where you got married, so you can get a French marriage certificate and a Livret de famille
  • If you’ve been previously married and divorced, or have a spouse who has passed away, a copy of your former marriage & divorce (or death) certificate – especially if your name is different from your birth name
  • If your name on your passport is different from what’s on your birth certificate, then your name change papers from the courts

For health insurance:

If you’re going onto PUMa (Protection Universelle Maladie) or applying for assistance from CAF (Caisse des Allocations Familiales), those offices will require proof of income from 2 years ago (so, 2016 records for 2018):

  • tax returns going back 2-3 years*
  • bank statements for foreign accounts* (which also need to be declared on French taxes if they’re still open)

For bank accounts:

  • if you receive a large sum of money, like from the sale of a home, or an estate settlement, that you’d like to transfer to France, you should have the sale documents or estate documents for the bank*
  • if you have a large amount of cash, proof of where it came from*

For health insurance and medical care generally:

  • Vaccination records and records related to any major medical events (surgeries or chronic illnesses)*
  • Pregnancy records, if applicable*
  • Prescriptions for any medications you’re bringing with you, especially if you’re going to need to renew them in France

For apartment dossiers:

  • bank statement for foreign accounts*, although landlords will mostly be interested in accounts located *in* France. Better to establish a bank account in France and transfer a significant amount of money over
  • idem for foreign tax returns* – they can help, but landlords will be more interested in your current financial situation
  • a French work contract* (preferably a CDI, outside of the période d’essai) – it will be quite difficult to secure an apartment without one, if you are self-employed or come to France before finding a job

For your driver’s license:

  • Your current driver’s license, hopefully from a state that allows you to exchange it
  • A copy of your driving record*, showing when the license was issued and any violations
  • A copy of your insurance record* (to help you get lower-priced insurance for experienced drivers)

For everything:

  • stoicism
  • an epic sense of patience
  • your best Gallic shrug
You should note that documents used for official purposes like the préfecture will need official, court certified French translations, so you should not have your documents translated before arriving in France. You can obtain a list of official translators for your department from the local mairie or the préfecture, or by searching for ‘traducteur assermenté’ and your region.

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