Moving To France : Emigrating To France Guide

Dreaming of a new life in France? This comprehensive guide is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about moving to France. From navigating visas and healthcare to finding a flat and adjusting to daily life, this resource will help you make a smooth transition.
Moving To France : Emigrating To France Guide

1. Navigating the French bureaucracy

2. Relocation process

3. Basics for starting a new life in France

4. Recap

You’re not alone if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the French bureaucracy. Many expats have experienced the challenges of navigating the French system. But with the correct information and guidance, you can make the most of your experience in France.

French visa

Once you’ve decided to move to France and picked out which department you want to call home, you’ll need to work out your visa options. France is a member of the European Union (EU), which means that if you’re a citizen of an EU/EEA member state, you have the right to move there under the Freedom of Movement Act.

If you’re not from an EU/EEA country, you may need a visa to enter France briefly. However, the requirements depend on your nationality, so check ahead to avoid disappointment.

Non-EU/EEA citizens must apply for a long-term French visa (visa long de séjour) and residence permit to stay longer than 90 days.

If you plan to move to France for more than 90 days a year, you must apply for a Long-Stay Visa. To satisfy the requirements of your Long-Stay Visa application, you must meet four main criteria. 

1. A valid passport (which must have at least 12-18 months before expiry) + passport photos

2. Proof of Address (for your accommodation/residence in France)

3. Proof that you have health insurance coverage

4. Proof that you have sufficient financial resources

Income and visa

Usually, individuals who do not hold a passport from an EU-member country will need to show that they have an annual/monthly income of more than the French minimum wage, which, as of 1 January 2024, is €1,766.92 per month (Gross), around €1,400 per month (net).

These figures are per person, so if you are a couple, each person must show a net income of at least €1,766 per month (or a combined gross income of €3,500 per month per couple).

If you have children, you must show that you have an income equivalent to 50% of the income requirement per child (in addition to your income). 

France has no permanent residency system (like the American Green Card or Australian Permanent Residency). You can live in France on a long-stay visa (renewable annually), apply for a fixed-length French Residency Permit (called a carte de sejour), or apply for French Nationality.

If you are looking to move to France permanently (or for several years), then you would normally:

1. Arrive in France on a Long Stay Visa

2. Then, toward the end of your 1st year, apply for a carte de Sejour

3. Then apply for French citizenship (if you decide that this is a permanent move)

Life in France for up to 90 days

You do not need to apply for a visa if you are a UK, Canadian, New Zealand, United States, or Australian citizen and want to live in France for up to three months. Instead, you will be issued a 90-day Schengen visa when you arrive at your first European airport or port. 

You will, however, be required to testify that they have a minimum financial resources of €120 per person per day (or if you can show that you have already paid for your accommodation in France, then the amount is reduced to €65 per person per day).

After your 90-day stay in France, you will not be permitted to return to France or any other 26 Schengen zone countries for the next three months.

Life in France between 3-6 months

Suppose you are not a citizen of a European Union member country, an EEA country (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), or Switzerland, and you wish to move to France for more than 90 days (but less than six months). In that case, you will need to apply for one of two ‘long stay’ visas:

1. Temporary long-stay visa – valid for 4-6 months and non-renewable.

2. Long Stay Visa – valid for up to 12 months and is renewable.

The application process for both types of Visas is virtually the same, and the cost is similar (around €100 + processing fee of about €30). The income requirements for the Temporary 6-month visa are the same as for the 12-month Long Stay Visa.

Life in France for up to 12 months

If you are not a citizen of a European Union member country or an EEA country and you wish to move to France for more than 90 days and up to 12 months, you must apply for a long-term Visa. 

You can only apply for the Long-Stay Visa three months before your planned arrival date in France. You apply for a Long-Stay Visa at the French Consulate of your home country. The application process is handled online, but you may be asked to attend an interview in person at the French Consulate.

The long-stay visa allows you to exit and return to France as often as possible. During your stay in France, you can also travel to other European countries without needing an additional visa. 

The 12-month long-stay visa is a non-working visa. During this initial 12-month period, you are generally not allowed to become an employee in France or set up a business in France. Of course, you can carry on business activities outside of France or return to your home country to work. 

(Non-EU citizens can apply for a French residency permit immediately and bypass the need for an initial 12-month Long-Stay Visa. So, for example, you can instead apply for a Long-Term Visa used as a Residence Permit (VLS-TS) and select the category most appropriate to your circumstance: student, self-employed, retiree, looking for work, joining an EU citizen family member, etc.).

Carte de sejour

After arriving in France and deciding to stay longer than 12 months, you can apply for a residence permit (carte de sejour). You can apply for the carte de sejour while you are in France, and you can start the application process within two months of the end of your long-stay visa (you must apply before your visa expires; otherwise, you will need to exit France and start the application process from abroad).

Once issued, the carte de sejour typically lasts 1-4 years and can be renewed. After holding one for three years, you may be eligible to apply for a 10-year Carte de Résident.

There are different categories of the carte de sejour in France:

  • Student – (relevant paperwork from the French education institute + minimum income of €615 per month).
  • Temporary Worker or Posted Foreign Worker – assignments lasting between 3 to 12 months
  • Employee – employed under a French employment contract
  • Research Scientist – issued to foreigners undertaking research work or teaching at university level
  • Retiree/Economically inactive
  • Self-employed or Professional
  • Talent Passport

Employment Contracts in France

Whether you’re trying out life in France temporarily or looking for something permanent, we’ll help you navigate the different types of work contracts you might encounter, providing a roadmap to understand your rights and obligations under each.

Permanent Contracts (CDI)

– What is it? It is a permanent contract without a fixed end date.

– Benefits: Job stability, paid vacations, and the ability to apply for credit or loans.

– Termination: Can be initiated by either the employer or the employee due to layoff, resignation, retirement, or mutual agreement.

Fixed-term Contracts (CDD)

– Purpose: For temporary tasks or roles with specific start and end dates. In principle, the maximum duration of a fixed-term contract is 18 months. In some cases, however, the maximum duration can be extended to 24 or 36 months.

– Restrictions: Cannot be used to permanently fill a role integral to the company’s ongoing activities.

Temporary Contracts (CDII)

– Similar to a permanent contract but for temporary positions, typically signed with a temp agency rather than directly with the employer.

Learner Contracts (CDI Apprenant)

– Features: Includes cooperative training programs from day one, friendly commute rules, and guarantees a minimum monthly salary.

– Objective: To obtain a professional certificate while gaining work experience.

Contracts for Employability Purposes

– Target: Aimed at individuals struggling to find work or maintain employment.

– Structure: Allows simultaneous holding of successive full-time positions with different employers or multiple part-time contracts.

Work Site Contracts

– Scope: Common in construction and shipbuilding, these contracts are project-specific.

– End of Contract: Employees may claim severance and unemployment benefits upon completion.

Inclusive Work Contracts for Seniors

– Focus: Designed for individuals aged 57 and over facing employment challenges.

– Goal: To support professional inclusion.

Part-time Contracts

– Hours: Employees work fewer hours than full-time, adhering to the company’s legal or contractual full-time hours.

– Flexibility: May work for multiple employers as long as the total hours do not exceed the legal maximum.

Work-study Contracts

– Focus: Young individuals between 16 and 25 years old.

– Components: Combines classroom learning with practical work experience, often leading to a diploma or certification.

Understanding the nuances of French employment contracts is vital to making informed decisions about your work in France. Each contract type has its own set of rules and benefits designed to accommodate various employment scenarios.

Types of insurance in France

Navigating through the complexities of insurance in France may seem intimidating. Still, it is essential to understand the distinctions between compulsory and voluntary insurance policies to make informed decisions tailored to your needs. Let’s dive into the details.

Compulsory Insurance

French law mandates specific insurance policies to ensure protection and compliance. As a resident of France, you are obligated to have the following mandatory insurance:

Health Insurance: It’s mandatory for all residents and provides access to quality healthcare. You must choose public Assurance Maladie and you can add complementary private health insurance if you want.

Liability Insurance: If you practice certain professions or participate in specific activities, liability insurance is essential to cover damages caused to others. This insurance is often included in car or home insurance policies.

Housing Insurance: As a tenant or co-owner, you must have housing insurance to protect yourself against damages due to negligence, fires, or water damage. Though it’s not compulsory for homeowners, it’s highly recommended to have insurance.

Automobile and Motorcycle Insurance: Whether you use your vehicle or not, as a vehicle owner in France, you must have automobile and motorcycle insurance. The minimum required coverage is third-party liability.

Structural Warranty

Insurance: If you are undertaking construction or renovation projects, you must have a structural warranty insurance policy to cover defects or poor workmanship.

Professional Insurance: Private companies must offer supplementary health insurance to employees since 2016. Certain professions also require professional insurance.

Voluntary Insurance

There are additional optional insurances that can offer you peace of mind:

Mutual Health Insurance: It supplements compulsory health insurance by covering expenses not fully reimbursed by standard health insurance.

Borrower’s Insurance: It covers outstanding debts in case of death, disability, or job loss. Banks require borrower’s insurance for loan approval.

School Insurance: Though it is legally optional, you may need insurance for extracurricular activities or meals.

Life Insurance: It provides coverage for death, disability, or inability to work, supplementing social security benefits.

Travel Insurance: If you travel outside the EU to countries with high healthcare costs, it’s essential to consider travel insurance based on the trip location and duration.

Immigration procedure

The Code strictly regulates the immigration process and the stay of migrants in France on the Entry and Stay of Foreigners, the Right of Asylum, and the law on the Rights of Foreigners.

If you intend to move to France for permanent residence, you must choose the best way to move according to the conditions of the local migration policy. This can be through employment, entrepreneurship, marriage to a citizen, or participation in exchange programs for young people.

Specific requirements must be met to obtain a permanent residence permit in France. These requirements vary depending on the grounds for applying, but some common ones include:

  1. Compliance with the principles of the French Republic (an affidavit must be made),
  2. B1 level in French (for applicants under the age of 65),
  3. Legal residence in the country for the required period (for example, three years in the case of marriage to a French citizen or five years under the general naturalization procedure),
  4. A place of residence in France. For parents and children of citizens of the republic, as well as refugees, the last requirement is the only one that is relevant.

If you are looking to relocate to France, there are several immigration programs available:

La French Tech

La French Tech program is designed to attract promising entrepreneurs, investors, and startups from non-EU countries. To be eligible for La French Tech, founders of companies in France must have a capital of at least €20,147.40 and obtain admission from one of the authorized partners or have the support of a member of the French tech ecosystem.

Additionally, employees of organizations eligible to issue a French Tech Visa to their workers must have an annual salary of €40,295 or more. Successful applicants will receive a residence permit called a «passport talent» for four years, which can be extended for themselves and family members.

After living five years in France since immigration, foreigners can process a permanent residence permit or obtain citizenship.

EU Blue Card

Another program that facilitates the entry and stay of foreign skilled workers in France. To qualify for a European Blue Card, applicants must have citizenship of a country that is not a member of the EU, possess a higher education diploma confirming at least three years of education or five years of experience in a similar position, and sign an employment contract for at least 12 months with a company registered in France.

Additionally, they must receive an annual gross income of at least 1.5 times higher than the average salary in France.

Successful candidates will be issued a residence permit for up to four years during their employment contract. Their spouse and dependent minors can be included in the application.

Au Pair

The program is an excellent opportunity for young people to get a French residence permit in exchange for performing simple domestic work for a local family. To be eligible for the program, applicants must be between 18 and 30 years old, have a basic knowledge of French or a secondary education/professional qualification, and find a French family willing to accept them to perform simple domestic tasks.

After signing the contract with the family, they can apply for a long-stay visa marked «passport talent.» The first contract is for one year, after which it can be extended for another twelve months.

Basic grounds

Foreigners who plan to live permanently in France must meet specific requirements to obtain a permanent residence permit after living there for at least five years. The French government offers several options for obtaining a permanent residence permit, including marriage to a French citizen, family reunification, and being the parent of a French resident.

It’s important to note that a permanent residence permit can be issued immediately in some cases, such as for refugees and children of French citizens who are financially dependent on their parents. After living in the state for five years, applying for a long-term resident card, another type of permanent residence permit is possible.

To be eligible for a permanent residence permit, you must stay in the country continuously for five years, with a possible absence of six consecutive months or a total of ten.

Two types of long-term visa

When obtaining a long-term visa in France, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

  1. You must obtain a D-type visa for work, family reunification, entrepreneurship, or other long-term stay purposes. There are two types of visa: the regular visa entitles the holder to enter the country and requires a further residence permit. In contrast, the VLS-TS (equivalent to a residence permit) must be confirmed within three months of arrival. In most cases, applicants are issued the second type of document. You’ll have to submit the request to the state embassy or consulate.

  2. After arriving in the country with a regular visa or two months before the expiry of the equivalent residence permit, the foreigner must apply to the prefecture of the place of residence to obtain a residence permit. The first residence permit is issued for one to four years and costs 225 EUR.

What is a permanent residence permit

Suppose you want to obtain a permanent residence permit. In that case, you must live continuously in the country with a valid residence permit for a specified period (5 years or three years) after immigration, learn the language, and integrate into society.                                                

A permanent residence permit is issued for ten years. It’s crucial to note that the absence of a resident in the country for more than 3 or 6 years (depending on the type of card received) is grounds for revocation of the status.

It’s no secret that emigration to France is a common phenomenon. According to the UN, it is the country with the highest rate of visitors. France is attractive because of its high standard of living and other factors:

France has a developed economy with great opportunities for career building. Labor rights are strictly followed in the country so that workers can count on decent salaries and privileges through benefits, paid vacations, and social security.

France offers quality education on a complimentary basis, which is rare in many European countries. There are enough state universities, and preferential education is also available for foreigners.

It has a modern and efficient healthcare system. In addition to the quality of services, a significant advantage is the state’s partial financing of the system and its affordability.

Health insurance

French law dictates that all residents must have health insurance, including all new arrivals. Most expats moving to France are eligible for the local universal public healthcare system, Protection Maladie Universelle (PUMA). However, if you’re not eligible for the PUMA or want to top-up your protection, you might want to take out private health insurance.

For more about health insurance, check out our insights for living in France.

Also, you can get to know options for health insurace system for expats:

2. Relocation process

How to transport your belongings to France?

One of the most important aspects of international relocation is how to transport your belongings. Make sure you start early and give yourself plenty of time to pack things up ahead of the move. Getting your belongings across borders and oceans can seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.

Many expats prefer the security of using a global relocation company. These know all about personal and corporate relocations and should be your first on the list for the move. They also provide storage options, which can help if you don’t already have a home arranged in France. Relocation companies include:

Thankfully, you have plenty of options, whether by air, rail, road, or sea.

It’s a good idea to start by considering what’s important to you: saving money and time or finding the easiest way to move at any cost.

Another important question regarding your removal to France is whether you should do it yourself or hire a global relocation company. This depends on your available time and funds. These companies typically take care of potential issues, which is ideal for time-strapped expats but not those with tight budgets.

Air Freight

France handles the second-largest volume of air freight and mail in Europe. International air freight and removal companies operate out of most major airports in cities such as:

  • Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport
  • Marseille Provence Airport
  • Nantes Atlantique Airport
  • Nice Côte d’Azur Airport
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
  • Toulouse–Blagnac Airport

Air freight is almost always the quickest way to get your belongings, so it’s good if you’re on a short deadline. However, it’s not cheap, as it is charged based on weight. Therefore, it’s best for smaller items and those you need urgently.

Most companies charge a minimum shipping fee and then add weight per kilogram. Prices start at US$1.50 per kilogram but can reach US$8 per kilogram during periods of high demand.

Sea Freight

If you have a whole household to relocate to France and time isn’t such a pressing issue, you might find shipping your best option. France has several ports, the largest of which is Marseille Fos Port, among the largest ports in Europe.

Other French ports include:

  • HAROPA Ports de Paris (Paris, Le Havre, Rouen)
  • Atlantique La Rochelle Port
  • Port Boulogne Calais
  • Port of Dunkerque

Sea freight is an excellent option if you have a lot of things to move and are on a budget. It’s handy if you live far away, as you can cut down on costs compared to other methods. However, road or rail transport from elsewhere in Europe might be more straightforward.

Road and rail

If you’re moving to France from a nearby country, you’ll probably carry out your removals by road or rail. Relocating by road freight can be affordable, quick, and convenient.

Hiring a relocation company to manage your removal to France will often cost more than arranging the individual parts yourself. However, it can also give you peace of mind that your belongings will make it safely and with the required paperwork.

Global relocation companies operating in France include:

As there are plenty of options for choosing an international relocation service, you may want to have a list of relocation companies. These companies offer various services for expatriates moving to France, including international moving, freight forwarding, luggage shipping, and complete relocation services.

Pet immigration rules for France

Pets in Europe can use the European Pet Passports system, which is designed for domestic animals. The Pet Passport is a booklet that provides all of the essential information on your pet. It includes an identification number and proof of all relevant vaccinations. The passport remains valid for the whole life of your pet.

Unvaccinated pets (dogs and cats only) under three months old may enter the EU with additional restrictions. Certain aggressive breeds of dogs are prohibited from entry.

You can find more information about rules and regulations for pet shipping here:

3.  Basics for starting a new life in France

Job search

Some expats moving to France will be lucky enough to secure a job offer before stepping on French soil. However, relocating to France means getting straight out there on the job market for many others. If this interests you, you can start your job search before leaving home.

If you’re still improving your language skills, you’ll probably find more job opportunities in one of the big French cities. However, if your French is great, you’ll find many more doors open.

Either way, you should get a head start on your competition and ensure your resume is written in the local French style.

We collected helpful resources and tips for finding a job in France, so check it out.

Sort out your finances

When moving abroad, having a good idea of your financial situation throughout the process is essential. After all, even when relocating to keep costs down wherever possible, you’ll soon be surprised by how fast your money goes. 

So go ahead and look into our tips for banking in France.

Can a foreigner open a bank account in France?

Yes, it’s possible to open a bank account in France as a foreigner. But what kind of account you can open depends on whether you’re a resident or a non-resident.

If you’ve been living in France for more than 183 days on a valid visa and you pay taxes, then you can open the following bank accounts:

1. Compte Courant (current account) is a standard bank account for everyday transactions such as receiving a salary, paying utilities, shopping, etc.

2. Livret (general savings/deposit account) is a savings account for depositing funds with restricted withdrawals and higher interest rates.

There are two options: a Livret A account, in which you can benefit from tax-free savings but with heavy withdrawal restrictions, or a Livret B taxed deposit account with fewer withdrawal restrictions.

3. Compte a Terme (term account), a savings account where you deposit money for a fixed term. Banks offer great interest rates, depending on how much you deposit and for how long.

In France, having a French bank account is obligatory as soon as you receive a salary. Since proof of address is needed, booking your place before arriving in France is a clever decision.

4. LDDS account is a special savings account. The money you put into this account can be used by the bank to lend to people or companies who want to make their homes more energy-efficient.

You don’t need to have an LDDS account yourself to get a loan for making your house more energy-efficient. These loans are available to anyone looking to make such improvements, including homeowners, people who own apartments in a building together.

Banks supposed to offer these loans at good interest rates, making it cheaper for you to borrow money for these green upgrades. However, since there’s no fixed rate set by the government, the actual cost of the loan might vary from one bank to another.

Bank account

As a resident, you’ll have many banks to choose from. For instance, Société Générale is one of the most popular banks, with more than 29 million customers globally. Yet, it’s not precisely expat-friendly since it asks for many documents.

So, if you’re looking for the best banks in France for expats, we would advise opening an account at:

BNP Paribas has a discount on subscriptions for young people between the ages of 18 and 24.

Crédit Agricole, one of France’s biggest banks, requires only proof of identity and address.

HSBC France, because it’s an international bank, you can carry out the whole process in English.

Opening a bank account in France as a non-resident

If you haven’t lived in France for more than 183 days in a year and aren’t a tax resident, you can open a compte non-resident account (non-resident account). This is a simple current account for everyday usage.

With a non-resident bank account, you’ll have more limitations on cash withdrawals, payments, and transferring funds. Some banks might also ask you to always have the minimum deposit in your account and pay higher subscription fees.

Most traditional banks don’t open accounts for non-residents, and those who do will ask you to have money in your account and pay substantial subscription fees. So, the most convenient way for non-residents to open a French bank account is through online banks like N26 and Revolut. They also don’t require proof of income, address, minimum deposit, or subscription fees. Nickel is another great online bank that requires only €20 on the account annually.

International banks like HSBC and Deutsche Bank also have simple processes for non-residents. The minimum deposit you should make at HSBC is only €200 annually.

Finding home

Whatever your perfect French home looks like, you’ll likely need to find short-term accommodation when you first move to France. Not only is this typically the most accessible accommodation, but it will also give you plenty of time to get your bearings and decide where you and your family want to live in France. This would give you time to plan your next move and decide whether to rent or buy a property in France.

Whatever you decide on, our tips and tricks can help you take the first step in finding an adequate rental property.

Salary norms in France

Minimum Salary in France

  • As of March 2024, France’s gross minimum wage is €11.65 per hour.
  • For a 35-hour work week, the gross monthly minimum salary is €1,766.92, or €21,203 annually.
  • France has the 6th highest minimum wage among 21 European countries.
  • The minimum wage varies for minors and is subject to different conditions in specific industries.

Average Salary in France (2023)

  • The average net monthly salary is €2,340, or €39,300 annually.
  • In Paris, the average is higher at €2,570 per month, 9.8% above the national average.
  • Median net salary is €1,940 per month, indicating 50% of the population earns less than the average salary but more than the minimum.

Cost of Living and Comfortable Salaries

  • Depending on the French city you’ll live in, your cost of living will vary, and so will the salary you’ll need to live comfortably (going on trips, having a gym membership, going out a few times a week, dining in restaurants, etc. ).
  • Paris, Nice, and Lyon are cities with higher living costs. For example, the cost of living in Paris is high, and you’ll need around €3,400 per month to live comfortably.

Salary by Profession

  • Salaries differ significantly by field, with IT, legal, and finance professionals earning more.
  • Surgeons, IT directors, lawyers, and dentists are among the highest-paid professions (Surgeon: €160,177 yearly, IT director: €90,000 yearly, Lawyer: €92,000 yearly, Dentist: €117,000 yearly)

Factors Influencing Salaries

  • Career field
  • Gender
  • Location in France
  • Experience level
  • Nationality
  • Level of education

Generally, a good salary for a comfortable life in France is €3,200 for a single person or €5,600 for someone supporting a family of 3.

Despite a notable gender pay gap, experience and higher education generally lead to higher salaries.

Job title = Average Salary

This guide serves as a resource for expatriates to understand the financial implications of relocating and working in the country.

Job Title Average Salary in France
Accountant €3,800
Financial Analyst €5,500
Human Resources Manager €4,150
Business Analyst €4,520
Sales Manager €4,591
Project Manager €4,000
Creative Director €6,000
Graphic Designer €5,600
Flight Attendant €1,966
Architect €6,300
Real Estate Agent €3,400
Civil Engineer €4,600
Receptionist €1,693
Waiter/ Waitress €1,330
Dentist €6,575
Pharmacist €3,400
Attorney €5,258
Average salaries per position as reported by Glassdoor

But remember, this is just the average salary (or an indicator), and the actual pay you might get or deserve depends on various factors.

In-demand jobs

Currently, the most in-demand jobs in France are high-paying and challenging to fill locally. So, if you want to apply for a job in France, consider these professions:

  • IT professionals
  • Health professionals
  • Veterinarians
  • Engineering professionals
  • Finance professionals
  • Legal professional                                                

Generally, non-EU expats earn more than France’s average annual salary. This is because they need a work visa to work in France, and a work visa is granted only when the company can’t find a French employee to fill the position. So automatically, you’re in high demand, which translates to a higher salary.

Also, highly skilled or educated expats can apply for a highly skilled worker visa called passport talent. One requirement for this visa is receiving a minimum gross salary of € 53,836.50 per year, which is 1.5 times more than the average annual gross salary. So, to have this visa, you must earn a high salary.

Most professions pay more for people with higher education levels, even if the experience level stays the same. Here’s how much you can expect to earn based on your education level:

Education Level Higher Salary in %
Diploma or certificate + 17% more than a high school diploma
Bachelor’s Degree + 24% more than with certificate only
Master’s degree + 29% more than Bachelor’s Degree
Ph.D. + 23% more than the Master’s Degree
Earnings based on education level

Useful links:


4. Recap

Relocating to a brand-new country is as exciting as it gets, but it costs money. 

When you think you’ve dealt with one thing, another crops up. If you’re not careful, things like shipping, visas, and flights can set you back a severe amount of cash—and that’s before you’ve even reached your destination. A fundamental way to cut costs is to compare companies to get the best deal. 

Top Tips for Moving Overseas Cheaply

1. Choose sea freight over air freight

According to the World Bank, Ocean freight is typically 12-16 times cheaper than air freight.

Why is this? There’s massive overcapacity in the global sea freight industry, which means supply outweighs demand and keeps prices low.

Air freight is also a premium because it’s significantly faster than sea freight. While a container ship might take weeks to travel to China, a freight plane can arrive in no time.

2. Give yourself time

Once you know where and when you’re going, you can set a date to ship your belongings.

If you leave it too late, you’ll have two choices: flying your stuff for a crazy price or arriving several weeks ahead of all your cargo.

Keep time on your mind, and you won’t miss the boat. Contact shipping companies at least three to four months before your planned move date.

3. Compare shipping quotes

Multiple shipping companies operate on almost every route around the world, which means you have a choice. It’s important that you consider your options before choosing the first freight forwarder you find.

4. Prepare for overseas finance

If you’ve got savings in a bank, you’ll probably need to draw on them once you’re up and running in your new country. 

But this gets expensive because transferring money abroad comes with fees and unfavorable exchange rates.

You can find more information about online international money transfer services in our guide.

5. Buy flights at exactly the right moment

You’ve got to choose a moment: 

Buy tickets seven weeks in advance for short-haul flights.

Buy tickets 18 weeks in advance for long-haul flights.

So, if you can hold your nerve, it’s better to hang on a bit instead of just buying the tickets as soon as they’re released.

Did you know that most airlines also recommend Sundays as the best day of the week to book your plane tickets? 

The worst day? Wednesday. 

6. Get your pet vaccinated

Unfortunately, if you fail to sort out your pet’s paperwork and vaccinations, you might have to part ways with your pal, as it will be refused entry to your new home country. 

7. Decide between FCL and LCL

Once you start looking into sea freight, you’ll have two options: Full Container Load (FCL) or Less Than Container Load (LCL). 

With an FCL, you’ll pay a flat rate for the full use of a 20ft (or 40ft) container, while LCL involves sharing a container with others.

LCL is the more cost-effective option if you’re only shipping a small amount of cargo.

However, this stops once you reach around 15 cubic meters of cargo. After this point, you’re better off hiring a whole container, even if you only fill half of it. 

 Regarding cost per cubic meter, LCL is about two to three times more expensive than FCL. 

8. Avoid unnecessary customs duty

Make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t allowed into the country you’re moving to. Some countries can have restrictions on some pretty peculiar things, such as ballpoint pens (Nigeria), chewing gum (Singapore), and Kinder Eggs (the United States). 

Correct packing is another must. If your goods are a nightmare to look through during physical inspections, the procedure will take longer, and you’ll be charged additional fees. 

Additional resources



  • Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris 
  • A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle
  • La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life, by Elaine Sciolino
  • Easy French Phrase Book: Over 1500 Common Phrases For Everyday Use And Travel  by Lingo Mastery 
  • French Short Stories: Thirty French Short Stories for Beginners to Improve your French Vocabulary (French Stories for Beginners and Intermediates by Dylane Moreau 

Voyagez bien!


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