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Money Transfers for Expats in France

Submitted: November 2013

France does not impose any restrictions on inbound and outbound money transfers. Freedom of capital is guaranteed by EU law.

In theory, transferring money to France should be straightforward. In practice, you should plan for this in advance. Do also check if your financial intermediary is reliable enough, be it in terms of service quality or value for money.

Money transfers within the Eurozone should be as easy as A.B.C., perhaps even fee-free.

International bank transfers

The easiest way is transfer money to France is to have a French bank account (compte bancaire) opened, and then to proceed with an international bank transfer.

French banks are not known to impose any restrictions on outward money transfers, but anti money laundering security checks may apply.

Can you open a French bank account?

Yes, you can.

Many French banks may be happy to open a bank account to non-residents.  It is advisable to enquire beforehand. However, hurdles kick in when it comes to submitting the appropriate documentation. Typically, French banks require:

  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of income or student ID card
  • Bank statements

You should get these documents in order prior to entering France.

Alternatively, you can withdraw money from a cash dispenser in France and use the proceeds to open a bank account once you have an address in France.

Cheques

You may also consider requesting your bank to issue a cheque, which can then be cleared in an overseas bank account (from France to your home country, or from your home country to France). This process is quite lengthy though, and it may be expensive. Don’t forget that you might need to issue cheques before you can open a French bank account (e.g. to find accommodation).

Fees

Most French bank accounts are essentially free. Euro bank transfers within the EEA or Switzerland (SEPA transfers) are generally free. However, you are likely to be charged for any other international bank transfers (inbound/outbound) or for banker’s drafts. You might wish to check the applicable charges at your bank.

Alternatively, you can use the services of a money transfer company. To save money, you can also use a price comparison website specialised in money transfers. Typically, your charges are largely passed on to the applicable foreign exchange rate. See Foreign Exchange for Expats in France.

The fees charged by a company specialised in money transfers are without prejudice to the fees that your bank may charge on transfers to the money transfer company.

Cash control rules

You are free to carry as much cash as you like when you cross the French border. Nevertheless, you must make a declaration to the French customs authority (Douane) if the amount exceeds €10,000.

Cash control rules cover hard currency, cheques, coupons, promissory notes, securities or other negotiable instruments, but not international wire transfers.

Foreign asset tax compliance

It’s perfectly fine if you transfer or hold money abroad, for so long as you duly reported your foreign assets to the French Government.

Tax residence in France comes along with extensive foreign asset reporting requirements, and hefty fines for those who fail to meet their reporting obligations. Residency for tax purposes is defined by article 4-B of the French tax code, and it’s very easy to be treated as a resident by French domestic law.

You must report:

  • Overseas bank accounts, including Paypal accounts
  • Overseas life insurance policies, and
  • Any trust which you are constituent or beneficiary of (tell your trustee to report itself to the French tax authority)

If in any doubt, feel free to seek advice.

 

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