The French government has a website to help its citizens living abroad plan their return to the country. From employment formalities to taxation, health insurance and schools, the tool helps people prepare the move by determining what needs to be done and providing the links to the relevant offices.
In administrative terms, the time it takes to settle in France is estimated to be between 6 months and a year. But returning French often underestimate the task and are not aware of all the necessary steps that need to be taken. Adding to the difficulty, information is scattered through the websites of different administrations.
To ease the burden, in February 2016 the government launched a dedicated website. This includes an online simulator that establishes a path of things to do based on the individual profile of the user (occupation, age, family status etc). Procedures for family members and foreign partners are covered too. The simulator can also be used by people who never lived in France but plan to move there, and may turn particularly helpful for those planning to make the move in consideration of Brexit.
The website was part of a package of measures to make citizens’ life easier when dealing with public offices. Some 50.000 people used the simulator so far, according to data published by La Tribune.
The initiative followed a report by Hélène Conway-Mouret, former minister for French expatriates and current representative of citizens abroad at the French senate. After more than 7,000 people were interviewed, she found that the return could easily turn into “a nightmare” because of complex procedures in areas such as taxation, social security and housing.
The study revealed that the task was getting more difficult after more than 6 years spent abroad and this added to the difficulties of re-adapting culturally. Hélène Conway-Mouret thought the administration was in practice encouraging people to stay away, rather than welcoming competences and experience back to the country. She therefore put forward 49 recommendations to facilitate returns. Among them, there was the creation of a one-stop shop with all the necessary information.
In 2015 there were approximately 2.5 million French living in other countries, and about 70,000 were planning to go back to France. The interviews revealed that 47% of returns were people who had lived abroad for more than 6 years, while 8% never lived in France before. The vast majority (59%) were planning to go back for professional reasons and 21% due to family situations.
Their greatest concerns were obtaining again health insurance (57%), finding a job and a house (54% each), and updating the fiscal and pension files with the relevant authorities (46% and 43% respectively). The problems they most often encountered were associated with getting information on what to do, going through rigid procedures not adapted to specific situations, struggling to get answers and facing requests of old or inexistent documents.
The report also showed almost a quarter of French citizens have resided abroad and one out of five foresees an expatriation of less than 5 years some time in the future.
Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.
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