12 February 2024

MOVING TO FRANCE in the beginning.....

We first decided to move to France in 2014, seeing it as maybe a ten year adventure.  We already had a small holiday home in Touraine so we downsized in the UK so that we could upsize in France and spend more time there.  Life and its ups and downs got in the way and instead here we are beginning the process just at the time (and the age) when we thought we would be thinking about moving back to the UK!

It’s a funny old world and it’s probably for the best that we can’t see what’s around the corner.  However I thought it time I posted about how we're getting on with the process.  Just in case anyone is interested.

The agent's photo of our house as it was in 2014.

This is not meant to be a guide for others or a handbook on how to do it. 


Brexit really threw the cat among the pigeons for British people who owned a holiday home in France.  We were previously entitled to spend up to six months a year in France in any way we liked but leaving the EU changed all that.  The Schengen 90/180 rule basically meant that although we could still spend up to 180 days in France we had to exchange three summer months for three winter ones.  The only way around this was to get the right sort of visa.

In 2022 we got a temporary long stay visa (VLST) from the French Embassy.  This gives the holder the right to stay in France for six months continuously and overrides the Schengen 90/180 rule.  Once the visa has expired any unused days out of the 180 can then be taken under the Schengen rules until all are used up - bearing in mind that you have to actually leave France on or before the date that the visa expires before the Schengen period can start!

Getting that visa was an expensive and time consuming palaver.  The instructions on the French government website are quite clear but it involves compiling a large number of documents and personal information, and getting an appointment with the agency that handles applications (TLS) to hand them over.

This worked well for us that year but we had made our minds up that we wanted to be able to divide our time between the UK and France in such a way that we could spend more time in France and come and go without constantly having to make calculations about how many days we had left.  By becoming French residents we can spend as much time as we like in France and up to six months in the UK.  There are no Schengen-like restrictions on how we spend our time in the UK so no complicated calculations needed.

Getting that VLST was a worthwhile exercise in that the next step, getting the right visa to enable us to move to France, was familiar and part done.  

Next time...........getting the right visa!


  1. In 1972, when we returned from our six years in the USA, we spent most of our major holidays in France. Touring the main wine-growing areas, taking pot luck about finding a logis for the night – much more difficult then since this was the pre-mobile phone era. Hopping off at phone boxes and struggling with the language. In a sense, my employer connived with us in this since I was allowed two mornings off a week to learn French; for this was the early love-Europe period. In the winter I ski-ed, mainly in French-speaking resorts.

    An opportunity arose to buy a very elderly, very rackety terrace house in Loire Atlantique for £10,000. It amused me that my US employer had granted me two weeks holiday a year whereas my UK employer (a very large publishing company) granted me five weeks. We then lived in Kingston-upon-Thames which meant that – post work - we could drive down to Portsmouth on Thursday evening, sleep a few hours in a Brittany Ferries cabin, awaken at 06.00 in Caen to the sound of Mozart’s flute and harp concerto and be in Drefféac in time for lunch. Return to the UK much more quickly by the hovercraft ferry from Cherbourg on Sunday afternoon.

    The nine years that followed were idyllic for francophilia. All the friendships with the artisans that helped keep the house habitable. Discussing connection to the main drainage with the maire (no more fosse septique); showing off my French with Brit visitors who stayed the night.

    Retirement beckoned and we looked forward to longer periods in France. It worked for a year or two but then we realised we’d grown older and the primitive conditions in Drefféac weren’t so much fun for our aged bones. These reactions were compounded by the fact that in the UK we’d done the rewarding but irreversible move: selling a three-bed 1930s semi in K-u-T and moving to a four-bed detached house (with garage) in Hereford.

    France is still important culturally and emotionally but now we rent villas in the Languedoc and take the whole family with us. Slipping down to the tabac each morning to buy L’Equipe.

    1. That's a lovely story.
      Without a doubt the romance of owning and looking after a rickety old French house loses its shine as we get older. We have gradually improved ours so that life is more comfortable for our age but even so, we can see that living here requires a degree of energy and enthusiasm that will eventually defeat us. Like you, I'm sure we will continue to find a way to carry on enjoying life here. Renting or maybe moving to a smaller holiday home again might be the way to go. A lot depends on how our health holds out.