Whether you’re planning on just visiting for a vacation or moving to France, it’s important to know what you can and can’t bring into the country, as well as what paperwork you’ll need. This section introduces you the French customs, residency permit, and visa processes.
For nationals of an EU member state, the European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland, relocating to France is fairly straightforward: you won't need a visa, but will need to register with the local préfecture once you arrive. Expats from these areas also enjoy generous customs allowances for tobacco, alcohol, and animal products, and will be able to import a shipment of household goods without paying duty. If you're not from one of the above countries, it'll take a bit more paperwork and persistence to call France home.
If you don’t fall into one of the above groups and are visiting France for less than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for and have received a short-stay Schengen visa before entering France. If you’re planning to settle in France, you’ll need to apply for a carte de séjour, and you may have undergo a language test and civic training. Expats who aren’t from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland will need to apply for the carte de séjour (CDS). There are two types: temporaire and compétences et talents which last for different lengths of time but are both renewable. For those who’ve renewed their CDS for three consecutive years, who are retiring in France, are spouses of French citizens, or are parents of a French-born child, there is also a carte de resident.
To import your goods without paying customs duty, you’ll need to provide a detailed inventory with valuations and include receipts showing that VAT has been paid on any recent purchases. If you have wedding gifts or inherited items, you’ll need to provide additional documentation and ship them within a specific time period of the wedding or death. Travelers are subject to restrictions on the amount of tobacco, alcohol, and animal products they can bring in to France. What you’re allowed to bring in varies depending on the item itself and where you’re from. Counterfeit items are expressly prohibited.