So you have just moved to France, dreaming of la vie à la française, croissants in the morning, strolling along the Seine for lunch, and delicious little apéros in the evening.
☞ READ MORE: Where to live with a family: Paris or the Suburbs?
But before you find that lovely Parisian pied-à-terre for your French family, you will need a bank account. Because how else are you going to pay your rent? Practicalities!
Renting a property in France
Renting a property in France is not for the faint-hearted. First step, getting that back account. You put on your game face, mentally rehearse your french, and head over to the nearest local bank. The agent turns to you and asks:
“Bonjour. Thank you for your passport, we require a Justificatif de Domicile (proof of residence) as well. Do you have one?”
“Bah, I just moved here” you reply, “I’m living in a hotel, I don’t have a fixed residence.”
“Well, no bank account for you Madame”, the bank agent replies. “Au Revoir.”
Welcome to the world of the Justificatif de Domicile. You cannot open a bank account if you do not have proof of residence, and you cannot rent an apartment if you do not a local bank account. The chicken and egg conundrum indeed.
Showing Proof of Residence
A Justificatif de Domicile is required regularly in France, even more often than your birth certificate. You will need it for your visa, to open a bank account, to renew your driver’s license, to get a telephone (cell or landline) enter your kids into school, etc. etc.
It is one of the most valuable documents in your arsenal of “French Documents”.
How to get a “Justificatif de Domicile”
So how do you get this famous document, the “Justificatif de Domicile”? If you have just moved there, there is only one way to get it: get a French person to vouch for you. A French resident or your employer can write a letter of “attestation d’hébergement” to vouch for you.
(If you can read French, you will notice that everybody is required to give their birthdate and place of birth in the above letter!)
After you have your first Justificatif de Domicile, you can then work on setting up a regular Justificatif that you can use in the months and years to come. Each justificatif is usually valid for 3 only months, so you will need a proper system to get one on an ongoing basis. The following types of bills can also work as a Justificatif:
- Electricity bill
- Gas bill
- Telephone landline bill
- Rental contract and monthly rental bill
The EDF Electricity bill is the most commonly used document. EDF got so tired of people asking for a letter, that they put one on their website that can be downloaded instantly. (Where there is technology, there is a way!). EDF also has an English-speaking phone number service, should you need further assistance.
Note that it is important to store your Justificatif safely, and not share it with strangers. A Justificatif can be stolen and used to forge your identity.
But once you do get it, remember to savor that piece of paper: it proves that you have officially become a French resident!