February 25, 2024

How to move and permanently settle in the French Alps

Unlocking the French Alps: A Comprehensive Guide to Settling in Your Dream Ski Property in the French Alps:
Are you captivated by the allure of the French slopes, envisioning a permanent retreat in the heart of world-renowned ski resorts? While the dream of owning a ski chalet in France is within reach for overseas buyers, non-EU citizens encounter limitations on their stay duration without a visa. This guide navigates the complexities of settling permanently in your French alpine haven, providing insights into visa requirements, ownership costs, financial considerations, legal processes, and healthcare access.

The French Skiing Dream: A Snapshot:
For avid skiers, the prospect of owning a property in France is irresistible. With its high-quality resorts boasting long, snow-sure seasons and expansive terrains, France is home to Les 3 Vallées, the world’s largest interconnected ski area. This vast expanse encompasses iconic resorts like Courchevel, Val Thorens, and Méribel, offering a staggering 600km of pistes. Additionally, for UK residents, the proximity of a ski chalet in France is just a short journey away, with Sainte-Foy ski resort a mere twelve-minute drive from Bourg-Saint-Maurice train station.

Navigating the Ownership Landscape: New Builds vs. Re-sales:
The French ski property market classifies options into new builds and re-sales. New build properties are often offered as leaseback properties, where the buyer leases the property back to the developer for a defined period. On the other hand, re-sale ski apartments involve transactions with private owners or ski resort estate agents, granting the buyer freehold ownership.

Exploring the Majestic French Alps and Premier Ski Resorts:
The French Alps, an iconic mountain range spanning south-eastern France, is a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, charming alpine villages, and world-class ski resorts, the French Alps offer an unparalleled winter wonderland experience.

Geographical Marvels:
Stretching across eight departments, the French Alps boast majestic peaks, including the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. The region’s diverse topography provides a playground for skiers, snowboarders, and mountaineers, with pristine slopes, deep valleys, and stunning glaciers.

Premier Ski Resorts:
Nestled within this alpine paradise are some of the world’s most celebrated ski resorts, each offering a unique blend of charm, luxury, and exceptional winter sports facilities.

Les 3 Vallées:
Home to the largest interconnected ski area globally, Les 3 Vallées encompasses renowned resorts like Courchevel, Val Thorens, and Méribel. With 600 kilometres of interconnected slopes, it caters to skiers of all levels, from beginners to seasoned experts.

Set against the backdrop of Mont Blanc, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is a legendary resort attracting adrenaline seekers and alpinists. It hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and offers challenging terrains, stunning vistas, and a vibrant après-ski scene.

Espace Killy (Val d’Isère and Tignes):
Combining Val d’Isère and Tignes, Espace Killy offers extensive skiing terrain, high-altitude slopes, and a lively atmosphere. It’s a favourite among avid skiers and hosts major international events.

Portes du Soleil:
Straddling the French-Swiss border, Portes du Soleil is one of the largest ski areas globally. With interconnected resorts like Avoriaz and Morzine, it provides diverse skiing experiences and picturesque mountain views.

Year-Round Appeal:
Beyond winter, the French Alps allure visitors with year-round outdoor activities. Hiking, mountain biking, and paragliding become popular pursuits amid the stunning summertime landscapes.

In essence, the French Alps stand as a testament to nature’s grandeur, offering not just skiing adventures but a holistic alpine experience. Whether seeking adrenaline-pumping descents or serene mountain retreats, the French Alps and its premier ski resorts beckon with a promise of unforgettable moments amid snow-capped peaks.

The 90-Day Rule: A Hurdle for Non-EU Citizens:
Non-EU citizens, including post-Brexit Britons, face the 90-day rule, restricting their stay in a French ski property to 90 days out of every 180, within the Schengen Area. Spouses or civil partners of EU nationals are exempt from this rule. However, those without such ties must obtain a visa for extended stays. Recent calls from France and Spain to relax the 90-day rule offer a glimpse of potential changes for British buyers in the future.

Staying Beyond 90 Days: Long-term Visa Options:
For those aspiring to make France their permanent alpine abode, long-term visa options are essential. The VLS-TS allows third-country nationals to stay for over three months, extendable to twelve months, and permits visa-free travel within the Schengen Area. This flexibility enables trips to neighbouring countries without affecting the time spent in your French ski chalet. Financial requirements accompany the long-term visa, with a minimum monthly income stipulated, increasing with dependents.

Ownership Costs and Taxes: Navigating Financial Waters:
French property ownership entails local taxes, including Taxe Fonciere and Taxe d’habitation. Rental income is subject to French income tax, while Capital Gains Tax applies to secondary residences. Additional taxes like IFI and succession tax vary based on property value and beneficiary relation. Legal fees and purchase costs, contingent on property type, should be factored into financial planning.

Financial Considerations: Mortgage Limits and Currency Management:
French lenders limit mortgage repayments to less than 30% of the buyer’s monthly income, with potential lending up to 80% of the purchase price. Currency issues in international transactions, including the purchase and ongoing mortgage payments, necessitate consideration. Utilizing a currency broker for favourable exchange rates is advisable.

Buying Process and Legal Considerations: Navigating the Terrain:
The involvement of a notary is mandatory in the sale and purchase of property in France. The buyer can choose their notary, responsible for fees. Legal processes involve the “Compromis de Vente” or “Contrat de Reservation” for off-plan properties, with a deposit paid upon signing. The final contract, “Acte Authentique,” completes the sale in the presence of the notary.

Minimum Income Requirement and Permanent Residence: Building a Life in France:
Long-term visas necessitate meeting financial requirements, with minimum income levels determined by individual circumstances. Demonstrating a permanent place of residence, like a spacious ski chalet, is crucial. While French language skills aren’t mandatory initially, citizenship progression requires a language test. Consulting a bilingual lawyer for paperwork, be it property purchase or visa application, is advisable.

Obtaining Healthcare in France: A Pillar of Well-being:
France’s high-quality healthcare, recognized by the World Health Organization, demands comprehensive health insurance when applying for a long-term visa. Access to France’s universal healthcare system, Protection Universelle Maladie ‘PUMa,’ is possible after three months in the country. Pre-existing health insurance is crucial during the interim, as obtaining the healthcare card, ‘carte vitale,’ may take up to six months.

Additional Considerations: Holistic Planning for Alpine Living:
Exploring financing options, resort infrastructure investments, and potential remortgaging of a UK property for the purchase are vital considerations. As you embark on the journey to settle in your dream ski chalet in France, thorough research, financial planning, and legal counsel will ensure a smooth transition to alpine living.

In conclusion, while the 90-day rule presents challenges, the allure of permanent residency in a French ski chalet is achievable with careful planning and adherence to visa regulations. With the French Alps as your backdrop, the dream of an enduring alpine adventure awaits those willing to navigate the intricacies of relocation and embrace the unparalleled beauty of this skiing haven.

Dreaming of a ski chalet in the French Alps? This guide from Eclipseski.co.uk explores the journey to permanent residency, addressing visa restrictions, ownership costs, legal considerations, and healthcare access. Non-EU citizens, including post-Brexit Britons, face a 90-day rule for stays in French ski properties. Spouses of EU nationals are exempt, but others require a visa for longer stays. The VLS-TS offers a solution, allowing third-country nationals to stay for over three months, extendable to twelve, with visa-free travel in the Schengen Area. Financial requirements accompany this visa, including a minimum monthly income. Property ownership entails taxes, legal processes involving notaries, and careful financial planning for mortgages and currency transactions. Additionally, comprehensive health insurance is crucial when applying for a long-term visa. Access to France’s universal healthcare system comes after three months. The guide emphasizes thorough research and planning for a smooth transition to alpine living.

Reference: Wikipedia – Wikipedia French Alps