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moving overseas for a term or a year? (France or Spain)

(72 Posts)
Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 11:26:36

so it has long been a dream of mine to pack up and take the kids overseas to live for a while
It looks like we have the opportunity to do so and Im just looking for advice about practicalities

Choices would be Paris, elsewhere in France Barcelona or elsewhere in Spain

Im really looking for advice about practicalities,
I would want the kids to go to school, but I am worried that the schools finish really early in the summer in both countries so that summer term would be pointless.

I am also worried about the practical aspects, do I have to register for tax? or register with the authorities in some way? how do I organise paying bills (and not being liable for them when we move on?)


tb Sun 17-Feb-13 23:15:36

The freedom of movement between EU member states is only on the grounds that you make no claim on social security in your first 5 years there. If you do, legally you are considered an economic migrant, and you will be returned home, pdq. Sarkozy did this with Romanian gypsies who were begging and they were repatriated.

The cut off date for UK citizens entering France and being able to affiliate to the 'cheap' CMU system to get a Carte Vitale was September 2007 - brought in by Sarkozy due to frauds by, among others, Belgians and Irish living in the SW having the capital to buy a new luxury car each year, but claiming they had no income....someone ratted on them. This cheap system for someone not getting healthcare through their job costs 10% of income.

It covers 70% of medical care - for the rest you either take out top insurance, or pay as and when. Dd had 10 days in hospital in 2009 - it cost €8,000 included nursing care, 1 blood test, 2 appts with the psychologist. Her medecines she took in from home. Had we not spent €2,000 a year on a top up policy, we'd have had a bill of €1,600.

The alternative is a 100% private policy. They are illegal for French citizens, so there isn't a market, so the few that exist are very expensive.

The E111 only covers you for a 3-month stay, and is for emergency care only. The extra costs, even for an emergency, can amount to €50/day.

In addition, if you leave the UK for France, intending to be there more than 3 months, your E111 doesn't count.

You may have some limited access to the French system ie get a Carte Vitale if you have an NI contribution record in the UK, but you will still have the top-up policy to fund.

For most medical costs, you have to pay out up-front and then reclaim the amounts back. Hospital accounts depts, the local Caisse Primaire de Maladie, your insurance top-up company can all be very slow to provide the paperwork. I had my gall-bladder removed in mid-November - had €60 per appt for the surgeon, anaesthetist, lung specialist and cardiologist before the operation, a surgeon's appt after the operation, a €150 top up fee to the surgeon and €140-worth of operation compression stockings (that they wouldn't let me wear) to fund up-front.

Say in total €600 worth - and it took to mid-Jan to get it all back. Our income isn't high enough to pay tax....

There are sites that can give you more detail on the system in France - it's complicated, and can be really expensive if you don't have the right top-up policy.

Bonsoir Mon 18-Feb-13 09:13:21

If you wanted to spend some time in France, why don't you get a gîte for the whole summer in a nice holiday destination where there aren't many foreigners and send your DC to local windsurfing/sailing/swimming camps?

Greythorne Mon 18-Feb-13 09:19:49

I think you are being very naive, sadly. Even without the difficulties of getting healthcare coverage, a mutuelle to cover health costs not covered by the state, finding a school with space for your DC for one term etc., the education system in France is in many ways diametrically opposed to the UK system. The system here has its pros and cons, of course, but it is really only over the long term that DC benefit from the pros. I imagine that thrown into the deep end with poor language skills and absolutely no clue of how the system works here could be very damaging for a child.

I would not put my DC through it in a million years.

Umlauf Mon 18-Feb-13 09:20:36

I live in Northern Spain southwest and DH is a redhead, the climate is only a few degrees warmer than back home. The schools here are excellent (Basque Country) and there is a strong focus on social interaction.

You have access to free healthcare as long as one family member is working so paying social securit tax afaik and it's really good, I'm pregnant so trusting it completely ATM! With regards to the language it's not too difficult to learn by assimilation but may take longer than a term to get the full benefit, how about a year? Children pick it up much faster though.

We've been here since September with no Spanish beforehand and we get by conversationally now! I do think its a fantastic experience for children and am rooting for you!

Greythorne Mon 18-Feb-13 09:22:01

Also, the difference in the two systems is wht many, many expat families who know they will be in Frabce for just two or three years pay for private hors contrat schools which follow the British curriculum because it is just not worth the hassle of uprooting DC and dumping them into the French system for a "short" time, even when "short" time means two or three years.

The benefit they would experience in a term would be negligible and the downsides could be huge.

fraktion Mon 18-Feb-13 09:53:30

As an idea of how French healthcare works I moved and started working in Sept 08, Jan 09 I went to do the paperwork with my 3 months of payslips to get access to a temporary social security number which showed I was entitled to the 70% reimbursement (still paying up front). Jan 10 I got a permanent social security number so could get a mutuelle. Feb 11 - 2 months before giving birth to DS - they finally stopped making me pay up front. On Friday, 4 years after we started the rigmarole, I got the form to apply for a carte vitale.

Admittedly we moved 4 times, including to a DOM and back, but we've paid put possibly thousands in medical care and the majority of that non-emergency.

If you're not working they won't give you anything, and even then for the first 3 months the French system doesn't cover you unless you have paperwork from the UK system.

An extended holiday with lots of clubs in the local language sounds a much better plan.

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 17:45:16

Thanks again guys
Sorry I can't name check everyone I am in a coffee shop

Bonsoir I think I want more from it than just being on holiday (although not knocking the idea !

Um we would not be working I figUre jobs in Spain are hard to come by

Any idea what making no claim On social security means?

Clearly we don't have the same rules in the UK but does it include school emergency healthcare?
What about child benefits and tax credits? Is there such a thing?

Thanks thinking about it is making me really keen!!

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 18:05:29

We do indeed theoretically have the same rules in the UK, in practice because the UK has no internal controls and a benefits system wide open to abuse, it makes it look as those anyone can come to the UK and sponge off the state because in reality it happens and happens sometimes on a huge scale. Millions lost every year to made-up children to claim UK child benefit and tax credits.

I don't think in France you get access to child benefit without contributing to social security.

Bonsoir Mon 18-Feb-13 18:06:05

In France you won't get anything out of the social security system if you have never paid anything into it. Children do, however, have the right (and the obligation) to attend school if they are resident in France.

Bonsoir Mon 18-Feb-13 18:07:07

Basically, if you want more from it than being on holiday, you will need to pay up!

peterpie Mon 18-Feb-13 18:10:40

Hello Southwest

I have lived in Madrid for 6 years. What you have to bear in mind about Spain is that there are many regional differences so a lot depends on where you go. In Barcelona for example all schools teach in Catalan so you have two languages to consider, the same goes with schools in Valencia and the Basque country.

Not all schools finish at 2pm, again depending on where you go you may find schools have a split day whereby they have lessons 9-1pm a 2 hour lunch break and then lessons again from 3 until 4.30 or even 5pm.

As somebody mentioned up thread school applications are made in April to start in September and the school year is a calendar one Jan thru to Dec so depending when your DC were born they could be up to a full year behind or infront iyswim. DS1 is December born and so the youngest in his class. I only have experience of the 1st year Primary so far, but it´s true that I find it to be quite an old-fashioned system compared to the UK. Lots of copying and dictation and homework already and DS is only 6. This could be a disadvantage for somebody who is new to Spanish.

If you apply for a school place outside the official period you are likely to be offered the school that has places whether it´s one of your choices or not, it may not even be near to your house. Just to be clear, I am talking about Spanish state schools, I can´t talk for the private ones, I know they have a different criteria.

As you know already, Summers are very hot and dry (up to 40 in Central Spain and the South) and even in the North of Spain Summers get far hotter than what we are used to in the UK, much more than just a few degrees hmm If you don´t like the heat it can be unbearable and it can be hard to find things to do with small children. I speak from bitter experience.

There are plenty of Summer camps even for small children, in fact in my experience most parents send their children to these sorts of activities in the Summer from a very young age. I don´t have any personal experience though.

Good Luck. Honestly...I think it can be very hard to break into Spain, I have struggled and I live in a big city. In my experience Spanish people tend to stick with the friendships they have had for years,and rely on their family more, most people work very long hours and the parks are usually deserted during the day. As already mentioned, times in Spain are tough at the moment and the mood is fairly low, I am not here out of choice.

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 18:11:53

Can I just be clear I'm not looking to either place to support me financially , I would like to be sure I'm not going to be billed thousands if one of the dcs breaks a leg

Do we really have such controls in the uk? I am not aware of ever being asked to prove residency or entitlement when I enrolled anyone at school or nursery. I don't remember anything on a child benefit form or when going to A and E or any suggestion that EU residents are not entitled to healthcare

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 18:13:20

Here's how you defraud the UK system. Set up fake company, with employees from an EU country where it's hard to make background checks, eg Lithuania. Use real identities of Lithuanians, open bank accounts using these real identities (paying the person to travel to the UK, if they don't actually live here to start this up). The fake company gives a fake contract to the real Lithuanian, working the minimum number of hours and minimum wage in order to qualify to working tax credits. Start a claim for working tax / child tax credits and child benefit (children of EU nationals are not obliged to live in the UK, only in the EU and exist, in reality their identities and existence cannot usually be checked). Lithuanian person starts getting working tax credits / child tax credits and child benefit, all paid into the UK bank account. A direct debit is set up to withdraw all these benefits and pay them to the person running the scheme.

It's been done and is probably still happening.

Great apologies to Lithuanians reading this, first nationality that came into my head.

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 18:14:27

Thanks Peter 6 years is a long time to spend somewhere you don't want to be sad

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 18:17:29

Tbh natation from what I've seen in my limited experience you can just come here for a holiday stay with family or friends are you're away

peterpie Mon 18-Feb-13 18:18:39

It sure is South, I try not to think about it for the most part sad

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 18:21:14

The reason why I have referred back to the UK in case you are all overseas is that there is a lot in the papers about whether people will come here from various places when the rules change later this year or next.

Accompanied by the usual 'don't you dare
Try and bring inI rules from the EU' 'we have freedom of movement' etc etc

Sorry my coffee shop has closed need to go back to work
Thanks again

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 18:22:16

Sorry random punctuation on escalator and autocorrect is going crazy

Thanks all

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 18:34:02

The UK papers are referring to Bulgarian and Romanians who get full EU freedom of movement status soon. Honestly, so many have already come and set up genuinely or using fake self-employed status in the UK that I don't think that many more will come. The vast majority of those who will come will not be coming for benefit fraud. As explained already, they don't even need to be present in the UK to defraud our benefits system for the type of fraud described. Up till now Bulgarians and Romanians have had only limited EU freedom of movement rights throughout the EU25. The biggest "mistake" if you could call it that was to give the EU10 freedom of movement from 2004 when most of the EU countries restricted their full rights, meaning the UK is now rather overpopulated.

The UK's main problem is the fact that it has no internal controls, leaving our benefits system open to abuse like no other EU countries and also the fact that the NHS is free at source, meaning rarely do they actually bill those who are not entitled to use it for free.

You break your leg where I live in the EU and everyone gets billed and then has to apply for refunds through their health insurer. If you haven't a health insurance, then you cannot claim a refund. Try and claim child benefit where I live and you need to prove you're working or have paid social security in the previous 12 months and now unemployed.

fraktion Mon 18-Feb-13 19:31:57

Ditto France - break your leg, pay the bill if you don't have a carte vitale. Even if you're covered and have a mutuelle you still have to settle the bill before you leave if you don't have the card.

As for residency in the UK the checks are pitiful. Emergency treatment in the UK is free, over that and they'll ask if you're resident but if you lie and say you are and have some kind of proof of address no matter how flimsy it's fine. If you have a non-foreign sounding name they don't even ask. They enquire more closely if you don't speak the language.

Booboostoo Mon 18-Feb-13 21:50:02

I only know about France and the short answer is that it is very complicated and it seems an odd thing to do to get mixed up in it all for questionable benefits.

If you live for more than 6 months a year in France you will be considered a resident here for tax purposes. Any income you have in France will be taxed accordingly but foreign income (as long as it's not remitted to France) is not taxed by France for the first 5 years (after which double taxation agreements apply between France and some countries).

You will only get public health care coverage (at around 70% for most things)
- if you are salaried by a French company or
- if you are self-employed and pay French social contributions, or
- your or your partner are salaried by a UK company

Otherwise you have to take out full private health cover which is available but costs about 6k euros per person per year for basic coverage.

The only other option is for the UK to pay for your healthcare. To even consider your eligibility for this you need to have NI contributions for the tax year before the one you go to France. Provided you do, they look at your NI contributions for the past 3 years and then give you a maximum of 2.5 years coverage.

The French require you to show health coverage of one form or another when you become resident.

You are supposed to notify the mairie when you become resident.

You need ID and the equivalent of NI number when you try to do pretty much anything having to do with children, e.g. enroll them with a childminder, creche or school, for public and semi-public institutions. Truly private schools are rare especially outside of the large cities.

School hours are very different from the UK with most children opting to return home for lunch between 12 and 2 and most schools (at least primaries) closed on a Wednesday, so extra childcare is a consideration for many families.

Simple things can take ages, e.g. if you want a mobile, even a pay as you go, you need ID, proof of address and a special letter from your (French) bank proving you have an account with them.

frenchfancy Tue 19-Feb-13 07:16:11

I'm struggling to understand why anyone would want to put their children through this. The first year in a new country is hard and lonely but you get through it knowing it is going to get better. One or 2 terms gives you all the hard work with none of the reward. French teachers have got enough on their plate without having to deal with children who don't speak the language just because the parents think it will be fun. If ypu have to move for work then fine, but otherwise you are just being selfish.

I'm sorry to be blunt but that is how I would feel if you turned up in our village. We have lovely teachers who work hard, they don't need the extra workload.

Bonsoir Tue 19-Feb-13 08:02:07

At my DD's school in Paris there are, every year, a few families that arrive and enroll on a similar basis to the one that the OP is proposing. But DD's school has a special "immersion" programme for such DC, so they are not in mainstream classes but in smaller classes where they do intensive French with other such children, and pay a different fee. The parents are all financially independent sorts, looking for a fun way to spend a year and enrich their DCs' lives. They don't always find it as fun as all that and their DCs often fall behind academically.

frenchfancy Tue 19-Feb-13 08:47:14

And that is in Paris where they can manage it. Small village schools simply don't have those resources.

Bonsoir Tue 19-Feb-13 09:30:38

No, and it would be perfectly well within the rights of village families to be very unwelcoming to a foreign family who wanted to use the local school for an extended holiday.

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