The number of Americans settling in France has tripled since pre-pandemic years, the latest immigration figures show.
Many cite a violent climate in the US and the election of Donald Trump as president as motivators as well as new technology making remote working easier, a good healthcare system, and France’s buoyant economy.
The rising dollar-to-euro exchange rate is also a probable factor. Ten years ago, one dollar was worth 72 euro cents – that rose to €1.04 a year ago.
Franco-American families settle in France not US
The number of first-time residency cards given to Americans now rivals those given to people from former French colonies in the Maghreb.
Last year 12,220 cards were issued to Americans – the fourth highest nationality after people from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, provisional Interior Ministry figures show.
Immigration lawyer Alexandre Gillioen, from Lyon, said: “I noticed a big increase after 2016 and the election of Trump. Most wanted to leave the US for reasons linked to this as well as for France’s healthcare system.
“Around 80% of the time people come here to work [a larger proportion of North Africans come for family reasons] but I also see many Franco-American families deciding to settle down here, rather than stay in the US.”
More first-time residency cards issued to Americans than Britons
Numbers of cards for Americans dropped to 2,929 in 2020 during the pandemic when travel was discouraged and prefectures often closed.
Figures from the early 2010s were around 3,000 to 4,000, rising to 4,141 in 2016, the year Trump was elected president, according to the national demographics body Ined.
Numbers reached 4,655 in 2018, then 4,160 in 2019, before doubling to 9,214 in 2021.
While the number of first-time residency cards issued hit a peak in 2018, not the 2016 Trump election year, Mr Gillioen said this reflected decisions to move following the election.
Also, residency cards are in many cases issued only after a first year living on a visa.
The 12,220 figure for first-time residency cards in 2022 is higher than the number of cards issued to Britons, who have needed them since Brexit.
‘Detrimental climate of US society plays a significant role’
Historically, US citizens are not among the top 10 nationalities holding cards in France.
These are generally African nationalities and Chinese. Total cards held in 2021 ranged from 611,000 Algerians to 66,000 Cameroonians.
New means of post-Covid working such as more homeworking, which allows some Americans to continue to undertake work in the US from France, are also cited as factors.
However the “detrimental climate” of US society plays a significant role, said Mr Gillioen, as well as the upheaval after Trump’s defeat in 2020 and the January 2021 attack on the Capitol.
American entrepreneurs are made welcome
Administrative law professor Serge Slama, of Université Grenoble Alpes, said that France has encouraged ‘chosen’ immigration for a decade – those with good qualifications, coming to undertake skilled jobs or create companies, which is the case for many Americans.
“If they are coming to set up a company or they are top executives we have immigration routes that are fairly easy, and lawyers who have specialised in helping them, which is quite a recent phenomenon,” he said.
“I am part of a jury for grants offered to study French as a foreign language and a lot of Americans ask for grants to come to France to study at Sciences Po and major universities.
“Although Sciences Po has raised its fees, the cost is around €5,000, rather than the $50,000 payable in the US.
“Then there is the quality of life and good image of France and of Paris, promoted by shows such as Emily in Paris. If you have a certain level of means, life in Paris can be enjoyable.
“We have a need for workers in these [high-tech or highly-qualified] sectors and if you look at the UK and French stock exchanges, France has progressed compared to the UK, partly down to Macron’s policies.
“Macron launched a campaign in 2017 to attract big foreign firms, called ‘Choose France’.
“So it is quite possible that for a certain kind of foreign person, with means, it is easier to come to France than it was 10 years ago.”
An Interior Ministry spokesman said the 33% rise from 2021 to 2022 was probably due to exiting the Covid period, with a surge in residency cards for students and workers.
‘French supermarkets do not sell guns’
Taira Norris LeClere, 38, said for her the switch from Florida to Limousin was for a “slower pace of life” for her family and to give their children access to Europe in their future lives together with the exposure to more languages.
A 35-year-old photographer from New York said: “The political landscape in France has its own issues but at least here no one can buy a gun at Franprix [a supermarket].
“I was leaving New York City in May 2022 to spend a summer in France when the Uvalde school shooting happened and Roe v. Wade was overturned.
“I decided to spend my time in France and wait it out while all the conservative dinosaurs who prevent the US from moving forward die out.”
She added: “I ended up moving to Paris as I’m a freelancer and Paris, as a big city, is more used to international residents.”
However, her dream is to move to Savoie. “I enjoy the fresh air and hiking and not having to worry about pickpockets on the subways.
“I speak French and appreciate the politeness of the French.”
‘Safe, quiet and clean’
A reader from the US midwest, who has bought a house in Normandy, said she plans to retire to France soon, as she has fond memories from when she taught English in France and translated restaurant menus.
She also wants to be close to a child who lives here.
“I plan to settle in an area I know well that is safe, quiet, clean and near the sea,” she said.
Britons forced to apply for residency cards due to Brexit
Some 11,074 cards were issued to Britons in 2022, similar to levels in 2018 when, in anticipation of Brexit, many applied for optional residency cards, which can be issued to EU citizens. Before this few Britons applied for such cards.
Figures hit 99,954 in 2021 as Britons applied en masse for obligatory Brexit Withdrawal Agreement cards, far surpassing any other nationality that year.
For more information on getting a visa or residence card in France, click here to purchase our at our 42-page guide