Last Updated on by Lohanna Reis
Thinking about changing your life and living in France? In search of how exactly you can get good health coverage in your new country? Then read on below for all you need to know about this important topic!
There are lots of things you need to do to prepare for your move to a new country – have a place to live, find jobs, figure out how all the paperwork works, buy your plane ticket, try learning a new language…
But one detail that is sometimes left behind is guaranteeing that you have health insurance. Because although France has a very high-quality public health infrastructure that offers many services and is invested heavily in by the government, as an expat you’ll be required by law to have health insurance of your own (and that’s exactly what the list of the international health insurance plans and companies below can help you with).
But beyond talking about your options for international health insurance for your move to France, we’ll first talk a bit about the structure of the French health system, what the difference is between travel insurance and insurance for expats, what coverage for these plans looks like, and more.
(And don’t forget to read until the end of the article to learn more about the different types of visas you can apply for to begin living, working, and studying in France!)
How does the French healthcare system work?
No matter what country you’re moving to, it’s important that you know exactly how the medical system works. Especially in a place like France, which is considered to have one of the best and most accessible systems in the world.
With nearly 10% of the country’s GDP being invested into healthcare, France has high-quality universal care that is almost 80% financed by the state through its national health insurance program.
If you live in France, the government offers access to all the services that you may need, including doctor and hospital visits and free/cheap medications, even for immigrants. However, it’s not completely free.
As a worker in France, part of your salary will be discounted for Sécurité Sociale (or just the “Sécu,” as the French often call it), the national health insurance system. The goal of the “Sécu” is to promote long-term well-being and support its citizens and their families during accidents and medical emergencies.
So, every worker in the country joins the Sécurité Sociale system and has to present a Carte Vitale, or a personal medical assistance card, each time they request health services. The card is chipped and serves as proof of your insurance as well as a database with all your health information.
Altogether, the French health system is part private and part public. The public part covers up to 80% of all care, and the remaining 20% can be reimbursed by any private coverage you may have.
Why do I need health insurance as an expat in France?
Although France has excellent public coverage, immigrants are still required to have their own private insurance, at least until they succeed in getting French citizenship.
So, it’s important that you protect yourself with coverage like one of the insurance policies I talk about in the list below 🙂
But beyond being a legal requirement, an international health plan can also help make your transition to a new country much less stressful. Especially when you’re in a new and different country from your own with laws, social structures, and a language that you may not know.
Because of this, having coverage from an international health insurance plan makes sure you’re protected in any unexpected situation or emergency. Plus, there are some other benefits that you’ll get with your international plan (as I will discuss in the next section).
As an immigrant in France, should I get an international health plan like the ones on the list below? Or should I get a national French health insurance plan?
When it comes down to it, the choice is yours. It’ll depend on your specific personal medical needs, the specific types of coverage you’re looking for, the duration of your stay in France, and the available options for national plans.
Regardless, whether you choose an international health insurance policy (like those on the list below) or a public plan, you’ll have coverage that meets your needs in France. But if you choose to go with an international plan, make sure to check with the French embassy to see what their minimum coverage requirement is.
When I lived in France myself, I personally chose to get an international health plan…so I can’t speak too much on the options for public plans. But I can say that any of the companies listed below can help meet your needs.
With this in mind, here are some of the reasons that you might want to get an international health insurance plan in place of French public coverage:
- When it comes to your budget, international health insurance may have lower monthly costs
- International health insurance may be an easier choice if you only need coverage for a short stay in the country (not to mention it’s also a requirement for travelers who will be spending on a short period of time in the country and thus won’t qualify for a public plan anyway)
- International health insurance plans are more flexible (and this is important if you’re not yet sure how long you’ll stay in France as you’ll have the ability to easily renew, extend, or cancel your policy)
- International health insurance offers you coverage in other countries, not just in France (this is why these health insurance plans are called “international”)
Who do these international health insurance policies give coverage to?
The health insurance companies that I’ll list below are for the following citizens that live in France as expats, immigrants, workers, or even students:
- Citizens of the European Union (Portuguese, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, Belgian, Swedish, etc.)
- British (English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish)
- Kiwis (New Zealanders)
- And for citizens of almost any other country
Beyond expats/immigrants that live in France, these companies also work for residents that live in:
- The United States
- Europe (the European Union and the United Kingdom)
- And for expats that live in just about any other country in the world
In general, since these health plans and companies are international, they can be used by practically anyone in practically any other country in the world since they have worldwide coverage!
Why can’t I just use travel insurance to cover me when I move to France? What’s the difference between travel insurance and expat insurance, anyway?
Travel insurance is important for any trip. Not just because it will cover you in case of unexpected emergencies and medical problems, but for travel issues like lost baggage or flight cancellations as well.
But it’s important to know that travel insurance is not ideal to meet the needs of expats. Although it is possible to get a travel insurance policy that covers you long-term, these policies are made just for travelers with plans for temporary stays in a country.
The coverage given to you by travel insurance is not meant for someone with a long stay in a single country.
So, it’s very important that you choose an insurance plan that is specifically made for expats. And that’s what I’ll help you with through the list below.
What are the 7 best insurance policies for expats and immigrants in France?
Finding a health plan can be stressful. So if you’re looking for help making your decision a little easier, take a look at the following table with a comparison of the companies that I’ll describe in more detail below.
This way, you can quickly see the advantages and disadvantages of each and choose the one that’s best for you!
After the table, I’ll share some more details about each of the companies, the types of plans they have, their benefits, and much more!
No matter what, the biggest tip that I can give is to get a quick quote online with each of the companies that I suggest here. It may take some time to do this, but at the end of the day, it can save you quite a lot of money!
Worldwide Medical Insurance / Comparison Chart*
Part of the table courtesy of Tokio Marine HCC
Note: This article and table were created with information that was accurate at the time of its publishing. This information is subject to changes and updates.
In my opinion, the best companies for international health insurance for expats are:
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
First up, we have Cigna. Cigna is an insurance company founded in the United States that also has a large presence throughout Europe. And it’s a great choice to consider for international health insurance.
With more than 6 decades of experience in the market, Cigna has worldwide recognition for its insurance plans and has more than 170 million clients around the world. Even my partner, Nikki, got a plan with Cigna herself so she was able to qualify for her Swedish resident card.
Cigna has a large variety of plans for you to choose from, including plans made specifically for immigrants (and thus will work great if you plan to live or work in France).
They have both individual and family plans. One benefit of Cigna’s plans is that you can add benefits based on the specific type of medical care that you need to be covered.
You have the option to choose from their Silver, Platinum, or Gold plans, all of which provide coverage in more than 200 countries and territories around the world.
If you’re looking for a cheaper insurance plan to use in France, Cigna’s Close Care plan is a great option. This particular plan is the cheapest that Cigna offers since its coverage is only valid in your country of origin and the country you plan to reside in.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- Customer service is available 24/7
- You have the flexibility to make alterations and tailor each plan to exactly what you need
- They have Covid-19 and PCR test coverage
- You don’t need to make an online account to get a quote
- They have a digital platform that can help you find hospitals and clinics to get care close to wherever you are
- In most cases, Cigna will pay the health provider directly without you having to go through their reimbursement system
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- Not all of their plans cover maternity
Another company recognized worldwide in the area of international insurance is IMG. They have more than 25 years of experience and have 3 subsidiaries around the world.
IMG has many different types of plans for you to select, whether you need an individual or family plan. They also have a variety of plans made specifically for all types of travelers, immigrants included.
On their website, you’ll see that they have plans both for short trips as well as for long stays overseas of 1 year or more.
IMG’s website is intuitive and easy to navigate with filters for dates, plan duration, your destination, and much more to facilitate your search. Beyond these filters, you can also add additional personal details like your age and specific medical needs to see the best coverage options and detailed quotes.
Just pay close attention to the details for each plan since they don’t offer coverage for all age groups and don’t all cover Covid-19 needs.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- Customer service is available 24/7
- Very flexible plans
- More than 17,000 in-network doctors
Cons of an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- Depending on the plan, they don’t have Covid-19 coverage
- They don’t have coverage for people 75 years and older
Aetna is an award winner and leader in the area of international insurance. If you’re looking for safety and credibility in your insurance choice for your move to France, Aetna is a good company to consider.
Although they don’t have many plans available, the plans they do have are flexible and give you the option to add extra coverage as needed (like dental care). Their policies include coverage of up to 5 million USD, depending on the situation.
You can choose between family and individual plans. And you can also include repatriation and medical evacuation coverage.
For immigrants in a new country, I recommend the Aetna Pioneer plan. This plan has a “basic” coverage of up to 1.75 million USD. You just have to fill out the form on their website to get an exact quote and see detailed info about the available options.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Aetna:
- Customer support available 24/7
- Maternity coverage is included
- Access to an app with all the important info you need + easy location of health services and providers
- Plans for short, medium, and long trips are available
- Pre-trip assistance with vaccines and regularly-used medications
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Aetna:
- Not many plans to choose from
- Price is above average compared to the other companies on this list
Global Underwriters is another popular company in the insurance world. They have insurance services that help expats, students, digital nomads, and immigrants with plans to start life somewhere else in the world.
For someone that’s moving to France, I recommend the Diplomat Long Term or the Diplomat International Plan. Both have complete medical coverage and generally tend to include everything an expat may need in their new home.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters:
- Up to 1 million USD in medical coverage for the two plans listed above, plus an additional 1 million USD of coverage for accidental death or dismemberment
- Customer support available 24/7
- The plans I mentioned above offer coverage for dental emergencies, medical evacuations, and the repatriation of mortal remains
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters:
- The Diplomat Long Term plan doesn’t support travelers in Iran, Afghanistan, or Cuba
- The Diplomat International plan doesn’t have Covid-19 coverage
- Global Underwriters doesn’t serve residents of Australia, Iran, South Dakota, Maryland, and New York
GeoBlue has spent the last 20 years offering insurance plans with international health coverage.
But GeoBlue only offers insurance for citizens and residents of the United States. So if you’re not an American citizen or green card holder moving to France, you can jump to the next option.
That said, GeoBlue does have health plans for many types of travelers, including expats. The Xplorer Essential is the plan that I most often recommend since it’s a plan for long stays overseas that also has unlimited coverage.
If you’re looking for a shorter plan, try the Voyager. Just fill out the form on their website or reach out to an insurance broker to get a quote or receive more detailed info about their plans.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- App with lots of resources and telemedicine support
- Customer service available 24/7
- Some plans offer coverage for pre-existing conditions
- All of their plans have unlimited coverage
Cons of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- Only available to citizens and residents of the U.S.A.
- Plans aren’t very flexible
- You need to fill out a form or contact a broker to get more info and specific quotes
SafetyWing is a popular insurance choice for digital nomads, given that it offers health insurance plans specifically for remote workers and companies, expats, and digital nomads.
One advantage of SafetyWing is that its policies are a little more accessible than some of the others on the market. They also cover children aged 2-10 for free if their caretakers have a plan.
Each policy’s cost depends on the age of the policyholder. The cheapest plan doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, though it does have coverage of up to 250,000 USD. But you do have the freedom to add pre-existing coverage separately if you need it.
What I like most about SafetyWing is that the company gives you 30 days of free coverage in your home country for every 90 days that you use the plan in another country, such as France.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing:
- Modern, intuitive website with easy access to information
- Customer service available 24/7
- 30 days of free coverage in your home country for every 90 days of coverage overseas
- They have Covid-19 coverage and for Covid-19 treatments recommended by medical specialists
Cons of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing:
- Their plans don’t include quite as many things as the other options on the list
- The prices you see on their website don’t include taxes and fees
7.Foyer Global Health
Foyer Global Health is often a part of the conversation when we talk about international health plans for travelers, expats, digital nomads, and immigrants.
Foyer is a company with a huge diversity in plans (perhaps the highest you’ll find on the market). And since it’s part of the larger European Foyer Group, it’s a company that can be trusted as well.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- All of the possibilities include coverage for dental appointments, surgeries, and treatments
- Customer service by email and phone available 24/7
- Offer support service for pre-trip preparations like vaccines and first aid kits
- Option to add on evacuation and repatriation coverage
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- The plan limits aren’t made very clear
Types of visas you can apply for to work, study, and live in France
If you’re planning to live in France, one of your top priorities will be to do research on and then ultimately apply for the right visa.
As an expat in the country to work, your company will likely offer support with the move, including with your visa application and even with finding a new place to live.
But even with this support, it’s important to take care when you’re looking into the different types of visas you can apply for, what docs you need to submit, and the current timelines for the visas to be ready. If other members of your family will be living with you in France, then you’ll also need to see what type of visas they need.
France has several general categories of visas to choose from: Work Visas, Study Visas, Retirement Visas, Research Visas, Religious Order Visas, Marriage Visas, and Working Holiday Visas.
The documents you need will vary based on the type of visa that you’ll apply for, but here is a basic list:
- Signed and completed visa application form
- Passport with at least 6 months of validity
- Two 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm passport photos with a white background, in color, and without a date
- Birth/marriage certificate
- Proof of finances
- Proof of housing in France
And don’t forget to contact the French embassy for any specific question you may have.
Below are the 2 types of visas most commonly used by new immigrants who plan to make their residency in France.
Work visas in France
France is a country with many work opportunities for expats, so we’ll start with this type of visa.
Beyond the usual documents, you’ll also need to have a signed work contract and proof of where you’ll be living for at least the first 3 months. You can even search for a job while you’re in the country as a tourist, though you can only get your visa from the French embassy in your home country.
There are two types of work visas in France: Long-Stay Work Visa (1+ year) or Short-Stay Working Holiday Visa (less than 1 year).
For the first visa, you’ll need a contract/invitation letter. What this looks like will depend on the length of stay.
The “Contract Duration Determinée” (or “CDD”) is an employment contract valid for the predetermined amount of time you’ll be working, from 1 month to 1 year (with the ability to renew).
There is also a “Contract Duration Indeterminée” (or “CDI”) in which your employer can hire you officially after 3 months of work. From here, you’ll have all the rights and benefits for workers covered by French Law with a fixed or commission-based salary. A CDD can be renewed and transferred to a CDI.
The Working Holiday Visa, on the other hand, is a 1-year exchange for young adults aged 18-30 from France and the citizens of 15 other countries.
Young adults with citizenship from the following countries can apply for a Working Holiday Visa in France :
- South Korea
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
The Working Holiday visa is a wonderful opportunity for a cultural and lifestyle exchange while still earning a salary. You don’t need to know French to apply, but you do need to show proof of financial resources of at least 2,500 Euros (or the equivalent in your local currency) to support yourself in the country in those first months.
French student visas
To enter France as a student, you have 4 types of visas to choose from. So, there are many opportunities for you to take a look at to see which is best for you.
The Long-Stay Student Visa (VLS-TS Étudiant Autorise Travail Limite 60% Durée Légale) is normally requested for university studies of more than 1 year. On this visa, you are allowed to work in the country, though the maximum hours you can work per year are 964 hours (or about 17 hours per week).
After each year is up, you’ll need to renew this visa (though this can be done in the French prefecture of the city that you live in).
This type of visa will need to be validated by the OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration’) within 90 days of your arrival so it can be substituted for a carte de séjour, or an ID card for foreigners.
The Temporary Stay Visa (Long Sejour Temporaire) is granted for free courses, French courses that aren’t taken for academic and/or professional purposes, or short exchanges. But there are fewer benefits to this visa as it doesn’t need to be validated by the OFII…so you can’t get a carte de séjour with it nor request a work permit.
There is also an option to request a long-stay residence permit called the “Passeport Talent.” The “Passeport Talent” is for doctorate students, Ph.D. students, professors, or researchers who have a “Convention d’Accueil” issued by one of the French research organizations approved by the government.
The final option is the Student-Trainee Visa for those who plan to study alongside an internship through an agreement between the student, the higher education institution, and the French company where the student plans to do their internship.
Here are the 7 best health insurance companies for expats and immigrants moving to France:
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
Moving overseas can be complicated…so I hope that this article has helped answer some of your questions about the process!
If you still have any questions about getting health insurance for your move to France (or about moving overseas in general), let me know in the comment area below and I’ll get back to you!
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[…] International students are encouraged to study in France, which has opened its doors to them. Student contracts for good grades were instituted by the French government in France in 1998 to help international students enrolled in French educational institutions. It has remained unmodified since then. […]