No salary, linked to the education or experience. Instead, this is an allowance, divided in two parts. A fixed one, everyone has it, with an identical amount. And another one, calculated on the local cost of life and geographical distance. This allowance is paid by Business France, and then invoiced to the company (the company also pays the medical insurance and management fees). This allowance is non-negotiable! It’s useless to try to negotiate with the company because it can’t negotiate with Business France.

The allowance is paid every month, without any specific date, usually between the 20th and the 30th.

Small detail to keep in mind: the allowance is paid in Euros, on a French bank account. Most of European VIEs will have an advantage, meanwhile the VIEs outside the Euro zone will have to pay exchange fees and currency fees to pay their bills in the country of assignment. This leads to an additional bill (and I am pretty sure the Government doesn’t include this element when it calculates the allowance).

So now the burning question… How could we live correctly, without begging or eating pasta everyday, with this allowance???

The answer is… no one knows except you! Sorry. If you wanted an easy answer, it’s just impossible. It depends on so many criteria: country, city, way of life, management, etc.

But let me put you on the track.

The volunteer receives an allowance to cover the monthly expenses related to the cost of living (accommodation, transport, groceries, etc.). If you read this page’s introduction, you know I speak about another source of information: VIEs Facebook group. Most members asking questions about the allowance raise the fact they can’t live properly. Don’t be a fool! They imagine they can have a one bedroom-flat or a studio, having parties everyday… No, the VIE aims to make you discover another culture and to live with the “local people”, so the government calculates the allowance on the fact you will take a bedroom in a shared house (there is exceptions for the risk countries). If you can’t live in a shared house , you still can take an accommodation on your own, but a huge part of the allowance will be used to pay the rent, bills, local tax. And it will be more complicated to go out with your friends or to plan holidays. Or just to buy a ticket to come back to your home country time to time. I advise you to read the section “Choose Expatriation”, because no, it’s not for everyone! And there is no shame.

However, let me precise something. I am talking now about the most wanted VIEs (Germany, UK, USA, Canada, etc.) where the allowance won’t allow you to live like Croesus. In other countries, far or listed as dangerous, the allowance will be higher (also because these criteria don’t attract many candidates). And, as you are paid in Euros, you may have a higher purchasing power than the local average. Have a look again in this Facebook group I kindly like to criticize. The VIEs in these “less attractive” countries are doing well, and succeed to save money too!

Finally, it depends on your way of life and your capability to manage your money. And this is the most important part of my answer. If you like caviar and shopping and you can’t live without them, so yeah, indeed, it’s going to be really hard. Everything depends on you!

To conclude this part, I advise you to mistrust all answers on this question because they are absolutely personal. It can’t be a global truth. Have a look on each page of this blog, I tell you expatriation is a UNIQUE and PERSONAL experience.

Tip: First, it will be difficult to open a bank account in a local branch (because no accommodation, or don’t have the necessary statements, etc.). Subscribe an International option with your bank. It can offer savings on currency rates or withdraws. However, you will notice the amount debited does not exactly correspond to the accurate exchange rate. Banks have got their own exchange rate… that benefits them of course!

So, in a second time, the ideal is to open a local bank account (because it is often a requirement asked by real estate agencies/landlords for example) and to transfer your allowance with online services like Revolut / Transferwise / N26, etc., that apply more rational fares than your bank!

Extra tip: If you don’t really need a local bank account, you can choose a service like Revolut / Transferwise / N26 which are now legal banks and have their own debit card. The benefit is that you generally don’t pay any management fee (or very low one) and you can pay in many currencies with the same rates used with the transfers.

Be careful, it seems that these online banks are not available everywhere. Transferwise, for example, can be used everywhere but their card is a very new product since April 2018. The use was limited to European customers only.

Business France (BF) also has a partnership with Societe Generale, a French bank (details on BF website), and will be at the mandatory induction day before your start date. The offer is just the same as for a regular customer, and Societe Generale will just push its International option (that can be offered by almost all banks). Nothing special for the VIEs. And I’ve never heard about positive feedback about this offer, but actually many complaints! Personally, I’ve always found Societe General less interesting than other banks. At least, regarding their offers for young professionals and students. If it’s not already your bank, I advise you to contact yours instead of change your bank, you will have enough paperwork to deal with before your departure.

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