Setting up a bank account in France is easy, no matter whether you are a resident or non-resident of the country. Before deciding on which bank to open an account at, though, it is essential to first check that the bank has English speaking advisors (well, essential if you don’t speak French, anyway). Most banks will offer English speaking advisors, but not all do, so checking up front may save considerable confusion and frustration at a later date.
Residents of France (those who live in the country for more than three months in a year) are entitled to a bank account no matter what. Generally, to open a bank account in France you will need proof of identity (EU passport/residence card, etc.), proof of your French address (a utility bill) and a proof of earnings or status (for example student card or employment contract, etc).
As a resident, you should be able to open an account online, but will need to physically visit a branch to activate the account (with the paperwork listed).
Non-residents will have to set up a non-resident account (compte non-résident). Although the paperwork required to open a non-resident account will be similar to that for a resident, the likelihood is you will also need a letter of reference from your current bank in order for your application to be accepted and you may need to provide your two most recent bank statements as well. Most banks will require non-residents to open an account in person, but through some it may be possible to open an account from your home country.
It is perhaps worth noting that if you have a bank in your home country that also has branches, or at least operations, in France then this may simplify matters even further as you should be able to open an account through them with minimum fuss. Some of the largest French banks, like BNP Paribas, also have considerable presence overseas, so it may be worth checking to see if there is an office in your home country where you can arrange to speak to someone.
When it comes to bank fees and charges, most French banks charge monthly banking fees. However, you almost certainly find that costs vary dramatically depending on your bank and the region in which you live. The same French bank located in a different region may charge different fees for some services than the same bank located in another part of the country. Therefore, spending some time researching, and speaking to, banks in the area you wish to live in may province financially prudent.