SHARE
COPY LINK

FRANCE - UK

Hollande tells Brits they can stay but expat worries persist

French President François Hollande has tried to ease fears about the British expat community in France by saying they can continue to work and stay in France as long as they like, but many expats are unimpressed with the reassurances.

Hollande tells Brits they can stay but expat worries persist
'Right, you keep our expats and we'll look after yours'. Photo: AFP

Hollande was speaking after talks with British PM Theresa May in Paris on Thursday night, during which he warned the Tory leader that France would not allow Britain to remain in the free market unless it accepted freedom of movement.

Either “remain in the single market and assume the free movement that goes with it or to have another status,” Hollande warned the UK.

The question of freedom of movement is crucial for the tens of thousands of British nationals living and working in France, many of whom fear that Brexit will make life more complicated, perhaps even impossible, in their adopted country.

While negotiations are yet to begin on any Brexit deal, Hollande tried to ease the fears of those expats both in the France and the UK, who have been left in limbo after the shock June referendum result.

“The UK will remain a full member of the EU throughout the negotiations process so nothing will change four our citizens. After the negotiations the rules will be set,” Hollande told a press conference.

“There’s no doubt that the French who reside in the UK and the Britons who live in France will continue to work there and spend as much time as they like there,” the president added.

But many of those Britons living in France were hardly reassured by the statement.

In the Facebook support group Remain in France Together (RIFT) many pointed out the Hollande failed to mention a huge sector of the British population living in France.

“He’s only talking about people working in France thus far- did not mention retired people,” said David Rosemount.

For many Brits in France the key issue will be whether they will continue to have access to health care post Brexit and their pensions.

“He says nothing,” said Dominic Rippon. “Even if we can stay to work, will we have healthcare subsidies cut? We'll have to wait a while for any detail, this is just politicking.”

Alan Court said: “Feel very concerned that the UK may abandon our healthcare and lock our pensions. Very worrying times that could go on for years.

Many were sceptical given that we are far from having anything set out in writing let alone in law.

Ruth Trevanion said: “This is just words, and there is no mention of those who don't work. I'll believe it when i see the signed agreement but it is a step in the right direction.”

As others pointed out there is also the fact that Hollande may not be around when Brexit negotiations begin, given that there is a presidential election in April next year and his popularity ratings are dismal.

What stance would Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Juppé or even Marine Le Pen take on the issue?

The same worries Brits have in France are mirrored by French nationals living in the UK, all of whom were barred from having a vote in the EU referendum.

Christophe Premat, the MP who represents French citizens living in the UK told The Local he has been inundated with queries from worried French expats.

“They all have questions regarding the consequences: what will happen to their child benefit or work benefits?” he said. “Students are also worried about university fees.”

“A lot of people here are talking about taking British nationality. That’s a very personal decision, but if it’s just for fiscal or administrative purposes I would say it’s a shame, but if it’s to participate in UK politics and they have been established here for a few years then it’s a good choice,” Premat said.

The lawmaker said he has also been approached by many French in the UK who are talking about returning home to France due to the uncertainty.

“Many are worried about the future. Some of those who have been established here and were thinking of returning home intend to shorten their stay in the UK,” he said.

The MP is confident bilateral relations will be sorted out between Britain and France that will guarantee the status of each country’s citizens living abroad.

“Given that bilateral relations are already strong, not just in terms of defence and economy, that I believe we will be able to find agreements on things like tax reciprocity,” he said.

The MP also believes that Brexit should push Britain should copy the model of France and create an MP for the tens of thousands of British citizens living abroad.

“For those who live outside the UK and have no representation, then it could be a good compromise,” he said.

It may also force the Conservatives to fulfill their promise to scrap  the law that bars expats who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting in national elections or referendums.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

MOVING TO FRANCE

The post-Brexit guide for Brits who want to move to France (and stay here)

Is it harder since Brexit? Yes. Is it impossible? Certainly not. Here's everything you need to know about navigating the French immigration system and moving to France as a UK national.

The post-Brexit guide for Brits who want to move to France (and stay here)

Moving to France as the citizen of an EU country is a considerably more straightforward experience – and that’s still the case for those Brits lucky enough to have dual nationality with an EU country such as Ireland.

For the rest, since Brexit they enter an unfamiliar world of immigration offices, visas and cartes de séjour – but this is only the same system that non-EU nationals like Americans, Canadians and Australians have always faced and plenty of them manage to move to France each year.

It’s just a question of knowing how to navigate the system:

NB – this article is for people making the move permanently to France from 2021 onwards, for second-home owners who want to spend time in France but keep their main residence in the UK – click HERE

Visas 

Brits are covered by the 90-day rule so if you want to make short visits to France you can do so without any extra paperwork (until 2023, that is), but if you want to come here to live, you will need a visa.

The only groups exempt from visa requirements are people who have dual nationality with an EU country (eg Ireland) or people who are coming as a spouse or family member of a UK national who is already living here and is covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – click here for full details.

It’s important to note that your visa has to be sorted before you leave the UK, so there’s no point coming over here as a tourist and then hoping to figure it out from France.

Almost all visas charge processing fees and you need to be prepared to create a big bundle of supporting documents, but the first thing to do is work out the type of visa that you need.

Here’s an overview of the most common types:

Spouse Visa

Contrary to popular belief, being married to a French person doesn’t exempt you from the visa process, but does make things a little easier if you decide to go for a spouse visa – you’ll be able to get a 12-month visa and you’ll have to register at the Immigration Office (OFFI) within three months of arrival. This will count as your residence card (more info on how to get residency later).

The good news is that the application is free but you’ll need a heap of documents including application forms, proof of marriage, proof of your spouse’s nationality, and a residence form. More info here.

Work Visa

If you intend to work in France then you have two options; get a work visa as a salaried employee or get an entrepreneur visa if you intend to set up your own business or work self-employed as a freelancer or contractor.

Employee visa – The toughest part of the employee visa is that you need to find a job first, rather than coming to France and then job-hunting. 

Once you find a job, you then need to have your work contract approved by the authorities at the French Labour Ministry (then again at the OFFI offices) and depending on the sector you work in your employer may have to apply for a work permit and justify why they’re hiring you and not a European.

If you’re bringing family on this visa, get the employer to start a file for them at the same time. You’ll need to fill in application forms, residence forms, and you’ll need to pay a processing fee.  

Entrepreneur – this applies for people who want to set up their own business (eg run a gîte or B&B) or work in an self-employed capacity including as a freelancer or contractor. 

The entrepreneur visa has different requirements, including a detailed business plan and proof of financial means – essentially you need to be able to demonstrate that you can support yourself even if your business idea or freelance career never takes off.

Here 2021 arrival Joseph Keen takes us through the entrepreneur visa: ‘Not too complicated but quite expensive’ – what it’s like getting a French work visa

Visitor Visa

This is for those who want to live in France but don’t have a job, a French spouse, or plans to study – it’s most commonly used by retired people and it brings with it the requirement to have a certain level of assets.

READ ALSO How much money do I need to get a French visa?

You’ll need: filled-in questionnaires and application forms, an undertaking not to work in France (not even working remotely for an employer back in the UK or setting up a gîte or B&B business in France), proof that you can support yourself in France, proof of financial means, proof of medical insurance, proof of accommodation in France, among other things. More info here

Manual widget for ML (class=”ml-manual-widget-container”)

Student visa

The good news is that the fee is around half that of the other long stay visas, at €50, and is usually shorter to process, but the bad news is that it’s no walk in the park.

You’ll need a series of documents from Campus France, financial guarantees and proof of enrolment at a French establishment of higher education. More info here

Au Pair visa

If you’re between the ages of 17 and 30, don’t mind a few household chores and quite like children, then this year-long visa could be right up your alley.

You’ll need all the usual forms, but also an “au pair contract” approved by the French ministry of labour, an invitation from your host family, and you’ll have to sign up to language courses for while you’re here. Read more about becoming an au pair here, and find out more on the visa info here

Talent Passport

If you qualify for it, there’s also the ‘talent passport’ which is really the best type of visa because it lasts for four years before you need to renew and you can bring family members on it. 

It offers a four-year work visa to people who can demonstrate certain business, creative or academic skills, or who have a provable reputation in their field – for example, scientific, literary, artistic, intellectual, educational, or sporting. The categories were recently expanded and cover quite a wide variety of fields. More info here.

Besides these options, there is always a scientist visa, an internship visa, and a diplomatic visa.

Next steps

Once you have decided which visa you need, you apply online, submitting all the required documents and a fee (usually around €80-€100). You will then need to make an in-person visit to the French consulate in London.

EXPLAINED: How to get a French visa 

Processing times for visas vary, but you should allow at least six weeks.

What else?

Once you have secured your visa you’re more or less ready to travel, but there are some other things to check.

Health insurance – some visa types, especially those for people who will not be working, require proof of health insurance and depending on the type of visa the GHIC or EHIC card is not always accepted.

If this is the case you will need to buy a private health insurance (not travel insurance) policy that covers the entire duration of your visa. Depending on your age and state of health these policies can be expensive, so you should factor this in to your financial calculations.

If you are a UK pensioner or student you might be entitled to an S1 form from the NHS – S1 is accepted as proof of health insurance for visa purposes.

Once you have been living in France for three months, you’re entitled to register in the public health system and get a carte vitale, but the process of getting the card can be quite lengthy, so it’s a good idea to have health cover for these early months even if it’s not a requirement of your visa.

Bear in mind the GHIC/EHIC doesn’t cover all types of medical expenses.

Driving licence – if you intend to drive in France then you can use your UK/NI licence with no requirement for an international driver’s permit.

The good news here is that the post-Brexit deal on driving licences also covers new arrivals, and means that after a certain period you can swap your UK licence for a French one without having to take the French driving test – full details here.

If you are bringing your UK-registered car with you, you will have to change its registration to French – here’s how.

Bank account – for everyday life in France you will likely need a French bank account, but many French banks require proof of an address, while landlords often won’t rent to you without a French bank account, creating something of a Catch 22. 

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about opening a French bank account

If you still have financial activity in the UK such as a rental property or a UK pension you will likely need a UK bank account too, but keeping UK accounts while resident in France is becoming more difficult. We spoke to a financial expert to get some tips

Taxes – this hasn’t changed since Brexit, but it’s something that often catches people out – if you live in France you need to file an annual tax declaration, even if you have no income in France (eg you are living on a pension from the UK). More details here.

If you still have financial activity in the UK – such as a property rental – you will usually also need to file a tax return in the UK, but while you have all the fun of doing two tax declarations every year, a dual-taxation agreement between France and the UK means you won’t have to pay tax twice on the same income. 

And how to stay in France

But once you’re in France, you might want to stay here. Think that getting your visa represents the end of your French paperwork? Dream on!

Depending on the type of visa you have you may be required to visit OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et Intégration) on arrival to register and you may be required to undergo a medical examination or to take French classes if your language skills are a little basic.

Other types of visa require you to validate them at your local préfecture within a certain time period.

These ‘in country’ steps are important, so in between popping Champagne when your visa arrives, take the time to read carefully the accompanying documents and note down when you need to take the next steps.

Your visa will also need renewing, most initial visas last for one year, but there are exceptions.

The exact steps vary depending on your visa type, but the most common route is to apply for a residency permit (carte de séjour) so that you can stay longer than just 12 months – you usually apply for this two months before your visa runs out.

We look in more detail at the next steps HERE.

French administration is in the process of moving its immigration system online, but we’re now at the halfway stage where you can apply for some types of cartes de séjour online, but others require a visit to your local préfecture.

Once you’ve been here for five (continuous) years, you’re eligible for long-term residency, which does away with the annual paperwork.

And if you have been here for five continuous years (or three years if you completed higher education in France) and speak good French, then you can apply for French citizenship – if you’re game for a whole lot more paperwork.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

You can also find lots more information tailored to UK nationals in our Brits in France section.

SHOW COMMENTS