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Brexit: Why Brits in France should apply for a carte de séjour right now

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Brexit: Why Brits in France should apply for a carte de séjour right now
Photo: AFP
18:27 CEST+02:00
Although there is no legal obligation for Brits in France to get a carte de séjour residency permit, campaigners are urging them to obtain one with Brexit looming on the horizon. Here's why.

While there are an estimated 150,000 British citizens living in France, it is believed only around 15,000 have applied for a French residency permit called a carte de séjour.

One of the reasons why only 10 percent of Brits in France have obtained one is that there hasn't been and currently isn't any legal obligation for them to do so. As EU citizens they are perfectly entitled to be a permanent resident in France without having to obtain an official permit.

But Brexit has obviously complicated things and the campaign group Remain in France Together (RIFT), France's Ministry of Interior and the UK Embassy are all urging British nationals to get a carte de séjour as soon as possible.

'Why shouldn't I just wait until after Brexit' you might ask, well for one by applying now it should save potential problems, paperwork and time once Britain's divorce from the EU officially goes through at the end of the transition period in December 2020.

"If the draft withdrawal agreement is eventually ratified, it includes the agreement that holders of a carte de séjour will be able to swap them for whatever new special residency card may be required for Britons in future with only production of ID and a criminality check," Debra Archer from RIFT tells The Local.

"There will be no fee involved. There are at least 150,000 British people living in France, probably more, so there could be long delays in dealing with applications for cards in future.

"Applying now will spread the load and ensure a smooth transition to whatever new system is introduced to document our rights to stay in France."

And the same goes for anyone who hasn't been resident in France for five years. The card will show you were legally resident in France before Britain left the EU and under the terms of the withdrawal agreement you will be able to build up the required five years after Brexit, says Archer

And just in case Britain crashes out of the EU with no agreement, which some Brexit-backing politicians in the UK are still arguing for, then having a carte de séjour will only be a benefit "because it proves that you have been legally resident under the rules that applied to your stay," says Archer.

Brexit Q&A: Embassy responds to questions from anxious Brits in France

"Some people say that the carte de séjour will no longer be valid because it is issued to us as EU Citizens, which we will no longer be if the UK leaves the EU. I don't believe this to be true because it proves that we have an existing residence right and that can't simply be removed from us because our country left the EU."

"If there is no withdrawal agreement I believe that those with a carte de séjour will be able to swap it for an equivalent "third country national" card, which we no doubt would have to apply for."

But it's not just Brexit that makes getting a carte de séjour worthwhile, says Archer.

"Even if the UK doesn't end up leaving the EU a carte de séjour is useful anyway," said Archer. "Once you have become a permanent resident you just never know when your circumstances might change and you might need to prove your right to stay in France.

"I certainly feel more secure having proof of my legal status in France, " says Archer.

And it helps you avoid having to gather a lot of paperwork if you are required to prove you have the right to stay.

"The carte de séjour is a useful document to have to prove to the various official bodies that you have mostly the same rights as a French national" says Archer.

While some Brits in France have moved to ease any Brexit nerves and secure their future by applying for French nationality, the process of obtaining a carte de séjour is a lot simpler and quicker.

READ ALSO: The common questions about French citizenship you need answering

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"Applying for a carte de sejour is just applying for a proof of a right we already have automatically which is why it's different to applying for French nationality," says Archer.

Essentially the carte de séjour permanent is a right for all EU citizens who have been continually resident for five years in France.

You will have to prove that with the right paperwork and documents and if you are not working you will have to show you have adequate health care cover and income to basically show you won't be a burden to the state. Note that as long as you had adequate income for a five year period you still qualify even though your income may have dropped by the time you apply.

There is much more in depth advice on the rules and regulations of the carte de séjour on the RIFT website.

Notably for those working or self employed there are no minimum income limits defined by the rules, "but the work has to be genuine and effective and not marginal and ancillary".

Different prefectures have different lists of the documents you might need to provide. And bear in mind there is no set application process to go through, the best thing to do is contact your local prefecture to find out how to start the process, which could take anything from a few weeks to several months.

There is much more in depth advice on the rules and regulations of the carte de séjour on the RIFT website.

But it's not just RIFT who are advising Brits to get a carte de séjour in France.

After meeting with campaigners representatives of France's Ministry of Interior have encouraged the word to be spread that now is a good time for Brits to get a carte de séjour.

And representatives of the British Embassy in Paris have also suggested it would be a good idea.

"It does make sense to get your paperwork in order to speed things up in due course," an embassy official said in response to a question from a British national about whether they should get a carte de séjour.

Problems with certain prefectures

There has been confusion and even opposition at certain prefectures around France when faced with an application from a British national, mainly because they haven't had to deal with many, if any, in recent years given there has been no legal need to apply.

"I have a friend who was turned away at the prefecture at Tulle, in Correze after being told they were not being issued to Brits until after Brexit. However the next day another British national was able to obtain one after insisting it was their legal right," said Archer.

Brits have reported various issues at prefectures in Nice and in Paris, mainly to do with queuing times, but Archer believes French authorities are now getting up to speed.

"The Ministry of Interior has sent out a memo to all prefectures to tell them that Brits have the right to the cards as EU citizens," said Archer.

"The problems we heard about are being resolved and it seems like prefectures are getting quicker at doing the procedures and it's getting a lot more efficient.

"We have still had problems with the bigger prefectures in Paris and Nice mainly because they are very busy which means it's often hard to get the right information."

For any applicants who do experience difficulties there are various options available. One is to get on the RIFT Facebook page and find out if anyone else in your area has suffered problems and find out how and if they were resolved.

Another option is to alert the British Embassy who have pledged to contact France's Ministry of Interior who will be in touch with each prefecture to remind them of the rights of Britons to be issued a carte de séjour.

The other option is to contact Solvit, the official EU organisation which helps citizens and businesses overcome obstacles when national authorities are not observing EU rules.

It might also be worth printing off and taking with you the appropriate text from French law (see below) to show any fonctionnaire who might be resistant.

Brexit is looming with the withdrawal agreement set to be ratified by October.

"We are getting short of time," says Archer.

So the official advice is get the ball rolling and contact your prefecture to get an appointment.

If you are a member of RIFT and a regular reader of The Local France you can sign up for membership at half price (€2.49/month). Email ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com for a special discount code.

The French law you might need when applying for a carte de séjour.

Article L122-1

Créé par Loi n°2006-911 du 24 juillet 2006 - art. 23 JORF 25 juillet rectificatif JORF 16 septembre 2006

Sauf si sa présence constitue une menace pour l'ordre public, le ressortissant visé à l'article L. 121-1 qui a résidé de manière légale et ininterrompue en France pendant les cinq années précédentes acquiert un droit au séjour permanent sur l'ensemble du territoire français.

Sauf si sa présence constitue une menace pour l'ordre public, le membre de sa famille mentionné à l'article L. 121-3 acquiert également un droit au séjour permanent sur l'ensemble du territoire français à condition qu'il ait résidé en France de manière légale et ininterrompue avec le ressortissant visé à l'article L. 121-1 pendant les cinq années précédentes. Une carte de séjour d'une durée de validité de dix ans renouvelable de plein droit lui est délivrée.

Article L121-1

Modifié par Loi n°2006-911 du 24 juillet 2006 - art. 23 JORF 25 juillet rectificatif JORF 16 septembre 2006

Sauf si sa présence constitue une menace pour l'ordre public, tout citoyen de l'Union européenne, tout ressortissant d'un autre Etat partie à l'accord sur l'Espace économique européen ou de la Confédération suisse a le droit de séjourner en France pour une durée supérieure à trois mois s'il satisfait à l'une des conditions suivantes :

1° S'il exerce une activité professionnelle en France ;

2° S'il dispose pour lui et pour les membres de sa famille tels que visés au 4° de ressources suffisantes afin de ne pas devenir une charge pour le système d'assistance sociale, ainsi que d'une assurance maladie ;

3° S'il est inscrit dans un établissement fonctionnant conformément aux dispositions législatives et réglementaires en vigueur pour y suivre à titre principal des études ou, dans ce cadre, une formation professionnelle, et garantit disposer d'une assurance maladie ainsi que de ressources suffisantes pour lui et pour les membres de sa famille tels que visés au 5° afin de ne pas devenir une charge pour le système d'assistance sociale ;

4° S'il est un descendant direct âgé de moins de vingt et un ans ou à charge, ascendant direct à charge, conjoint, ascendant ou descendant direct à charge du conjoint, accompagnant ou rejoignant un ressortissant qui satisfait aux conditions énoncées aux 1° ou 2° ;

5° S'il est le conjoint ou un enfant à charge accompagnant ou rejoignant un ressortissant qui satisfait aux conditions énoncées au 3°.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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