Essentials: Moving to France

‘If you can move to France before Brexit, then get on with it’

'If you can move to France before Brexit, then get on with it'
Photo: AFP
Many Britons are bringing forward their long-planned relocation to France because of the uncertainty around Brexit but they remain anxious about what rights they will have on this side of the Channel.

There's no doubt that for all those many Britons dreaming of a move to France the muddle of Brexit has complicated things.

While draft withdrawal agreements have been thrashed out between London and the EU with the aim of reassuring citizens over their rights, critics say they have left the situation “as clear as mud”.

In short, Brits living in France have been told they will retain the right to stay in France and British pensioners have been told they will have their healthcare covered in France and their UK pensions uprated.

But no one knows what the deal will be for those Brits who head to France from over the Channel or from another EU country once Britain finally divorces itself from the EU and freedom of movement ends.

And then there are those who intend to come before the separation is signed, sealed and delivered. Official Brexit Day is March 29th next year, at 11pm UK time to be precise, but then there is the 21 month transition period which will last until December 31st 2020.

According to the draft agreements during that time things will essentially stay the same and the all important freedom of movement will continue.

But the confusion around the dates and the process, the fact nothing has actually been signed off – there is still the chance Britain could crash out of the EU with no agreed deal  – plus the fact that no one knows what the rules will be after after December 2020 is causing understandable anxiety among Britons hoping to move to France.

One Britain-based reader of The Local David Fordham said: “Until the dreaded Brexit vote I had planned to move to rural France when I retire which is now in a year’s time.

“This will involve me learning French (which I am perfectly prepared to try) and buying a house. But unless there is some clarity over my rights to stay I can’t take the chance.

“The thought of moving and then a year or two down the line being told I can’t obtain a Carte de Séjour residency permit or equivalent document to provide permanent residential status is a nightmare.”


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

Under the draft withdrawal agreement between London and Brussels, Britons can actually move to France legally until the end of the transition period scheduled for December 2020.

So unless the UK crashes out of Europe with no deal agreed with Brussels people like Mr Fordham, who have long dreamed of moving to France, can do so freely until that date.

So those who come to France before the cut off date will be allowed to stay and build up their residency rights just as thousands of Brits have done before them by taking advantage of the EU's freedom of movement.

The Remain in France Together group, which advises on citizens' rights of British nationals in France, spells it out like this: 

“If you already know that you want to move to France in the future, the best advice that we can possibly give you is to do this before the end of transition period on 31 December 2020.

“If you do this, you will benefit from the Withdrawal Agreement; you'll become part of the group whose rights to residence are protected for their lifetimes.”

The existence of the December 2020 cut off point has persuaded many Britons to speed up their move across the Channel, with some deciding to retire earlier than planned or rent a house in France rather than take the time to buy one.

“I'd always wanted to move here in the back of my mind, but Brexit moved it from a pipe dream to something I wanted to do imminently,” Emma Brooke, who moved to Paris in July last year, a year after the referendum vote, told The Local.


Brexodus: The Brits in a rush to move to France before Brexit day

At this year's France Show in London talks by legal and financial professionals about the impact of Brexit on people's decisions to move to France were some of the keenest attended.

Many who went were confused about what to do.

Rob Kay from Blevins Franks, which provides financial advice for Brits abroad told listeners: “If you are thinking of moving to France it would be a lot easier if you move before (the Brexit the cut off date]. After that no one knows what hurdles you will have to jump through.”

“For a lot of people Brexit is accelerating things but you need to get your planning right. 

“If you're in before then there's no kicking you out. You can arrive and stay and continue to have health cover and indexed pensions”.

(If you are a member of RIFT you can join The Local for half price, just email [email protected])

One of those Britons keen to get to France “as soon as possible” is Mark Probert and his wife Anne-Marie from Reading. 

“We've bought a motor home to get across there and explore where to live,” he told The Local. “We will have to rent a house if we can't buy one.”

The fact the British pound had fallen in value against the Euro has also had an impact on those wanting to make the move, with many having to accept the size of property that had initially wanted in France is no longer within their budget.

But Probert said the falling pound won't end the dream move to France.

“We can't wait for the exchange rate to go back up. We have to live our lives now,” he said.

RIFT point out that those those who do get in the door before the ramifications of Brexit take hold must “make sure that you do so in such a way that you're properly exercising your treaty rights of free movement.”

Essentially this means that after three months in France you would have to be working, studying, self-employed or self-sufficient and be able to prove that to French authorities.

“This is important, as only people who are exercising treaty rights at the 'effective date' of any citizens' rights agreement will be covered by the agreement,” RIFT say.

“If you have a house in France but have not yet established residence there on this effective date (still to be defined), you will not be covered by the agreement as you are not exercising treaty rights.​ If you subsequently decide to move permanently to France (after Brexit) you will come under French immigration policy, not EU law.”

The group points out that one way to make the move manageable would be for one member of a couple to move before December 31st 2020 and establish legal residence in France.

“Under the Withdrawal Agreement, a spouse or registered partner has the right to join you in future if you are legally resident in France at 31 December 2020 and to benefit from the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement themselves.

“So if one of you is retired and the other not, this could get you a foot in the door.”

READ ALSO: 'As clear as mud': Brits in France and Europe slam latest Brexit agreement

'As clear as mud': Brits in France and Europe slam latest Brexit agreement

As for after December 2020 no one knows what the immigration rules and regulations will be for Brits who want to move to France.

These are still to be thrashed out as part of Britain's “future relationship” with the EU in ongoing talks between London and Brussels. And let's not forget any agreement must be ratified by parliaments in the UK and in the EU's 27 members.

While some are optimistic and believe France and other countries will not want to put up too many hurdles to Brits moving abroad after Brexit, others insist things will be more complicated.

“After Brexit, as a British citizen living in the UK you will lose your EU citizenship and with it your right to free movement,” say RIFT.

“You'll become a Third Country National – and you'll be treated no differently from someone arriving from New Zealand, Chile, Morocco or anywhere else in the non-EU world.” 

That would mean applying to the French Consulate in the UK for a long stay visa before making the trip across the Channel, then you would have to apply for a residency permit in France within two months.

Anyone retired or inactive would have to show they have sufficient resources – currently at least €1,170 a month – and would have to pay the hefty sum of €269 for the titre de séjour (residency permit).

While future negotiations may indeed change all this the message is clear to those agonizing over whether to move to France.

“If you can move before [Brexit happens] then get on with it,” says Rob Kay from Blevins Franks.

For more information on citizens' rights in France visit the RIFT website here.





Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.