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Brexit: Worried Brits lodge EU complaint against France for failure to hand out residency permits

A group of Brits living in France have lodged an official complaint with the EU against France over the failure of several local French authorities to issue residency permits in advance of Brexit.

Brexit: Worried Brits lodge EU complaint against France for failure to hand out residency permits
Photo: AFP

A group of 23 British people living in France have filed the complaint against France for the “failure of the French municipal authorities to issue residence documentation to EU citizens lawfully residing in France” which represents a “failure to comply with EU law”.

The individuals involved, who have requested to remain anonymous, were referred to the EU Rights Clinic, a service which assists EU citizens who can't afford a lawyer to enforce their European rights, by the group RIFT (Remain in France Together) which campaigns for the rights of Britons in France. 

By failing to issue the correct residency permits, the local authorities are “affecting their ability to prove their current lawful residence and jeopardising their future ability to prove their right of residence after Brexit”, the document states. 

“The complaints received by EU citizens residing in France all relate to the failure of the French municipal authorities to issue residence documents to applicants who meet the conditions of permanent residence or ordinary residence.
 
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Brits seeking permanent residency in France told 'come back after Brexit'Photo: AFP

“The French authorities often issue residence documentation with a reduced period of validity (less than 5 years for an ordinary residence card and less than 10 years for a permanent card) or are being refused outright.”
 
Since Britain's shock vote to leave the EU in June 2016 many worried British citizens in France have been taking steps to secure their status in their adopted country.
 
While some have gone down the route of seeking French citizenship, others have applied for permanent residency permits, known as a carte de séjour, which can be obtained if you have lived in France for five years continuously.
 
While the residency permits are not necessary for EU citizens, which until the UK's official Brexit still includes British nationals, they are considered useful given the ongoing uncertainty around the rights of Brits living in the EU, not least because the permit certifies that a person has been living in France on a “stable and legal basis”.
 
Essentially if talks fail then those with a carte de séjour will have secured permanent residency before the expected rush.
 
British nationals have the right to apply for a carte de séjour but ever since the referendum Brits have been reporting problems obtaining one.
 
Photo: AFP

 
So, why are people being refused them?
 
“It's a combination of factors,” Dr Anthony Valcke, one of the co-founders of the EU Rights Clinic told The Local. “Officials are confused about the process. They know that EU citizens are not required to have them but if they see the instructions they should know that they can request one if they want one.”
 
“One of the problems is the decentralisation of the training process,” he said. “Each municipality has a different level of training of its officials and there is a different knowledge of circulars (a written statement of government policy)”. 
 
Dr Valcke added that sometimes these instructions or circulars “don't make it down to staff on the front line and this creates a general confusion about which rules apply to who”. 
 
And in the official complaint it is also stated that authorities often say “applications submitted by British citizens will not be processed pending the outcome of Brexit negotiations”. 
 
However the Rights Clinic says that as EU law remains in full force until the UK has withdrawn from the EU, “a Member State is obliged to comply with specific objectives laid down in directives and cannot plead external circumstances as justification for not meeting such clear objectives”.
 
Valcke told The Local that the situation could also pose a problem for Brits in France once Brexit takes place because it jeopardises their ability to prove their right of residence after Brexit which could be what they need in order to avoid deportation.
 
“The British government hasn't really been looking out for Brits in Europe and we're hoping the member countries will do so instead,” Valcke said. “We're hoping that member states will have a light touch when it comes to this matter as the UK has said it will with EU citizens living in Britain.
 
“What we don't want to see is deportations happening post-Brexit.”

 
The hope is that this complaint will lead the EU to put pressure on the French authorities to help British citizens prove their residence “by all possible means” with or without a carte de sejour. 

Member comments

  1. I had no problem getting a permanent CDS here in the Var from the Toulon Prefecture. The instructions about supporting documentation were clear, the staff were courteous and professional, and the timescale was reasonable

  2. Applied at Tarbes for an appointment for the final appointment when documents proving 5 years residency, birth certificate etc will be required. People friendly and helpful. The date given for the final appointment is in April 2019, a 6 month waiting time. Must be busy.

  3. Like Nick Parsons, I also applied for permanent CDS at the Toulon Prefecture in the Var (in March of this year), but what I received was a Titre de Sejour, valid for 5 years…I have no idea why…?! I need to go back & enquire, clearly.. I filled in all of the paperwork as requested, have lived in France for over 12 years, fulfil the criteria, but the card I’ve received is the one non-EU citizens are entitled to (I’m British, by the way – in case anyone was wondering). Maybe it depends on the member of staff you see on the day, but clearly there are inconsistencies in Toulon…

  4. Update to my previous post…it does actually say in the small print “Carte de Sejour Citoyen UE/EEE/Suisse, BUT it is only valid for 5 years and not 10 years…annoyingly…

  5. Sonya – To clarify, in 2017 I first applied and was given a one year card. This spring I applied to renew it, asking for the permanent card, which is what I got. More or less the same dossier of supporting documents – tax returns, proof of income and residence etc.

  6. Send your complaints, if you have any, to the UK Embassy in Paris. They’re the ones supposed to b sorting this out.

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TRAVEL NEWS

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Visits to the Channel islands from France have halved since Brexit, and French local authorities say they may be forced to cut the regular ferry service, asking for the passport requirement to be waived for French visitors.

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Travel to and from the Channel islands – which are British crown dependancies – has reduced significantly since Brexit, when passports became a requirement for those travelling in and out of the islands and their ports.

Now the president of the local authorities in the Manche département of France has asked that passport requirements be lifted, with hopes of increasing travel to and from the islands.

Jean Morin told Ouest France that there has been a “considerable reduction in the number of passengers on routes between the Channel ports and the islands” and as a result the ferry service between France and the islands was seriously in deficit.

“On these lines, we will never make money, but we cannot be in deficit”, explained the Morin. 

He added that if a solution is not found by the deadline of May 1st, 2023, then local authorities will stop funding the shipping company DNO, which runs the Manche Îles Express ferry service.

“If the passport requirement is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025”, Morin told Ouest France.

Only around half of French people have a passport, since the ID card issued to all adults is sufficient to travel within the EU. 

READ MORE: Ask the Expert: How Brexit has changed the rules on pensions, investments and bank accounts for Brits in France

DNO re-launched operations in April and since then, the company, and by extension the département – who plays a large role in funding it via a public service delegation – has been losing significant funds.

According to Franceinfo, the number of passengers has been cut in half since passport requirements were introduced. Franceinfo estimates that for one ticket for one passenger costing €30, the département spends €200.

According to Morin, the ideal solution would be to require a simple ID for tourists seeking to take just day-long or weekend-long stays on the islands – which reportedly represents at least 90 percent of the boats’ usual passengers.

“The Jersey government is working hard on the issue and is waiting for an agreement from London and the European Union. There is the possibility that things could move quickly”, Morin told Franceinfo on Tuesday.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, boats going to and from the French mainland carried at least 110,000 people per year. In 2022, only 40,000 passengers made the journey, Olivier Normand, the sales manager of Manche Îles Express, told Actu France.

Normand had expected the decline, however. He told Actu France that the company had taken a survey, which found that almost half (between 40 and 50 percent) of their clientele did not have a passport. 

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