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BREXIT

Brexit: What you need to think about if you’re planning the move to France

Moving to France is always a major decision but with Brexit looming and nobody as yet quite sure what it will mean for Britons decamping to the other side of the Channel, here are the things experts think you should be thinking about before you take such a big step.

Brexit: What you need to think about if you're planning the move to France
Photo: AFP/depositphotos
1. Will I be legally resident?
 
Clearly this is most important factor to consider and it's one that Britons who have moved to France in the past, or at least while the UK was part of the EU, have not had to worry about.
 
But basically whether you will be legally resident in France depends on a few important factors.
 
Firstly if the UK leaves the EU on the basis of the Theresa May's deal then Brexit Day on March 29th will be followed by a transition period until December 2020.
 
That gives Britons more time to make the move and more time to establish themselves as legally resident in the country – in other words to prove they have “sufficient resources” not to be a burden on the state – which all Britons including those who are here now will have to do.
 
And the same goes for Britons who come to France before the March 29th deadline.
 
“We're seeing really large numbers of people moving heaven and earth to get a legal foot in France before Brexit day. With time so tight it's even more important to be clear on what legal residence means,” says Kalba Meadows, the head of the Citizens Rights team at Remain in France Together.
 
“People thinking of trying to arrive before March 30th still need to make sure that they can prove that they're legally resident on that date – it's not enough just to have a foot on the soil, even if you already own your own home, but you need to meet all the conditions for legal residence as an EU citizen.
 
“So for example if you're retired or not economically active, you need to have 'sufficient resources' to support yourself so that you're not a burden on the state (and there are guideline figures for this) and if you're setting up a business you need to show that it is 'genuine and effective' and not marginal or ancillary.”
 
And if there's no deal and you come after March 29th?
 
Then new arrivals would have to fulfill all the conditions for 'normal' third country nationals (TCN),” says Meadows.
 
“That means arriving with a long stay visa, which they have to apply for from the Consulate in London, then applying within 2 months of arrival in France for an appropriate TCN carte de séjour.
 
“It's not impossible, but the conditions are tighter than they are at the moment and it's a much more complex procedure.”
 
So basically much will depend on your personal situation – your income, job, savings as well as whether Theresa May can succeed in getting the backing of parliament for a deal.
 
2. Do you speak French?
 
Naturally your level of French is one of the major considerations when planning your move to France. 
 
Some feel comfortable arriving with little to no French while others feel that they need to be near fluent before starting their lives here.
 
But Ailsa Spindler at Leggett Immobilier estate agents told The Local at the recent The France Show in London that with all the uncertainty that comes with Brexit it is more important than ever to speak fluent French if you want to move here. 
 
“Unless you're planning to work exclusively with the expat community, it's important that you speak fluent French if you are planning to move over now,” she said. 
 
“Brexit will probably make it more difficult to move back and forth so people need to know where the money is coming from and of course, it's much, much easier to find work in France if you speak French.” 
 
READ ALSO:
20 new words the French language needs
 
3. Can you move right now?
 
Several experts we spoke to told us — somewhat surprisingly — that the ideal time to move to France, or buy a property here, is right now. 
 
Spindler at Leggett Immobilier said people would be wise to “do it now” — as long they speak French, of course.
 
“Get in there while it's chaotic,” she said. “At the moment nothing has been decided so it's good to get in under the wire.”
 
Others suggested it would be wise to buy a property in France now so that you have a base before decisions are made over what a post-Brexit world holds for Britons in France. 
 
“If you can take anything away from this situation, I would say don't hesitate about making an investment in France,” said Kim Bingham, head of international markets at property financing company Private Rate.
 
“Diversifying into other countries and having a foothold there can only be a good thing.” 
 
“What good would waiting do?” she said, adding that she is seeing an increasing number of clients buying smaller French properties worth around €20,000 to 40,000 just to have something in France and then waiting to see what happens afterwards.

“Don't wait for a cut off point,” she said.
 
Jason Porter, business development director at Blevins Franks, which provides financial planning advice for UK nationals abroad, said: “It is the time to get over to France because it will probably be easier now than after new regulations come into effect.”
 
Seven things to know before you buy that house in France
 
4. Have you got all the documents you need?
 
One thing to make sure you think about at the moment, according to the experts we spoke to, is having several copies of all your important documents to hand. 
 
While this is always a sensible thing to do, with the confusion surrounding Brexit, experts say it is best to be prepared to be able to show everything you need to the relevant authorities. 
 
Gary Burke, head of international relocation company, Burke Brothers said that this could come in handy when organising your move. 
 
“I don't think there is any reason for people to worry about getting their belongings over to France but after Brexit, especially in a no-deal scenario, there may be a need for us to show more documents, such a proof of the right to reside, proof of address and your passport, at the borders,” Burke said. 

“It's good to be prepared as the situation is likely to become more complicated and companies like ours could need more information from you for us to transport your belongings into France.”
 
READ ALSO:
The essential documents you will always need in France
 
5. …. and have they been officially translated into French?
 
Another thing to think about, even more than usual, is not just having your important documents to hand but also having them translated by an official translator. 
 
This may not be an entirely new state of affairs — there are several bureaucratic hurdles in France that require you to have officially translated copies of documents such as your birth certificate even now — but experts told us it was more crucial than ever to have these ready… just in case. 
 
“This would definitely be a sensible move,” said Karen Mathers at property agents Beaux Villages.
 
 
And here's a comprehensive list of the essential documents you will always need in France
 
6. What will be your source of income when you get to France?
 
Many of the experts we spoke to said that now, more than ever, it is important to know where your income would be coming from. 
 
“This is about knowing how you will fund yourself when you move to France,” said Jason Porter from Blevins Franks. 
 
With the hurdles of moving to France and buying property here as a British person looking likely to increase, planning your finances ahead of time is crucial, several experts told us. 
 
“The days of winging it are over,” said one. 
 
Five quick tips for finding a job in France (from an expert)
 
7. Can you afford the logistics of moving?
 
Another point on finances.
 
Experts told us that the overall logistics of moving to France could become more expensive when the UK leaves the EU. 
 
For example, gaining the necessary permits to live there, moving belongings and pets into the country will still be possible but will likely cost more. 
 
On top of that, you may need to get more important documents translated (see above), and at a cost of around €50 per document this could really start to set you back. 
 
This means that effectively, Brexit will limit those with smaller incomes from following their dream of moving to France rather than make it impossible for everyone, said Jason Porter from Blevins Franks.  
 
“People have become so used to freedom of movement that they've forgotten (or don't know) what it means when that is taken away,” said Jason Porter at Blevins Franks. 
 
“They need to be prepared and take advice and know that it might cost more than before.”
 
8. Are you relying on your pension?
 
Porter went on to say that this means people who are relying on their pensions for income should wait to find out whether pensions will be frozen in the case of a no-deal Brexit. 
 
“In the worst case scenario the UK will become a third state after Brexit and pensions could be frozen,” he said, adding that people who hadn't worked in France could find themselves having to pay for French healthcare too.
 
Porter said that this double financial hit could leave a lot of people in trouble and should be avoided at all costs. 
 
“It would be far better to wait and see what happens over the next few months.”

Member comments

  1. On what you call “official” translations – the person you are looking for is a traducteur assermenté or sworn translator in english. Be careful about jumping the gun with these translations as they must not be more than three months old. I know, nothing can change (name of parents, date of their mariage, your date and place of birth) but some countries, such as Germany,provide birth certificates which give much more information – marital status, with place and dates – and furthermore provides this in about 15 languages thereby permitting one to forego these pesky translations. Anyway, just to say, don’t rush into getting translations done (and paying for them) as your mairie may reject them on account of “old age”.

  2. Good advice Helen – our local Prefecture has insisted that the translations be no older than 3 months (altho’ I’ve read that others are less strict)…I’ve had to pay to get new copies of my birth certificate from the UK several times now, and have them re-translated each time…talk about mindless (& costly) bureaucracy for nothing…!!!

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For members

VISAS

‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres

Appointments

Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said. 

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