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No-deal Brexit: What Brits need to know about the French residency permit they might need

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, Britons who have lived in France for five years or more will have to apply for a long term residence card. Here Kalba Meadows from the Remain in France Together campaign group, explains all you need to know about the 'carte de résident longue durée'.

No-deal Brexit: What Brits need to know about the French residency permit they might need
Photo: AFP
Under the ordonnance that defines our future rights if there’s a no-deal Brexit, all those who’ve lived in France for 5 years or more will apply for a carte de résidence longue durée.
Over the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of half truth, untruth and misunderstanding flying around about this status and the card that goes with it.
In this article I want to set the facts straight, so everyone knows where they’ll stand in the worst case scenario. (Clue: it really ain’t too shabby).
1. What is long term residence status?
In 2003, the EU published a Directive providing that the status of long-term resident should be awarded to a third country national after they have lived legally in an EU State for an uninterrupted period of five years. The aim of the Directive was to ‘facilitate integration and promote social and economic cohesion’ by giving non-EU nationals who have lived legally in an EU State for a certain period of time a set of uniform rights, almost identical to those enjoyed by EU citizens.

Brexit: Brits in France must start preparing for the worst

This is the only residence status for third country nationals that derives from and is governed by EU law – all the other statuses and residence cards are governed by national immigration law. This means that the same rights and conditions prevail right across the EU (except Denmark, which never signed up to the Directive), whereas under national law countries would be free to set whichever conditions they choose. So it’s a status with EU protection, and it ensures equal treatment across the EU.
The Directive obliges member states to recognise long term residence status after 5 years; if you meet the conditions you have a right to receive the status. It isn’t discretionary. The card, like the carte de séjour permanent, only certifies the status – it doesn’t confer it. That means that you retain the status even if your card has expired (Article 9(6) of the Directive states this implicitly.
2. Long term residence status for British residents after Brexit
In December 2018 the European Commission said in a communication that if there is no deal, member states should take a ‘generous approach’ to facilitating the ongoing residence rights of British citizens who are legally resident on Brexit day, and that the default status for those with more than 5 years residence should be long term residence status. This is now being rolled out by countries across the EU in their no deal planning, and it’s looking as though all British residents who are currently permanent residents will move relatively seamlessly over to long-term residence status.
Like the carte de séjour permanent, the carte de résidence longue durée allows you to work (either as an employee or self-employed) and acts as your work permit.
If you’re a third country national of any nationality who is a family member as described above AND at the date of Brexit you had been living legally in France with your family member, you will also obtain the carte de résident longue durée if EITHER
You hold a carte de séjour permanent as a family member; OR
You have lived legally in France with your family member for 5 years.
Photo: AFP
3. What are the conditions?
There are conditions outlined in the Long Term Residence Directive that third country nationals have to meet in order to be granted the status; they’re very like those for EU permanent residence status, so sufficient resources and healthcare are there. In France the income requirements for ‘regular’ third country nationals are higher than for EU citizens: the level of SMIC (€1,522 gross per month). There is also a language requirement unless you’re over 65. 
4. But …. (and it’s a very important but!)
Under the ordonnance, a derogation will apply, making the conditions for receiving long term residence status for British people who are legally resident on Brexit day more favourable those for ‘regular’ third country nationals, for example your Canadian or Syrian neighbour.
A. Nobody will have to prove language level or other integration conditions, even if you’re under 65.
B. If you already hold a carte de séjour permanent UE:
You won’t have to prove resources or that you have health insurance, as long as you apply before the end of the transition period. Because you already hold a CdS permanent, it’s considered that you’ve already done that so you’ll just need to prove continued residence, as if you’re renewing your old CdS.
C. If you have been resident for 5 years or more but don’t hold a carte de séjour permanent UE:
You will have to 
Prove a certain level of resources. We don’t yet know what this is – it will be specified in a decree that has not yet been published. We hope that this will be the around current level of resources required for EU citizens but can’t yet say this with certainty until we’ve seen the decree.
Other countries have indeed specified that they will be maintaining EU resource conditions for applications for long term residence.
Prove that you have health cover.
As you’ll see, all this is really very similar to applying for a CdS permanent.
5. How long does long term residence status last?
Now, this is where some out and out wrong info is doing the rounds, so please read on for the facts: 
The Long Term Residence Directive is clear: in Article 8(1) it states that “The status as long-term resident shall be permanent”. 
The card itself lasts 10 years, as does the carte de séjour permanent. But the status is, like EU permanent residence status, permanent. 
At the end of the 10 years, it is automatically renewable. When you renew, you DO NOT have to re-prove resources or health cover – like EU permanent residence status, once you have it long term residence status is from that point condition free.
This is what you have to provide on renewal:
Your passport;
Your current carte de résidence longue durée;
A justificatif de domicile (proof of address) that is less than 3 months old; and 
A declaration on your honour that you haven’t spent more than 3 years out of the previous 10 years outside the EU, or more than 6 years out of France.
You’ll find the details on the Interior Ministry site HERE
6. Spending time outside France as a long term resident
As you’ll see from the previous paragraph, you can actually be away from France for longer if you hold a carte de résident longue duréé than you can with a carte de séjour permanent.
Your current EU card allows you to spend just 2 years outside France before you lose your permanent residence status.
A carte de résident longue durée on the other hand allows you to spend
up to 3 years completely outside the EU; or
up to 6 years outside France but within the EU.
So that’s a win for the carte de résident longue durée.
7. Mobility rights
If there is no deal, there would be absolutely no chance of our retaining our current free movement rights (there is little enough chance of retaining them if there is a deal, frankly!). 
So you might be pleased to hear that long term residence status confers some limited mobility rights. Freedom of movement it ain’t, but for those thinking of a future move to another EU27 country, it’s not to be sneezed at.
There’s no space here to go into all the details, but in a nutshell you have the right as a long term resident to move to another EU27 country (except Denmark) and if you meet the conditions, you will acquire the right to reside there. You don’t need a visa but you must apply for a residence permit in your second country within 3 months of arriving. You have to have health cover and show sufficient resources; some countries impose language conditions too.
If you meet all the conditions, the second country must issue you with a renewable residence permit.
You can find all the details of this in the Long Term Residence Directive HERE. Chapter III covers residence in other member states.
8. Yes, I get all that … but what is the carte de résident permanent that I keep reading about?
Ah, I wondered if you’d ask that. In Article 13 of the Long Term Residence Directive gives member states the opportunity of issuing residence permits that are of unlimited validity. But – and again, this is important – if they do this, they do so under national law, not under EU law, and such cards don’t include the mobility rights described above.
Some years ago France introduced a carte de résident permanent as an alternative to the carte de résident longue durée for some people. You can apply for this card when renewing a carte de résident longue durée or another 10 year carte de résident. It is offered systematically on renewal if you’ve had two consecutive 10 year cartes de résident, or if you’re over 60 – otherwise you have to request it. But even if it’s offered, you can choose to stick with the carte de résidence longue durée.
9. So which is better – the longue durée, or the permanent card?
The main difference between the cards is that one is renewable every 10 years, while the other card has unlimited validity. (But note that in the case of the carte de résident longue durée, it’s only the CARD that has validity of 10 years – the status is permanent).
The permanent card doesn’t carry more rights – in fact because it doesn’t include mobility rights you could say it carries less. But the carte de résident permanent has indefinite validity, so doesn't have to be renewed – and it carries no restriction on how long you can be out of the country and retain your rights.
On the other hand, the carte de résident permanent is issued under French immigration law. This means that it is potentially open to amendment by a future government. The carte de résident longue durée comes under EU law, as we've described above, so in that sense carries a higher level of protection.
If you’re renewing your carte de résident longue durée, and you don’t ever envisage moving to another EU country, then requesting the permanent card would mean no future renewal costs.
If you want, for example, to go and spend 5 years living with your daughter in Australia, then the carte de résident permanent would allow you to do that without losing your permanent residence rights in France. There are no restrictions on the time you can spend outside France if you have this card.
If you think, though, that one day you might like to go and live in – say – Italy for a while, then you should really think about hanging on to your long term residence status as it would facilitate your move there.
In other words … it's complicated, and a balancing act depending on your individual circumstances. Although we're talking 10 years down the line here, you should really think very carefully about which status is better for you – and maybe even take some advice before you change.
You’ll find more about the carte de résident permanent HERE.
10. So what's the final verdict on residence status?
Although residence status isn't the only issue and there are other aspects to a no-deal Brexit that may well affect people (reciprocal social security arrangements, recognition of qualifications, family reunification etc) it's fair to say that under the no-deal contingency proposals in the ordonnance, most people who currently hold EU permanent residence rights will not experience a great deal of change from their current residence status once their status changes to that of a third country national long term resident.
One possible downside for some: it looks as though everyone who doesn't currently hold a carte de séjour permanent will be asked to justify a certain level of resources and health cover, not just those who are self-sufficient/inactive. But you'll only have to do this once, to receive your first card. We await the details of the income levels, which will be published in a decree.
Another downside is that the card will cost – we await the details of this in a decree.
And we will of course lose our free movement rights … but we would do so under the Withdrawal Agreement too. The same goes for political and voting rights.
But on a day to day basis, as a long term resident your right to reside in France for the rest of your life will be protected, and protected under EU law. 

Member comments

  1. Please explain the position of people who have not been here 5 years. When I recently tried to apply for a 5 year temporary residence permit, the prefecture was refusing to accept any more applications from British nationals. They said they had been told to wait till May when Brexit was “settled”(?). Will my Carte Vitale also have been stalled? Also I have seen nothing on the situation when one person is retired and the other is not (wife or otherwise). Does the non-retired partner come under the wing of the retired person or do they have to apply separately satisfying different conditions?

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.