Desperate to move to France before Brexit? You should read this

Many Britons it seems are desperately hoping to make their move to France or other EU countries before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29th - just over three weeks time. But if you're one of them, you should read this note of caution first.

Desperate to move to France before Brexit? You should read this
Max Speed/Flickr
Facebook groups for Britons in France have seen a flurry of posts from people desperate to move here before Britain's departure from the EU.
There are questions on the easiest way to find a job from people seemingly willing to take any kind of work in order to get their foot in the door in France before the deadline, as well as queries on the best way to find accommodation quickly.
Estate agents in parts of the country have also in recent months reported a flurry of activity from potential buyers looking to make the move before March 29th – the date when the UK is set to leave the EU as things stand.
Many Brits who had plans to move to France before Britain voted to leave the EU are not willing to give up their dream and some have decided since Brexit that they want to make their move here while they still have the chance. 
If the UK crashes out of the EU on March 29th, which has long been the fear of many, then that leaves them less than four weeks to get their foot in the door, which would be a tall order in itself.
However Britons who want to make a last ditch attempt to move to France before Brexit need to consider not just whether they can find a job or somewhere to live but also whether they will be 'legal residents' in time for Britain's withdrawal from the EU. 

How Brexit is making the dream move to France more complicatedPhoto: Alexshyripa/Depositphotos

This could end up being complicated and is something people need to spend some time investigating.

“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.”
Even if Britain leaves the EU with a deal, meaning a transition period lasting until December 2020 which would give people more time to come and settle in France, it is still necessary to know what being a 'legal resident' means. 
Up until now, Britons — as EU citizens — have not had to worry about what being a 'legal resident' in France involves, and whether you will be legally resident in France depends on a few important factors.
The transition period will basically give movers more time to build up evidence that they have “sufficient resources” to show they won't be a burden on the state.
'We need your help. Don't let a no-deal Brexit haunt our lives in France'Photo: AFP
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.

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Everything you need to know about your vital French ‘dossier’

It's a crucial part of life and an incomplete one can bring about a whole world of pain - here's what you need to know about your French dossier.

Everything you need to know about your vital French 'dossier'

The French word un dossier simply means a file – either in the physical sense of a plastic or cardboard item that holds documents together or the sense of a collection of documents. You might also hear civil servants use dossier to refer to the responsibilities they hold, as in English we might say their ‘brief’. 

But by far the most important use of dossier, particularly to foreigners in France, is its use to indicate the collection of documents that you must put together in order to complete vital administrative tasks, from registering in the health system to finding somewhere to live.

When you begin a new administrative process, you will need to put together a collection of documents in order to make your application. Exactly what you need varies depending on the process, but almost all dossiers will include;

  • Proof of ID – passport, birth certificate or residency card. If a birth certificate is required check carefully exactly what type of certificate is being asked for (and don’t freak out if they’re asking for a birth certificate no more than three months old, it doesn’t mean you have to be born again).

Birth certificate: Why you need it in France and how to request one

  • Proof of address – utility bills are usually the best, if you’re on paperless billing you can log into your online account with your power supplier and download an Attetstation de contrat which has your name and address on it and also acts as proof of address
  • Proof of financial means – depending on the process you might have to show proof of your income/financial means. This can include things like your last three months payslips or your most recent tax return. If you’re house-hunting you might be asked for your last three quittances de loyer – these are rent receipts and prove that you have been paying your rent on time. Landlords are legally obliged to provide these if you ask, but if you can’t find them or it’s a problem you can also ask your landlord to provide an attestatation de bon paiment – a certificate stating that you pay what you owe on time.

Paper v online

The traditional dossier is a bulging file full of papers, but increasingly administrative processes are moving online, so you may be able to simply upload the required documents instead of printing them all out. 

If you have to send physical copies of documents by mail, make sure you send them by lettre recommandée (registered mail), not only does it keep your precious documents safe, but some offices will only accept documents that arrive this way. 

If you’re able to send your dossier online, pay careful attention to the format specified for documents – usually documents like rental contracts or work contracts will be in Pdf format while for documents like a passport or residency card a jpeg (such as a photo taken on your phone) will suffice. If you’re sending photos of ID cards, residency cards or similar make sure you upload photos of both sides of the card.

If you need scanned documents there is no need to buy an expensive scanner – there are now numerous free phone apps that will do the job and allow you to photograph the documents with your phone’s camera and convert them to Pdf files.

Some French government sites are a little clunky and won’t accept large files – if you get an error message telling you that the file you are uploading is too big, you can resize it using a free online photo resizing tool. 


If the process requires payment (eg changing address on certain types of residency card or applying for citizenship) you may be asked for a timbre fiscale – find out how they work here


If you are looking for a property to rent you will need to compile a dossier and if you’re in one of the big cities – especially Paris – landlords or agencies usually won’t even grant you a viewing without seeing your dossier first, so it’s always best to compile this before you start scanning property adverts.

The government has put together a tool called Dossier Facile which allows you to upload all your house-hunting documents to a single site, have them checked and verified and then gives you a link to give to landlords and agencies, which makes the process a little simpler.

Find a full explanation of how it works here.


For foreigners, especially new arrivals, it’s often a problem getting together all the documents required. It’s worth knowing that if you don’t have everything you need, you can sometimes substitute documents for an attestation sur l’honneur, which is a sworn statement. 

How to write a French attestation sur l’honneur

This is a legally valid document, with penalties for submitting a false one, and needs to be in French and written in a certain format – the French government website provides a template for the attestation.


Déposer un dossier – submit your file

Pièce d’identitie – proof of ID eg passport, residency card

Acte de naissance – birth certificate. 

Copie intégral – a copy of the document such as a photocopy or scan

Extrait – a new version of the document, reissued by the issuing authority

Sans/ avec filiation – for birth certificates it might be specified that you need one avec filiation, which means it includes your parents’ details. Some countries issue as standard short-form birth certificates that don’t include this, so you will need to request a longer version of the certificate

Justificatif de domicile – proof of address eg recent utility bills. If you don’t have any bills in your name you can ask the person who either owns the property or pays the rent to write an attestation de domicile stating that you live there

Justificatif de situation professionnelle – proof of your work status eg a work contract – either a CDI (permenant contract) or CDD (short-term contract)

Justificatif de ressources – proof of financial means, such as your last three months payslips (employers are legally obliged to provide these), other proof of income or proof of pension payments or evidence of savings.

Avis d’imposition – tax return. Some processes ask for this separately, for others it can be used as proof of resources – this is not a copy of the declaration that you make, but the receipt you get back from the tax office laying out your income and any payments that are required. If you declare your taxes online in France, you can download a copy of this document from the tax website. 

Quittance de loyer – rent receipts

Attestation de bon paiment – a document from your landlord stating that you pay your rent on time

Un garant – for some processes, particularly house-hunting, you might need a financial guarantor. This can be tricky for foreigners since it has to be someone you know reasonably well, but that person must also be living (and sometimes working) in France, and they will also need to provide all the above documents. If you’re struggling to find an acceptable guarantor, there are online services that will provide a guarantor (for a fee).

En cours de traitement – this means that your dossier has been received and is in the process of being evaluated. Depending on the process this stage can take anywhere between hours, months or even years (in the case of citizenship applications).

RDV – the shortened version of rendez-vous, this is an appointment. Certain processes require you to first submit your dossier and then attend an in-person appointment.

Votre dossier est incomplet – bad news, you are missing one or more crucial documents and your application will not proceed any further until you have remedied this.

Votre dossier est validé – your dossier has been approved. Time to pop the Champagne!