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BREXIT

How Britons in France should make the most of the Brexit delay

Britain's departure from the European Union has been delayed once again, this time for a period of six months, which means Britons in France have a little breathing space to get their houses in order and secure their futures. Here's some advice.

How Britons in France should make the most of the Brexit delay
Photo: AFP

The Wednesday decision by the European Council is intended to give British politicians more time to work out their differences and agree on a deal to avoid the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal.

But the breathing space also applies to British people in France who still need to regularise their status and guarantee they can stay here long-term.

What should I do about residency?

Many long-term British residents in France have already acquired a permanent carte de séjour, which gives them the right to remain in France, but many more have not.

Earlier this year prefectures in many French départements announced they would no longer be accepting applications from Britons, due to the uncertainty around Brexit, although applications made earlier are still being processed.

But what Britons can do is make sure they are legally resident in France or gather the proof to show when they arrived here, so that when applications do reopen they won't be rejected.

Remember simply living in France, even if you have been here a long time, is not the same as being legally resident. If you apply for residency and are rejected you can appeal, but there is a danger you can also be asked to leave as thousands of EU citizens are each year.

The areas of France the Brits do and don't goPhoto: AFP

Kalba Meadows from citizens advice group Remain in France Together (RIFT) told The Local: “The key for Britons now is still very much to make sure they are legally resident.

“It's becoming more and more obvious that many people aren't and having a long extension would give them the chance to get their houses in order, so to speak.”

Meadows adds: “There is no other way of putting it than this: the tough news is that sometimes a lifestyle choice is incompatible with being legally resident in another country.”

The reality is that many Britons who came to France many years ago are only just finding out that there are conditions attached to gaining legal residence. Part of the problem was that prior to Brexit Britons were not obliged to officially register in France nor prove legal residence.

But to gain a permanent resident card applicants need to demonstrate they have been legally resident in France for five years. That is proving a problem for many.

Many of those on low incomes or who have set up as self-employed but are struggling to earn much money, or retirees whose pensions are low are particularly vulnerable.

The conditions around legal residence generally relate to income – you need to be able to demonstrate that you have a sufficient level of income and will not be a burden to the French state.

People also need to demonstrate their work is “regular, effective and genuine, and that it has the capacity to continue to be so going forward”.

How much do I need to earn to stay?

As ever with Brexit, there is some uncertainty surrounding this. If the UK leaves with a deal there will be a transition period, currently until December 2020 but it's not clear if that will be extended if a deal is eventually ratified by the British parliament.

After any transition period Brits would have to apply for a new residency card but the income requirements for obtaining those permits have not been published.

But the view is that the rules on income will likely stay as they are now for EU nationals.

For example, currently if you're living alone and do not have children, you must earn at least €550.93 a month and that goes up to €943.28 if you have one child. 

Similarly if you live with your partner, you must bring in €826.40 as a household and this goes up to €991.68 if you have one child. 

For over 65s who live alone the figure is €868 and for over 65s living in a couple the figure is €1,347. You can see the full list for those under 65 in the table below from the official government website

Photo: AFP

So what about those who have been earning less?

Meadows from RIFT said: “You may need to have a long hard think about what you can do: for example, how could you increase your income for the five year period required? This might include working, registering as a jobseeker, setting up a (genuine) business, letting some rooms in your home, or even asking for a regular allowance from family.”

If you are self-employed and want to know more CLICK HERE and if you are retired or not actively working you can CLICK HERE for more information.

The French government has also published a decree stating what rights British people will have in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The decree adds that if resources are not deemed to be sufficient, anyone who can prove that they own their own home – or are entitled to free accommodation – may receive a favourable decision, although this is not guaranteed. It's not clear whether this concession will also be made in the case of a deal.

Get a dossier ready

Whatever happens, you will need to make an application to stay and for this you will need a large amount of paperwork to prove – among other things – the date of your arrival in France, your British citizenship and your employment or education status, bills, payslips, rental agreements, proof of qualifications, accounting… For a more in depth list for those working or self-employed click here.

As with many things in France, if the paperwork is not complete your application may well be rejected, so it is well worth making sure you have all the relevant pieces in place. Some bits of paperwork – for example a full birth certificate with parents names on it and duplicate utility bills – will need to be requested and this can take time, not to mention getting them translated.

What other things should I get sorted?

If possible you should arrange your health cover, both with a carte vitale and top up health insurance known as a mutuelle. Both of these can be done now and will not be affected by the outcome of Brexit.

The carte vitale entitles you to state-funded healthcare. Many Britons living in France will already have one, but some have been relying on the European health card.

With a carte vitale, you still pay upfront for your healthcare (GP visits, prescriptions etc) but some or all of the money is then reimbursed directly into your bank account from the French government.

The health insurance basically tops up the rest of your treatment costs which the government does not reimburse. 

Brexit: What are Britons living in France supposed to do now?Photo: Depositphotos

What about a driving licence?

The good news is that the French government revealed last week that even in the case of a no-deal Brexit, British people will still be able to drive in France on a British licence.

Previously Brits had been encouraged to exchange their licences for French ones until authorities in Nantes had to close the door because they were soon flooded with applications.

Many people are still stuck in the system. If you are planning on being in France long term it might still be worth exchanging your licence for a French one, especially if your current photocard licence is due to expire.  

Find out more here.

Can I become a French citizen instead?

If you want to be totally sure that you will be entitled to remain come what may, then citizenship is the way to achieve that. You can apply for citizenship after five years of living in France, and although the process can be long and somewhat convoluted, France is more generous than many countries in granting citizenship. Read the full list of what is required and how to go about it here.

Should I get married?

Sadly in residency terms this is largely pointless as it makes little difference to your legal status and will not fast track you to citizenship. If, however you want to demonstrate your love and commitment to each other, then The Local wishes you all the best.

Member comments

  1. ‘If possible you should arrange your health cover, both with a carte vitale and top up health insurance known as a mutuelle. Both of these can be done now and will not be affected by the outcome of Brexit’. THIS STATEMENT I DO NOT BELIEVE IS CORRECT. THERE WILL BE ONE YEAR’S GRACE WHEN THE GB GOVT. WILL CONTINUE TO PAY FOR HEALTHCARE UNDER THE CARTE VITALE SYSTEM. A MUTUELLE IS ONLY AVAILABLE IF ONE ALREADY HAS A CARTE VITALE. IF THE RECIPROCITY OF HEALTHCOVER IS NOT MAINTAINED BETWEEN FRANCE AND THE UK, THEN OUR CARTES VITALE WILL BE CANCELLED, AND AUTOMATICLALY THE MUTUELLE/TOP UP SYSTEM AS WELL. BRITS IN FRANCE WOULD THEN NEED TO OBTAIN EITHER PUMA HEALTH COVER, OR GET PRIVATE HEALTH COVER WHICH ONLY THE RICH COULD AFFORD. I would like to be wrong on this, but …

  2. Regarding income requirements I think the amounts quoted above are of of date. The French Government Decret No 2019-264 of 2.4.19 according to Remain in France newletter of 4.4.19 states “in no case must this be more than the level of RSA -currently 559,74eur pm for someone living alone and 839,62 eur for a couple per month”. It takes the level from ASPA to RSA which is good news for many. Hopefully, if I am correct, this article will be amended promptly.
    Regarding TrishH comment has not the French Government assured in any event 2 years cover for UK 5 year+ residents in addition to the feeble British Government assurance?

  3. “relying on european health card”. Surely this is irresponsible journalism as it is well known that this card is designated for short visits to an EU country where an emergency health problem happens requiring treatment. It cannot in any way replace health insurance. However, I am aware that certain foreign residents in France seem to get away with abusing the system and manage to obtain non-emergency health care using this card. It is no longer accepted for first year health cover when applying for carte sejour.

  4. Regarding Brits who have made UK wills under Brussels IV convention and who naturalise to French citizenship, beware (perhaps) a risk of French inheritance law being applied, with its strict rules, in preference to the UK will. No precedents yet.

  5. @aquitaine guy You write that the EHIC card ‘is no longer accepted for first year health cover when applying for carte sejour.’ What evidence do you have for this? The relevant guidance on the Ministry of the Interior and the guidance on my local prefecture website (Alpes-Maritimes)

  6. Reply truncated for some reason. What I meant to write: @aquitaine guy You write that the EHIC card ‘is no longer accepted for first year health cover when applying for carte sejour.’ What evidence do you have for this? The relevant guidance on the Ministry of the Interior and the guidance on my local prefecture website (Alpes-Maritimes) say that it is still acceptable for the first year of a temporary CdS.

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BRITS IN EUROPE

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.

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