Since the UK left the EU we are now in a transition period which runs (unless it is extended) until December 31st 2020.
With more rights guaranteed to British people who move to France before that date, many are looking to make the move this year.
But if that's not possible will you still be able to move after the end of the transition period?
Well yes, but it will be more complicated, as Kalba Meadows for citizens rights group France Rights explains;
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When the UK leaves the EU, it will become a 'third country' – a country which is not a member of the EU. This means that
- Freedom of movement will end for British citizens;
- You will no longer have the right to live in any EU country unless you go through the full immigration process as a third country national;
- Unless you have already become legally resident in France before the end of the transition period you will not be covered by any provisions to protect the rights of resident British citizens. You will be treated exactly the same as nationals of the United States, Australia, Syria, Turkey, Bangladesh and most other non-EU countries, and you will become an étranger rather than a citizen of the EU;
- If you want to stay more than 90 days in France you will have to apply for a long stay visa before you travel;
- To become legally resident you will have to meet conditions that are in most cases stricter than those for EU citizens, and you may well be subject to language and other integration requirements. Some may not be able to meet these conditions;
- If you want to come to take up employment, your employer or company would first have to request authorisation from the French authorities.
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Plenty of people from non-EU countries do successfully navigate the immigration process – 4.4 million immigrants (forming 6.7 percent of the overall population) from outside Europe live here so it's by no means impossible.
But it is more complicated, more costly, and more time-consuming.
There are two groups for whom the process will be a lot less traumatic – British citizens who also hold citizenship of another EU country or Switzerland and British people married to an EU citizen.
If you are a British citizen who also holds nationality of an EU/EEA state or Switzerland – let's use Ireland as an example – you would be able to move to France after Brexit using your ongoing free movement rights as a dual Irish national. You would need to meet the conditions for legal residence as an EU citizen, and you'd also need to use your Irish passport every time you arrived in or left France to avoid being caught in the ETIAS scheme.
- If you are the spouse, partner in a durable relationship, dependent child/grandchild or dependent parent/grandparent of an EU citizen from another EU/EEA state or Switzerland – let's use Germany as an example here – you would be able to move to France under the EU citizens' rights directive, piggybacking on your partner's free movement rights. Your German family member would have to meet the conditions for legal residence as an EU citizen and apply for a carte de séjour under EU rules; you would apply for a family member's card. You would be permitted to enter France at passport control as a UK citizen under the Schengen rules for up to 90 days, so the applications for cartes de séjour would need to be made during this time.
But for anyone who doesn't fit in to these categories, you will simply become a third country national.
As a third country national, you would be able to spend no more than 90 days at a time in the Schengen area – read more on the Schengen area rules here.
So if you want to stay for longer, there are some new steps you will have to take
1. You must apply to the French Consulate in London for a long stay visa before you leave the UK. You can apply online here.
2. On arrival you will need to have your visa validated as a residence permit within three months (or in some cases apply for a residence permit within two months).
Holding a residence permit (or visa validated as a residence permit) will be compulsory.
The initial visa application can be done online here, but the process will require an interview in person in one of the three UK centres – London, Manchester or Edinburgh.
There are various different categories of visa, each with its own set of conditions. There are some exceptions, but the three primary categories are retired or otherwise not economically active, self-employed, and employed.
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Retired or economically inactive
The key for this category is that you need to prove that you have enough money to live on, and will not become a burden to the French state.
You will need to show that you have sufficient funds – this is based on the level of SMIC (minimum wage) and is currently €1,204 net per month. Current guidance to préfectures states that a spouse/partner's income may be taken into account, but in this instance you would have to prove that their income is twice the level of SMIC – ie currently €2,408 per month net.
You will need to provide a raft of documents with your application – full details are included in the application form, but in brief:
- Pre-requisites: application form dated and signed; France-Visas receipt; ID photograph; travel document : national passport or official travel document issued less than 10 years ago, valid for at least 3 months beyond the planned date of return, containing at least two blank ‘visa’ pages.
- Purpose of travel/stay: promise not to exercise any professional activity in France; proof of your socio-economic situation.
- Accommodation: proof of residency in France: rental agreement or property title or, if applicable, statement signed by a host confirming the establishment in France. Any unusual situation will require an explanation letter.
- Funds: last three months worth of bank statements (UK current account) showing your full name and address, and proving that you have enough funds for the whole duration of the trip, or traveller's cheques presenting the same guarantees; if you are financially sponsored by your spouse/partner : marriage certificate or other proof of relationship, and bank statements of your spouse/partner (see above).
- Other: health insurance for the full duration of the stay. The insurance must cover the visa’s entire validity period (1 year at the most).
This section applies if you want to move to France to set up a commercial, industrial, artisanal or agricultural business, or work independently in a liberal profession in France.
- You will apply for a long-stay visa known as a VLS/TS – this is a visa that doubles up as your first residence permit (titre de séjour). It will carry the wording entrepreneur/profession libérale.
- If you want to set up a new business, you must be able to demonstrate the economic viability of your project. If you want to work in a liberal profession or in an activity that has already been created, you must be able to prove that you have sufficient financial resources ie the equivalent of the minimum legal wage in France for a full-time worker (SMIC).
- If your business activity or the liberal profession you are engaged in is subject to specific regulations, you'll have to meet the requirements in terms of qualifications/diplomas as well as any other conditions. To find out more, have a look at the list of regulated professions here.
- You'll have to submit various supporting documents with your application – you'll find these as part of your online application.
Moving to France as a third country national to take up employment is somewhat more complex, and we can only give you pointers and the gist of things here. The procedure is different according to whether or not you're already living in France – here we assume that you are not yet resident.
- The business or company wishing to recruit you must first of all request official authorisation to do so, using this form.
- If you are employed by a private individual, you must also submit this hiring form (pdf) duly signed and completed by your employer.
- Your visa will reflect the nature of your employment contract. If you have a permanent contract – a contrat à durée indéterminée (CDI) – you will receive the long-stay visa known as a VLS/TS; this is a visa that doubles up as your first residence permit (titre de séjour). It will carry the wording salarié and will be valid for a year. If you have a temporary contract – a contrat à durée déterminée (CDD) – you will probably receive the same visa, though its length will be determined by the length of your contract. It will carry the wording travailleur temporaire.
Once you have arrived in France, you will need to validate your visa within three months. If you fail to do so, your stay in France will become irregular and you won't be able to work or re-enter the country. You can validate your visa online here.
If you want to stay in France for longer than the length of your visa, you then need to apply for residency (carte de séjour) at your local préfecture and you must make this application two months before your visa expires.
Salaried employees may also be asked to sign a contrat d'intégration républicaine (CIR), in which you agree to respect the principles and values of the French republic and to follow any training required of you. You will be asked to sit a test to evaluate your level of French, and to undertake French lessons if it isn't at the required level (currently A1).
This article applies only to people moving to France after the end of the transition period. If you are already in France you will still need to apply for a carte de séjour residency permit, but the process is slightly simpler. Find out more here.
For more information, head to the France Rights group website.