Make sure that you've submitted tax returns in France if you've been here long enough to do so (even if all your income comes from the UK);
Meet the conditions for legal residence according to which category of resident you fall into (working/self-employed/student/retired or economically inactive for another reason).
Make sure that you're in the French health system and that you have an attestation of your rights even if you don't yet have a Carte Vitale. Download a new attestation from your health provider's (AMELI, RAM etc) website just in case.
If you have been resident for five years or more, and if your préfecture is still accepting applications, apply for a Carte de Séjour under current rules. If there is a no deal exit this would make it easier for you to apply for your carte de résidence longue durée under the French no deal ordonnance - see here for more details. And even if there is a Withdrawal Agreement it will help you benefit from a streamlined process to receive a new card if necessary under post-Brexit rules.
- If you've been resident for less than five years you will have to make a completely new application for a card post-Brexit, so at this stage there is little benefit to you in applying for a carte de séjour now under current rules UNLESS you know you'll be travelling out and back into France shortly after Brexit day (see below for more about this).
- So you're living in France, but are you legally resident here?
- French government publishes its no-deal Brexit decree for Britons living in France
2. Create, and keep up to date, a dossier as if you're applying for a Carte de Séjour. In particular:
Collate all your Avis d'Imposition since you arrived in France. You may need them to prove the length of your residence. You can download them and print them out from within your account at impots.gouv.fr. Alternatively request a 'bordereau de situation fiscale' from your tax office for each year of your residence. You can do this online, in your account at impots.gouv.fr.
Put together a file of utility bills for at least five years and keep it up to date - make sure you have one document per semester (so two per year). This will prove your continued residence.
If your name is not on the taxe foncière or taxe d'habitation bills for your household, or on any utility bills, get it added now.
For women in particular: make sure that the name on bills, bank statements, pension statements, payslips etc matches the name on your passport if possible.
- Put together a file of bank statements, wage slips and/or pension statements for the last five years if you've lived here that long. Longer is even better - 10 years is good. You may need these to prove the stability and sufficiency of your resources.
3. Check your passport
You'll need to comply with different rules to enter and travel around the Schengen area. There are two important issues that may affect your right to travel or to live here legally after exit, so it's really important to start thinking about this now.
Firstly, Schengen Border Code rules mean that existing passports which were renewed early and therefore have over 10 years validity will no longer be valid right up to the expiry date written on the passport, but will be limited to the 10 years immediately after their issue date. For example, if your passport was renewed (under the old rules) 6 months before its expiry date, it would show a valid period of 10 years and 6 months. After Brexit day, you will effectively 'lose' the last 6 months validity, as third country nationals' passports must have been issued within the last 10 years. Note: this may affect you even if you don't travel - in order to remain a legal resident in France you need to make sure that the issue date on your passport is later than exactly 10 years before Brexit day.
Secondly, your passport should have at least 6 months' validity on arrival, after discounting the period above.
There are more details on all of this in the UK government guidance here. It's a good idea to read it now.
4. Driving licence
- There is some good news on driving licences, as the French government announced in April that British people who can prove "normal residence" in France can continue to use their UK licence after a no-deal Brexit. However this only applied to people who have been here for 185 days (six months) on Brexit day. People with less than six months residence will have to apply for a French licence as a Third Country National.
5. Think about moving money
- If you have bank accounts, savings or investments in the UK, consider moving them to France now. Sterling may drop (further) in the case of a no deal exit; there may also be temporary problems moving money in and out of the EU.
6. Try to have a financial backstop
If at all possible, try and make sure you have access to enough cash to see you through two or three months, especially if your income comes from the UK and is transferred monthly.
If you have a personal pension in the UK (this doesn’t apply to state or public service/occupational pensions) and have not yet retired, think about getting advice about how to deal with this and cashing it in if you’re old enough, or moving it. There may be issues with the rights of UK insurers/financial services providers to operate in the EU without having a formal presence there after Brexit and these could cause problems e.g. with insurers making payments to those living outside the UK. Write to your insurer/private pension company in the UK to ask them what plans they have put in place for post-Brexit scenarios.
- If you're newly resident in France and still using a UK issued EHIC to cover your health care, you'll also need to take out full private health insurance to cover you until you can join PUMa, as the EHIC scheme will fall away on Brexit day and you won't be covered. As a reminder, having health cover is a condition of legal residence.
9. Top up your medication
- If you currently rely on an S1 form for access to the French health service and you need regular medication, think about making sure you have a good supply of it on Brexit day - if the worst happens and the reciprocal health care system stops on that date it might take several weeks to get an alternative system up and running and there may be short term chaos. Making sure that you have the permitted three months of long-term medication would mean that you'd avoid having to pay full whack for your meds while the situation was resolved.
10. Look at ways you could maximise your income and minimise your expenses
This applies particularly if the bulk of your income is in sterling, which may take a serious hit after a no deal exit - sliding even further than it already has. What's your bottom line? What can you do to turn your income into euro income?
Create a personal financial contingency plan. Look at ways you can cut your spending temporarily, and at ways you could create additional income.
- Consider getting any potentially expensive dental or optical work done now, in case you have to reduce the cover on your mutuelle (if you have one). Or wait until 2020 when France will begin moving towards 100 percent reimbursement on dental, optical and hearing costs.
11. If you have a business that relies on attracting people from the UK
Start thinking about changing your client demographic. If there is a no deal Brexit people may not want to travel to the EU next year and you'll need to find new clients if you're to survive financially. Make sure you have a website in French, if you haven't already, and that you begin to advertise NOW to attract French and EU27 customers.
Put contingency plans in place now to deal with potential issues with VAT, excise, billing, professional insurance cover, etc.
- This is probably not the best time to make a family visit to the UK! Transport could be chaotic, with no agreements on air or other travel between the UK and EU. If you can't be in France, try to be somewhere in the Schengen zone.
13. If you have to travel ...
As a British resident and non-EU citizen, from Brexit day you will lose access to the EU/EEA passport/immigration queues at airports other border crossings in any country in the Schengen zone. Instead, you will have to queue with other third country nationals to have your passport stamped both on entry and exit. This is done to make sure that visitors don't overstay their 90 days. If you have a carte de séjour you will need to make sure that you carry and present this to prove your status as resident and not visitor. We are urgently trying to clarify - with the European Commission and the Ministry of the Interior - the situation for those who currently don't have cartes de séjour and in the meantime we strongly advise that if you must travel close to Brexit day you make sure you have substantial evidence with you of your French address and status as resident.
- If you have a French-issued CEAM (France's equivalent of the EHIC) because France is your competent state, from Brexit day you won't be covered while in the UK so you'll need to make sure that you take out health insurance to cover emergency health care.
12. Think about, or rethink about, applying for French citizenship
French citizenship won't guarantee all the rights you currently hold as an EU citizen (mutual recognition of professional qualifications, for example) but it will guarantee you the right to reside and to work - and as an EU citizen you'd continue to benefit from full free movement rights.
- Ten reasons why you should consider becoming French
- How long will British second home owners be able to stay in France after Brexit
- Will I still be able to move to France after Brexit as a British citizen
13. Get your professional qualifications recognised now
The European Commission has said that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, Brexit does not affect decisions made pre-Brexit by EU27 countries recognising UK qualifications under the general EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC). For details of which qualifications are covered see HERE. So if you have a UK qualification covered by that Directive and you need to be able to use it, apply to get it recognised before Brexit day.
- Only joking. (Sort of). Actually, you might be better off marrying a non-French EU27 citizen, as EU rules on family members and reunification are more favourable than the national French immigration rules that would apply to a French citizen.
15. Above all ... don't panic!
- Although things are chaotic and changing from day to day, we're all obviously still hoping for the best, while preparing for the worst. Whatever happens you won't be alone and will always find help and support within RIFT.
Kalba Meadows is head of the citizens rights team at Remain in France Together - find more Brexit related info and guidance on RIFT's homepage here.