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Can Brits without a carte de séjour travel in and out of France after Brexit?

As the current Brexit date approaches and a no-deal exit seems to be an increasing possibility, we're asking our readers to share their questions.

Can Brits without a carte de séjour travel in and out of France after Brexit?
Travel in and out of the EU after Brexit will become more complicated. Photo: AFP

One issue that we have been asked repeatedly is whether people who do not already have the carte de séjour residency permit will be able to travel in and out of France in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

TELL US: What questions do you have about a no-deal Brexit?

And the short answer to that is that at present the rules are not certain.


What exactly is the problem?

France is one of the few countries in the EU (along with Spain and the UK) that has never required EU citizens to register for residency if they are living in the country long term. So while British people living in countries such as Sweden will already have identity cards confirming that they are residents, many thousands of Brits in France have nothing official to say that they live here.

Since the Brexit referendum in 2016 a significant proportion of the British population here have obtained the carte de séjour residency permit, but many others have not as it is currently not a legal requirement and in recent months many préfectures have stopped processing applications from UK citizens, as the application will have to be processed again after Britain leaves the UK.

If Britain leaves the EU without a deal, the French government has said it will give a one-year grace period for Brits to obtain their cards (although applications will have to be made within six months of the Brexit date).

But that will still leave many residents without any official proof of their status for many months while the thousands of applications are processed.

So what about travel?

While a lack of carte de séjour is initially unlikely to cause problems while you are in France – what about at the border?

In the case of a no-deal Brexit, Britons will become Third Country Nationals, who will have to join the non EU passport queue. Third Country Nationals entering the EU are generally required to have a visa (as American and Australian visitors to France already do).

The EU announced in 2018 that it would allow visa-free travel for Britons entering the Schengen area for 90 days or less – the current limit for how long non EU residents are allowed to stay in Europe as a tourist.

However this is based on the UK offering a reciprocal deal for EU citizens in Britain, and British Home Secretary Priti Patel's recent announcement that “all freedom of movement will end on October 31st” seems to have cast some doubt on this.

Her announcement had no concrete detail in it, that is apparently following shortly, but it was enough to cause concern.

There is also the issue that non EU citizens entering the EU without a visa could have their passport stamped as a tourist, which if you don't leave France after 90 days could lead to you being branded an 'overstayer' which would make it hard to travel and could even see you being deported.

So does that mean Brits without cartes de séjour cannot travel?

There's been a distinct lack of official advice on this, meaning that the issue isn't clear.

It's something that citizen's rights group Remain in France Together (RIFT) is urgently seeking clarification on. 

A spokesman for the group posted on Facebook: “The issue of re-entry to France for those without a current carte de séjour is one that we've taken up with the European Commission, the Ministry of the Interior and the British Embassy but we've not yet had a satisfactory response.”

Further meetings are planned in attempt to get clearer answers.

In the meantime British people planning to travel after Brexit are advised to take with them any proof they have that they are resident in France – for example carte vitale, proof of address such as utility bills or rental contract, employment contract or tax returns if you have been here long enough to complete one.

Some mairies will also provide on request an attestation stating that you are a permanent resident in the area.

While the French government is yet to issue official advice, some other EU countries, for example Germany, have advised Brits without a residence permit to carry documentation proving that they are a long term resident when travelling in and out of the country.

While lugging around a big file of papers every time you travel might seem a little over the top, it's probably better to be safe than sorry, a least until any official clarification can be obtained. 


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France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Visits to the Channel islands from France have halved since Brexit, and French local authorities say they may be forced to cut the regular ferry service, asking for the passport requirement to be waived for French visitors.

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Travel to and from the Channel islands – which are British crown dependancies – has reduced significantly since Brexit, when passports became a requirement for those travelling in and out of the islands and their ports.

Now the president of the local authorities in the Manche département of France has asked that passport requirements be lifted, with hopes of increasing travel to and from the islands.

Jean Morin told Ouest France that there has been a “considerable reduction in the number of passengers on routes between the Channel ports and the islands” and as a result the ferry service between France and the islands was seriously in deficit.

“On these lines, we will never make money, but we cannot be in deficit”, explained the Morin. 

He added that if a solution is not found by the deadline of May 1st, 2023, then local authorities will stop funding the shipping company DNO, which runs the Manche Îles Express ferry service.

“If the passport requirement is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025”, Morin told Ouest France.

Only around half of French people have a passport, since the ID card issued to all adults is sufficient to travel within the EU. 

READ MORE: Ask the Expert: How Brexit has changed the rules on pensions, investments and bank accounts for Brits in France

DNO re-launched operations in April and since then, the company, and by extension the département – who plays a large role in funding it via a public service delegation – has been losing significant funds.

According to Franceinfo, the number of passengers has been cut in half since passport requirements were introduced. Franceinfo estimates that for one ticket for one passenger costing €30, the département spends €200.

According to Morin, the ideal solution would be to require a simple ID for tourists seeking to take just day-long or weekend-long stays on the islands – which reportedly represents at least 90 percent of the boats’ usual passengers.

“The Jersey government is working hard on the issue and is waiting for an agreement from London and the European Union. There is the possibility that things could move quickly”, Morin told Franceinfo on Tuesday.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, boats going to and from the French mainland carried at least 110,000 people per year. In 2022, only 40,000 passengers made the journey, Olivier Normand, the sales manager of Manche Îles Express, told Actu France.

Normand had expected the decline, however. He told Actu France that the company had taken a survey, which found that almost half (between 40 and 50 percent) of their clientele did not have a passport.