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Will having a French or EU spouse help me in case of a no-deal Brexit?

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Will having a French or EU spouse help me in case of a no-deal Brexit?
Wedded bliss might not also mean residency bliss. Photo: AFP
16:21 CEST+02:00
There's a widespread belief that being married to a French person or other EU citizen is some sort of 'golden ticket' to being allowed to stay in the country, but in reality it's not as simple at that.

We're asking readers of The Local to send us their questions about what will happen to Britons in France in the case of a no-deal Brexit, and the issue of marriage to a French or other EU spouse is one that has come up a lot.

And there seems to be some confusion about what rights this gives. While an EU spouse gives you some advantages in staying in France after Brexit, it's by no means a blank cheque and doesn't mean that you get to avoid the dreaded paperwork.

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Citizenship or residency?

There are two ways you can stay in France after Brexit as a British person - applying for French citizenship or applying for French residency and (of course, this is France) both of them involve a fairly hefty amount of paperwork.

So which is best? Well citizenship gives you the right to stay indefinitely not to mention vote in elections here, while residency has some time limits. However applying for citizenship is a more complex and lengthy process (even if you are married to a French person).

It generally takes 18 months to two years, while residency is quicker, usually about six months (but often quicker) although it varies widely from place to place.

So if you haven't started an application yet, there is no guarantee that your citizenship will be confirmed by the time the grace period following a no-deal Brexit runs out. Once you have residency in place, you can then apply for citizenship provided you meet the criteria.

What does residency involve?

The French residency card, the carte de séjour, gives you the right to stay in France and work here (depending on the type of card you have) for either five years or longer, depending on how long you have lived here.

People applying for residency alone need to make a appointment at their local préfecture (except in Paris, where applications are dealt with by the Préfecture de Police) and supply documentation proving their ID, how long they have lived in France, their work status and evidence of resources for people who aren't working.

More details can be found here.

How does being married help?

If you're married to an EU national you still need to go down to the préfecture and make the application, but the criteria you are applying on are slightly different.

If your spouse is not French but from another EU country they would need to demonstrate that they meet the conditions for legal residence in France, you could then apply for a carte de séjour as an EU family member. This doesn't have to be a spouse, it can also be a parent or a child.

When applying as an EU family member, you need to provide a passport, three ID photos, proof of your relationship to the EU person (marriage certificate or birth certificates, which will need to be translated into French by a certified translator) and proof of your partner's right to be in France (if they are French this just needs to be their passport).

After Brexit, you must make sure your application is submitted within three months of arrival, if you are late in applying you will need a 'regularisation visa' which costs €340. The first card will be valid for between one and five years depending on your circumstances and can then be renewed.

It's possible for French local officials to reject your application if they believe your marriage is one of convenience only.

It's worth noting that Ireland and Denmark have not signed up the EU directive on family reunification, so being married to an Irish person or a Dane will not help you here.

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What does citizenship involve?

Citizenship gives you a lot more rights, including the right to vote, and is consequently harder to obtain.

There are broadly two ways to get citizenship, through residency or through marriage. (Or through service in the French Foreign Legion or indeed demonstrating exceptional service to France).

How does being married help?

The first thing to note is that you can only start your citizenship application as a spouse after you've been married for four years. So if you're thinking a quickie marriage to your local barman might solve all your problems, then unfortunately it won't.

But if you've already put in the requisite number of years in your marriage you can get started straight away. 

The process is the same as applying through residency but has the major advantage that you don't need to prove length of residency in France.

Depending on your age and other circumstances you may or may not have to provide a formal certificate of language proficiency (usually to B1 level) but there is still an interview in French, so your language skills will need to be at a reasonable level.

You apply through your local préfecture and need to send in a fairly lengthy list of documents.

Once the application is processed, you will then be called for an interview where you will be asked some questions about France and French culture and must explain (in French) why you want to become a citizen. This needs to be a genuine explanation of why you love France and deserve citizenship and officials will not be impressed with the answer 'to get a passport'.

You will also be rejected for citizenship if you have ever been deported from France or have been convicted of certain types of crime. As with residency, officials can turn you down if they don't believe that your marriage is genuine.

Generally the whole process from start to finish takes between 18 months and two years.

Another thing to note is that if you get divorced within 12 months of getting French citizenship it could be invalidated. 

If you're not living in France, you can still apply for citizenship based on having a French spouse, but you need to do the application process and interview at the French consulate in the country where you are living.

What about citizenship of another country?

If you are married to a citizen of another EU country you can apply for citizenship there and then, as an EU national, you will have the right to stay in France. Different countries all have their own requirements for citizenship, but France is relatively generous so there aren't many places that will be substantially easier, although they might involve slightly less bureaucracy. Check out each country's requirements here.

So although being married does help, it doesn't solve all your problems. But at least you'll have some who is contractually obliged to listen to you complaining about French forms.

Do you have a question about your rights after Brexit? Tell us here and we'll do our best to answer it.

 

 
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