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Brexit: France to launch new website for British people to apply for carte de séjour

France will launch a new online platform in October so Britons can apply for their carte de séjour residency permits, the French PM has announced. However campaigners fear the new system may still struggle to cope with the demand.

Brexit: France to launch new website for British people to apply for carte de séjour
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe convened a special meeting of French ministers on Monday to ramp up preparations for Britain's exit from the European Union.

Among the measures he announced was the creation of an online platform where British people already living in France will be able to register for residency after Brexit.

 

The Prime Minister's statement read: “The Ministry of the Interior will launch an online registration platform for British nationals living in France in October.”
 
The website will be in English, according to campaigners for Britons in France, who have met officials at the Ministry of Interior.
 
Claire Godfrey, who has been in a meeting with French officials on Friday, added that the online system should hopefully simplify and standardise the process.
 
She posted on Facebook that the system being outlined could be one where people would make the application online and scan in all relevant supporting documents.
 
Applicants would then receive a receipt for their application, and would only need one in-person appointment for the taking of fingerprints, which could be done at préfectures, sous-préfectures or possibly local mairies.
 
Until now, applications have been dealt with by local préfectures, and readers of The Local have reported big differences in how authorities in different areas are dealing with applications.
 
While some prefectures have simply closed applications until they know more about when and how Brexit will unfold, others are processing applications within a matter of weeks, leading to a postcode lottery for Brits in France.
 
But from October, Britons will be able to make their applications on the online system, which will hopefully standardise the procedure across the country. This applies only to people who are already resident in France on Brexit day.
 
 
 
In recent months the French government and the British embassy have been encouraging Britons who have been in France for over five years to apply for cartes de séjour residency permits.
 
The government has already announced that after Brexit all British people will need to apply for residency under the carte de séjour scheme that all third-country nationals use.
 
In the case of a no-deal Brexit there will be a one-year grace period, although applications must be received within six months of Brexit day.
 
If Britain leaves with a deal there will be a transition period until December 2020, although that date may well change.
 
British people who already have a carte de séjour permanent will be able to simply swap it after Brexit, but everyone else will have to make a new application under new conditions.
 
Although the Prime Minister gave no further details, the French government has updated its Brexit website which gives guidance on the requirements for British people living in France.
 
The Local has contacted the Ministry of the Interior for further details about the online platform.
 
Kalba Meadows from citizens rights group British in Europe's France team gave the news a cautious welcome.
 
She said: “We were given to understand last year that there would be a centralised application platform, and this was confirmed in the table produced by the European Commission in June, so while it's not 'new news' for us it's good that a timeline will now been put into place so that the process can begin as soon as possible.
 
“It's going to be a mammoth task processing applications from up to 200k Brits in France.
 
“As ever, the devil is in the detail though – and we understand that although applications will be made on a central online platform they will still be processed by individual préfectures, many of which will struggle to meet the demand without extra resources.
 
“No announcement has been made to date about the provision of additional resources so we're following with interest and look forward to discussing the details of the scheme as soon as possible so it can be made as user friendly as possible.”
 
The statement from the French Prime Minister added that France was still hoping that Britain would exit the EU with a deal, but was also preparing for a no-deal scenario.
 
The Ministry of the Interior added that it would be stepping up communication to both citizens and businesses urging them to make preparations.
 
An extra 600 customs staff have been appointed to process arrivals in France from the UK, and an extra 200 veterinary experts are already at the borders.
 
Testing of the new systems will be carried out in the coming weeks to ensure the systems will be up and running by Brexit day, which is currently scheduled for October 31st.
 
 

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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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