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BREXIT

Carte de séjour: France’s online system for residency applications ‘won’t go live until November’

Britons living in France who don't yet have a carte de séjour residency permit will have to wait a little longer before a new online application system goes live.

Carte de séjour: France's online system for residency applications 'won't go live until November'
Photo: Deposit Photos

The Local reported back in September that France's interior ministry was set to launch an “online platform” to allow Brits to apply for residency permits.

However little detail was given about the future website and how it would work but the live date was given as mid-October.

But despite much speculation that Brits would be able to apply for the cartes de séjours online from this week, it is now believed the site won't actually go live until November – after the October 31st date when Britain is scheduled to leave the EU.

The campaign group France Rights says the online system is still being tested and staff at prefectures around the country are currently being trained on how it works.

Given British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is insistent that the UK will leave the EU on October 31st with or without a deal, Kathryn Dobson from France Rights said the delay is far from ideal for Brits in France.

“British nationals in France have lived in limbo for three years – many finding it impossible to apply for a CdS – so given the 'do or die' date of the 31st October, not to have the details of the process and the timings at this late stage is adding to the already significant stress people are feeling,” she told The Local.

“France's no deal legislation gives a window of six months to register and so every day counts.”

While many fear the website will crash under the weight of applications France Rights believes it will be “up to the demands”.

READ MORE: Will new online system end the postcode lottery for Brits in France?

The question facing the tens of thousands of Brits who don't yet have a carte de séjour residency permit is whether to push ahead with their application via the normal process or wait until the online system is activated.

However, many prefectures have already decided to stop accepting applications until after Brexit  – and there are reports of other prefectures holding off until the online system is up and running – meaning many are not faced with this dilemma and simply have to remain in limbo.

“I personally now recommend people hold off until we know one way or the other,” said Kathryn Dobson from France Rights.

“There are very few prefectures that are a) still accepting and processing applications and b) issuing cards quickly. I know my prefecture of Vienne is now managing a three-week turnaround regularly but even that won't get cards processed before the 31st now.”

France Rights say they are still asking for clarification around certain issues such as whether the platform will go live if there's another Brexit extension and whether people who have just begun their application should cancel it and use the online system.

 

 

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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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