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How can you protect your children's rights to stay in France in the case of a no-deal Brexit?

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How can you protect your children's rights to stay in France in the case of a no-deal Brexit?
Are your children entitled to French citizenship? Photo: AndrewLozvyn/Depositphotos
14:38 CEST+02:00
For many British people who moved to France with young families - or started a family after moving - their children will have spent their most formative years in the country, but that doesn't give them an automatic right to stay.

So what is the deal for the children of British people living in France - whether they're still enjoying playtime at the école maternelle or they've fled the family nest and started studying at university?

In general, children take their residency status from their parents, so when British parents apply for residency they will be asked about dependent children and the children are included on their parents' carte de séjour.

READ ALSO The ultimate no-deal checklist

Although if you are travelling after Brexit you may need a document de circulation pour étranger mineur (DCEM) to prove to immigration officials that your children have the right to enter the country. Find out more about the document, which costs €45, here.

The same applies for healthcare - children are included on their parent's carte vitale and on any policies for a health insurance mutuelle and only need to apply for their own card once they hit 18.

But there are some exceptions to this basic rule that are worth knowing about.

The first one is where the children were born. If your children were born in France, you can apply on their behalf for French citizenship.

However there are some conditions attached to this. You can only apply once your child reaches the age of 13 and they must have been habitually resident in France for five years, be currently resident in France (so cannot have moved abroad to study, for example) and you need the child's consent.

As with other forms of citizenship application, you need to provide a hefty dossier of information including proof of residency for the qualifying period (such as school registration).

It's worth pointing out that if you've lived here long enough to apply for citizenship for your child you may also be able to apply for yourself - anyone who has lived in France for more than five years can apply for citizenship based on residency. Again it involves supplying a lot of paperwork and it not a quick process - the average time to process a citizenship request from start to finish is between 18 months and two years.

If you have one child who was born in France and others who were not, then can then claim citizenship as the sibling of a French national, but this has even more conditions attached.

Full details can be found here, but the basics are that the child must have been continuously resident in France since the age of six and have completed compulsory schooling in France - ie be aged 16 or over. They also need to not be a criminal or a terrorist.

Once the child reaches 18, he or she can apply for citizenship on their own account, but must be able to prove five years of continuous residency through things like school certificates.

If the parents gain French nationality, the child is automatically given citizenship so this may be a simpler way to do it.

In terms of residency requirements five years is needed for both children and adults, so actually being born in France doesn't give children much of a head start.

If children and parents live together they will reach the qualifying period at the same time, but it might be possible for children who were either born here or have siblings who were to gain citizenship even if their parents do not qualify - for example if they do not have French to the standard required for citizenship.

Gaining French citizenship of course gives you the right to stay in France long term, but is particularly relevant for children who grew up in France as it gives them the right to go abroad and study - for example at a UK university - and then come back to France without having to worry about residency requirements.

This is important because the children of British residents in France currently studying abroad are one of the groups considered most vulnerable to a no-deal Brexit since if they leave to spend time at a university abroad they may find it difficult to come back - and the simple fact of having grown up in France offers no legal protection.

 
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