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DEALING WITH BREXIT

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

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.

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

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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TOURISM

Travel to France: What has changed since Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ended on January 1st 2021, but Covid-related travel restrictions mean that the summer will mark the first post-Brexit trip to France for many Brits - so here's what you need to know about what has changed.

Travel to France: What has changed since Brexit?
France will start welcoming back British tourists this week, but some things have changed. Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

Health rules

Hopefully this is a temporary change, but be aware of requirements for testing and quarantine, plus the health restrictions still in place in France – full details HERE.

Passports

Your British passport of course remains a valid travel document, even if it no longer makes you a citizen of the EU. However, two things have changed here.

First your passport needs to have at least six months of validity left for travel into the EU (although if your passport runs for longer than 10 years, which some do, the situation is slightly more complicated – it might be easier to say it should be renewed nine and a half years after it was issued).

Second your passport is likely to be stamped as you enter France, so that authorities can see clearly your date of entry.

The passports of Brits who are permanent residents in France should not be stamped but they will need to show proof of residency such as a carte de séjour, a receipt acknowledging the application for a carte de séjour or proof of residency such as utility bills on both entry and exit – here’s what to do if your passport is stamped in error.

Visas

If you are entering France for a short holiday, visit to family or friends or trip to a second home you do not need a visa. However if you are moving to France to live or intending to stay longer than 90 days you will need either a visa or a residency permit – find out more HERE.

If you are coming to France to work you may need both a visa and a work permit depending on the type and duration of your work – full details HERE.

France is thankfully not yet actually locking up Brits who don’t have the correct paperwork, unlike the EU nationals detained in UK detention centres, but there are still checks and you can be turned back at the border if you try to enter France for a longer stay without the correct paperwork.

Extra paperwork

When entering France as a non-EU national you may be asked to provide any of the following at the border. In practice the level of enforcement on this varies, but French border guards are within their rights to ask you for;

  • Proof of accommodation during your stay (booking for hotel, gîte, Airbnb or B&B for tourists, second-home owners may need to provide proof of address such as a utility bill and if you’re staying with friends or family you may need an Attestation d’accueil, see below)
  • A return ticket or the means to acquire one
  • Sufficient financial means to cover basic costs during your stay. The guideline figures for this are; €65 per day if you have a hotel booking, €120 per day if you have no hotel booking, €32.50 per day if you are staying with friends or family
  • Insurance that covers health costs and the cost of repatriation if required (see health cover section below)
  • If you are transiting through France you may be asked for proof of your right to enter your final destination

READ ALSO Health insurance – what are the post-Brexit rules for Brits visiting France

Registering British guests with the Town Hall?

You may have seen reports that anyone who is hosting a British guest in their home has to register in advance with their local Mairie. Here is how this works, and the alternative if obtaining the attestation d’acceuil is not possible. 

90-days

With the ending of freedom of movement comes the 90-day rule, which states that out of every 180 days, Brits can only spend 90 of them within the EU without a visa or residency permit.

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule HERE, together with the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out our allowance.

It’s worth pointing out that the 90-day limit applies to the whole EU and Schengen zone, not just France. 

Health cover

In case you need healthcare while in France you will need either an EHIC or a GHIC health insurance card.

Be aware, however, that those only cover emergency care and do not include the cost of things like repatriation. If you are travelling without a visa or residency card you may need to show proof that you have cover for repatriation costs, but this can be through either health insurance or travel insurance, there is no requirement for a separate health insurance policy to enter France.

Phones

Remember the olden days when you had to either turn off data roaming on your mobile phone when leaving the UK or face a big bill on your return? Well, they are back for customers of certain providers.

The EU clamped down on excessive roaming charges, but companies operating in the UK are no longer bound by that rule. After initially saying that they would not increase charges, an increasing number of phone companies have announced the return of extra charges for using your phone abroad, so make sure you check with your provider if you don’t want to be hit with a big bill. 

Driving

While driving licences have been a thorny issue for British residents in France there is better news for visitors – you can continue to drive on your UK or NI licence in France and there is no need for an International Drivers’ Permit.

The European Commission has also announced that it will waive the requirement for British drivers to have a ‘green card’ from their insurance company.

You will, however, need to swap the ‘GB’ sticker on your vehicle for a new UK sticker.

Ham sandwiches and other British delicacies

There are now strict rules on what products you can bring into the EU from the UK, which rule out almost all animal products (meat, fish, dairy etc) as well as flowers and plants.

Find the full list of banned items HERE.

Furniture, DIY and other high-value items

As well as the products that are banned outright, there is also a limit on the total value of goods you can bring in – any loads of more than €430 in value can be liable to import duties.

There is an exemption for people moving to France with all their worldly goods, but not for second-home owners who want to bring over furniture or DIY items for a renovation project. Full details on the rules HERE.

If you are coming to France to work and are bringing equipment other than a laptop with you, you will need a detailed inventory and a carnet.

Pets

And it’s not just people who have stricter travel rules, the European Pet Passport is no longer valid for UK-dwelling pets to travel into France. Instead you will need to see your vet ahead of your trip to get an Animal Health Certificate – full details HERE. Unlike the Pet Passport, a new AHC is required for every trip.

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