Brexit: What Brits moving to France after December should know

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Brexit: What Brits moving to France after December should know
Thinking of selling up and moving to France, here's what you need to know. Photo: AFP

For British people already living in France, the last four years have been a period of nightmarish uncertainty over their rights to stay - but what about those who want to make the move in the future, in particularly after December 31st?


Many British people have been nursing a long-term dream to move to France one day - either as a retirement plan or to move to the country and work. But have you already left it too late to move?

Let's have a look at the rules for moving countries without the benefit of EU freedom of movement.


Is it too late to take ship for France? Photo: AFP

Transition period

The UK is currently in a transition period during which British people keep most of their rights, including the right to move to an EU country. 

This runs until December 31st, 2020, and the UK has opted not to ask for an extension to this.

So not only can you move to France before December, you probably should if it's possible, because afterwards things are set to get a lot more complicated.

The Withdrawal Agreement provides that British people who are already legally resident in an EU country have the right to remain there, and that includes people who move between Brexit day and the end of the transition period.

READ ALSO Brexit Withdrawal Agreement - what is it and does it cover me?

The phrase legally resident is important though and it's not the same as simply being in the country by New Year's Eve 2020.

This applies also to people already resident and means that certain criteria - including being financially self sufficient - must be met.

Find out more on legal status here



After the transition period

Once the transition period ends things get more complicated.

Exactly what the rules will be for people who want to move to France after this date we don't yet know - it's one of the many issues that needs to be negotiated in the next six months, along with the little matter of a trade deal.

What could happen after the transition period?

As far as what kind of deal that will be agreed, we're really moving into guesswork here, but given the UK wants to end freedom of movement it seems likely that the rules will end up being similar to those already in place for third country nationals such as Americans or Australians who want to move to France.

And there are plenty of them living here, so clearly it's not impossible.

It is a lot more complicated though - and expensive.

People who don't take up permanent residency are restricted to spending only 90 days out of every 180 in the Schengen zone - something that will have a big impact on British second home owners.

READ ALSO Second home owners in France - what are your rights after Brexit?

People who want to make the move permanently need a visa. 

Most non-EU citizens have to apply for a long stay visa in their home country before making the move, and have it validated as a residency permit within three months of arriving.

Often visas are linked to work or study, so people who want to move to France, live off savings for a while or set up their own business could find themselves being rejected.

People who do not intend to work - such as pensioners - will need to provide extensive proof of their financial means to show that they will not be a burden on the French state.

Any exceptions?

British people have now ceased to be EU citizens, with all the rights that go with that.

However there are a couple of ways that British people can still benefit from EU rules.

One of these is to become the citizen of an EU country.

Thousands have applied for French citizenship, while others have moved to safeguard their EU citizenship by applying for nationality of another country such as Ireland. Both these routes come with conditions of course.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

The other is to apply for residency as a family member of an EU citizen, so if you are married or in a durable relationship with an EU national - or are a dependent child/parent - you can 'piggy back' on their rights. Although this too is more complicated than travelling under freedom of movement and you would still need to apply for residency within 90 days of arriving in the country.

Finally if you are married or in a durable relationship with a British person who is legally resident in France before December 31st, you can apply for residency as their partner. So one option for couples is for one person to make the move to France before December 31st and establish residency and the other to join them later. Find out more about spouse rights here.

Check out The Local's Preparing for Brexit section for more detail on residency, healthcare, pensions, driving and citizenship.



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also