Brexit: What Brits moving to France after December should know

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?

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

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.


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‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work.