SHARE
COPY LINK
Paywall free

BREXIT

So you’re living in France, but are you legally resident here?

You're living in France and you've been here for a while - that means you're legally resident, right? Wrong. Kalba Meadows from citizens advice group France Rights explains why residency is more than simply being here.

So you're living in France, but are you legally resident here?
Make sure all your paperwork is in order before your carte de sejour interview. Photo AFP

As British people in France apply for residency it’s crucial to understand exactly what being ‘legally resident’ in the country means.

READ ALSO How Brits in France can apply for residency post-Brexit

After four years of Brexit shenanigans, British people have got used to the idea that after Brexit they will have to apply to remain a resident in France.

But what is coming as a shock to many is the requirements for legal residency, which means that many people already living here – in some cases for many years – are not actually legally resident.

The Withdrawal Agreement gives guarantees to British people already here that after Brexit they can stay in the country, they are entitled to healthcare and their pensions will continue to be uprated, among other things. But this only applies to people are legally resident in the country.

READ ALSO


Proving legal residency is likely to involve a lot of paperwork. Photo: AFP

After realising that many British people living in France are ignorant of the requirements for legal residency, Kalba Meadows from citizens advice group France Rights has put together the following guidelines:

1. As an EU citizen, you’re permitted to spend more than three months in France providing you meet the conditions for legal residence.
 
2. This is the case whether or not you apply for a carte de séjour. Just because holding a carte de séjour isn’t currently obligatory doesn’t remove your responsibility to meet the conditions. They are two separate things.

3. You must meet these conditions for five years. At that point, if you have met them for that period, you become eligible for permanent residence, which is condition free going forward.

4. In every EU country except France and the UK, EU citizens moving there to live must demonstrate that they meet these conditions in order to get a compulsory registration card. France is NOT discriminating against you when you are asked to prove your legal residence when you apply for a carte de séjour. They are legally required to do so by an EU Directive. 

5. You may move to France as an EU citizen to work, be self-employed, study, or if none of these you must show that you are self-sufficient and are not likely to be or become a burden on France’s social security system.

6. It isn’t enough just to say that you’re self sufficient or that you’ve never claimed social security benefits. France has its own rules on this – guideline income levels for self-sufficiency – that it applies. Just because you’ve never claimed benefits doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically be deemed to be self-sufficient.

7. Those working have to show that their work is ‘genuine and effective, and not marginal or ancillary’. Préfectures will look at income to determine this, but they will consider other factors too and will use their discretion. 

 

8.  If you are not working and your resources are below the guideline figures by more than just a few euros, you may have some serious thinking to do and some choices to make. This is especially the case if your resources have always been below the guideline figures since you arrived in France, as this means that you have never been legally resident and cannot receive a carte de séjour. This is crucial, because after October 1st every British resident will need to hold one.

9. If you are self-employed and your derived income is very low, you may also not be deemed to be legally resident.

10.  If you fall into paragraphs 8 or 9 you may need to have a long hard think about what you can do: for example, how could you increase your income for the five year period required? This might include working, registering as a jobseeker, setting up a (genuine) business, letting some rooms in your home, or even asking for a regular allowance from family.

11. If you don’t meet, have never met, and can’t meet the conditions for legal residence it’s possible that you may not be permitted to stay in France. In total 3,367 orders to leave France were issued to EU citizens in 2017 because of failure to meet the legal residence conditions.

 
She added: “There is no other way of putting it than this: the tough news is that sometimes a lifestyle choice is incompatible with being legally resident in another country.”

Member comments

  1. Does anyone know the rules which apply to UK legal French residents concerning FOM to other eu countries . Eg if we travel from France to Spain and there are no border checks how does anyone know how long we have been in Spain ?

  2. The original date for the online facility to re-open for Carte de Séjour applications was October 1, 2020. Then this was delayed. Does anyone know what the new date is for the submission of applications? Thank you.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

SHOW COMMENTS