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LIVING IN FRANCE

French bureaucracy: The tasks you can get an extension on during lockdown

With most offices closed, doing the routine paperwork necessary for life in France has become even more difficult - but for many tasks an extension is on offer until June.

French bureaucracy: The tasks you can get an extension on during lockdown
All photos: AFP

Authorities had already announced an automatic three-month extension to long-stay visas and titres de séjour that expired during the lockdown.

And any côntrole technique vehicle safety certificates that expire during lockdown also benefit from an extension, meaning people can carry on driving legally even if their current certificate has expired.

But now an ordonnance has been passed that lays out a more general extension to routine administrative tasks that would normally have to be completed with a certain timeframe. For full details, click here.

The extension covers any task that normally would have been completed between March 12th and June 24th, one month after the expiry of the current State of Health Emergency.

The two-month automatic extension applies to;

  • Legal action
  • Appeals against legal matters
  • Legal formalities of registration such as registering births
  • Legal formalities of making a formal declaration
  • Gaining permits or authorisations
  • Inspections such as building or works inspections

Things that are not covered by the extension include;

  • Any criminal legal matters or criminal proceedings
  • Matters pertaining to votes covered by the Code électoral such as prohibitions on voting or appeals against prohibitions
  • Time limits to register for a job as a teacher or fonctionnaire
  • Financial obligations covered by Articles L. 211-36 of the financial code

Taxes 

The deadline for the annual tax declaration – which opens on April 20th – has been extended to June, but everyone still needs to complete the declaration, which this year can be completed online by everyone – even those declaring for the first time.

READ ALSO What you need to know about filing taxes in France in 2020

Brexit admin

At this stage it looks like Brexit will be continuing on the previously agreed timetable of ending the transition period on December 31st (although the scenario of a UK government declaring that it definitely wouldn't delay and then delaying anyway has happened once or twice over the last three years) so British people living in France may have some extra admin to do over the coming months.

Driving licenses – the new online portal for swapping British driving licences for French ones opened as planned at the start of March and is now processing applications.

However you only need to swap your licence if;

  • The licence has been lost or stolen
  • You have added a new driving category to your licence
  • You are specifically instructed to exchange it by a gendarme or police officer (this usually happens if you have committed a driving offence)
  • Your licence or photocard is due to expire within six months – anyone turning 70 must exchange their licence and the photocard licences need renewing every 10 years for most categories.

Everyone else can continue to drive on a British licence.

READ ALSO Website to swap British driving licences goes live

Cartes de séjour residency cards – The French government's plan is that a special online system will be set up for the hundreds of thousands of Brits in France who need to apply for a carte de séjour. This was scheduled to go live in July and as far as we know that is still on track.

READ ALSO France to launch website for post-Brexit residency cards

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POLICE

Your questions answered: Legal rights as a foreigner in France

The French Constitution offers broad legal protection to anyone in France from the right to trial to the right to legal advice, but there are some scenarios specific to foreigners in France.

Your questions answered: Legal rights as a foreigner in France

What are my rights if I am arrested or imprisoned?

If you are arrested you have the same rights as a French citizen to legal advice, phone calls, bail and a full trial – full details HERE.

There are some extra things to be aware of however;

Once arrested you have the right to an interpreter during police interviews.

You have the right to call your Embassy, although the help the Embassy can offer you is much more limited than many people think.

If you are released while awaiting a court hearing you will usually have to hand over your passport and undertake not to leave the country. If you are not a French resident, the judge can assign you a residency address in France.

If you are found guilty and imprisoned in France you maintain several rights, such as the right to vote (if you have French citizenship). France’s interior ministry has a handout detailing these rights, HERE

Can I appeal against my sentence?

Yes, you have the right to appeal a court’s decision.

Keep in mind that this can be a lengthy process with very specific deadlines – and it can go either way, so you risk a sentence being increased.

If you are acquitted in court,  French law also allows for the prosecution to appeal against your acquittal.

I am the victim of a crime, what are my rights?

In France, the role of the state and the prosecutor is to protect the peace, this means that if someone commits a crime against you, it is up to the state to decide whether to move forward with criminal proceedings.

It’s not up to the victim to decide whether or not to press charges.

Conversely, if the state chooses not to go ahead with criminal proceedings, but you (the victim) want them to press charges, you have the right to appeal against their decision to drop the case.

Can I be expelled from France for committing a crime?

Yes, although this is generally reserved for people who have committed serious crimes such as violent crime, drug-trafficking or terror offences.

If you have been jailed for a serious crime in France you can be served with an ‘interdiction du territoire français‘ – a ban from French soil – on your release. These are reserved for the most serious offences and simply being incarcerated does not necessarily lead to expulsion.

If you are a full-time resident in France but not a French citizen, then being convicted of a crime can mean that your visa or residency card will not be renewed. This is again usually reserved for people who have committed very serious crimes, but in certain circumstances residency can be withdrawn for less serious offences such as driving offences or begging. 

READ ALSO What offences can lose you the right to live in France?

If you have French citizenship it’s virtually impossible for your to be expelled from France although in some rare cases – usually connected to terrorism – citizenship of dual nationals can be revoked.

What are the rules for minors?

Minors in the French legal system have some specific rights. The EU has laid out the specific rights of minors, which apply in France as well, and apply from the time of arrest.

  • Right to be be quickly informed of legal rights, and to be assisted by your parents (or other appropriate persons)
  • Right to be assisted by a lawyer
  • No prison sentence should be imposed on a minor if they have not been assisted by a lawyer during the court hearings. All measures should be exhausted to avoid a child being imprisoned.
  • Right to be detained separately from adults if sent to prison.
  • Children should not be required “to reimburse the costs of certain procedural measures, for example, for individual assessment, medical examination, or audio-visual recording of interviews.”
  • A child’s privacy should be respected and “questioning will be audio-visually recorded or recorded in another appropriate manner.”
  • Repeatedly questioning children should be avoided.
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