Ahead of the next Brexit deadline – the June cut-off point for the UK to request an extension to the transition period – we have received several questions from readers asking about the rights of a spouse or partner to join their other half in France.
These can broadly be divided into three categories – British people in a relationship with an EU national, British couples where one partner has obtained citizenship of an EU country (usually Ireland) and British couples where only one person is resident in France, with the other hoping to join them later.
So if you fall into any off those categories, here is what you need to know.
The first thing to note for people already resident in France or planning to become resident before December 31st (the current end of the transition period if the UK does not request an extension) is that they are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.
The Withdrawal Agreement gives fairly generous cover to people already living here, so people already here will apply for residency in their own right under the terms of the WA – for more on how that works and who it covers click here.
But people planning on making the move later may be hoping to get residency through their spouse or registered partner (for people who have a civil partnership or a PACS in France).
Kalba Meadows of citizens rights group France Rights said: “There are several scenarios – firstly is where a Brit and their spouse/partner who is an EU citizen (but not a French citizen) wants to move to France. In that case the spouse/partner still has full free movement rights, which include being able to bring their spouse or partner of any nationality to France.
“The second scenario is where the spouse/partner has French nationality. In that case the application would be treated under French national immigration rules.”
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Here's how it works:
If your spouse is French
The most common parings in France are of course people in a relationship with a Frenchman or Frenchwoman and if this is the case you are applying under French national rules.
Here you will be applying for a spouse visa, so you will need to apply before you move.
You will need to supply ID, proof of your relationship such as a marriage certificate, proof of your spouse's French nationality and proof of your intention to live together in France. It is possible for officials to reject your application if they believe that your marriage is one of convenience only.
If your spouse is a citizen on another EU country
It's only British people who have lost their EU citizenship, citizens of any of the other 26 EU countries still retain all their European rights to move to France, and one of these is to be joined by family members – including a spouse, registered partner, children under the age of 21 or parents if they are dependant.
As the spouse of an EU national you are not exempt from the tedious paperwork that faces all Third Country Nationals (that is, non EU citizens) so you will still have to apply for a carte de séjour.
The difference is that you can apply as the spouse of an EU citizen, a process that is generally simpler.
You need to apply within three months of your arrival in France and you will need a passport, three ID photos, proof of your relationship to the EU person (for example a marriage certificate which will need to be translated into French by a certified translator) and proof of your partner's right to be in France.
If your partner is French their passport is all that is needed for this, but if another EU citizen they need to prove they are legally resident in France through either a work contract, proof of income for freelancers or self employed, proof of study for students or proof of sufficient means for retirees.
It is possible for officials to reject your application if they believe that your marriage is one of convenience only.
Couples where one person has recently gained EU citizenship
Once they had absorbed the results of the 2016 referendum many people who were eligible started to apply for citizenship of an EU country to retain their freedom of movement. Thanks to historical ties and the country's generous approach to ancestry-related citizenship, Ireland saw a large number of citizenship applications from British people.
Once you have an Irish passport you are of course an EU citizen and have all those rights, which include being joined by a family member.
British spouses of Irish citizens can apply for cartes de séjour as an EU family member as per the process outlined above.
British couples where only person is resident on December 31st
Many British people have nursed a long-term dream of moving to France, including people who always planned to retire here, but Brexit has forced them to accelerate their plans.
For those who are not able to make the move before December 31st for reasons of work, schooling or other practicalities, one option is for one partner to make the move before December 31st and the other to join them later.
The partner who moves before December 31st is covered by all the rights of the Withdrawal Agreement, one of which is to be joined later by family members.
The Withdrawal Agreement covers you if you are a family member of someone who meets of the conditions of being legally resident by December 31st.
You’re classed as a family member if your relationship to that person is that of spouse, registered partner, direct descendant (child, grandchild etc) who is under 21 OR who is older than this but dependent, or direct ascending relative (parent, grandparent etc) who is dependent.
Couples who are not married or in a civil partnership but are in a 'durable relationship' are also covered, although the conditions are more stringent, with the WA stating that the host country shall ‘facilitate entry and residence’ for that partner in accordance with its national legislation.
You also need to be able to prove that the relationship began before December 31st and you will need to prove this through official paperwork – joint tenancy agreements, utility bills in joint names, joint bank accounts and the like. Unfortunately a few snapshots of you at a New Year's Eve party in 2007 will not be enough to establish your relationship.