It's been a long four years since the Brexit referendum and since then several different systems have been proposed for British people in France – many relating to what would happen in the case of a no-deal Brexit – so you could be forgiven for now being hopelessly confused about the whole process.
Kalba Meadows, a citizens' rights expert with the group France Rights, explains what you need to know ahead of the online platform going live, which is scheduled to go live in mid October 2020 after being postponed from July and again from October 1st.
Every British citizen living in France has to apply for a new residence status and a new carte de séjour under the Withdrawal Agreement (WA).
This applies whether you have a current carte de séjour or whether you don't have a carte de séjour at all.
You will have until June 30th, 2021 to do this. This is a very important deadline so please note it in your diaries – if you don't make your application by this date you may not be covered by the WA at all.
Applications will be made on a new online application platform that will be launched in October 2020. You'll need to complete the form, and upload the documents that you're asked for according to your situation. Your application form and documents will be passed to your local préfecture, which will deal with your application. As your new card will be biometric you'll then be asked to visit your préfecture for fingerprinting.
Your new card will state specifically that is has been issued under the WA and you'll be able to use this as evidence that you're covered by it.
- All cards will be free of charge.
Full details of the platform will be released in the coming days, but it is thought it will be similar to the online portal that was briefly active ahead of a threatened no-deal scenario in October 2019. If you are one of the few people who made your application while this platform was live, you should have already received an email telling you that your application will be transferred to the new system so you don't need to make a new application.
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Important things to know about applying
- France is adopting a constitutive system for certifying our rights under the WA from the end of the transition period.
- Under this system we have to apply for a new status. This is because in a constitutive scheme you acquire residence status only if (a) you make an application for it and (b) that application is granted. In other words, the ‘source’ of your residence status and the rights that stem from it is the decision on your application made by the registration authority in your host country. It’s that decision, and the residence document that is issued as a result, which confers your residence status.
- This is how ‘settled status’ works in the UK, and it also corresponds to the type of system used to deal with residence applications in France from third country nationals such as Americans and Australians
- It is really important that you make your application before the deadline, June 30th; 2021. If you miss the deadline to apply for a new status under the WA without good reason, you may end up unable to acquire the new WA residence status even if otherwise you meet all the conditions. .
- Once you've made your application, you'll immediately be issued with a 'certificate of application'. This will act as proof of your right to reside until your application is processed and you receive your card.
- You are deemed to enjoy residence rights under the WA until your préfecture has made a final decision on your application – this safeguards you against any administrative delays.
- You are also deemed to enjoy residence rights under the WA until the end of the grace period for applications – ie until June 30th, 2021. This means that your residence rights are protected after the transition period and during this time even if you have not yet made your application for your new status.
- If, in spite of everything, you do miss the deadline, your late application can't be automatically rejected. Your préfecture must decide whether you had ‘reasonable grounds’ for not respecting the deadline. There is no precision in the WA on what might constitute ‘reasonable grounds’, but that decision should take into account ‘all the circumstances and reasons’ and out-of-time applications should be treated ‘in a proportionate manner’. However, we strongly suggest that you don't rely on this!
- Once you've made your application, the decision to accept or refuse that application doesn’t come into effect until after the end of the transition period – the decision itself is valid, but its legal effect is postponed. This is because the new status doesn't apply until after the transition period.
- If you apply for your new residence status and your application is refused before the end of the transition period, you can reapply within the grace period (ie up until June 30th 2021). If you need to make certain changes to your situation in order to meet the conditions for residence, you would need to do this before the end of the transition period as it is your circumstances at that point which would be assessed when you reapply.
- If you apply for your new residence status and your application is refused after the end of the transition period, you can no longer reapply as in the previous bullet point, but you have the right to appeal either administratively to the Préfet, or legally to the judicial court.
- If you appeal, you are also deemed to enjoy the right of residence under the WA while you go through the appeal process, and a decision has been made on your appeal. This safeguards you against wrong decisions and judicial delays.
- If you made an application on the no-deal online portal last year, you don't need to reapply. Your application was held in the system and will be processed under the WA.
- If you've made an application at your préfecture and it's still pending, you will have to apply using the online portal unless your préfecture tells you otherwise.
What should you be doing now?
- Take a look at your current situation and make sure that you meet the conditions to be legally resident in France.
- If you have a carte de séjour permenant you still need to apply on the site, but this will be a simplified exchange. You should need to present only proof of your identity (a copy of your passport), a copy of your current CdS, and (possibly – we await the detail) proof that you've continued to be resident since the issue of your CdS permanent.
- Everyone else – including people who have a short-term carte de séjour – will need to make a new application so start collecting the relevant documents
- We don't yet know exactly which documents will be asked for in different situations. The WA says that member states are allowed to request the same documents that they request from EU citizens. This is what it says:
Everyone will have to present a passport to verify their identity.
If you’re employed: a certificate of employment or confirmation of engagement from your employer.
If you’re self-employed: proof of your self-employment.
If you're economically inactive: evidence that you're 'self-sufficient': that your resources are enough to live on without being deemed to be a burden or potential burden on France's social assistance scheme. You also need evidence that you have ‘comprehensive health cover’, which may be via France's own health system or via private health insurance which gives equivalent cover. An S1 form is sufficient for those who receive a UK state pension or other qualifying benefit.
If you’re a student: proof that you’re enrolled in a registered educational establishment. You’ll also need proof of comprehensive sickness insurance, and a declaration or equivalent means of proof that you have sufficient resources to live on without being deemed to be a burden or potential burden on France's social assistance scheme.