The two-person team from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has been established to help British residents in France, particularly those who are vulnerable or who are not confident with online processes, to navigate the formalities needed to live in France after Brexit.
For many Brits the idea of having to register for residency plus health and social care and other official processes is a deeply daunting one, especially those who don't speak much French, have complicated living situations that don't fit into easy categories and those who either don't have internet access or who aren't confident using online forms.
These at-risk populations are the reason that the UN's Migration Agency bid for one of the grants that the UK government is offering to organisations which help British citizens with Brexit.
There are now four organisations who have received grants to provide help and support to British nationals with the process, which must be done online. The UN team covers northern France while the Franco-British network offers the same service to those living in Dordogne and the Church of Ebgland's Diocese in Europe helps those living in Nouvelle Aquitaine. The armed forces charity SSAFA France can also help out.
For a complete guide on how the online system works – click here.
Case worker Elizabeth Kelsey is one of two people in the UN Migration Agency team. She said: “We have two main objectives – raising awareness among UK nationals about what their obligations will be in terms of registering for residency and then offering direct practical support through casework.
“People can email or call us or we will visit them if necessary.”
The team is based in Saint-Brieuc in Brittany and although Covid-19 has delayed the set-up of their office, they will have an office that people can visit by appointment, and will also be undertaking outreach events around Brittany, Normandy and Paris.
British people living in France must all apply for a carte de séjour residency card, using the online portal that is now live.
The team are based in the town of Saint-Brieuc in Brittany, an area that is home to a large British population. Photo: AFP
British people have until June 30th to make their application, but many have already done so and the team in Brittany have been receiving a steady stream of queries.
Elizabeth said: “We've had quite a wide range of queries, some people just need a bit of support and a general overview of the system while others are genuinely very nervous about meeting the requirements for residency.
“They might be worried about income, or have been very poorly so had a long gap in their work history or they might have adult dependent children who they worry won't fit the criteria.
“We get quite a lot of calls from people who are not yet resident but plan to move before the end of the transition period and they want to know what they have to do when they get here.
“And one big question is what makes you a resident? People want to know if there is an official way to become a resident, which is a question that doesn't have a very clear-cut answer. We generally say it's when you register within a system such as the health system but there's not one way to become an official resident.
“We can give people guidance on the kind of documents we expect will be required, and also reassure people on that subject. When people can't find information they tend to worry but we can tell them the latest information from both the French and British governments and also tell them what is still uncertain.”
Elizabeth said: “We can offer advice but we can also help people to actually make their application if they need it. The process is online and requires scanning and uploading documents, which not everyone is confident with.
“People can come to our office by appointment and we will help them complete the application, or we can visit at-risk people – individuals who face specific challenges, such as people living with disabilities, those grappling with chronic illness, language and literacy barriers, or barriers in accessing technology.”
They will also, if necessary, help people who are rejected for residency and want to launch an appeal, an area that legal adviser Loïca will be focusing on.
The exact documentation that will be required for an application is still unclear. Photo: AFP
The team is one of three projects in France that won money from the UK government's fund – the others are the Franco-British network, which is based in Dordogne, the armed forces charity SSAFA and the Church of England Diocese in Europe.
The IOM also runs a similar project in the UK helping EU nationals with post-Brexit residency requirements and projects helping British people in Spain, Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Italy and Portugal.
The UN might be more associated with missions in war zones but in fact the organisation does a lot of work on migration issues.
Elizabeth said “The situation itself [Brexit] has no precedent, and so this is a novel situation in the EU.
“However, this kind of work is by no means out of the ordinary for IOM globally or historically, since our global work complements government services and provides assistance to migrants with information on their rights and access to procedures to regularise their migratory status in the host country or seek alternative mobility options to other countries.
“Furthermore, this builds on an existing programme that we have been carrying out in the UK for the last year to assist EU Nationals and their families in the UK who may struggle with their applications to regularise their situation through the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme”.
They chose Brittany as a base because of the high number of British people living there – 12,000 registered residents although the true figure is likely to be higher since British people have not previously been required to register. They are targeting people in Brittany, Normandy and Paris while the Franco-British Network covers the south west of the country, although Elizabeth and her colleague will help any British resident who gets in touch by referring them to the most appropriate services according to their situation.
In the coming months they will also be doing outreach events and working with voluntary groups, social clubs and local mairies to reach out to British people who are not online and who may still be unaware of their responsibilities to register for residency.
The team consists of Elizabeth, who works as the case worker and previously worked at the British Embassy in Paris, and her colleague Loïca Fauchard the legal adviser who has a masters in European and International law with a specialism in Human Rights and has worked for many years in supporting asylum seekers in France.
You can contact them on email at [email protected] or by phone 0 809 549 832 Monday and Tuesday 2pm to 4pm or Wednesday and Thursday between 10.30am and 12.30pm. Calls are charged at the local rate.
For more information on residency, healthcare, travel, driving and pets after Brexit, head to our Preparing for Brexit section.