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EXPLAINED: How to prove you are a resident in France before December 31st

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EXPLAINED: How to prove you are a resident in France before December 31st
Once you've settled in, how do you go about proving that you are a full-time resident? Photo: AFP

This is a question that we are asked a lot and for many people it doesn't have a simple answer. Here's a look at the rules around residency.


It has been pushed into sharp focus by Covid travel restrictions and also by Brexit, but from time to time you may need to prove that you are a permanent resident in France, as opposed to a visitor, tourist or second home owner.

While French people have ID cards, for foreigners there is no single system or piece of ID that proves you are a resident and the rules are different depending on where you come from.


Here's a quick round-up 


For people from outside the EU, this is is relatively simple as for them living in France requires a lot more official paperwork.

Before arriving in France for any stay of more than three months you will need to get a visa and after a certain length of time in France (depending on your visa type) you will then need to get a carte de séjour residency card. Either of these can be used to prove that you are a full time resident in France.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED How to get a visa for France

This is currently important for travel as many destinations outside Europe are still on France's travel ban list - including the USA. However full-time residents are one of the exempted categories that are allowed to travel (albeit with quite a lot of extra rules and restrictions in place).


For people from within the EU or the Schengen zone who have moved to France under freedom of movement this is a little more complicated. France is one of the few EU countries (the UK has been another) that does not require EU residents to register for residency.

This means that Europeans have no single document or card to prove that they are resident in France.

The French government acknowledged this difficulty during the lockdown when virtually all foreign travel was forbidden. Among the groups of people who were allowed to cross the border into France were French citizens and permanent residents of France.

But whereas non-Europeans were required to show proof of their residency at the border, European citizens did not and instead the government relied on people filling in a declaration sur l'honneur - sworn statement - to say that they were a full-time resident.

If you are a citizen of an EU or Schengen zone country your passport in effect acts as your residency card -  just owning an EU/Schengen zone passport means that you are entitled to live and work in France.


British people

As UK nationals uncomfortably straddle the gap between European but no longer EU citizens, proving residency has become a big issue.

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement gives widespread protection to British people already living in France, and (with certain caveats) allows people who are already resident here before December 31st 2020 to stay.

READ ALSO What is the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and does it cover me?

So the obvious question that people ask is - how do I prove that I was resident in France before that date?

This is particularly pertinent both to people who are planning to make the move shortly before the cut-off date and people who don't appear in official French systems because they are not working.

Many people have asked us if there is a way to 'register' as an official resident, and there isn't really.

What you can do instead is make sure that you are registered within all the systems you can be and have plenty of paperwork to prove that you are here. Some of the ways you can do this are;


Health system - people who have been resident in France for more than three months should register with the French health system. This has always been the case, but before Brexit many people relied on the European Health Insurance Card to get their medical costs covered. The British-issued EHIC card will no longer work after Brexit, and registering with the French system will also flag you up as a resident.

Once you are registered you will get a carte vitale health card, which allows the French state to reimburse some or all of the cost of your medical treatments. British pensioners are covered by the S1 scheme in which the UK pays their medical costs (this will continue after December 31st for people already resident) but they still need to register for the carte vitale.

This isn't the speediest of processes, so if you meet the criteria you should start now - find out how it works here.


Benefits - many British people have been loathe to apply for French benefits, worried that it will negatively affect their application to stay.

In fact being in receipt of benefits is not a reason for your application to be refused, although there are some limits around your general financial situation. There are family benefits that people with children are entitled to and you can also apply for residency as someone in receipt of chômage (unemployment benefit).

READ ALSO How much money do I need to stay in France after Brexit?

Work - if you are in work keep your employment contracts and make sure you have a full collection of payslips. You are entitled to receive a payslip giving a full breakdown of your wages and taxes/social charges every month (either electronically or on paper) so if your employer has been sloppy about this you can ask for any wage slips that you have not received. 

Tax - if you are a full-time resident in France you will have to make an annual tax declaration - even if all your income comes from abroad. However the declarations take place at a specific time of year, usually in April, so you will need to wait for the first April after your arrival to make your declaration.

EXPLAINED: French annual tax declaration system

Depending on your living situation you may also pay taxe d'habitation (the householder's tax) and taxe foncière (the property owner's tax) but these are levied via property so apply to second home owners as well as permanent residents.

Utility bills - gas and electricity bills don't as such prove that you are a resident - second home owners pay them too - but they are useful to have as proof of your address.

They're asked for in quite a wide range of official situations so if you don't have any bills in your name (for example if one half of a couple pays all the bills) it may be worth getting your name added to bills to give another strand to your official identity. If you have opted for paperless billing you can download an attestation from your energy company's website that certifies that you are the account holder.

Attestation de domicile - this is a formal declaration from the local mairie that you are indeed a full-time resident.

Not all authorities offer them and they tend to be more common in small places, but you can obtain the attestation by making a sworn declaration at the mairie that you are a resident, and you will usually also need to provide proof including ID and proof of address such as a utility bill.

The online portal through which all British people in France will have to apply for residency is not yet up and running (its July start date was pushed back to October because of the backlog of residency applications caused by the lockdown) so we don't yet know exactly what paperwork people will be asked for to prove their residency.

However the online portal that was briefly live in autumn 2019 asked many categories of people just for a straightforward proof of address, for which a rental contract or utility bill was acceptable.

READ ALSO Carte de séjour - The online process for post-Brexit residency cards in France






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