Where are we now?
We're currently in the final phase of the Brexit transition period. After the UK officially left the European Union on January 31st, we entered an 11-month transition period during which most things remained the same for British people either living in France or visiting. That transition period ends on December 31st, 2020 and then things will really start to change.
The UK and EU are currently trying to negotiate a trade deal – this doesn't seem to be going very well, but the part of the Withdrawal Agreement that covers citizens' rights for both Brits and EU nationals is largely unaffected.
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Trade negotiations in London and Brussels haven't produced many smiles. Photo: AFP
December 31st, 2020
This date is the big one, it's when Brexit becomes 'real' for most people and when the effects really start to be felt on day-to-day life.
For British people living in France or planning to do so there are some things that need to be done before then. They include;
Moving – if you're not already living in France but want to do so in the future you will find the conditions for moving here may get a lot tougher from 2021 onwards.
We lay out here the main differences in moving to France before or after December 31st. It's worth pointing out that Brexit also ends onward freedom of movement, so even if you are legally resident in France you won't be able to move to, for example, Germany on the same terms in 2021. So if you're undecided over which European country you want to settle in long-term, now is the time – as Bucks Fizz said – for making your mind up.
Legal status – All Brits who are living in France by the end of the year will have to apply for a residency permit, known as a carte de séjour. For this you will need to be a legal resident in France, which is not quite the same as simply being on French soil – find more on the conditions for legal residency here.
Healthcare – Most British people living in France will already be registered in the French health system, and for them nothing will change. But anyone not registered needs to do so – find out how here.
Passports – From 2021 onwards you will not be able to travel inside the EU on a British passport if it has less than six months left on it, so anyone whose passport is approaching its expiry date will need to renew.
Pets – It's not just people whose travel documents are changing, the EU Pet Passport scheme will no longer apply to the UK, so people wanting to take their pets between France and the UK will need to embark on a much more complicated process which in some cases needs to begin four months before your date of travel – see here for details.
Banks – Most people living in France will already have a French bank account, but if you don't then now is the time to open one – you will need a French account to link to your health cover and some British banks are closing accounts or cutting services for British customers living abroad.
January 1st 2021 and beyond
From here on we get into some uncertainty, because a lot of the rules for British people moving to France to live or work after this point are still the subject of future negotiations.
Residency – People who are already resident in France by December 31st 2020 are covered by the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, which gives lifetime guarantees on issues like residency, family reunification, healthcare and pensions.
However for people who want to move to France after that date, things are less certain.
Unless any extra deal is done in the next 31 days (which seems unlikely) British people default to Third Country National status on January 1st.
This means that the conditions for living and working in France become the same as already in place for other non-Europeans such as Americans, Australians and Indians. For them moving to France is of course still possible but is considerably more complicated and involves visas and residency permits. Find out more about the visa system and conditions here.
Work – working in France for British people will also become more complicated, and not just for full-time residents. People who want to work in France temporarily without moving here to live – such as people who work the ski season or spend a summer working in France – also face extra paperwork such as visas and work permits.
Travel – British people will have to use the non-European passport queue at airports and as mentioned above cannot travel within the EU on a passport that has less than six months until its expiry date. It's also worth mentioning that French ID cards will no longer be valid to travel into the UK on from October 2021, so if you are travelling with a French friend or partner they will need their passport.
We are phasing out the use of national identity cards as a valid travel document. From 1 October 2021, most EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will require a passport to travel to the UK.
— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) October 8, 2020
Cats, dogs and ferrets will also be subject to stricter conditions when travelling between France and the UK.
It's worth also mentioning that the cherished British tradition of the booze cruise will cease. Although 'duty free' will make a comeback, if no extra bilateral deal is negotiated then we return to strict limits on the amount of beer, wine, tobacco and spirts that than be brought into the UK from France.
Visiting – for people who just want the odd holiday in France, not much will change apart from the travel rules mentioned above.
90-day rule – However for second-home owners and people who want to take long breaks the 90-day rule comes into effect, limiting how long you can spent in France. For a fuller explanation of the 90-day rule, click here.
Driving – people who are resident in France will – from January 1st – need to swap their driving licences for a French one. There is one year to complete this process – more detail here.
Tourists can still drive on a British licence and will not need an International Driving Permit, but will need to get a 'Green Card' from their insurance company before travel.
For more on how you can get ready for the Brexit changes, head to our Preparing for Brexit section, which is updated with all the latest information as it is released by the British and French governments.