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‘It’s really simple’: Ambassador urges Brits in France not to delay residency applications on new website

"France values its British residents and their contribution and has made the process for applying for residency straightforward and generous". These were the words of the British Ambassador as France prepares to launch its delayed website for post-Brexit residence permits.

'It's really simple': Ambassador urges Brits in France not to delay residency applications on new website
British Ambassador to France Ed Llewellyn. Photo: UK government

Speaking to The Local as France prepares to launch its online portal that will allow Britons living in France to apply for the right to remain after Brexit, the British Ambassador to France Ed Llewellyn has urged people not to delay their application.

He reassured the British community that the process is considerably simpler and more straightforward than the old system.

All of the 150,000 to 300,000 British people living in France will have to make a fresh application for post-Brexit residency, and have until October 1st 2021 to get their carte de séjour residency permit – although applications to the site must be made by June 30th.

“We know Emmanuel Macron has said that the British community are welcome to stay here and this is the feeling I get too talking to French ministers and officials – the contribution of British people to France and to their local communities is recognised and valued and French officials are really trying to be helpful to us on the residency system.”

The team at the British Embassy in Paris have seen the new system and say it is user-friendly – and in English.

READ ALSO Launch date for online residency card system for Brits in France

The ambassador said: “We have had a preview of the new website, which goes live on Monday and it really is a straightforward and simple process. You fill in your details then state how long you have been in France and whether you already have a carte de séjour, and the site directs you to the relevant section.

“There is a flowchart on the site so you can find out in advance what type of supporting documents you will need for your application and you can also save applications on the site for 20 days before submitting,” he said.

“The site is in English, although if you want to add your own comments in the 'any other information/comments' section at the end it would be better to do this in French.

“Once you have made your application you get an email confirming that your application has been submitted.

“The application is then passed to the préfecture where you live who will process it and invite you to an appointment to provide biometric details [fingerprints]. You will receive a receipt once you have done this and then the card will then be posted out to you.

“So the process should only involve one visit to the préfecture.”

Over the past four years many people began the process of applying for a carte de séjour at their local préfecture, and the response they got and processes to follow often varied widely between different areas.

Although it will be up to local préfectures to process applications made via the site, they will be doing so under guidance from the Interior Ministry which has been rolling out training to préfecture staff on handling the simplified applications via the website.

The site requires much less in the way of supporting documents than the old system and if documents need translating some types will be accepted with your own translation, rather than having to pay for a certified translator.

Some préfectures in areas where there is a large British population have also received funding for extra staff to process the applications in their areas.

All applications must be made online, but for people who are not confident using the internet and don't have friends or family who can help, there is support available – the UK government has provided funding to four groups who can help with applications or if necessary even complete the online application for someone.

Llewellyn said: “We really would urge people to start applying as soon as possible on the site and – crucially – tell their British friends, family or neighbours in France about the process.

“Everyone must apply on this site – no matter how long they have lived here or whether they are married to a French person – so it really is important to spread the word.

“We are also here to help at the Embassy and we will be doing lots of information sessions – online at the moment because of the health situation – so people can find information on our Facebook page or contact us or the consulates if they have problems.”

People who already have a carte de sejour permanent still need to use the website, but in their case it is a simple process of swapping the old card for a new one and they do not need to provide any extra documents.

Everyone else needs to make a fresh application on the site – the exception to this being people who applied via the no-deal portal that was briefly live in October last year. Around 9,000 applications were made on this and those will be transferred to the new site, although anyone who has moved to a different département since making their application will have to make a new one as they cannot be transferred between préfectures.

Some people who applied via the no-deal site and who already had a carte de séjour – meaning the process is a simple swap – have already received appointments from their local préfectures to provide fingerprints and complete the process.

For full details on what you need to make your application, click here.

The online portal is for all Britons who become resident in France before December 31st 2020 – the end of the Brexit transition period.

Those that make the move after that will be subject to a different regime – one expected to be similar to that already in place for other Third Country Nationals such as Americans and Australians.

Llewellyn said: “We're still waiting for clarification from the French side on exactly what the system will be for those who move after January 1st but from that date British people will be Third Country Nationals.”

For more details on residency, healthcare, pensions and travel after Brexit, head to our Preparing for Brexit section.

 

 

 

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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