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BREXIT

Where Brits in France can get help with post-Brexit residency card applications

As the deadline for Brits in France to have applied for residency fast approaches, there are groups out there who can help anyone struggling with the process.

Where Brits in France can get help with post-Brexit residency card applications
Don't panic, help is at hand if you need it. Photo: AFP

As a consequence of  Brexit, all British people who were living in France before December 31st 2020 need to apply for a carte de séjour – the residency card that gives them permission to stay in the country.

And they have only until September 30th 2021 to get their applications in.

The French government has created a simplified process for Brits who were living here before 2021, but applications must be submitted on the online portal, there is no facility to make applications by post or in-person at your local préfecture.

However if you don’t have internet access, are not confident about online processes or just find the whole thing daunting – don’t panic, there is plenty of help at hand.

Simplified process

You may have heard horror stories under the old system of certain préfectures demanding documents relating to every aspect of life in France, and of people staggering into offices with three-foot high piles of files.

The new process, however, has been considerably streamlined with much less supporting documents demanded, particularly for people who have lived here for more than five years, who only need to prove their identity, their address and the fact that they have lived in France for more than five years.

The income requirements that many people were worried about have also been simplified, with only those who have lived her for less than five years having to provide proof of resources and a more generous interpretation of income levels applied – click here to find out more.

The site itself is also simply laid-out and user-friendly and is also available in English.

The Local

We have created a step-by-step guide to using the site and we are also happy to answer questions from our members on specific topics.

EXPLAINED How the new post-Brexit residency card website works

You can also find a lot more detail on residency, healthcare, travel and pensions in our Preparing for Brexit section.

UK-funded organisations

The British government has provided funding to four organisations in France to offer help and support Brits with the process. If you don’t have internet access or don’t feel confident completing the form online they can even do it for you if you don’t have friends or family who would be able to help.

These organisations are;

IOM, the UN Migrations Agency – based in Brittany they offer help to people based in northern France, including Paris. 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. 

READ ALSO Meet the UN team helping Brits in France with Brexit paperwork

The Franco British Network – based in Dordogne, they can help people living in southern France. Find out more on their website francobritishnetwork.fr or call 05 19 88 01 09 between 9am and 1pm Monday to Wednesday or 1pm to 5pm Thursday and Friday.

SSAFA France – the armed forces charity supports army veterans and their families throughout France. You can contact them on [email protected]

Church of England Diocese in Europe – for people living in Nouvelle Aquitaine, the church group is also offering help and support. Find out more in their website here.

British Embassy

The British Embassy has also been running information and support campaigns for British people living in France, including live Q&A sessions via their Facebook page. The Embassy can also take up cases if anyone has been turned down for residency and needs help in appealing. 

Relocation Agents

If you really can’t face the process and just want someone else to do it for you then many relocation agents offer residency card/visa services in addition to their work in helping people make the move to France.

Be warned however, these do not come cheap and you will still have to find all the relevant paperwork yourself so that the agent can make the application on your behalf. 

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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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