French government publishes decree laying out rights of British residents after Brexit

The French government has published its long-awaited decree laying out the rights and responsibilities of British residents as the Brexit transition period nears the end.

French government publishes decree laying out rights of British residents after Brexit
France has published its domestic legislation on the rights of Brits after Brexit. Photo: AFP

Originally scheduled for October, the decree  was finally published in the Journal Officiel on Friday, making it a legally binding document.

It lays out the rights and responsibilities of British people who are already resident in France by December 31st 2020, the end of the Brexit transition period.

Although the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement agreed between Brussels and London broadly covers the rights of British people living in the EU – and EU citizens living in the UK – each country then has to publish its own domestic legislation laying out its rules and requirements.

This is what France's says:

Residency permit

Every British person living in France needs to apply for a carte de séjour residency permit. This is not new information and has been repeatedly publicised by French officials but it's worth pointing out that these don't get sent out automatically – you have to apply for one.

The Interior Ministry on October 19th opened up an online portal for British people to make their applications on – you can find our guide to how this works HERE.

British people will get a card bearing the words Accord de retrait du Royaume Uni de l'UE – Withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU. 


In order to benefit from the Withdrawal Agreement, British people need to be legally resident in France before December 31st 2020, this decree does not cover people who move to France after this date.

Everyone must have made their application for a card by June 30th, 2021.

Everyone must have a card by October 1st, 2021. Any British person living in France after that date who does not have a carte de séjour will be living here illegally, unless they can prove a good reason why they were not able to make their application in time.


Until October 1st 2021, there is no requirement for British people to have a carte de séjour in order to live, work, study or receive healthcare or benefits in France.

This is not new information, but it is the first piece of official legislation to state this.

Already we have heard reports of British people being incorrectly told by officials that they need a carte de séjour, and it's possible that this could get worse after the end of the transition period on December 31st.

This document is therefore something that can be printed out and shown to the relevant official to prove that it is not necessary to have the card before October 2021.

Permanent residency

People who have already lived in France for more than five years will be given a carte de séjour permanent. The card itself lasts for 10 years and needs to be renewed, but the right to remain is for life and you will not need to prove your eligibility again.

People who have lived in France for less than five years but are married to a French person will also be given a carte de séjour permanent.

People who have lived in France for less than five years will be given a five-year card, which can then be exchanged for a carte de séjour permanent at the end of the five-year period.

People who have lived in France for more than five years only need to prove their identify and how long they have been in France.

People who have lived here for less than five years need to prove that they fit into one of the categories of applicant – working, student, job-seeker, family member or economically inactive (such as retirees). People who are not working will need to prove they have health cover – being registered within the French state health system is adequate for this – and have sufficient resources not to be a burden on the French state.

There is more detail on these categories HERE.

Family members

The decree also clarifies some information around people who are applying for residency as the family member of someone who qualifies.

The Withdrawal Agreement covers any British person legally resident in France by December 31st 2020 – or a family member including spouses or partners, children or dependent adult relatives.

As well as laying out conditions for this, the decree confirms what happens to people who apply as a spouse or partner and then experience bereavement or divorce

  • If the partner dies, the family member is entitled to stay
  • If the partner is divorced, the family member is entitled to stay if the marriage lasted three years or more.
  • If the marriage lasted less than three years, the family member could be entitled to stay if they have joint custody of children who are in French schools or in exceptional circumstances such as the ending of the marriage because of domestic violence

Cross-border workers 

People who are working in France but living in another country – known as frontaliers – can apply for a cross-border worker card that will allow them to work in France – either as an employee or on a self-employed basis.

They will receive a card bearing the words Travailleur frontalier/Accord de retrait du Royaume-Uni de l’UE – Non-résident – cross-border worker/ Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU – non resident.

As with the other categories covered by the decree, this applies to people who are already working in France and living elsewhere before December 31st 2020.

To read the decree in full, or print it out to prove your status, click HERE.

You can find more detail on all aspects of life in France next year in our Preparing for Brexit section.

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.