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BREXIT

How British citizens can retire to France after Brexit

Retiring to France is the dream for many people, so here's how British people can go about this in the post-Brexit world.

How British citizens can retire to France after Brexit
Photo: AFP

There’s no doubt that Brexit has made retiring to France considerably more difficult for British people, but it’s still possible.

From January 1st 2021, British citizens became Third Country Nationals and therefore anyone who moves to France after this date faces an immigration process like that already in place for other non-EU citizens like Americans, Canadians and Australians.

And of course plenty of them manage to retire to France, but they need to have patience to deal with the complicated paperwork, plus some not-insubstantial financial resources.

British people who moved to France before December 31st 2020 have a different process to follow.

Visa

Any Brit who is not a dual national with an EU country will need a visa for stays in France of more than 90 days in every 180.

This applies to people who intend to move here and people who just want a holiday longer than three months.

The French government guidance says: “As of January 1st 2021, UK citizens will need a Long Stay visa if staying in France or in a French Overseas Territory for more than 90 days whatever the purpose of stay (work, studies, Au Pairing, passport talent, visitor, family reunification, family members of French nationals, etc).”

READ ALSO France publishes post-Brexit visa requirements for British citizens

Pre-Brexit, many British people bought property in France to use as a second home, with the intention of moving there permanently when they retire.

From now on second-home owners who want to spend more than 90 days in every 180 in their French bolthole will need a visa.

People intending to up sticks and move permanently will also need a visa, but probably a different type.

There are several different types of visa available, some linked to work, but people retiring to France will probably be looking at a visitor visa.

A visitor visa requires applicants to formally agree not to engage in any professional activity in France, so rules out the halfway-to-retirement option that some people previously took – retiring from their 9-5 job and setting up a small business in France such as running a gîte or B&B or continuing to work remotely from their French property.

If you intend to set up a business in France you need a working visa and will need to supply information about the financial viability of your proposed business. 

There are two types of visitor visa – the  temporary visitor visa is known as visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur. The French government says in its guidance for second home owners that this is the type of visa for people who intend to spend between three and six months of the year in their French property.

The permanent visa is a visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour visiteur, for people planning on spending more than six months of the year in France. 

A visa must be applied for in advance of travel in your home country. You can find more on how to apply for a visa HERE.

Finances

Moving as a Third Country National involves more financial outlay than it does for EU citizens, the visa itself costs around €90 depending on the type and you may also have to pay to have supporting documents translated into French by a certified translator – find the cost schedule for that HERE.

But the bigger barrier is the financial requirements of the visa itself.

If you are not planning to work in France you will need to provide evidence that you have sufficient means to support yourself and not become a burden on the French state.

You will need to provide detailed financial information with your visa application to show either evidence or a regular income such as a pension or a fairly hefty amount in your bank account.

The guideline figures for this are based around the French minimum wage, known as the Smic. This is regularly reviewed but on January 1st 2021 will stand at €1,554.58 gross per month. If you do not have a regular income you would need savings of €18,648 to cover a 12-month visa.

These amounts are per person, so a couple would need double that between them.

You can find full details of the financial requirements HERE.

Healthcare

If you are not working in France you will need to show that you have health cover when you make your visa application. 

Once you are a resident you can begin the process of registering within the French state system, so you won’t need health insurance in the long term.

In the past many people have used their EHIC (European health insurance card) to cover them in the gap between arriving and getting registered within the French system, but this will no longer be possible.

The visa process requires proof of full health insurance as a standard requirement. There are ongoing discussions as to whether the GHIC – the UK’s successor to EHIC – will be accepted for this purpose.

Carte de séjour

Getting permanent residency is a two-step process, first you get the visa to enable you to enter the country, then before that expires you apply for a residency card known as a carte de séjour.

British people who were resident in France before December 31st 2020 have been given an online portal and a streamlined system to make their residency application, but this isn’t available to people who arrive after January 1st and they will have to make their applications to their local préfecture.

At present this process is on paper, but the French government has outlined a long-term plan to move more of these types of application online.

When applying for your carte de séjour you will need to provide proof of your residency in France, personal documents such as a passport and, for retired people, proof of financial means similar to those required for visa applications.

First you will get a five-year carte de séjour which you must then renew to get a carte de séjour permanent.

Citizenship

If all this sounds just too complicated it might be worth checking if you are entitled to citizenship of an EU country. The above rules only apply to British people who don’t have dual nationality with an EU country. People who have the passport of an EU country can continue to take advantage of freedom of movement, which eliminates a lot of paperwork.

Not that getting citizenship is an easy process, but it is pretty much the only way to avoid the paperwork described above.

Member comments

  1. Is there any news or hint that perhaps there will be an extension to the 90 day rule for British nationals and/or an initial fast track long stay visa process? Asking more in hope than expectation. Thank you ? and a very happy new year to The Local and it’s readers?Think we all deserve one!! Take care

  2. I notice in the above article there is no mention of Driving Licenses!!!!!
    As we, French Residents, will lose our right to drive in France in the next 6 months (unless new regulations are introduced) this will also be true for people retiring to France in 2022.

    I would like to see some focus on this situation!!!!

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For members

BREXIT

French government clarifies post-Brexit rules on pets for second-home owners

Brexit hasn't just brought about changes in passport rules for humans, pets are also affected and now the French government has laid out the rules for pet passports for British second-home owners.

French government clarifies post-Brexit rules on pets for second-home owners

Pre-Brexit, people travelling between France and the UK could obtain an EU Pet Passport for their car, dog or ferret which ensured a hassle-free transport experience.

But since the UK left the EU things have become more complicated – and a lot more expensive – for UK residents wanting to travel to France with pets.

You can find a full breakdown of the new rules HERE, but the main difference for people living in the UK is that that they now need an Animal Health Certificate for travel.

Unlike the Pet Passport, a new ACH is required for each trip and vets charge around £100 (€118) for the certificate. So for people making multiple trips a year, especially those who have more than one pet, the charges can quickly mount up.

UK nationals who live in France can still benefit from the EU Pet Passport, but until now the situation for second-home owners has been a little unclear.

However the French Agriculture ministry has now published updated information on its website.

The rules state: “The veterinarian can only issue a French passport to an animal holding a UK/EU passport issued before January 1st, 2021, after verifying that the animal’s identification number has been registered in the Fichier national d’identification des carnivores domestiques (I-CAD).”

I-CAD is the national database that all residents of France must register their pets in – find full details HERE.

The ministry’s advice continues: “If not registered, the veterinarian may proceed to register the animal in I-CAD, if the animal’s stay in France is longer than 3 consecutive months, in accordance with Article 22 of the AM of August 1st, 2012 on the identification of domestic carnivores.”

So if you are staying in France for longer than 90 days (which usually requires a visa for humans) your pet can be registered and get a Pet Passport, but those staying less than three months at a time will have to continue to use the AHC.

The confusion had arisen for second-home owners because previously some vets had been happy to issue the Passport using proof of a French address, such as utility bills. The Ministry’s ruling, however, makes it clear that this is not allowed.

So here’s a full breakdown of the rules;

Living in France

If you are living in France full time your pet is entitled to an EU Pet Passport regardless of your nationality (which means your pet has more travel rights than you do. Although they probably still rely on you to drive the car/book the ferry tickets).

Your cat, dog or ferret must be fully up to date with their vaccinations and must be registered in the national pet database I-CAD (full details here).

Once issued, the EU Pet Passport is valid for the length of the animal’s life, although you must be sure to keep up with their rabies vaccinations. Vets in France usually charge between €50-€100 for a consultation and completing the Passport paperwork.

Living in the UK

If you are living in the UK and travelling to France (or the rest of the EU) you will need an Animal Health Certificate for your cat, dog or ferret.

The vaccination requirements are the same as for the EU Pet Passport, but an ACH is valid for only 10 days after issue for entry to the EU (and then for four months for onward travel within the EU).

So if you’re making multiple trips in a year you will need a new certificate each time.

UK vets charge around £100 (€118) for a certificate, although prices vary between practices. Veterinary associations in the UK are also warning of delays in issuing certificates as many people begin travelling again after the pandemic (often with new pets bought during lockdown), so you will need to book in advance. 

Second-home owners

Although previously some French vets had been happy to issue certificates with only proof of an address in France, the French government has now clarified the rules on this, requiring that pets be registered within the French domestic registry in order to get an EU Pet Passport.

This can only be done if the pet is staying in France for more than three months. The three months must be consecutive, not over the course of a year.

UK pets’ owners will normally require a visa if they want to stay in France for more than three months at a time (unless they have dual nationality with an EU country) – find full details on the rules for people HERE.

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