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BREXIT

Reader question: Can I be resident in France and the UK?

We're now approaching the deadline for Brits who were resident in France before 2021 to apply for residency, but there is still much confusion about how the system works.

Reader question: Can I be resident in France and the UK?
Home is not just where the heart is. Photo: Patrick Herzog/AFP

Question: We live in the UK and have a second home in France where we typically spend around 6 months of the year. We don’t want to limit our stays to just 90 days out of every 180, so why can’t we apply to be residents of both France and the UK? If we apply for a carte de séjour in France will that solve the problem for us?

Pre-Brexit, there were plenty of people who split their time roughly equally between France and the UK and considered both places home.

The flexibility accorded by EU freedom of movement, coupled with the fact that France and the UK – unusually within the EU – did not require EU citizens to register for residency meant that people didn’t really need to spend too much time thinking about which country they were officially ‘resident’ in.

Sadly, those days are over.

Brits who were living in France before December 30th, 2020 and wish to continue living here must apply for a residency permit – known as a carte de séjour – and must do it quickly. The deadline to apply is September 30th, 2021 – extended from an earlier deadline of June 30th. Find out how to apply HERE.

Brits who live in the UK and own property in France now need to either limit their stays to 90 days in every 180 – find a full explanation of the 90 day rule HERE – or get a visa for longer stays.

READ ALSO How to get a visitor visa for France

But what about those who want residency in both?

Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than that. The Withdrawal Agreement carte de séjour is for people who live in France – if you declare residency that comes with other other obligations such as filing an annual tax return in France and consequently the loss of certain rights in the UK such as access to the NHS as a UK resident.

Residency in France gives you other rights such as the right to work and – useful in a pandemic – the right to return home even if the borders are closed to most other travellers.

Residency in immigration terms – ie where you live – is not the same as tax residency. Tax residency can become automatic after a certain number of days in a country, while immigration residency needs to be applied for.

It is estimated that up to 25,000 Brits living in France have not yet applied for residency – people who do not apply within the deadline and continue to live in France become undocumented migrants, with all the associated problems.

READ ALSO What happens to Brits in France who don’t register before the September 30th deadline?

Member comments

  1. The info above is out of date in certain ways. As a result of changes in the last few years, the UK now allows access to the NHS by non-resident Brits as long as they remain citizens. If you have an S1 and register for a Carte Vitale the NHS pays for your health care anyway. This ‘dual access’ has long been the practice in the EU anyway for many nations. Whether or not you should remain registered with your previous local GP is a moot point but I suspect nobody will care very much either way. In any case, for public health reasons, access to GP services and A&E are free in the UK whether or not you are registered with the NHS or a UK citizen. The main exclusion used to be for planned treatments such as operations and courses of e.g. radiotherapy but the UK government has now recognised that people may prefer to have these done in their ‘home’ country and allows this. Problems will only arise if you become a citizen of another country.

    1. NB I’ve checked the source of my information in the above that NHS treatment remains free even if you are covered by an S1 and it was in the covering letter from the NHS that came with my S1 form just over two years ago. It says that a charge will only be levied where there is a statutory one such as for prescriptions. But I would assume that the ‘free for 60 plus’ rule trumps that as well.

  2. Thanks Iain, that is my reading of the situation too. It must be right that if you have paid into the NI pot until retirement, you can not only receive your pension if resident in France but if you still retain a residence in the U.K. you will receive the same NHS services as a permanent U.K. resident when you are in the U.K.

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BRITS IN EUROPE

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.

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