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VISAS

‘Not complicated but expensive’: What it’s like getting a French visa as a Brit after Brexit

Following Brexit, UK nationals enter the world of visas and residency permits if they want to move to France. We asked British journalist and recent successful visa applicant Joseph Keen to talk us through the process.

'Not complicated but expensive': What it's like getting a French visa as a Brit after Brexit
Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

I have wanted to move to Paris for a while now, to work here as a freelance journalist and to improve my French language skills. I also have a strong interest in the history and the culture of France.

I knew that since Brexit I would need a visa, and this process turned out to be more straightforward but significantly more expensive than I though.

As I intend to work as a freelancer, I decided to apply for a one year-long self employed visa – visa de long séjour entrepreneur/libérale.

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The application had to be done from the UK, and within three months of my arrival date in France.

First, I had to apply through the website of the French embassy in London – here.

I was then referred to TLS contact’s website (visa and consular services) here where I had to book an appointment at the visa application centre for an in-person appointment (there are centres in London, Manchester and Edinburgh).

There was of course paperwork required and I had to provide

  • Passport
  • Passport photographs
  • Bank statements for the past three months. It wasn’t specified how much money you needed in the accounts, I had saved up enough for four months on French minimum wage (€1,231 per month) and that seemed to be enough
  • Proof of three months accommodation in France. I used a three-month Airbnb booking for this, but there was an option to stay with friends or relatives
  • A criminal record check

None of my documents needed to be translated into French.

For the criminal record check, I had to go through the ACRO Criminal Records Office in the UK. The check costs £55 (€64) for the standard service, which takes around two weeks to be completed, or £95 (€111) for an express service which takes four working days to be processed.

READ ALSO Ask the expert: What Brits need to know about post-Brexit visa requirements

At my interview, I had to explain my specific situation of being a freelance journalist and what this entails (which did prove to be difficult) and then give the details of an employer in France (which of courser I don’t have, being freelance).

After finally managing to explain my situation, I had to pay a fee of €99 and my application along with my passport was sent off.

To my surprise, within five days I was able to pick up my passport and I was granted the visa.

Since arriving in France, I have had to apply for a carte de séjour residence permit. This has to be done within three months of arriving and although the process was simple and quick I had to pay another 200 for that.

I’m not sure if I was lucky or perhaps with it being so soon after the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, there was a desire for some level of continuity, but the process itself went fairly smoothly.

However, despite being relatively straightforward in my experience, it’s significantly more expensive (with the visa application fee, criminal record check and residence permit) than the process would have been had I moved before Brexit, when UK nationals did not need visas or residency permits.

In the short time I have been in France, I’m really enjoying myself and so far, I’m very happy I decided to apply.

Joseph Keen is a freelance journalist based in Paris, you can follow him on Twitter @Koekeen95

For more on the details of visas and residence permits, head to our Residency section.

Member comments

  1. Is it standard to have a criminal record check as part of your application – we are going as inactiv not working? I’ve not seen that anywhere else when researching.

  2. I am a British Citizen and have a French carte de sejour, do the 90 day restrictions limit my visits to other European countries

    1. The article at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_the_Schengen_Area is a useful source
      of links to visa policy in specific situations.

      Holders of a long-stay visa or residence permit issued by a Schengen state or Monaco may also travel to other Schengen states, without an additional visa, for a stay of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

      My own inerpretation of this is that Frances should be able to stay without limit in France but will
      need to restrict time in *other* Schengen states to comply with 90/180 rule.

      However this poses the question of how to demonstrate such compliance – given that there will be
      no record of her passage to/from such other states if from/to France.

      Any informed comment on the latter point would be appreciated.

      To give an example:
      A UK national with WA rights in Spain drives there via France. The passport is stamped
      as entered at Calais and the driver reaches Spain two days later. Eight months later the
      same person drives back to UK having reained all that time in Spain. On exit at Calais,
      the systems report an “over-stay” as *apparently* the 90/180 rule has been breached.

      What does such person need to do to refute over-stay charge?
      It is quite *possible* that several months have been spent in France – although it is
      more likely that the time was spent in Spain.
      Is a personal declaration sufficient? If not, what evidence is needed?

  3. when applying for a long stay visa for France ( intention to retire to our 2nd home) what type of health insurance is needed and is it correct that its only needed for the 3 months after entry because one can enter the PUMA system?
    Thanks in advance for help
    Helen

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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