Brits in France: What should I do if I’m still waiting for my Brexit residency card?

An EU report from September suggests that up to Brits in France 10,000 people are still waiting to receive their card. So what should you do if you are one of those?

Brits in France: What should I do if I'm still waiting for my Brexit residency card?
Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

Question: I have applied for my carte de séjour on the website and although I have had my appointment at the préfecture I’m still waiting for the card itself to arrive. So what happens if it doesn’t come before the October 1st deadline?

Firstly – don’t panic. The deadline to have the card now now been pushed back to January 1st 2022 – full details here.

An EU report from September 6th showed that 162,000 people have applied for the post-Brexit carte de séjour residency card in France. Of those applications, 151,300 had been processed, leaving more than 10,000 still waiting.

France extended its original deadline to make the application from June 30th to September 30th, and now the deadline to actually be in possession of the card has been extended too – until January 1st 2022.

READ ALSO What changes for Brits in France on October 1st?

So what does that mean in practice after January?

It seems very unlikely that France will immediately start rounding up or deporting Brits who do not have the correct paperwork. 

In fact, day to day life is likely to continue as normal – what will change, however, is when you begin dealing with official processes.

Non-EU citizens can be required to show proof of their right of residency in a number of official scenarios including when renting or buying property, and accessing benefits or healthcare, while employers are within their rights to ask staff to provide proof that they are living and working legally in France.

The change to the October deadline was a late one – announced just three days before – so it’s possible that people will still ask for your card after October. You can find the official decree HERE if you need to prove that you have until January to get the card.

What should you do if you don’t yet have the card?

Contact the préfecture

Initial advice to people still waiting was not to contact their local préfecture, since many authorities were struggling to process the sheer volume of applications. People were also advised not to create a second application if their first was still pending, as this too increases the backlogs within the system.

However, campaign group RIFT, which has conducted detailed surveys on the carte de séjour application process, now advises anyone who has made their application but not heard from their préfecture to get in touch.

Applicants receive an automated attestation d’enregistrement (certificate of registration) when they make the application, containing a reference number. The next step is contact by email from your local préfecture, either requesting more information if your application is incomplete or inviting you to an appointment to give fingerprints and photos.

After the appointment, the card is delivered to you by post. Delivery times vary between different areas, but it is usually between two and six weeks.

People who have not heard anything since receiving the automated email should first check their email spam or junk folders and then, if there is no contact from the préfecture, get in touch.

RIFT recommends: “Our recommendation now, if you applied but not been contacted by your préfecture, is to contact them via their website – there should be an email address or online contact form for you to complete. Alternatively, send a lettre recommandée (registered post letter).

“Ensure you include a copy of the acknowledgement email or as a minimum, the reference number and the date you applied.”

Keep the attestation d’enregistrement

In the absence of the card, the attestation d’enregistrement is an official document. The Interior Ministry has previously said that this document could act as proof of residency for purposes including travel for people who had not yet received their cards, so we would advise people to print this out and keep a copy with them while they are waiting for the card.

If you have not yet made your application, you have just days to do so – here’s how.

Member comments

  1. RIFT may be mistaken. This is my experience.
    I applied for my Carte de Sejour in December 2020 and immediately received an acknowledgement letter to keep in my passport that showed I had applied in time.
    Next, I received an appointment in February but couldn’t make it. This turned out to be a serious error, as my wife has often reminded me. I followed the procedure in the e-mail exactly, to arrange a new appointment and got no answer. I sent e-mails that were met with standard replies promising action within 5 days. Nothing. I rang up and a very nice lady at the switch board said “I know, I know but don’t worry they are probably dealing with it”. No, I could not get through to Guichet G on the phone. Yes, she agreed it must be possible to speak to someone on the phone. “Supposing” I ventured, “I was the President, then you could put me through couldn’t you?” That, she agreed, was undoubtedly true but as she pointed out “You are not the President”.
    As the September 30 deadline approached ‘probably’ dealing with it didn’t seem quite good enough. So I sent a tactfully worded (well quite tactfully worded) Recorded Delivery with accusation de reception etc. and immediately got an appointment for September 22. [Was it my letter that stirred them into action or would they have sent it anyway – I shall never know.] The sting in the tail was that it was for 9.00 a.m. Anybody who knows anything about Strasbourg rush hour traffic knows that for an appointment at 9 a.m., you are either an hour early or an hour late. Or you take a train. Unfortunately some genius got rid of our little railway years ago.
    So we left our village at half past six in the morning having carefully made sure that we had every thing with us that a good fonctionnaire could possibly ask for over and above the standard, mask, own pen and letter of appointment. (Why own pen when you have to use their pen with special ink to fill in the sacred forms?)
    Unfortunately, in the excitement we had forgotten to put extra fuel in the car. Petrol is as difficult as trains first thing in the morning in our village and we had a life and death struggle in the semi-darkness with a fuel pump that only took credit cards… but not ours. Luckily, driving carefully, we made it to the nearest manned pump on the motorway where we filled up at an astronomical price per litre.
    After that things got better. Our Tom Tom took us to the door of the Prefecture where amazingly there were still plenty of empty parking spaces at a modest price per hour. The biggest problem was avoiding serious injury from hurtling cyclists, who did not seem to think that giving audible warning of approach was necessary.
    At the Prefecture the security was heavy – Strasbourg has suffered a serious terrorist attack – but courteous, manned as far as I could tell entirely by policemen from the Midi with beautiful accents and plenty of good humoured badinage.
    Looking around it was obvious that us Brexiters were, as Clarke Gable put it in his final words in Gone With the Wind ‘le cadet de mes soucis’, the least of their worries. All the flotsam and jetsam, all the human wreckage of all those wars our rulers have so light heartedly ignited, triggering the great immigration from East to West, was in the hall we were directed to. Hanging about waiting, waiting to be interviewed and hoping to hear the answers that could transform their lives. Perfectly groomed families with perfectly groomed and unnaturally well behaved children, queued to present their case for being allowed to stay and work. It was like sun bathing on a beach in Greece when suddenly a boat load of refugees comes ashore. The contrast between our apparently important worries and their real concerns was that great.
    On the dot of nine of clock I was called by loud speaker to guichet I, not before a very courteous Afghan offered me a seat. I duly labored to provide all eight finger prints plus two thumbs on the glass plated machine. As instructed, I read all the documents to make sure the details were correct before they were enshrined in the official record and on my card. Despite the injunction to take the greatest care because nothing could be changed afterwards, I did not point feel it necessary to point out that I was born in the Royal County, not the County of Berkshire. I thought they might think I was taking the mickey.
    The lady was charming and helpful and sympathetic that having had a Carte de Sejour years ago and been told I didn’t need it that I now had to go through all this again.
    Finally, after much coming and going, she put in front of me the sacred document. Shock, horror, all it turned out to be was a temporary carte, with the advice to please watch out carefully in three months’ time for an SMS telling me that I will be able to make an appointment and come back and get the real one.
    Was this temporary carte one with which I could safely travel across the Schengen Area? She didn’t know for sure but would ask. Yes her colleague thought that it was… ‘normalement’.
    After this life looked up. The policemen at the entrance pointed us to a truly superb café in the Avenue des Vosges, clearly well irrigated with the lush expense accounts of the nearby European Institutions. There we recovered over a café, croissants and a delicious cake that I thought only existed today in my memories of France in the 1960s.

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For members


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.”