Up to 10,000 Brits in France still waiting for post-Brexit residency cards as deadline approaches

With the final deadline for post-Brexit residency applications in France just days away, the EU has published a new report looking at how many people are still waiting.

Up to 10,000 Brits in France still waiting for post-Brexit residency cards as deadline approaches
Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

Around the EU, many countries have already closed their applications for residency for Brits who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement – meaning those people who were full-time legal residents in an EU country before December 31st, 2020.

France’s original deadline was June 30th, but this was extended until September 30th, 2021.

So as the flood of residency applications comes to an end across Europe, the EU has released new data showing how many people have applied and how many requests were granted.

The EU’s Fifth joint report on the implementation of residency rights under part 2 of the Withdrawal Agreement brings together data from all EU member states – and the UK – on post-Brexit residency applications.

In many EU countries, all foreigners have to register for residency after a certain length of time in the country. France is one of the few which has never required EU citizens to do this, so no-one has ever been quite sure how many Brits live here – most estimates put it at around 200,000 people.

According to the EU report’s estimate, France has 148,300 Brits.

However by September 6th, when the data in the reports dates from, 162,100 people had applied for residency in France, suggesting the EU figure is an under-estimate.

A report from June by the British Embassy in Paris suggested that at least 10,000 Brits living in France were yet to apply.

Of the 162,000 applications received by French authorities, 151,300 applications had been concluded by September 6th – leaving more than 10,000 people still waiting.

More will likely have been concluded since then, but it is also still possible to apply until September 30th, so local préfectures are still processing applications.

Although the deadline to make applications has been extended, the deadline to be in possession of the carte de séjour remains at October 1st, although many are calling for this too to be extended to allow processing time for the final applications.

A spokesman campaign group British in Europe said: “We are concerned to learn that there are thousands of applications still in the works.

“The decree to extend the physical card deadline beyond October 1st is long overdue, this should have been agreed when the application window was extended to September 30th.

“Employers, education establishments, border guards and more all need to know any change to the October 1st deadline so that none of the thousands of unprocessed applicants face unfair repercussions.”

The percentage of outstanding applications roughly correlates with surveys done by the citizens’ rights group Remain in France Together (RIFT), which found that although the majority of people had their cards, many hundreds more were still waiting.

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

A RIFT spokesman said: “If our survey results mirror the situation for all UK Nationals and their family members across France, many thousands will be in a precarious situation on October 1st 2021.

“The French Government has not yet officially changed the deadline and there are so few working days left.  

“We call on the French Government to please give official notification of an extension immediately and to declare the number of applications made and finalised. Clear communication is vital.”

People who had been living in France for more than five years when they submitted their applications are entitled to permanent residency (carte de séjour permanent), while those living here for less than five years get a five-year carte de séjour, which can then be renewed for a permanent card.

Of the 151,300 applications processed by September 6th, 97,000 were given permanent residency and 40,800 the five-year card.

The report also looks at rejections – in total 2,200 applications were listed as rejected. A far larger number of applications however – 7,100 – were listed as ‘withdrawn or void’.

Early technical problems on the application site had lead to some duplicated applications, which will account for at least some of the listed rejections.

There could of course be multiple reasons why people might change their mind and withdraw their applications, but at least some of these are likely to have been from second-home owners who initially made the application in order to secure visa-free access to France, or just to keep their options open if they decided to make the move full time later.

READ ALSO Can I be resident in France and the UK?

Residency in France comes with obligations – including filing an annual tax declaration in France – and since it is not possible to be resident in two countries at once it involves giving up residency in UK, with the consequent loss of rights such as access to the NHS.   

Second-home owners who want to spend more than 90-days out of every 180 at their French property without actually moving here need instead to get a visa.

If you are a resident who has not yet applied for a carte de séjour, find out how HERE.

Member comments

  1. It is not just Residency processing. It is also the issue of exchanging Driving Licenses. As a country where bureaucracy if paramount it is obvious that many areas of importance are understaffed and failing to meet requests in what could be reasonably expected time periods! I not eform my own experience that my Impots were processes very promptly, perhaps that is because money is involved?

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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.”