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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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.