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Second-home owners: How to hand back a French carte de séjour

The Local France
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Second-home owners: How to hand back a French carte de séjour
Second home owners in France can return a carte de séjour. Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

In the confusion around the post-Brexit arrangements, some British second-home owners have ended up with carte de séjour residency cards, which may now cause them problems with French authorities, especially during tax season. So what can you do if you are in this situation or know someone who is?


Who does this affect?

This refers to UK nationals who are not full-time residents in France but do spend a significant amount of time here - usually second-home owners.

After Brexit, Brits who lived in France were required to get a special post-Brexit carte de séjour - known as a WARP (Withdrawal Agreement Residency Permit) or in French an Article 50 TUE - and a special website was set up in 2021 to allow them to apply for the card.

This card was for people who were living in France prior to December 31st 2020 - not people who lived in the UK and own property in France or like to spend time here. Brits who moved to France after that date came under the new regime of post-Brexit visas.


The French authorities deliberately tried to make the application process as simple as possible to ease the administrative burden for their own authorities and the stress for the British population in France, many of whom had been living here for years or even decades before Brexit.

But because of the simplified process, a small number of British second-home owners also managed to get the cards - some believing they had found a loophole to post-Brexit rules such as the 90-day rule, but others who had simply made a genuine mistake or had received bad advice.

Mythbuster: Can you really 'cheat' the Schengen 90-day rule?

This article refers only to second-home owners who have the post-Brexit WARP card - there is a different type of carte de séjour that is open to second-home owners - full details here.

But why is this a problem?

Having a WARP card when you don't actually live in France throws up a number of problems.

The basic issue is that the WARP is for residents, so by applying for it you have told French authorities that you live in France. If, however, you are a second-home owner then your main residence is actually in the UK, not France.

It should be noted here that residency for immigration purposes and being a 'tax resident' of a country are two different things.

Residency in France takes away problems such as having to limit visits to 90 days, but it also comes with responsibilities, including to the French tax authorities.

So what happens?

For most people, the first problem is to do with taxes.

All residents in France - even if they have no French income - are required to make an annual tax declaration, and by obtaining a WARP card you have told French authorities that you are a resident.

EXPLAINED Who has to make the annual tax declaration in France?

Failure to make the annual declaration can lead to hefty fines, but it is also a criminal offence to provide false information (such as the information that you are a resident in France if you are not) on a tax declaration. People who are not resident in France but have income here complete a different type of declaration.  

The final deadline for 2023 income tax declarations is June 8th


This year, property owners must also complete the one-off property tax declaration. You can find full details of the declaration here, but among the information requested is whether the property is your main residence or second home.

Declaring your French property as a second-home is likely to lead to the question of your primary residence address.

However stating that it is your main residence when it is in fact a second home counts as providing false information to tax authorities which is, as already noted, a criminal offence.

Is it only a problem with taxes?

Having a conflicting residency status could ultimately lead to other problems, particularly if you attempt to access services such as emergency healthcare on the basis that you are a visitor, when you are in the French system as a resident.

If you don't live in France you're unlikely to be interacting with systems like social security or education, but if you own property you will probably need to be in contact with the mairie on occasion.

Having a UK registered car could also cause you problems, as people who are resident in France are required to change the registration of their car to a French one. There have been reports of fines being issued at the border to people who presented a carte de séjour but were driving a UK-registered car.

So what should I do?

If you are reading this article with a mounting sense of dread and realising that it applies to you or someone you know, there are some steps you can take.


Firstly, try not to panic - throughout the confusing and stressful Brexit period the attitude of the French authorities towards Brits was mostly quite sympathetic, and we've seen no evidence of an official desire to persecute Brits.

Having said that, the longer you leave this situation the harder it is going to be to explain why you didn't take steps sooner to regularise your status.

The best course of action will be simply to 'fess up to having made a mistake.

The first port of call should be your local préfecture - check on their website to find details for how to make an appointment as many préfectures cannot deal with walk-in queries.


Explain that you made a mistake and you wish to hand back the WARP card - take with you as much documentation as you can pertaining to your situation in France, and if your French is at beginner level consider taking along a friend or neighbour who is a fluent French-speaker to help you explain your situation.

Some préfectures advise people to return their card by post together with a covering letter - in this instance the letter will need to be in French and to fully explain your situation and why you have the card. Consider asking a French-speaking friend or neighbour to help you with the formal French required for this type of letter.

If you have received a letter from the tax authorities, go along to your local tax office, explain the situation and ask what you should do next. You are likely to be liable for late fees.

If you receive any kind of official summons relating to your immigration status, it would be a good idea to seek legal advice from a lawyer specialising in immigration. 

Regularise your status

You will then need to take steps to regularise your status.

If you decide that you want to make France your full-time home it's likely that you will need to start from scratch on the visa process - but you should seek advice from an immigration lawyer on this.

If you want to keep your full-time residence in the UK, be aware that visits to France will now be curtailed by the 90-day rule. If you wish to spend more than 90 days in every 180 in France, you will need a visitor visa


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Gwen Graham Watts 2023/04/28 15:26
How to change address on 5 year carte de sejour
Iain 2023/04/12 17:16
If you are returning your card the you should, as with nearly all letters to the bureaucracy, send it with a covering letter and send it as a 'Recommandé avec accusé de réception' that is the French equivalent of a recorded and signed for delivery. You should also ask that either you are removed from the database of issued cartes (if you are on this you will find it difficult to get any kind of visitor visa) or that your record is amended so that it shows the card has been returned.

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