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BRITS IN FRANCE

Exchange rate: What are your options if you live in France but have income in pound sterling?

The value of the British pound has fallen steeply against the dollar in recent days and also against the Euro, so what should you do if you live in France but have income - such as a pension, rental income or a salary - in pound sterling?

Exchange rate: What are your options if you live in France but have income in pound sterling?
The weakness of the pound causes major financial headaches for some Brits in France. Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP

Exchange rates might sound like a spectacularly dull topic, but if you live in France (where, naturally, your day-to-day living expenses are paid in Euros) but have income from the UK in pounds, then the movement of the international currency markets will have a major impact on the money that ends up in your pocket.

And this is far from an uncommon situation – France is a popular retirement destination for Brits, who will usually be receiving a British pension paid in pounds.

Non-retirees might be still working for companies in the UK, with a salary in pounds, while others have income from rental properties or investments.

So a big loss in the value of the pound against the Euro has a major impact on Brits in France, many of whom – particularly pensioners – are already living on low incomes. 

The most recent fall in the value of the pound was sparked by the UK government’s new mini budget (we’re far from experts on economics, but the reaction from most economists seems to be that the budget is deranged) and has already seen a recovery. 

The pound-euro exchange rate over the last month. Chart: xe.com

But while this one-time fall is spectacular, it’s also part of a longer term trend in the fall of the value of the pound, especially since Brexit, that has seen some pensioners lose a big chunk of their income.

The pound-euro exchange rate over the last 10 years. Graph: xe.com

So if you have income in pounds, what are your options?

Euro income – obviously this isn’t an option for everyone, especially pensioners, but the best way to protect against currency exchange shocks is to make sure that you’re paid in the same currency that you spend in.

The advantage of the euro is that you’re not limited to finding work only in France, but could work in any EU country – including the anglophone ones like Ireland – and get your salary in euros.

What are the rules for foreigners working remotely from France?

Depending on your employer, it might also be possible for you to ask to bill in euros. 

Work in France – if you’re currently not working, then an obvious option is to take up some work in France – although if you are in France on a visa, you need to check whether your visa allows you to work.

Exchange rate – if your income can only be paid in pounds, it’s crucial to ensure that you get the best exchange rate possible and that you don’t waste money on international transfer fees.

The best options here are online banks or money transfer services, which compete on the rates that they offer, so usually have the most advantageous rate.

Some online banks also have the option to set up accounts in both pounds and Euros, so that you can receive money in pounds and spend it in Euros without having to make bank transfers, which can attract fees.

We spoke to a financial expert who explains the best options HERE.

Financial help – the French state offers fairly significant financial aid to people on low incomes, but while this generally comes automatically to French families, sometimes newcomers can slip through the net, especially pensioners who have never worked in France.

This autumn, for example, is a new €100-€200 chèque energie (financial grant) to help low-income households deal with the rising cost of energy bills.

In addition to one-off payments like this, you may also be entitled to top-up benefits or aid with making your home more energy efficient.

You can find out more HERE, and if you think you are eligible you can visit your local CAF office to ask how to apply.  

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TRAVEL NEWS

France to use iPads to check biometic data of travellers from UK

France has revealed its plans for new border checks of passengers arriving from the UK next year - including using iPads to take biometric data like fingerprints.

France to use iPads to check biometic data of travellers from UK

France plans to use tablet computer devices to register non-EU car passengers at land and sea borders – including its border with the UK – when the new EU border system EES becomes operational next year, a new document has revealed. 

In May 2023, countries of the Schengen area will introduce the new Entry & Exit System (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens at their external borders. The EES was created to tighten up border security and will ensure the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors. 

You can read full details of how the system will work HERE.

The system will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. Data collected will include the person’s name, type of travel document, fingerprints and facial images, as well as the date and place of entry and exit. The information will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that will be re-set at each entry.

The system will come into effect around the EU, but there have been major concerns about the France-UK border due to both the high volume of traffic and the Le Touquet Treaty border arrangements that mean French officials work in British ports of Dover and Folkestone – both of which saw long queues this summer as travel resumed after the pandemic. 

A document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

In the responses to the EU questionnaire, French authorities vowed they would be ready, saying simply Oui, La France sera prête (yes, France will be ready).

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

Test runs of the new system will begin at French border posts at the end of this year, they added.

However despite the vow that the new system will be ready on time to deal with thousands  of passengers each day authorities admitted “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers.”

French authorities admitted they are concerned about queues and backlogs at border crossings.

“The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continue with each border post manager to make progress on this point,” they told the EU.

This same concern was expressed by the CEO of the Port of Dover, Doug Bannister earlier this month when he told The Local he was concerned the time it takes to check each vehicle under EES could jump for around one and half minutes currently to 10 minutes.

Tablets to be used at land and sea borders

The way checks would be carried out for passengers at France’s sea borders with the UK has been a major concern especially at the Dover-Calais crossing, the busiest car route between the UK and continental Europe, with 8.6 million passengers passing through in 2019. 

Bannister, told The Local that first-time registration at Dover was the most concerning part of the new process, as it would require taking four fingerprints and facial images “at the border in front of an immigration officer”. 

Bannister said the current process was “designed around an airport” but this would not suit “a busy ferry terminal”. He demanded a system be introduced whereby registrations are carried out without passengers needing to leave the car.

French authorities’ response to the EU questionnaire has revealed they plan to use tablets, such as iPads to register car passengers’ details under EES.

The responses by French authorities to the EU questionnaire seem to clarify that agents will use tablets to register passengers directly in their cars under the “close supervision” of border guards, who will validate the biometric data on the spot. 

France will set up “‘mobile’ registration solutions (tablets) to record the biographical and biometric data of travellers eligible for the EES directly on board vehicles,” the document revealed.

People getting off buses will instead be able to use self-service kiosks similar to those set up at airports.

Airports

For non-EU visitors arriving by plane, France will set up self-service kiosks “supervised remotely via video by a border guard”.

Here, third-country nationals will be able to pre-register their biometric data and personal information, and complete the entry questionnaire. They will then be directed to the booth for verification of the data with the border guard. 

According to the document, France plans to maintain the eligibility for certain third-country nationals to go through automated ‘Parafe’ checks for subsequent entries and exits. E-gates are currently available for the citizens of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand the United Kingdom and Singapore (as well as EU citizens).

Doubts on gradual introduction

To facilitate the process, the European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months. 

Dover had also favoured some kind of transition period to allow the port to get used to the new system. But the French appear to have rejected this idea. 

They described the option of “progressive” introduction as “not satisfactory”, because it would require other adaptations of the system. 

France has called for “flexibility” to mitigate the impact of EES in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, French authorities called for the possibility of not creating EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later. 

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” the document says.

Responding to the questions, French authorities also said they intend to seek the support of Frontex, the EU border agency, in a more general context than the the entry in operation of the EES, in view of the 2024 Olympics. 

Non-EU residents in France

EES applies only to people entering the EU as tourists or making short visits – it does not apply to non-EU nationals who live in an EU country with a residency card such as a carte de séjour or a visa.

You can read full details on the system for residents HERE.

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