Apply now for cartes, ministry tells UK expats

Interior Ministry officials have once again stressed the importance of Britons in France obtaining a carte de séjour (and, if possible, the séjour permanent type) so as to ‘get into the system’ before Brexit.

25 April 2018
By Connexion journalist

Connexion has advised this since EU law experts told us in March 2016 that the cartes were the best protection in the event of a Brexit as no ‘acquired rights’ could be guaranteed as a matter of course.

French officials told representatives of expat rights coalition British in Europe that under 15,000 Britons currently hold cartes de séjour, compared to at least 150,000 thought to live in France, and people should seek a card now and not wait until after Brexit (or any transition period) when “they fear a peak in demand”. The cards show the holder has become a permanent resident under EU law. This is an automatic right for EU citizens who have lived in another state stably and legally for five years.

This view has been borne out as a result of Brexit negotiations in which it has been agreed that the eligibility of expats to the protections outlined in the ‘deal’ – aiming to maintain key residence and work rights – will be based on the same criteria as to apply for these cards. Proofs include utility bills showing ongoing residence and paperwork related to medical cover and employment or enough income so as not to be a burden on the state.

After Brexit France will be entitled to make it obligatory for UK expats to have a card proving they meet set criteria.

It has not been decided what form a card for Britons after Brexit may take but the ‘deal’ says that those already holding a ‘permanent stay’ card should, if required, be able to exchange it with minimal formalities. This card is called carte de séjour ‘citoyen UE/EEE/Suisse – séjour permanent’ and has the wording séjour permanent and toutes activités professionnelles and a 10-year date for renewal of the card (however the residency right which it attests to is not time-limited).

Cards with shorter dates are available for those who have been in France for under five years, attesting to ‘legal residence’ (but not to the acquisition of a ‘permanent’ right to stay) which under the ‘deal’ would allow people to remain to accrue five years.

The chairman of the association British Community Com­mittee (BCC) Chris­topher Chantrey recently met with ministry officials with responsibility for cartes de séjour and Europe.

He said: “They are sympathetic to our plight, and Britons who are in a regular situation should have no problem but people who are not in the French system, who are not regularised or do not fulfil the conditions for residence under EU rules are at risk.” In particular France intends to honour the rights of those with permanent cards and offer a simple exchange, the officials said.

The ministry also said that it had sent a reminder to prefectures about Britons’ rights relating to these cards as well as intervening in some cases where expats had had problems gaining cards.

The officials agreed that birth certificates are not required, Britons living in France more than five years may apply for a ‘permanent’ card without having to apply for a shorter-duration one and that living in France but working across a border is not a bar. “They apologised for the problems and said it was because prefectures, as a general rule, haven’t had to process cards for EU citizens since 2004,” Mr Chantrey said.

The officials have a British Embassy report showing where in France problems have been flagged up (emails re this can be sent to france.enquiries@fco.gov.uk)

Question marks remain for anyone who cannot prove their rights under the EU residence rules, which could include retirees with income of less than €1,294/month for couples or €833 for single people, or those without evidence of ongoing comprehensive healthcare cover.

An Oxford University report has pointed to the dangers of old and isolated EU citizens becoming illegal residents in the UK through ignorance of procedures - also a danger for Britons in France.

The British Embassy said it is in regular contact with France on this and, once procedures are agreed, it and the French ‘will ensure details are widely available’.

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