Family told to leave France can stay

A British family who were sent letters telling them they had been refused cartes de séjour and had to leave France within 30 days can now stay after an error came to light.

1 May 2019
By Oliver Rowland

Mother-of-two Emma Lawrence, from the Aude, told of her shock after she and her husband received the letters.

The couple, who had lived in France for two years, applied to secure their position after Brexit, based on Mrs Law­rence’s self-employment as a technical writer and IT support worker, and her husband’s situation as an “inactive” person with substantial savings.

They had low work income as Mrs Lawrence was still trying to grow her business while they searched for a plot of land to build a home and helped their young children settle into school.

Mrs Lawrence made a Facebook video about her distress, which Connexion reported on and was followed up by various media. The video has been viewed 117,000 times.

The letters said they did not have sufficient resources to meet residence card rules – and had to go. They gave a right of appeal, which the couple did not take up, although they discussed their options with the British Embassy. However, the Interior Ministry decided to investigate after we asked about the case. It said it was helped by the embassy.

The ministry told us there appeared to have been an error – the family were sent a mixture of an OQTF (order to leave) and a card refusal.

The ministry asked the prefecture to cancel the OQTF and to review the couple’s situation to see if it could be more flexible over the cards.

Self-employment criteria do not require a specific income level, but it must be “genuine and effective” – a real business. The prefecture told Connexion it did not mean to tell the couple to leave. They have now been invited to an interview to show more evidence of their savings and work.

Mrs Lawrence said: “I’m not overjoyed by what’s happened. I understand that normally they’re supposed to look at the human level and the big picture, but I can sympathise that the prefecture staff are probably under-resourced and working flat-out.”

Our inquiries about this case to the DGEF, the Interior Ministry’s immigration procedures section, helped clarify the following:

  • An OQTF order to leave in 30 days can be issued to EU citizens but it is rare. It can be issued if the person poses a security threat or is proven not to meet the criteria to live in France under EU free movement rules. In practice, the most frequent cases concern people involved in aggressive begging or who have no resources at all and are deemed to be taking advantage of welfare.
  • An OQTF is not normally issued along with a carte refusal. It is a separate formal-ity and one does not automatically lead to the other. Card refusals to EU citizens are also rare and almost always concern homeless people or those with no resources at all.
  •  Savings may be taken into consideration in looking at whether EU citizens meet “sufficient resources” criteria for a carte as an “inactive” person. Where there is no regular income (salary, pension, rents, dividends…), having savings alone can make it harder to obtain a card.

See previous articles:  British family told to leave France 'set to stay' and and 'This is Brexit' - family gets 30 days to leave France

Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now