Dordogne cartes system under pressure

Thousands of Britons live in the Dordogne

A new online appointments system for carte de séjour applications in the Dordogne is already booked out until the end of October – but the prefecture say they may look to free up more slots.

The general secretary of the Dordogne, Laurent Simplicien, told Connexion there are at present no more spaces for ‘Europeans’ until they launch bookings for a further three-month period later around the start of October.

He said some British people have been booking into slots for non-Europeans, which is incorrect. If you have done so you are advised to cancel the appointment through the online system (see their website here).

The new online bookings system launched last week and is intended to modernise and streamline the way foreign people visit the prefecture.

In the past few Europeans applied for a residency card as it is not obligatory however it has been increasingly recommended since the Brexit referendum vote, in order for British people to help secure their rights after Brexit.

Mr Simplicien said: “It was a major reorganisation for us, which allows us reduce, indeed completely get rid of, the queues, to meet people at a set appointment time and know why they are coming so as the officials can prepare.

“It’s allowed us to avoid having overcrowded waiting areas and our agents know what is needed when the person arrives.

“It’s a better-quality experience both for the users and our agents and it’s something the Interior Ministry and the prefectures have been working on for some time.”

Mr Simplicien said the changes were not a direct effect of requests from British people for cartes de séjour; it is a general reorganisation of the foreigners’ service. However he added it was because the Dordogne has a significant British population that they allowed for specific half-days for appointments for Europeans.

“It’s basically because the right of residence for Europeans is fundamentally different for Europeans and non-Europeans.

“The problem at the moment is people are tending to take non-European slots – they want more appointments than were allocated for Europeans. But we’re going to take steps to manage this.

“It’s all very recent and we’re trying to perfect the system. But it’s already having effects – there are no more queues and people are being seen on time. But we may have to review depending on the demand, the slots for Europeans and non-Europeans. There may be some adjustments to make. We will keep things under review and keep making improvements.”

He added he was aware of increased demand from Britons for cards, due to Brexit, however they are telling people that while a card is their right, if they meet the requirements, it is not an obligation.

“We will respect people’s rights and there is no need for worry and we will manage the situation, though applications can’t be dealt with instantly and we can’t issue a whole lot of cards to a lot of people all at once.”

He added: “At our local level, the details of the Brexit negotiation do not concern us – it’s the national level than deals with that. But we are attentive to the British community because we are a department where there are a lot of Britons.”

They have no information as to possible procedures after Brexit, he said, they simply inform people of their current rights and process their applications according to the existing rules.

Mr Simplicien said that they are working with representatives of the British community, such as the British Community Committee of France (BCC) – which in turn is part of the British in Europe coalition – and he said such groups can help people prepare their applications, avoiding multiple visits due to missing documents.

Ideally only two appointments are needed: to apply for the card and to collect it, he said. It takes “several weeks” between the first appointment and receiving the card. Questions about the Dordogne's new system can be sent to them at pref-questions-etrangers@dordogne.gouv.fr

The BCC’s representative for the south-west, Claire Godfrey, who met the prefecture, said so far they had only allocated seven appointments a week for Europeans and they may have underestimated the number of Britons in the Dordogne.

She said the prefecture has been working on the basis of around seven thousand, whereas the real figure could be many times more. She will be seeking to compile a more accurate estimate, she said.

She said reports from members of the British in Europe coalition groups as to carte applications are varied around the country. Things are working well in areas including Angoulême (Charente) and Carcassonne (Aude) she said.

The Interior Ministry recently gave us a list of documents required for carte applications, saying that prefectures have been asked to stick to it. We will be translating it into English later this week.

Our new guide to Brexit and Britons in France also has plenty of information on cartes de séjour.

UPDATE (September): since writing this article, the Interior Ministry has told Connexion they are asking all prefectures to set up similar booking systems as opposed to people simply visiting at random and joining (sometimes long) queues, as is still the system at some prefectures. However readers have now reported difficulties in obtaining appointments in several areas that have set up such systems, or appointments in some cases being offered more than a year ahead.

Previous articles:

Readers' experiences of applying for a carte de séjour

Apply now for cartes, ministry tells expats

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