No-deal Brexit: ways to prove French residency

Britain leaving the EU without a deal would mean border control complications

28 August 2019
By Oliver Rowland

A no-deal Brexit on October 31 is now widely viewed as likely (and all the more so with Parliament set to be prorogued at the prime minister's request) – so a key issue for Britons living in France is how to prove at border controls that they are residents.

This is important, as non-EU visitors to France, including second home-owners, can only stay for a maximum three months in any six-month period.
Their passports are scanned and stamped so compliance can be monitored.

Non-EU citizens living in France typically show their visa and/or residency card when they return from a trip away.

Neither British nor French authorities have issued clear advice on the issue, nor outlined the problems people with stamps may face if they stay in France long term.

This may come to the fore over the Christmas period when more people travel out of France to see family.

One solution is for residents who have obtained an EU citizen’s carte de séjour before Brexit to show this as proof of residency.

Technically, Britons will no longer be considered EU citizens and any such cartes would need to be exchanged for “third-country” citizen cards in the year after a no-deal Brexit.

Having said this, in the context of no-deal the French government says it will treat EU cards acquired by Britons before Brexit as valid residency permits during a one year period afterwards. It is expected that border officials would be briefed by the Interior Ministry to accept Britons’ EU citizen cards in this period.

However, many Britons have yet to apply for a card or are still waiting for appointments to start the process. At a recent embassy meeting in Nice less than 10% of attendees reported having a card.

Non-EU visitors who have their passports stamped and scanned can be required to show they have health insurance, a return ticket and evidence of their accommodation plans such as a hotel booking.

However, American visitors, for example, rarely face these extra requests so it is hoped this will also apply to British visitors.

Both the UK and France say they want to avoid the worst-case scenario of full visitor visas and the EU grants this to many non-EU countries.

Connexion asked the EU and UK to confirm they are ready to give the required reciprocal guarantee – so far only the EU has confirmed this.

Residents, especially those who live in a small commune and know the mayor, can prove their residency status with a certificat de résidence, a letter from the mairie attesting they live there, said Claire Godfrey, a representative in the Dordogne for the British Community Committee of France (BCC).

Some people have already got one in preparation, she added.

It may be harder to obtain in a city but should be feasible. This link at Nantes mairie, for example, says one can be provided immediately if you visit with the right paperwork.

You would need to take your passport as well as proof of residency such as a utility bill less than three months old, rental contract and rent receipts or home ownership deeds, tax statement (avis d’imposition) or home insurance contract.

If you do not have a certificate, other papers likely to help at the border include a récépissé (receipt) showing you have applied for a carte de séjour, a French driving licence, work contract, carte vitale, or recent utility bills.

Ms Godfrey said it would be a useful back-up to take a picture of both sides of a carte de séjour to keep on your phone.

The issue came to the fore recently following reports that Britain planned to end free movement immediately on a no-deal Brexit.

This led to fears that EU citizens living in the UK might not be able to re-enter if they are on holiday.

It was feared a potential knock-on effect would be felt by Britons in EU countries such as France, which has frequently stated it will look closely at how its citizens are treated by the UK in terms of maintaining rights for UK citizens in France. 

The vice chairman of the British Community Commity of France, Christopher Chantrey, said: "The3million [representing EU citizens living abroad in the UK], and because of reciprocity, British in Europe, are very worried about the general hardening of attitudes and how it will affect EU citizens in the UK and how the Home Office will distinguish between those with settled status [the UK's equivalent of having a carte de séjour] and new arrivals."

However, a spokesman for the UK government’s Brexit ministry (Dexeu) said ending free movement would only relate to people wanting to move to the UK after Brexit.

EU citizens will still be able to visit the UK and no one eligible for ‘settled status’ will be unable to enter, Dexeu said. Nor will those who do not have the status yet be unable to apply for it if they were living in the UK before Brexit but happened to be out of the country on Brexit day.

EU residents in the UK with settled status will not have a physical card but their details will be on a database which border workers can consult.

Kathryn Dobson, a mother of three and a member of the Rift campaign group (part of BiE), said British families in France who have young adults such as university students should ensure that they are aware of potential border issues.

As they may not have their own utility bills, parents could provide an attestation d’hébergement, a signed statement that their child lives with them, to help them get a certificat de résidence. A model attestation d'hébergement can be found by clicking this link

This comes as a leaked official dossier on likely impacts of a no-deal Brexit has warned of delays at airports and ports.

Compiled by British Cabinet Office civil servants and codenamed Operation Yellow­hammer, it says UK citizens travelling to and from the EU may be subject to increased immigration checks at borders, which may lead to passenger delays at Saint-Pancras (Eurostar), Cheriton (Channel Tunnel) and Dover.

Depending on what EU countries do to cope with increased checks, it is likely that delays will also occur for those arriving in EU countries from the UK, as well as those departing EU countries to return to the UK, the report says.

It also flags up the fact that no bilateral deals are in place between the UK and individual EU states regarding rights of Britons living abroad in the EU and their rights will vary from state to state depending on laws passed by different countries.

It adds: “Demands for help on Her Majesty’s government will increase significantly, including an increase in consular inquiries and more complex and time-consuming consular assistance cases for vulnerable UK nationals.”

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