EU citizens who have been in France for more than five years are entitled to apply for a carte de séjour 'citoyen UE/EEE/Suisse' – séjour permanent, a measure which some experts have told Connexion may be useful in the case of a ‘Brexit’.
Obtaining one is challenging (but not impossible) – as one of the Connexion staff members found out.
We stress that European citizens do not need a residence permit to live and work in France (though non-working early-retirees should have a certain level of income so as not to be a burden on social security and may have to obtain private health insurance). However this measure is one recommended by some experts as a precaution in the case of Britons in the future losing EU citizenship (others have not mentioned it).
That being said, many commentators believe that maintaining basic residence rights of existing expats – both Britons in the EU and EU residents in Britain - would be a priority in the negotiations if the referendum vote was in favour of exiting.
However, many people – and, reportedly some smaller mairies - do not know that there are two kinds of card for which EU citizens are entitled to apply if they wish. In one case, a reader reports their mairie said they did not have the staff to process the request – we would submit that this is unreasonable, as these cards are a right for any long-term resident who is an EU citizen.
The cards that may be issued to European citizens are either the carte de séjour 'citoyen UE/EEE/Suisse', obtainable before five years, or the ‘permanent’ version obtainable after five, which legally certifies that you have a right to stay in France indefinitely (in the case of early-retirees, for example, it is proof of entitlement to French healthcare under the Puma (formerly CMU) system, as opposed to a private policy.
Even a ‘permanent’ card must be renewed after 10 years (but fewer documents are required), however in the event of the residence rights of Britons being called into question after a Brexit it is thought that holding one may be of benefit in proving you have acquired a right to stay.
So, how is it done?
The basics can be found at: service-public.fr.
The aim of all the pièces (documents) you will be asked for is to prove your uninterrupted legal residence in France for a period of more than five years (stays away are allowable, but France should have been your main home). Apart from consulting the link above and this article, you should also telephone your prefecture to double check what documents they will need. They will want photocopies of all of these, as well as for you to show them the originals.
In the case of our staff member these included:
• Letter requesting the carte de séjour on grounds of 5 ans de séjour légal et ininterrompu
• Three passport photographs
• Work contract
• A bill (eg. EDF or other utility) showing your address in France, dated in the last three months
• Last three pay slips
• More bills (or similar proof) showing residence in France in each half-year during the last five years (eg. a bill dated in February of a given year and then another dated in September etc).
• French social security number (eg. present your carte vitale)
The point of an employee providing documents like a work contract and recent payslips is to show they have been legally resident, as, before five years, Europeans are required not to be a 'burden on the state' and must have a job, be self-employed of have independent means. A prefecture official told Connexion that self-employed people are asked to give documents showing their self-employed income (revenus non-salariés), and early-retirees would be asked for evidence of having 'sufficient means' of their own (ressources propres). This could include tax assessments, she said.
Our staff member was told on the telephone to take all the items above to the main prefecture for the department and to go to a certain numbered accueil (desk). The desk in question is only open for limited hours each morning and it was necessary to queue for an hour-and-a-half. It is probably therefore advisable to go before the opening time to be nearer the front of the queue.
On reaching the desk, the staff member saw an official who made an initial assessment of whether the request was reasonable and the correct pièces were provided. She looked at the documents rapidly – there was a problem; the work contract had not been rubber stamped at the end by the employer and this was an essential requirement. However on being asked if it would be necessary to queue the next time, the official said it was acceptable to come to the front of the queue and hand the documents in.
On a subsequent day, the staff member did as advised, having to explain themselves to people at the head of the queue who asked why they were ‘pushing in’. They were quickly directed through to a waiting area, where they were then able to see a second official, who listened to the request and looked again at the pièces.
This time the second official said they were in order - however she said the prefecture also requires a birth certificate extract dating from less than three months ago with first applications for a carte de séjour, which had not been provided. On further consultation with colleagues, however, it was accepted that this could be waived in this case.
A temporary récépissé (receipt), valid for six months, was then handed over while the card application was processed. The official said a text message would be sent when the permit was ready to collect.
In conclusion, make sure the officials know it is a ‘citoyen UE’ card that you are asking for and that it is for ‘séjour permanent’ (if they are unfamiliar with this, print out the information from the service-public website or direct them to the site). Aim to obtain the full list of documents required before you visit in person and make photocopies of all of them. Check a work contract has been rubber stamped (with the employer’s name and address and Siret) at the end. Keep your cool and be firm about your rights.
EDIT: (2017) Ultimately things proved more complicated than expected for our journalist, as we explain further in this article.
If you have tried to obtain one of these, Connexion
would like to hear how it went, at email@example.com