Moving to France from UK: Catch-22 issue for pensioners and visa S1s

The UK’s health department says it is looking into the problem as ‘priority’ after The Connexion flagged it up

23 November 2021

A visa is now required for Britons seeking to live in France Pic: Alexander Shutski / Shutterstock

By Liv Rowland

Confusion surrounds how British pensioners planning a move to France post-Brexit can prove their right to health cover under the S1 form, potentially saving them thousands of euros in health insurance premiums.

UK state pensioners are being asked to provide their S1 form in order to obtain a visa to move to France, despite the fact that they cannot have the form until they have moved.

The UK government told The Connexion it is looking into this anomaly as a priority.

Continuation of the S1 health form system for state pensioners was agreed under the UK/EU trade and cooperation agreement. This means that, as before, when a British pensioner moves to France the UK will compensate France for their healthcare costs.

Read more: British pensioners moving to France: How to apply for a visa 

As a result, the ‘visa wizard’ on France’s visas application website, and the website of TLS Contact, the contractor used by the French consulate in the UK to process visa applications, both indicate that British pensioners applying for a long-stay visa to live in France must “provide” an S1 form as part of their application to prove that they have healthcare rights in France.

Pic: TLS contact

An alternative to “providing” the form, is to provide written evidence showing that the person has undertaken steps to obtain an S1, including documentation from the British authorities to the effect that the person is eligible for the S1 and that it will be sent to them in France.

However, so far, the UK authorities are not able to tell us what could constitute such proof.

Failing this, applicants are liable to have to show a comprehensive private healthcare policy covering the first year in France, as is now required for early-retirees. This can cost thousands of pounds and will typically exclude certain pre-existing health conditions.

Visa applications can be made in the three months before the person’s intended departure for France, and need to be made in the UK, as the process involves handing over the passport for a sticker to be placed in it.

Meanwhile a person may apply for an S1 up to a maximum of four weeks before moving, providing the address they will be moving to, to which the S1 will be sent.

S1s are then usually issued within 15 working days of being approved, said a spokeswoman for NHSBSA, a body which deals with S1 applications on behalf of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).

NHSBSA was unable to clarify what documents would fit the bill and said it would have to address the question to the ministry.

A DHSC spokesman said: “At present, S1 forms are sent to the customer’s new address in the country they are moving to. However, we are aware that some customers are required to provide evidence of healthcare coverage for certain types of visa applications in the EU. The DHSC are looking into this issue as a priority.”

  • Have you looked into applying for a visa for France as a British state pensioner? Were you asked for your S1 and what did you do? Let us know at news@connexionfrance.com 

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