Permanent residents are priority – ministry official

Permanent residency can be automatically acquired after five years of legal residence

Protecting the post-Brexit rights of Britons in France who have acquired permanent EU residency and have obtained a card proving it must be priority, a top French Interior Ministry official has said.

Speaking at the Assemblée Natio­nale in a discussion about Britons’ rights Agnès Fontana, who is responsible for foreigners’ acquisition of residence rights and French nationality, said: “Every­thing is far from fixed today as concerns the fate of British citizens in France.

“Even if December’s joint UK/EU report has given pointers, uncertainty remains dominant note.

“What seems acquired today, at least, is the retention of residency rights, and the right to study and work – all the rights that surround residency rights – of European citizens present in France whose status has already been acquired.

“That is to say those who have lived for five years in France and therefore have a European Union permanent residency card under cover of which they live in France.

“These rights should be preserved, they should be acquired for life, as well as the rights of their spouses who have not come yet at the date of exit, or of children not yet born.”

This was the spirit in which France was approaching Brexit, she said: acquired EU rights should be respected. Britons with a ‘permanent’ card as EU citizens might have to obtain a different one after Brexit but it would be a simple exchange; those with no card but who can prove the same rights with paperwork would not be excluded but procedures would be more complicated, she added.

Ms Fontana said in the future Britons in France without such rights might find themselves in the same situation as a ‘third country citizen’, though she said bilateral agreements made it easier for citizens of certain countries to obtain long-term resident cards.

Ms Fontana added that Britons’ requests for French natio­nality increased eight-fold between 2015 and 2017 and Britons are now the 12th largest group in requests, up from 34th.

She said the government was trying to reduce civil servant numbers so it was unlikely there would be more staff to reduce processing times, however she said there were plans to improve overall efficiency and accessibility at prefectures, which should help.

See the Assemblée Nationale debate at www.goo.gl/Xq5oxW.

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