Two types of Brexit deal card for Britons in France
Two important new French government websites affecting Britons open on March 3 and in early July – for driving licence swaps, and to apply for the new obligatory ‘Brexit deal’ residency cards.
Around 250,000 British residents – excluding under-18s – will need to obtain a card, including those who currently have, or have applied for, an EU citizen’s card. The cards will be free.
There will be two Brexit-deal cards: one for people who can prove they have lived in France for at least five years and thus benefit fully from the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) deal, and another for those who came more recently.
This second card will be valid for up to five years and can be exchanged for the other type of card once five years of residency is reached.
The first card is expected to be renewable every 10 years by providing an attestation on honour that you have not left France for more than five years.
A five-year absence cancels the WA rights, which otherwise are for life and do not depend on this year’s future relationship talks.
Connexion has been told that it is advisable for people to apply fairly soon after the site’s July launch to have at least the application receipt that is generated when you submit a dossier.
For Britons established in France before the transition period ends – currently the end of this year – the card will prove their right to benefit from the Brexit WA deal and retain similar rights to EU citizens.
Britons moving here after will follow non-EU citizen formalities, including visas and fee-paying third-country citizens’ cards.
Officially, WA deal Britons’ have six months after the transition period to apply for a card, but applying early will avoid a last-minute rush and provide proof of your status – via card or receipt – from January 1, 2021.
This will be useful, for example, at the French border when returning from trips abroad so officials can distinguish you from British (non-EU) visitors limited to a three-month stay.
All applications must be made at the new site, which is intended to be simple to use, but prefectures will assist if necessary.
Several voluntary bodies are also to receive UK government funding to help residents with Brexit formalities and will be announced soon.
The new site will be an update of the one launched last year for provisional applications for the cards Britons would have needed in a ‘no-deal’ exit.
Around 8,000 people applied on that site which is now closed. They will not have to reapply – their dossiers will be retained, as requirements on the revamped site will be very similar.
Some people may be asked to demonstrate their income level, as with EU-citizen cards, but, again, thresholds will be low and France says it aims to be flexible.
Applications will be followed by a prefecture visit to give a fingerprint scan and photographs and then the free cards will be posted to you.
Sociologist Dr Michaela Benson, of Goldsmiths, University of London, who runs the Brexit Brits Abroad project (brexitbritsabroad.org), says she hopes enough information is put out via official channels to ensure Britons know what to do, and local officials are prepared.
She said some Britons without access to help sources such as Connexion or campaign groups have struggled.
“The British population is hard to reach because beyond a few well-known communities; it is dispersed,” she said.
She worries that, just as a few people failed to meet requirements for EU citizen cartes de séjour – generally linked to very low, irregular incomes and reliance on benefits – some might fail to meet requirements of the new site, “reminding us that freedom of movement was always a conditional right, now newly enforced due to Brexit”.
The website for the new cards will be accessed via the Brexit option at: tinyurl.com/vvey9z6.
A new driving licence web portal is to open on March 3 for applications to swap a British or EU licence for a French licence.
It is not for people who have already applied for a swap and are waiting, unless the dossier was returned unprocessed.
The Nantes prefecture, whose CERT centre carries out the swaps, says it was reorganised last year and applications since July 2019 are being dealt with within three months.
A team is working on older dossiers. Queries about doss-iers can be sent via tinyurl.com/qwta6ta. British licence applications are still under the ‘European’ licences heading.
Since spring 2019, due to a backlog, CERT has accepted applications only in obligatory cases where, for example, the UK licence was about to expire or the holder had committed a driving offence, such as speeding, which requires the removal of points from a French licence.
Nantes says any remaining non-obligatory dossiers received before July 1, 2019, and not processed yet will be returned.
It will once again be possible to make ‘non-obligatory’ exchange requests via the new site, it said.
It is asking people to be reasonable with timing: for example, if applying because your licence is expiring, four months before the expiry date is sufficient, Nantes added.
The web portal will be accessible at ants.gouv.fr.
It is not known if it will be possible to swap a UK licence via the site after the transition period. It is possible that swaps will then follow non-EU licence rules, with formalities at your prefecture and extra documents.
It is also unclear – although it would be logical – if France will replicate a 2019 decree, issued for a no-deal scenario, stating that the UK licences of Britons living in France before Brexit day could continue to be used by those residents until expiry.
Non-EU licences should usually be swapped within a year of moving to France.
Whether the UK will still be on a list of European licences whose holders can obtain a French International Driving Permit after 2020 (tinyurl.com/up8a25u) is yet to be clarified.
Some countries, such as Italy, require an IDP for non-EU licence-holders and it is not possible to obtain a British IDP if you do not have a UK address.
As of February 6, no new postal applications are being processed by Nantes.