What's the point of carte if it says 'EU citizen'?

There are many reasons to apply for a carte de séjour

After Brexit UK citizens will no longer be in the EU and so I wonder if  a carte de séjour Citoyen UE/EEE/Suisse - Séjour permanent will be valid as it relates to the holder being a citizen of the EU?  J.C.

As Britons are currently EU citizens, an ‘EU citizen’ card is the only kind available. However there are several good reasons why obtaining one is useful, especially if it is the séjour permanent (permanent residency) kind for which you are entitled to apply having lived in France for more than five years.

Firstly, there is no specific EU law on the point of what happens to the permanent residency right of a person who ceases to be an EU citizen, however one might be entitled to assume that ‘permanent’ means what it says. Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and the Council says that once acquired this permanent residency right is only lost if you are away from the country for more than two years.

Secondly, in the case where a withdrawal agreement is signed between the EU and UK before Brexit, the draft version agreed so far bases the right for British expatriates to benefit from its protections on them living in their chosen country according to the same ‘legal and stable’ residence criteria as those required for a carte de séjour.

This means that if you have one it is proof that you are eligible to stay in France benefiting from much the same rights as now, according to the withdrawal ‘deal’. It should also mean you avoid further complication later one, when there may be even greater pressure on French officials from Britons seeking to prove their rights.

More generally, having a card also ensures you are ‘in the French system’ and French authorities know you are officially a long-term and law-abiding resident. In the case of obtaining a séjour permanent one it proves this has been the case for at least five years.

Finally, should there be ‘no deal’ a card should also offer protection, at least of your basic right to stay in France.

Speaking in the National Assembly, a senior Interior Ministry official said in February that there remained much uncertainty over the Brexit negotiations, however: “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.

Asked to confirm that the right of residence of those with a permanent residency card would be respected whatever happens with Brexit, another senior Interior Ministry official told us in an interview for August’s newspaper: “Of course. The post-Brexit rules will only apply to new arrivals and residence permits of Britons already present in France will remain valid, whatever their length of validity. Breaking this rule would be contrary to the rule of law and would also create a chaotic situation that the civil service is keen to do without.”

He said that in the event of a withdrawal deal, those Britons who have a carte de séjour will “retain the benefit of it” and will not, in principle, have to apply for a new card.

Those without one will, he said, be asked to apply for a card (which at that point will not say ‘EU citizen') by providing the same evidence.

If there is no deal then “the British already present in France will continue to benefit from the same rules”, the official said.

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