Opinion: Shame to 'means test' French dream

Moving to France used to involve more hurdles than it does now. Journalist SAMANTHA DAVID hopes it does not become just an option for the well-off.

6 September 2019
By Samantha David

I remember in the 80s and 90s moving to France wasn’t as easy as it is now.

You could do it, of course, as you didn’t need a visa to live here but you couldn’t get into the health system without having a proper job contract.

Without being affiliated to Cpam you couldn’t get a carte de séjour and without one of those you couldn’t officially live in France, which meant it was incredibly difficult and expensive to set up a business or become self-employed – a vicious circle.

Some people did live in France anyway, of course. They just hoped that what was then called an E111 (now the European Health Insurance Card, intended for temporary visitors) would cover any accidents and that they wouldn’t get seriously ill.

Some lived on savings, some worked on the black, some went down the path of self-sufficiency, others travelled to and from work in the UK.

But times changed and now in these last halcyon days before Brexit might change everything forever, moving to France is much easier for UK citizens.

There is no requirement for a carte de séjour and getting a Carte Vitale is relatively straightforward.

But post-Brexit things could change dramatically.

There will be new residency criteria relating to income, savings, and the ability to be self-supporting.

I understand the thinking. No country relishes the idea of being invaded by people needing healthcare, social security payments and child benefits.

But on the other hand, who can tell when they might get ill? Who knows when career disaster might strike? How is it possible to predict your needs for the future?

Also, when government ministers draw up financial criteria, they tend to forget that not everyone earns €10,000 a month. To wealthy apparatchiks it is inconceivable that a family could subsist on less than €35,000 a year, but we all know that millions of people are perfectly self-sufficient on half of that.

So I fear that in the end setting means-tested criteria for residency will mean that moving to France becomes an option only available to the well-heeled.

That’s a shame because one of the nice things about the EU was how it bypassed that.

Living abroad was not just for the wealthy but was an option for everyone from anywhere in the EU who loved France.

Whether you were retired and living on a UK pension or had a selection of sumptuous châteaux, being in the EU made moving to France within everyone’s reach.

Whether we’re for or against Brexit, let’s just all cross our fingers and hope that not everything changes. Let’s hope that all UK citizens, wealthy and less wealthy, will still be able to move to France.

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