More cartes de séjour given - but name has changed

Britons are reporting improved success in receiving residence cards after reports of problems

22 November 2016

Increasing numbers of Britons are reporting success in obtaining ‘permanent’ cartes de séjour residence cards – this comes as the government has changed the wording on the cards.

Connexion has heard from several people who have obtained ‘permanent’ cards, which are proof that an EU citizen has lived legally and permanently in another EU country for five years and gained a permanent residence right (EU law states they are a right once you meet the conditions).

Many Britons had reported difficulties at prefectures after the Brexit referendum vote despite this being contrary to stated government policy that Britons should be treated as EU citizens.

Some legal experts advise obtaining such cards if you are eligible, as it may bolster your rights if and when the UK leaves the EU.

This comes as wording on the cards and on the service-public.fr site explaining how to obtain one has changed to include a reference to citizenship.

The cards were previously called carte de séjour UE – séjour permanent and are now called carte de séjour citoyen UE/EEE/Suisse – séjour permanent. This refers to EU, European Economic Area and Swiss citizens, all of whom have certain rights not held by ‘foreigners’, including acquisition of permanent residency after five years.

The two parts of the wording are on the card under nature du titre and remarques. Such cards should be valid for at least 10 years and renewal requires fewer papers than the initial application as it is simply to check that you have been consistently living in France, as the ‘permanent’ right is lost after two years away (the only other scenario mentioned in the laws being if you become a danger to the state). The initial application also includes proving notions of ‘legal’ residence, such as having been in work or otherwise had means to support yourself in your first five years.

‘Permanent’ cards should not be confused with ordinary ‘UE’ ones issued for shorter periods, or 10-year cards issued to some non-EU foreigners.

The Interior Ministry did not respond to requests to discover the reason for the change, nor the increase in the number of applications for French citizenship since the referendum. Repor­tedly, the latter have been on the rise and the prefecture of the Alpes-Maritimes told Connexion the ministry has been compiling figures on this.

The EU commission said there is no EU-wide standardisation as to the name or design of the cards and the change did not originate with them.

A Nantes University EU law expert, Renan Le Mestre, said the change might just be a clarification reflecting the reality that people from countries like Norway and Switzerland benefit from the same free movement rights as EU citizens. However Connexion notes it dates from the start of November, following rising interest from Britons in the cards since the referendum, and the name had been the same for many years.

Before the referendum most Britons did not apply apart from certain early-retirees using cards as proof of their right to French healthcare after five years.

What is the point legally of these cards?
Under EU and French law they certify you have a permanent right to stay irrespective of income, work or healthcare status. An EU permanent resident has largely the same rights as a French person (apart from with regard to voting).

Some experts think having acquired such a right may be a strong protective element in the event of Brexit, however there is uncertainty over whether the right would definitely continue in the event of someone losing EU citizenship. Even so, five years of legal, permanent residence is widely seen as a significant milestone in discussions on expat rights and having a card proves it. (This is not to say that Britons in France for shorter periods would lose residency rights after Brexit, but proof of a substantial period respecting residency rules may help, depending on what is agreed between the UK and EU or UK and France.)

The EU and French laws (Directive 2004/38/CE and Code de l’entrée de du séjour des étrangers et du droit d’asile) do not specify what happens if the person ceases to be an EU citizen.

The European Commission could not say what will happen to the permanent residence right for Britons losing EU citizenship as there is no existing rule clarifying the point and negotiations with the UK have not started yet.

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