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55 Britons, 85 US citizens told to leave France: why this happens

We look at how non-EU citizens fall foul of French immigration laws and who can help

A written obligation de quitter le territoire français (OQTF) usually asks the person leave within 30 days, although an appeal process exists Pic: Diego Barbieri / Shutterstock

Fifty-five British people were ordered to leave France in the first nine months of 2022, figures from the European Commission’s statistics body Eurostat show.

There were 40 in 2021 and, using the same data, zero before that, as Eurostat only compiles figures for non-EU citizens.

It is far less common for EU citizens to be asked to leave due to their protected status and the fact they do not routinely apply for residency cards, which is often when people’s legal right to be in France is reviewed.

Read more: Language tests, votes, immigration: French residency changes in 2023

Spain reported no orders to leave 

The Connexion previously heard of a few Britons being asked to leave before the start of Brexit: for example, where they had applied for optional resi­dency cards as EU citizens to secure their residency status after the leave vote but were turned down after officials deemed their income too low or infrequent for them not to be a burden on the state. 

Officially, the latter is required for EU citizens in the first five years.

While the Eurostat figures may seem high, there are known to be around 150,000 Britons living in France so it is a small percentage. 

Eighty-five Americans were asked to leave last year, as a comparison.

France’s figures look high compared to Spain, for example, which reported no orders to leave, but moderate compared to Sweden, which issued 335.

Read more: Brexit cards in France: Timing rules to swap five-year cards confirmed

Why are people asked to leave France?

The formality for people to be required to leave is a written obligation de quitter le territoire français (OQTF). This usually asks that the person leave within 30 days, although an appeal process exists.

A spokeswoman for the La Cimade association, which helps immigrants, said she has heard of some cases concerning people who failed to apply in time for their Brexit Withdrawal cards. 

However, she said there are many reasons a person might be given an OQTF.

Read more: Suspect in murder of Lola, 12: What is a OQTF order to leave France?

“Some get an OQTF after applying for a residency card and being refused a card or a renewal of a card. Others are undocumented and have had an identity check in the street. 

“Some are prisoners who might have had a residency card when they went in, but don’t by the time they come out. 

“Then there are young adults who came into France as minors and were covered by the system of aide sociale à l’enfance, but who might be told to leave when they reach 18.

“Sometimes, those concerned are really expelled and in other cases it is not enforced but they end up in difficulty because they can’t access any rights.”

‘French want to help those under Withdrawal Agreement’

Justine Wallington, the co-chair of the Rift group which helps Britons in France, said no OQTF had recently been reported among its members, which was an “improvement” on the situation in the years just after the Brexit vote. 

At that time, there were a few cases concerning Britons, as stated above, “for debatable reasons, such as those relying on benefits in their first five years of residence”.

She added that Rift had been able to help in a number of ‘borderline’ WA card cases, which might otherwise have resulted in OQTF, and some of the more “challenging” ones had been resolved after the British Embassy got involved.

“The French have been eager to accommodate all those under the agreement,” she said. 

“The orders reported are more likely to be for those not under the WA and where there is no question of appeal [because of the seriousness of the case] and may well include those involved in criminal activity.

Future problems expected for Britons not covered by WA

“For third-country nationals from other countries, we see deportations for less serious reasons, such as minor visa irregularities, and no doubt this is to be expected for Britons in years to come and especially for those not covered by the WA. 

“It certainly seems that WA beneficiaries are protected and should be confident of their right to remain here as long as they stay on the right side of the law. 

“We don’t expect to see any falling through the gaps at renewal as long as they complete the simple process proposed.”

  • La Cimade has many drop-in centres and can help people with issues relating to immigration rights. Some advisers speak English. Its website has an English option.

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