Retired engineer and teacher Brenda Henderson, 72 (email@example.com) who has obtained a permanent residency card, said of around ten people at her first carte session at the end of June, five now have cards.
Dordogne was one of the first areas to adopt online appointment bookings for ‘Europeans’ (in practice, Britons). This is recommended by the Interior Ministry but some prefectures do not have one meaning people having to join a general, often long, queue of third country citizens.
Slots were rapidly filled until the end of October after the Dordogne service opened this summer, with the prefecture saying it would open a further three months this month (Connexion has heard of other areas which are also fully booked or are offering appointments up to a year away).
The British Community Committee of France (BCC), which is in contact with the prefecture, says that at first there were only seven slots a week but that this has now increased to 14.
The body reports that officials have assumed there to be 7,500 Britons in the Dordogne, based on Insee figures. However the figures exclude communes of under 2,000 and these include many British residents.
The BCC says only 30 of 550 Dordogne communes have 2,000 or more and they estimate the real number of Britons, factoring in data such as passengers at Bergerac airport, to be up to nine times as many as the prefecture estimate. Connexion notes however that the prefecture figure is correct and assuming a quarter to be minors who do not need a carte, it would take at least eight years for all Britons to apply for cards at a rate of 14 a week.
Meanwhile people have been logging onto the website daily in hope of finding new spaces freed up but BCC says a new batch of later dates (after October) will now only be released on November 16. The prefecture did not confirm this to Connexion.
Ms Henderson said: “There are lots of good organisations online but I wanted to give people a chance to meet face to face and share knowledge.
“There are some strong emotions and very hurt people, feeling betrayed. The practicalities are difficult to fulfil especially as people can’t get appointments.”
Practicalities they have been looking at include people being asked to supply documents proving entitlement to UK pensions (such as a letter from a private pension body or an annual pension statement from the DWP) and to pay for translation by a ‘sworn’ translator. Ms Henderson said people’s own translations have been accepted in some cases.
She said officials are asking to see French tax statements and some people who had, mistakenly, not declared in France due to having only UK income, have solved this by talking to the tax office to do so retrospectively.
It is also proving useful to obtain a mairie letter attesting how long you have lived in the area (especially useful in small communes where you are personally known to them).
Ms Henderson said the appointments problem is compounded by the fact that people’s experiences vary from visit to visit or the mood of the official.
“Its hard for them too – they have to make sure people don’t get what they’re not entitled to, and they lack resources – the government is trying to cut down on fonctionnaires and we’re creating new work.
“Maybe the French are irritated with us and with Brexit, but so are we.
“This is causing us to be a ‘problem’, whereas we weren’t one before. People have had the rug pulled from under their feet, it’s not what we expected and we want to remain EU citizens.”