Two rights groups have issued a joint complaint to the European Commission, alleging that France is failing to comply with its obligations under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement due to problems with some people receiving their residency cards.
Remain in France Together (Rift) and Brussels-based not-for-profit service the EU Rights Clinic have asked the EU Commission “to take urgent action for UK nationals and their family members covered by the Withdrawal Agreement”.
They have also stated that they will lodge a petition in parallel to the European Parliament.
UK nationals who lived in France before January 1, 2021 are entitled to special Withdrawal Agreement residence permits that enable them to continue holding broadly the same rights they held before Brexit.
According to a French decree the deadline to physically have one of these cards is January 1, 2022.
People who do not have the card by then risk losing out on certain rights, such as family benefits and the right to work.
Ongoing unresolved questions
Rift and the EU Rights Clinic are concerned about the difficulties some Britons in France are still facing in trying to obtain these permits. They based their complaints notably on surveys by Rift, which is still seeking input from those experiencing difficulties.
They say that there are “ongoing unresolved questions with applications still being ‘examined’ with no clear reason why and no consideration of the length of time in France or family finances”.
Some applications have also been closed without issue of a card, and without a clear indication of an appeals process, the groups claim.
Other issues they have highlighted are some people not receiving their residency card after their appointment at their local prefecture, some people not yet being offered an appointment and a lack of help with applications at some prefectures, including for vulnerable people.
The groups say some people have already been experiencing issues as a result of not having their cards, for example with their Cpam health insurance bodies, or Caf family benefits agencies, or problems at the French border with proving residency. These problems risk escalating from January, when in theory all WA Britons should have their cards.
There are also difficulties in having cards updated with a change of address or other details, or in having errors corrected, the groups report.
Vast majority of applications processed
France has processed the vast majority of the over 165,000 WA residence card applications received, however a report by the joint UK/EU committee on citizens’ rights said that on September 16 there were 10,800 applications still in the system.
French authorities have extended the deadline for Britons to hold the cards several times, with the latest extension announced at the end of September, changing the deadline to the current January 1, 2022 cut off.
On December 13, the French Interior Ministry stated to The Connexion that it maintained an objective of issuing cards to all who had applied on the dedicated Britons’ residency cards website before the final closure date (October 4). We note, however, that some people have maintained the right to apply later, on paper, to prefectures if giving good reasons for not applying before.
The ministry also acknowledged it is not currently possible to apply to update WA cards on its dedicated website for residency card renewal, due to technical issues which are being addressed. In the meantime it said people should contact their prefecture if changes are required.
The Connexion has asked the French Interior Ministry for a reaction to Rift’s complaint, and is awaiting reply. The ministry was also asked for advice on what a minority of ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ Britons who do not have their cards on January 1 can do to maintain their rights, and if a print-out of the email acknowledgement of applying on the website will remain acceptable proof while they wait for their cards.
The national organisation for the Caf agencies recently told The Connexion it was also seeking permission from the government to continue accepting the receipt emails for remaining Britons who do not have a physical card on January 1.
According to the French decree on Britons’ rights of November 19, 2020, people should maintain their rights if awaiting a decision of the prefecture or the result of an appeal.