Britons living in France with Withdrawal Agreement cards issued for a five year period should wait until they are nearly expired before applying for the 10-year, ‘permanent stay’ card, officials have now confirmed.
This concerns those living in France before 2021 who could not at the time of applying prove five years’ residency.
For example, someone who had been living in France for four years at the time that they applied for their Withdrawal Agreement card in 2020 will have been given a card valid for five years, until 2025.
They have now been living in France for over five years, so are technically eligible for a 10-year, ‘permanent stay’ card.
This has led to confusion over whether people in this situation should apply immediately for the 10-year card, or keep using their current card.
France’s Interior Ministry has now confirmed to The Connexion that those in this position should not apply for the ‘permanent stay’ card as soon as they reach five years living in France but should instead wait until “two to three months” before their card’s expiry date to apply.
Read more: Brexit: We recap the rules for five-year residency cards in France
In practice, there is no difference in the rights conferred by one or the other card.
However once the permanent stay card is issued, it only has to be renewed every 10 years, with minimal formalities. Additionally, once 'permanent' rights are held a person's Brexit residency rights are guaranteed unless they spend more than five years away from France.
People with five-year cards should not usually be absent from France for more than six months a year.
There are exceptions that can allow absences of up to 12 months for ‘important reasons’, including pregnancy and childbirth, serious illness, study or vocational training, or a posting abroad.
However the announced French policy potentially leaves a grey area for those who have been in France long enough for permanent rights but are not yet able to obtain a card proving them.
Read more: Explainer: France’s Brexit residency cards and foreign travel
The ministry said holders of five-year cards applying for permanent stay cards need to show the previous card, provide three passport photographs and a valid British passport. At present, the process is via prefectures, although it is expected that it will eventually be undertaken online.
Those who could prove they were living in France before January 1, 2021 were able to apply for free for a WA card - un titre de séjour portant la mention Accord de retrait du Royaume-Uni de l’Union Européenne.
Over 165,000 Britons took up this option.
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