British children and young people in France regularly face problems due to lacking any proof of residency status under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA), the campaign group Rift, for Britons in France , reports.
Rift co-chair Justine Wallington said the group's report on the subject has been sent to the European Commission.
It has also raised the issue with the British Embassy, which has passed it on to the French government. The Embassy has been “brilliant” in helping to resolve tricky cases, she said. However, correct procedures are still not always followed by some prefectures and border police.
The issue arises from the fact that France, unlike some EU states, exempted under-18s from requiring a WA residency card.
Problems often occur when officials are unfamiliar with the rules and demand proof of residency status.
Ms Wallkinton said Rift has come across around 30 examples where this involved older teenagers having problems with, for example, jobs, study courses, grants, driving, or student accommodation.
Meanwhile they have identified “hundreds” of incidents involving minors entering France, accompanied or not, she said.
On being asked why they were entering the country, even if accompanied by parents with WA cards, many have been asked to show a DCEM (document de circulation pour étranger mineur), a paper, lasting five years, which is meant to be optional for foreign (non-EU) children entering France after travelling away. In a number of cases, €198 fines were levied.
Ms Wallington said the non-travel-related problems have often been compounded by delays in obtaining residency cards – or even a prefecture interview to apply for one – when young people do have a right to a card. They must apply at 18 and before 19 or earlier in limited circumstances, eg. if proof is required for work.
Once an interview has been obtained and paperwork handed over, the person obtains a récépissé as proof of status in France but it is not seen as equivalent to a DCEM by border police, Ms Wallington said.
It is not possible to apply for a WA card online – perhaps because France sees those concerned as a small group.
This is not necessarily correct. More than 100,000 WA cards were issued to Britons living in France before Brexit. In many cases (ie. if the children do not have French or another EU nationality), their children will need a card on reaching adulthood.
Ms Wallington said she would not want France to impose residency cards on all children, but would like it to be an option. What is more the paperwork for DCEMs is more complicated than that required for WA residency card applications, which she said goes against rules in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement that say Britons should have clear and simple procedures to secure their residency.
Call for better communication and training
Rift is calling for better communication and staff training at prefectures and for border guards and refunds for anyone wrongly charged.
They say, notably, that young Britons accompanied by their parents holding WA status should not need to prove anything, but if the authorities ‘do’ want them to have DCEMs this should be stated clearly and it should be free and easy to obtain (note that this official site already states the document should be free of charge to young people from WA families as opposed to the usual €50 fee).
An additional complication is where young people come into the Schengen area via another country’s border, Ms Wallington said.
“Someone in my area, the Aude, for example, may fly in to Barcelona, not to France.”
Ms Wallington said where families do not have DCEMs for children it is advisable to carry whatever documentary proof you have that the child is legally resident and related to the parents, such as bringing a child’s birth certificate.
“It will depend on where they enter France – for example it is very common at Limoges airport – but also just the individual officer they come across. Some are dreadful and some are really aware,” Ms Wallington said.
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