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Should I swap five-year Brexit residency card for 10-year card?

An overlap between cards leaves one reader unsure whether they have to change their card

French residency permits can still be a source of confusion for some British nationals Pic: helloRuby / Shutterstock

Reader Question: I was allocated a five-year Brexit card in 2021 as I had only been in France for three years. Now I have lived here five years, do I need to swap to the 10-year card? Does the 10-year card offer more protection?

For British citizens living in France, Brexit and the subsequent Withdrawal Agreement made it necessary to obtain residency permits to continue living here. 

This question concerns Brexit (Withdrawal Agreement) cards, issued to British citizens who were living in France before the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1, 2021, and who did not have a joint EU citizenship.  

The card can come in two forms; the first is a five-year card, which was granted to those who had been living in France for less than five years.

The second form of the card was for those who had been living in France for more than five years, which granted permanent residency to the holder (though the card itself is renewable, with minimal formalities, after 10 years)

Does a ten-year card give added protection?

To answer the question about protection first: there is no major difference in the rights granted by each card, though notably the rights given with a 10-year card are granted to the holder permanently, unless they leave the country for more than five years.

In the case of the five-year card, the holder should not leave the country for more than six months in a year, with certain exceptions where there are important reasons for doing so: for example, pregnancies, illness, or study and work relocations allow you to leave the country for up to one year.

The main advantage of the 10-year card is the additional length of time between needing to update the card (once every ten years).

Appointments to obtain the 10-year card in replacement for a five-year card are currently made at your local prefecture and it is not yet available to order the card online. 

People whose card is set to expire will need to apply for another residency permit, and for those originally given a five-year card, it will be possible to obtain a ten-year card when you renew. 

In 2022, France’s Interior Ministry told The Connexion that those who have a five-year Brexit card should wait until that card is almost expired (two to three months before the expiry date) before applying for the ten-year permanent stay card.

It was therefore suggested by the ministry that people should not apply as soon as they have been in France for five years, should this be earlier.

If you are keen to change, it may be worth asking your prefecture anyway if they will consider this as you do technically acquire ‘permanent’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement after five years and it appears arguable that you should be able to request a card proving this. 

What is certain is that it is not “necessary” to switch cards after living in France for five years.

Related articles:

Explainer: France’s Brexit residency cards and foreign travel
Britons in France: What is the benefit of EU long-term resident card?

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