British family told to leave France 'set to stay'

Emma Lawrence told of her shock on receiving the letters in a video on Facebook last week

French prefecture asked to cancel notice to go in 30 days after ministry investigated following Connexion's article.

THE family which was served notice to leave France within 30 days after the parents were turned down for residency cards on low income grounds is set to be able to stay.

It comes after prefecture officials were found to have not followed standard procedures.

A source in the DGEF, the section of the French Interior Ministry dealing with immigration formalities, told Connexion they investigated after we made enquiries. We had brought the case to light in an online article showing an emotional video that mother-of-two Emma Lawrence released on Facebook on receiving notice to leave France.

The source added that discussions with the British Embassy, which was approached by the family, had also helped.

In the video, which has been shared 1,700 times and viewed 115,000 times, Mrs Lawrence spoke of her shock at receiving letters announcing card refusals and telling her and her husband they should leave France in 30 days with their two small children.

Today she told us of her relief after we told her of the positive news from the ministry, although she is now waiting for official confirmation from the prefecture and to hear if they will be issued with their cards. “It’s really good news,” she said. “This is huge.”

The couple from Occitanie had applied for cartes de séjour in order to help secure their residency before Brexit but were turned down on grounds of ‘insufficient resources’.

Mrs Lawrence, a self-employed technical writer and IT support worker, is still trying to build up a regular income after the couple moved to France two years ago and her husband had applied as an ‘inactive’ person as he has not yet established regular work. They had been living on savings and have been preparing to buy land and build a house on it.

If strict EU residency rules are applied, EU citizens living in another EU country for more than three months should be in full-time employment or otherwise have a viable self-employment business, or enough ‘resources’ so as not to be a burden on the French welfare system in their first five years.

There is no set income level for self-employment and ‘inactive’ people should not be required to have more than the level of French income support, which is  €1,175 a month for a couple with two children.

The letters were sent to the couple by their prefecture, giving 30 days to leave, but with an option to appeal, which they had not yet taken up.

After we alterted it to the case last week the DGEF told us the prefecture said there was no order to leave France, just a refusal of a card. This was repeated by the prefecture when we called the prefecture this morning to follow up enquiries we made earlier this week, however we asked for further clarification as to why Mrs Lawrence had spoken of 30 days to leave.

The DGEF source then contacted us to say there appears to have been a mistake. 

He said it appears the head of the immigration service at the prefecture had instructed officials to refuse the cards on income grounds, but had not intended to ask them to also issue an order to leave the country (Obligation de Quitter la France [OQTF]). The two are not automatically linked, the source said.

“After investigating, the DGEF has realised that there were irregularities in the refusal notice that was issued; it was a mixture between a card refusal and an OQTF.

“The head of the immigration service has therefore been invited to review his position,” he said.

“In the coming days the couple will surely be issued with their cards, whether under the ‘inactive’ criteria, as they appear to have substantial savings so that should not pose a problem, or as self-employed workers, as a business activity can be considered ‘real and effective’ even if it doesn’t bring in a lot.”

It is correct that in the case of an OQTF a person is given 30 days to leave voluntarily, and if not they can be forced to leave, he said. However a card refusal and OQTF are two separate things and one does not always lead to the other.

“In this case, the DGEF has invited the prefecture to cancel the OQTF and to re-examine the situation of the British couple in the light of immigration law, being more generous in the attribution of a ‘self-employed EU worker’ card or, failing that, an ‘inactive’ person’s card.”

He added that in the case of a European, a OQTF can be issued if the person poses a security threat, or is proven not to meet the criteria to live in France under EU free movement rules.

“In practice, the most frequent cases of an OQTF concern people engaged in aggressive begging or who have no resources of their own at all and are suspected of taking advantage of French welfare.”

The source earlier clarified that in the case of inactive people, savings can be taken into account in considering their ‘sufficient resources’, however where there is no regular income (whether salary, pension, rents, dividends…), having savings alone can make it harder to obtain a card.

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