Residency cards for Britons in France: Ministry updates
The French Interior Ministry has today clarified reasons for a three-month delay to its new website for residency cards for Britons and has offered reassurances to Britons worried about Brexit and their residency rights.
Senior officials from the ministry’s residency section told The Connexion that when Britons apply for the new cards French prefectures will be “pragmatic and show goodwill” if any Britons lost income due to Covid-19 or benefited from financial aid. They said French officials in general will be easy-going next year about Britons’ residency status until these new cards become obligatory from July 1, 2021 – and that that final date may also be put off if necessary.
They added that the French will not be heavy-handed if it turns out that some isolated Britons did not apply on time.
“If an elderly person in the Charente, for example, forgets to apply by the deadline, and one day we discover it, they’ll still be able to apply. It’s in our interest to help all those who’ve been living here among us for a long time to get the residency card, and we want to reassure them,” a top ministry official said. “The point of the new system is to make Britons who live here secure in their residency in France.”
We will be publishing a fuller version of this interview in the August edition of The Connexion newspaper (click here to subscribe), however key points told to us include:
- The ministry had hoped to maintain the July opening date for the new residency card website for Britons (to be accessible via the Brexit option on this page), however it was decided finally that prefectures could not cope with the extra demand. There is a backlog due to closures during the health crisis – the prefectures must now prioritise card issuing and renewal for third-country citizens obliged to have valid residency cards to live here legally. Britons are not legally obliged to have any form of residency document before July 1, 2021 (they will then be obliged as a minimum to have applied for one of the new Brexit Withdrawal Agreement cards).
Prefectures recently reopened but had urgent requests from non-EU foreign residents whose cards were expiring. If the site had opened British applications would have put on a back-burner resulting in long waits for cards.
There was no intention to leave the decision to the last minute, but officials were subject to political decisions and the uncertainties of the health crisis.
- It is possible the French government will put off the final July 1, 2021 date if necessary, for example to autumn 2021.
- There are no technical problems with the website but officials are still waiting for the final version of a new government decree on the practical application of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement deal, including rules on the new obligatory residency cards for Britons to maintain their rights to live and work in France. The decree has been drafted but may undergo final tweaks by the Conseil d’Etat. It would be preferable to have the final version before the site for card applications goes live.
- When it is published it will be possible to give more detail of documents required by each category of British resident. This is expected during the summer holidays. The number of documents required will be light and similar to those on the site for ‘no-deal’ cards that was open briefly in 2019.
In particular, those who have been in France for more than five years, whether or not they hold an EU citizens’ ‘permanent residency’ card, will not be asked for many documents.
At first glance the new site may seem more complicated than the no-deal card one, but this is only because they WA deal allows for a greater variety of specific personal situations than the no-deal scenario.
Extra prefecture staff in Charente and Dordogne
- Prefectures will have increased staffing to deal with the British, especially in areas such as the Charente and Dordogne, however even by October pressure from the lockdown closures will still be felt. It is impossible to say how soon cards will be issued. It is likely to vary prefecture by prefecture.
- The optional residency cards that some Britons have already obtained which mention EU citizenship will have no validity from January 1, 2021 (when the UK finally leaves the EU's single market at the end of the Brexit transition period), other than to support an application for a new Withdrawal Agreement residency card as evidence that they have been living in France. It will not matter in the latter case if they have slightly passed their expiry date. There is no point applying for one now and they are not required.
- Everyone applying on the site will obtain an attestation to show they applied.
- Both for formalities within France and at the border for Britons returning from holidays, French officials will be aware in the first part of next year of the need to be easy-going with regard to the residency status of Britons until holding a card becomes obligatory. They are unlikely to ask to see paperwork as evidence. At the border on returning to France, however, bringing proof of residency, such as an attestation of applying for one of the new cards, or a recent French utility bill, is recommended from January 2021.
- Many second home owners ask if they could have a special status to come and go freely as now. That is not possible because the rule of 90 days in 180 applies to all 'third countries' and is a direct result of the Brexit vote. It is not possible to invent a new status of ‘semi-resident’.
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