Foreign non-EU retirees moving to France could face tougher rules

Basic French (for under 65s) and a contract of integration may be required to stay more than five years. This would apply especially to those on so-called ‘visitor’ visas

Retiring to France may come with additional formalities in future
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Retirees and early-retirees moving to France would face stricter rules if an article added by senators to France’s new immigration law is passed into law.

If retained in the text by the Assemblée national MPs in December, the new article will mean that foreign retirees cannot stay in France for longer than five years by renewing ‘temporary’ one-year residency cards on an indefinite basis, as is now possible.

They will instead be obliged to apply for and obtain a 10-year ‘carte de résident’ after their fifth year in France.

The requirements for this include signing a ‘contract of Republican integration’, and providing proof of basic French skills for those aged under 65.

You should also have lived in France in an ‘uninterrupted’ manner as your main home for the previous five years (not including short holidays abroad).

Reader raised concerns

Amid email messages of thanks for another amendment adopted in the immigration bill aiming at helping British second-home owners facing complications post Brexit, a reader flagged up this significant change, which relates to residency cards.

She feared the proposal would force retirees and early-retirees to leave after a few years in France.

From our initial assessment, it would not, but it would mean they must apply for, and obtain a carte de résident after five years in France, rather than this formality being, as now, optional.

The article in question (article 1er bis) is linked to another bill article which has received more comment in the media, which states that obtaining a carte de séjour pluriannuelle (multi-year residency card) should be dependent on having a certain basic level of French.

These multi-year cards, typically given for four years, currently require a person to take a French test and if they do not at least have basic (European level A1) French, they must agree to take lessons.

These cards can be given to people living in France on one-year (also called ‘temporary’) cards aimed at self-employed workers or salaried employees or people who came in under family regroupment procedures to join their family established in France.

Such people may currently be issued a multi-year card when their card comes up for renewal, if they are considered well integrated and they meet the criteria of agreeing to take lessons, follow French values etc.

Prefectures may decide instead to issue them another one-year (also called ‘temporary’) card if certain criteria are in doubt.

As mentioned, the immigration bill toughens conditions for issuing these multi-year cards, saying that they should only be given on proof of basic language skills, not just accepting to take lessons. This idea was already in the original bill submitted by the government in February and was retained by senators.

Senators want to stop people staying on ‘temporary’ cards

However, so as to push people not to stay on in France by renewing one-year cards indefinitely (with no language requirement), the Senate has inserted another article that states: “No more than three consecutive renewals of a temporary residency card may be made under the same immigration heading”.

These headings relate to the reason for being in France, eg. as a family member, a self-employed person etc.

What does this mean for non-EU citizens moving to France to work?

For workers, this article would probably not change very much, as most would in any case rather move onto a multi-year card if possible, rather than renewing a ‘temporary’ card every year.

It is likely that anyone regularly working in France would have at least the basic French required to obtain the card under the new rules.

What about retirees and early retirees?

The problem for retirees and early-retirees is that a card issued under the ‘visitor’ heading, which is the main one available to them, cannot be replaced by a ‘multi-year’ card.

Nor can, for example, cards for people doing temporary work, au pair work, or coming to France as stagiaires (on work placements).

Instead, retirees usually come on a visa de long-séjour valant titre de séjour (VLS-TS), apply to renew it at the end of the year with a one-year ‘visitor’ residency card, and then continue to renew this card annually.

After five years they can, optionally, ask for a 10-year carte de résident, on certain conditions.

On our assessment, then, if the article remains in the bill unchanged, the retirees will have to apply for, and obtain, this carte de résident (‘resident’s card’) to stay in France for more than five years.

It would work as follows:

First year: VLS-TS

Second year: Carte de séjour temporaire ‘visiteur’

Third year : (First renewal) Carte de séjour temporaire ‘visiteur’

Fourth year : (Second renewal) Carte de séjour temporaire ‘visiteur’

Fifth year) : (Third renewal) Carte de séjour temporaire ‘visiteur’

Sixth year : Apply for carte de résident longue-durée – UE

What is needed for the carte de résident?

On top of the requirements for the visiteur card, you would need:

  • To sign a ‘Contract of Republican Integration’ saying you adhere to Republican values. The prefecture should also be satisfied that you are integrated in France and can ask your mayor for his or her view.
  • If you are under 65 to pass a French test showing you have at least level A2 in the European language levels. This level means you can use basic everyday expressions and can cope in simple situations. It is one level up from the most basic beginner level, A1. If you are aged 65 this is not required.
  • You will need to provide evidence that you lived in France as your main home in the previous five years in an ‘uninterrupted’ manner.

The official service-public website states that evidence of the latter requirement can include, for example, your French income tax statements, previous residency cards, receipts from your card renewal applications, or certificats de scolarité (documents showing you were studying in a French educational establishment).

In theory, according to EU law, for this card you should have made France your home in an ‘uninterrupted’ manner for five years and should not have been away from France for more than six months at a time in one go, or more than 10 months in total over the last five-year period.

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