What's the big deal? Part 2: What do we know so far about how the Withdrawal Agreement will work in France?

In the last article we looked at what the draft Withdrawal Agreement (WA) means for our ongoing rights as British citizens in Europe; in this one we home in on what we already know of how it would affect us in France.

This is, you'll notice a slightly shorter article. That's because we don't actually know very much yet! Like most of the other EU27 countries, the French Ministry of the Interior has, up until now, been focusing on procedures for implementing a no deal scenario and little focus has yet been given to how a Withdrawal Agreement would be implemented or what we would have to do to receive new residence cards under it. All the indications are that they won't begin that process until the UK government has voted the Withdrawal Agreement through.

We're in regular touch with the officials who head up the relevant team at the Ministry, and we also have regular calls with the citizens' rights team at the British Embassy in Paris, so you can rest assured that as soon as we have information, we'll pass it on via this news update service and on our main website) - and also that we will be able to feed into the process as it happens.

This is what we know so far.

A reminder: who will be covered by the Withdrawal Agreement in France and for how long?

  • If you're legally resident in France on or before the end of the transition period - 31 December 2020 unless it's extended - you will have your rights protected under the Withdrawal Agreement (see our previous article for a resumé of what's included).
  • Legally resident means meeting the conditions described on this page, or being a family member (spouse, partner, dependent child, dependent ascendant) of someone who does meet the conditions.
  • The rights in the Withdrawal Agreement will come into force on 1 January 2021 (or later if extended), after the transition/implementation period has ended. Until then you retain your current rights as an EU citizen (except voting/political rights, which end on Brexit day).
  • Once covered, you'll be covered will be covered for your lifetime, as long as you remain resident in France. If you have permanent resident status will be able to leave for up to 5 years and return without losing their rights. 
  • If you have less than 5 years residence, you'll have to spend at least 6 months a year in France in order to retain your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement until you've reached 5 years and can apply for permanent residence.

Will I need to apply for a carte de séjour?

  • We've been advised by the Ministry that France will be applying a constitutive system for registration under the Withdrawal Agreement. This means that - as with settled status for EU nationals in the UK - everyone will have to apply for a new status instead of it being granted automatically to those who meet the conditions.
  • All British residents will therefore need to apply for this new status, and for the carte de séjour which evidences it, as a condition of continuing to live in France. This includes all those who already hold a carte de séjour (see below). 
  • This will be a special carte de séjour, issued under Article 18(1) of the Withdrawal Agreement, which will prove that you have a right of residence under this agreement. It will be invaluable for travel, work and other purposes.​

What conditions will I have to meet to qualify for a new card?

  • The Withdrawal Agreement provides that the conditions to qualify for a carte de séjour under the Withdrawal Agreement will be as they are at present for us and for all EU citizens. 
  • This means that you'll have to apply under one of four categories - employed/self-employed, student, retired or otherwise non-economically active, or a family member of someone meeting the conditions under one of these categories.
  • The no deal contingency plans do include some simplified procedures and for those over 65, lower income requirements (RSA instead of ASPA), and we'd hope to see these carried forward under a Withdrawal Agreement, although this hasn't yet been confirmed.

How will the system work, and how will I get my new card?

  • Obviously with over 150,000 cards to issue this will be a major operation for France and its préfectures. The Ministry of the Interior has already created a new online application form, for use in a no deal scenario, and we would hope that this would be rolled over if there were a deal with few changes, although this hasn't been confirmed or even indicated to us so far. Under this new platform applications are made via an online form, and documents are uploaded at the same time. Applications are then forwarded to individual préfectures for processing; once the form is received and processed, you'll be offered an appointment for fingerprinting and verification of your passport. Your new carte de séjour will then be sent by post - meaning that only one visit to the préfecture is needed.
  • If you already hold a carte de séjour permanent, the Withdrawal Agreement provides that you can exchange this for a new card with few formalities. You'll need to prove your identity and continuing residence. You may also be subject to a criminality check, although France hasn't yet indicated whether it will implement this.
  • We don't yet know the procedure for exchange of initial cards held by those with less than 5 years residence, or even how long such cards would be valid for. Under the no deal ordonnance and decree there is in fact no provision to exchange a temporary (less than 5 year) card - you have to make a brand new application. We would hope as the Withdrawal Agreement is based on our current EU rights that this may not be the case and an exchange might be possible, although (yes, you've guessed it!) we await further news on this too! At the very least though we'd expect that in this situation you'd need to show not just continued residence but that you continue to meet the required conditions.
  • If you haven't been resident for 5 years when you apply for your new card, you'll still be able to build up your years and then apply for a carte de séjour permanent once you've reached 5 years.
  • You'll have until at least July 2021 (based on transition ending on 31 December 2020) to apply for your new card. This may be extended if there are 'administrative difficulties'. 
  • The Ministry has advised that all cartes de séjour issued under the Withdrawal Agreement will be free of charge.

How will my new card work for travel purposes?

  • You will need to carry your new card with you when you are travelling, as it is the only evidence that you have a legal right to live in France. 
  • From the end of the transition period, your card will need to be shown when you arrive back in France from a non-Schengen country (the UK, for example) along with your passport. Passport officers in France have access to a database that contains a list of all the different types of residence permit and will cross check your card against this. If you don't have it, you may not be allowed to enter as you would not have either a visa or an ETIAS.
  • From the end of the transition period, your new card will allow you to travel to and in other Schengen states for periods of up to 90 days in every 180 days. It only allows residence in France.
  • If you want to move to another EU country after the end of the transition period, you have to apply as a third country national and meet the conditions for residence in that country.

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