Applying for a new residence status and card under the Withdrawal Agreement - ​ how do the British in France feel and what are their concerns?

You probably remember that in May we launched a survey looking at how British residents in France are feeling about having to apply for a new residence status and carte de séjour. The French government tells us that it's still on target to open the new online application portal in July, though we still, as I write this on 23 June, don't know exactly when. Anticipating that opening, we wanted to steal a march on what the biggest concerns are, where potential issues might lie, and what kind of information support France Rights can best offer.




2727 of you responded during the 2 weeks the survey was open, making it not just a very interesting survey but also one that is statistically relevant - so a huge thanks go to everyone who took part.

We learned many things from the survey, but one thing stood out, and it's this ...



Many people are nervous about the application process to come

Almost half of all respondents are nervous to a greater or lesser degree about the application process that lies ahead, rising to 57% of those who have no current carte de séjour.

That's a pretty whopping, and worrying figure.

To find out more about the responses, why so many people are nervous and what conclusions and recommendations we've drawn from the results, you can read the whole survey report on our website, here: https://www.francerights.org/survey-may-2020.html.  Alternatively, you can read and/or download an A4 PDF copy here: https://bit.ly/FRSurveyReport.

As a quick overview, we've copied the Executive Summary below.

The Executive Summary


  • As the French government prepares to begin implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, an online questionnaire survey was run by France Rights in order to understand how UK nationals living in France feel about going through the mandatory process of applying for a new status and card, what their specific concerns are and how these might be addressed.
  • The survey included both multiple choice questions and space for open comment. It was circulated using a mixture of social media and other internet media. 2727 people responded during the 2 weeks the survey was open.
  • Unlike other EU countries, France does not require EU citizens to apply for a residence card and historically few have applied. Nevertheless, 48% of survey respondents have a current residence card; this is higher than the estimated national figure (which remains below 20%) and reflects the fact that the much of the survey audience was derived from citizens' rights groups in which campaigns to encourage residents to apply for a carte de séjour have been running for 2 years.
  • Over 90% of respondents in all categories were already aware of the need to apply for a new status and card. Independent media was the primary source of information, followed by France Rights and multiple sources. Neither the British Embassy nor the French Ministry of the Interior websites are well used, and an average of 90% of respondents were informed from non-embassy sources.
  • Almost half of all respondents are nervous to a greater or lesser degree about the application process that lies ahead, rising to 57% of those who have no current CdS.
  • 38% said that they are always nervous about dealing with officialdom or that they fear it will be too complicated, 25% are worried that they might not meet the conditions for a new status and card, in particular the genuine and effective work and self-sufficiency conditions.
  • 16% of respondents have IT concerns, rising to 25% of those over 65 who don’t have a current carte de séjour. These are significant percentages and we strongly recommend that such concerns are taken seriously by the French government.
  • For over three quarters of those who are nervous to a greater or lesser degree, the key to feeling less nervous is having access to clear and detailed information, in English. The importance of detailed, legally correct information cannot be overstated in reducing uncertainty and anxiety. Anxiety and stress are likely to lead to mistakes being made in the application process and therefore good information should also have a role in reducing the percentage of failed or incorrect applications. In a constitutive system - where a failed application can lead to loss of residence status - this is vital.
  • Lack of reassurance, communication and information from official sources has done little to bolster confidence and has been instrumental in raising anxiety levels. We recommend that this is addressed via the instigation of a robust communication plan by both the British Embassy and the French government.
  • 16% of respondents have specific concerns arising from COVID. We recommend that this should be reflected in a generous and flexible approach to applications by the French government and in advice given to préfectures on dealing with applications.
  • Only around a quarter of respondents were aware of the existence of the UK National Support Fund, and respondents generally do not have confidence that the funded organisations will meet the needs of those in France in need of help and support with their applications. In particular there is concern about the arbitrary geographical nature of the availability of support from funded organisations.
  • Each departmental préfecture will be responsible for processing online applications for the new status and card; our analysis of one region (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) raises questions about whether this can and will be carried out justly and fairly across all departments to ensure that individuals are treated equally across the country.

Why is all this so important?

It's important because as we hope you all know by now, France is adopting a constitutive system to implement the Withdrawal Agreement. This means that you acquire residence status only if (a) you make an application for it within the required time frame; and (b) that application is granted.

We know that that is causing a lot of stress and anxiety, just as it has done for EU citizens applying for settled status in the UK.

We'll be using the survey results to ensure that you, the British in France, get the best treatment and support possible over the coming months.

Kalba

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