LATEST: Your questions answered on a no-deal Brexit

LATEST: Your questions answered on a no-deal Brexit
All photos: AFP
With a no-deal Brexit looking increasingly likely, we asked our readers what their major concerns were for people living in France.

The questions we got can broadly be divided into four categories; obtaining French residency, obtaining French citizenship, rights for healthcare and pensions after Brexit and the rules for people who do not permanently live or work in France.

The information outlined below applies only to a Brexit where Britain leaves with no deal.

READ ALSO: What are the main differences between Brexit with a deal and no-deal Brexit for people living in France?

French residency

This is the major concern for people living full time in France – will they be permitted to stay in the country after Brexit? It is also an area where the advice has changed slightly over the past three years.

Although not everything is clear, France published its own no-deal contingency back in April which laid out what British people would need to do if they want to stay here.

There are essentially three categories – people who already have a carte de séjour permenant (a 10-year card) people who do not have a carte de séjour permenant but have lived here for more than five years, people who do not have the permenant (or long term) carte de séjour and who have been here less than five years.

For people who already have the permanent 10-year card it's easy – you will just need to swap your card for a new one after Brexit. No new application needs to be made.

Anyone else will have to begin the application process for a new card. The full details are here, but the key points are that people will need to decide whether they are applying as an employee, self-employed, a family member of someone who already has the right to residency or the 'inactive' category for people who are not working or are retired.

Every category has slightly different paperwork requirements, but the main points are that you must have been legally resident in France on Brexit day and will need to provide proof that you can support yourself financially.

If your application is successful you will get a permanent carte de séjour.

People who have been in France for less than five years will have to go through the same process of applying, with a couple of extra documents required for some categories, but will be given a short-term carte de séjour for one to four years, depending on the category. This can then be renewed and eventually exchanged for the carte de séjour permenant once you have been in France for five years.

Any type of new carte de séjour application carries a fee of €100, and you will also have to pay a certified translator for any documents that need translating into French. You also need to get your application in within six months of Brexit day.

The above covers people who are already resident in France on Brexit day. For advice on whether you can move to France after Brexit, click here.

The citizens' rights group Remain in France Together has detailed information on residency requirements on its website here.

French citizenship

Many long-term residents of France have also been considering French citizenship, which if successful will obviously take away any worries about your right to remain in the country.

It's not a simple process though.

There are two main routes to citizenship – through residency or through marriage.

If you are applying through residency you need to have been living in France for five continuous years (or two years if you have completed a higher education course in France) and speak French to B1 level.

Many people think that getting citizenship is much easier if you're married to a French person, but that's not necessarily the case.

READ ALSO: No, a quickie marriage in France won't save you from Brexit 

You have to have been married for four years before you can apply, although you do not need to be living in France, and you still need to go through the application process and interview.

More details on the application process can be found here but it involves providing a lot of paperwork (of course) and generally takes between 12 and 18 months.

There is an interview (in French) in which you have to prove that you have a good knowledge of France, its culture and its values and show that you are applying because of a genuine commitment to France, not just to cut down on the paperwork.

You are also eligible for citizenship if you have served in the French Foreign Legion for five years, or less if you have been seriously wounded, but after looking at what the training process involves I'm not sure we would recommend that route.

It's worth noting here that if you already have dual citizenship with another EU country, for example Ireland, then you can simply carry on exercising your Freedom of Movement using that nationality and do not need to apply for either a carte de séjour or French citizenship.

READ ALSO: 10 reasons why you should consider becoming French

Healthcare and pensions

A major concern for a lot of readers of The Local, this is the most tricky area, because some big questions here are still unanswered.

Healthcare first – people who are working in France have the right to apply for a carte vitale, which gives you access to the state health insurance scheme. Full details here, but basically it's relatively simple to apply for, it's not means tested and it means that whatever medical treatment you have in France, the government will refund you a portion (usually the majority) of the cost. You can also apply for this now and do not need to wait for Brexit.

It's also wise to have a mutuelle – top-up private insurance – and if you are an employee your company must cover at least half of the cost of this.

Pensioners who are living in France are generally covered by the S1 scheme and there is some good news on this as France has guaranteed that even in the case of a no-deal Brexit your healthcare rights will stay the same for up to two years, while Britain and France try to come to a bilateral agreement.

If there is no agreement reached after two years then the status will be re-examined, but this is one area where the UK does seem to want to reach a generous reciprocal agreement with countries like France and Spain, where many British pensioners live.

The European health card (what used to be called the E111) will cease to work on Brexit day, since the UK will no longer be part of the EU, so you must arrange alternative cover beforehand.

Pensions are also complicated.

At the moment the greatest problem that pensioners in France face is the fall in the value of the pound, which has seen a big drop in the income of anyone who is paid a pension in pounds but must pay their bills in euros.

A big worry for people already getting their pensions has been the issue of uprating – the annual increase in line with inflation, average earnings or 2.5 percent, whichever is highest. In a no-deal scenario the government has said it will continue to uprate only until December 31st 2020, after that it will be a case of striking reciprocal agreements with all 27 EU countries.

For people who have not yet started to claim pensions there are also complications. At the moment if you have worked in more than one EU country you simply claim in the country where you live when you retire, and your total contributions in all EU countries are added together and put into your pension pot. This arrangement would continue under the Withdrawal Agreement but not if the UK exits without a deal.

In a no-deal Brexit this would again mean the UK negotiating reciprocal arrangements with all 27 EU countries. 

What about people who don't live or work permanently in France?

For people who are not resident in France but do enjoy spending time here (usually second home owners) there will be restrictions of the amount of time they can be here after Brexit. 

This is another thing that we still don't know, and unfortunately in the chaos that is widely expected to follow a no-deal Brexit, it is unlikely to be at the top of anyone's to-do list. However it seems likely that France will follow the 90-day rule that is currently in place for the majority of other third country nationals.

Anyone wishing to stay for longer than 90 days out of every 180 would then need to apply for a visa. As much information as we currently have can be found here.

Some other questions included the rules on driving licences. Here there is some good news, as the French government, after being deluged with applications, announced in April that the majority of people will be able to keep driving in France on their UK licence.

Pet passports – of course passport controls do not only apply to humans and the current Pet Passport scheme that most people use is an EU one, meaning it will not be valid after Brexit. If the UK leaves without a deal it will become an 'unlisted' country as far as pet travel is concerned, at least initially.

This means that while it is still possible to take animals between the EU and the UK, it's going to get a lot more complicated. The list of steps you will need to take is on the UK government website here, but in short you will need to make sure your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies before it can travel.

Animals will also need an animal health certificate which needs to be issued by a vet no more than 10 days before the date of travel, so people making the journey regularly will need a new certificate every time.

The first time you make the arrangements the process will take four months, so anyone planning a trip for Christmas, for example, needs to start now.

And speaking of passports, British humans will need to have at least six months left on their passport for travel to and from the EU, so if your passport is nearing its expiry date you will need to renew it immediately.

And of course after Brexit you will have to join the 'Non EU' passport queue.

Member comments

  1. And any sensible person reading the above clearly sees what a total disaster Brexit is for everyone but the wealthy minority running this extreme right wing Tory government. Like many living in the EU I am worried sick, especially as my finances have taken such a massive cut since the totally unnecessary referendum that was won by liars telling massive lies. Just serving is getting harder now, when before I was enjoying a lovely comfortable lifestyle in the south of France. Now I’m stuck at home most of the time, only going out when absolutely necessary as gazole costs are a major part of the expenses of living in the country! Brexit is the worst self harm any nation has done to itself.

  2. Brexit is not the convincing victory of the Brit electorate (ie. those entitled to vote) which voted just over 37% for it. The oft quoted 52-and-a-bit% majority relates just to voters, not to the electorate. Is this not an argument in favour of a re-running of the referendum requiring a majority from the electorate to achieve a result, not first past the post just from voters? If no majority, no result, and the original status quo prevails.

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