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BREXIT

‘Remainer’ Brits in EU can find their proxy voter with new Facebook group

Britons in the EU struggling to find a proxy voter in the constituency where they were last registered are being encouraged to use a new Facebook group. As long as they are against Brexit.

'Remainer' Brits in EU can find their proxy voter with new Facebook group
Photo: AFP
British voters in the EU, at least those not disenfranchised by the 15-year rule, have been encouraged to register for a proxy vote due to the unreliability of postal votes in the UK.
 
Both in the 2016 referendum and the 2017 there were scores of reported cases of postal votes getting lost.
 
Now many local authorities are recommending to overseas voters that they seek a proxy vote. A proxy vote is when the voter nominates someone to attend the polling station and vote on their behalf, but it must be the polling station relevant to the last UK address they were registered to vote at.
 
In response to this concern a group of Remain activists have set up a proxy vote matching service on Facebook which works a bit like a dating site. 
 
People requiring someone to be their proxy use the form on the groups page to register where the vote needs to be cast.
 
At the same time thousands of like minded Remain voters are registering to be proxies. These voters have to provide a reference so they can be vetted. The team behind the group use Geo mapping of postcodes to find the nearest match. Once the person is vetted an introduction is made and the pair “friend” each other to see if they can agree to work together. Should they fail then another match is sought. 
 
The group which is less than three weeks old already has close to 3,000 people participating and will have reached its 300th match soon.
 
Nigel Grey, the groups founder said, “During the European Elections, two friends asked me to be their proxy, I was amazed at how easy the process was. When I heard of the anger amongst the expat community, that they were once again going to be disenfranchised the solution seemed obvious. I however never imagined it would take off as quickly as it has”.
 
To join the group, people are asked to visit the page https://www.facebook.com/RemainProxyVoters and click the sign up button. After that they just need to sit back and wait for a match to be emailed to them. They also join the group and  can sit and watch the matches come through.

 
Grey said: “One Expat described watching the posts as like watching the National Lottery hoping that this time it was their number that were going to come up.”
 
Expats who are not on facebook, who still want someone to be a proxy are asked to use [email protected] or email [email protected] to find out more. 
 
Note that voters in search of proxies are also being encouraged to contact the political party for whom they want to vote for in the constituency they are registered.

 

 

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VISAS

‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres

Appointments

Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said. 

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