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Reader question: How long should I expect to wait for my post-Brexit residency card?

Reader question: How long should I expect to wait for my post-Brexit residency card?
Photo: AFP
As tens of thousands of Brits in France have now submitted their applications for post-Brexit residency cards, one question that we've been asked repeatedly is how long it takes to get the card.

What’s the process?

Thanks to Brexit, all British people who were living in France before December 31st 2020 need to apply for a residency card, known as a carte de séjour. This applies to everyone, including people who have been here a long time, those who are married to a French person or who previously had a carte de séjour.

In order to simplify this process, the French Interior Ministry has launched an online portal for applications for the roughly 200,000 British people who live in France.

You can find more about how this works HERE.

This applies to British people who were resident in France before December 31st 2020 only, Brits who move after that date will need a visa – find out the visa requirements HERE.

All applications must be done online, there is no facility to apply directly to your local préfecture. If you do not have internet access or are not confident with online procedures, you can find extra help HERE.

READ ALSO Where can Brits in France get help with post-Brexit residency applications?

How long will it take?

French bureaucracy is not renowned for its speed, so unsurprisingly one of the questions that we have been asked most frequently is how long the whole process takes.

We can’t give a definitive answer on this, and there are a lot of variables, but here’s what we know: 

Are applications being processed? 

Yes, the site went live on October 19th 2020 and applications are now being processed by préfectures. People who had applied on the no-deal site that was briefly live in October 2019 have been automatically transferred to the new site.

How long does it take to make the application?

The online portal represents a simplified, more user-friendly process that requires a lot less in the way of supporting documentation.

It varies depending how long you have been here and whether you already hold a carte de séjour, but most people only need to supply fairly basic supporting documents like passports, proof of address and proof of work/pension status.

You can find out more about the documents needed here.

If you get halfway through filling out the form and realise you are missing a crucial piece of paperwork you can save what you have done so far and go back to it.

How long until I get the acknowledgement of my application?

This is an automated email so should arrive in your inbox within half an hour or so – check your junk or spam folders if it does not arrive.

The email acknowledgement is important for two reasons – it gives you a reference number that you can use if you need to make any queries about your application and the email itself acts as interim proof of your residency status.

Until your card arrives, you can use this email as proof that you are a resident for all official purposes, including at the border if you need to travel, so we recommend printing it out and tucking it into your passport.

How long until my application is processed?

It depends.

Although all applications are done on the same website, each application is then passed to the préfecture where you live for processing.

Once your application is processed, you will then receive an email from the préfecture, giving you an appointment to come in and provide fingerprints and a passport-sized photo for your card, as well as showing original versions of the documents submitted in some cases. Most people report that this is a very straightforward process and takes about 10 minutes.

Préfectures and their staffing levels vary widely. Some will get thousands or even tens of thousands of applications from Brits, others just a few dozen, so processing speeds will be different. 

One of the speediest areas is Dorodgne where, due to the large number of UK nationals living in the area, the préfecture was given extra staff to process requests. They have already issued cards to 5,000 people.

Paris, where applications are processed by the Préfecture de Police, is also moving pretty speedily through applications with many people receiving their card already.

In other areas processing times vary, some people have already had their appointments, some have received an appointment date and others have as yet heard nothing.

This survey from citizens rights group Remain in France Together (RIFT) has an area breakdown.

Then when do you get the card?

Once you have had your appointment at the préfecture, the card will be posted out to you.

The Interior Ministry says this will be a couple of weeks after the appointment and most people who have received their card say it took no longer than three weeks after the appointment date to arrive.

When is the deadline?

The deadline for you to make your application on the site is September 30th – extended from June 30th, 2021.

For more on residency, healthcare, driving and travel after Brexit, head to our Preparing for Brexit section.


Member comments

  1. Hi,
    Our Carte de Sejour applications have been processed and my partner and I have been invited to have our biometric records taken at the Prefecture Cotes d’Amor.
    We have had to cancel one appointment as we are stuck in the UK at the moment and believe we cannot travel until the borders are reopened. However, does the requirement to have our finger prints and photographs taken for our residency permits constitute a sufficiently legal and exceptional requirement that permits us to travel from the UK to France?
    Any help would be gratefully received.
    Best wishes
    A.

  2. I’ve recently received my carte de sejour and must say the whole process was incredibly efficient, much more so than you might expect if you’ve had priors with French administration. The online application portal was very easy to use, no need to print or submit hard copies of anything by post. The application with the prefecture (Paris) came about 3.5 months after completion of the online portal, and the card itself another 2.5 months after that by registered post. The only minor hiccup on my side was that I received a notification that my dossier was incomplete after my prefecture appointment, which landed from a strange looking Email address into my junk folder. I am pretty cautious about unwarranted mail & given that the prefecture appointment was already done I was sceptical to say the least, but after eventually discovering that the Email was legit, it turned out the reason for the apparent incompleteness of my dossier was that I had submitted a CDI work contract which was more than 6 months old. I don’t recall any specification that in such a circumstance a more up to date document was needed and it wasn’t picked up on by the prefecture, however after I added my most recent pay slip to my dossier it was all closed off very quickly. So I suppose while you can’t avoid some element of ‘Frenchness’ in the process (yes it might not have explicitly specified that a work contract must be 6 months old or younger, but that is the rule you’re still expected to know), it was overall a pretty smooth process for me personally.

    Now for the minefield of the driving licence…..

  3. My wife and I initially applied to exchange our pre Brexit cartes de sejour on the no deal website way back in October 2019. We received an acknowledgement at the time and a further update in February 2020 telling us everything was on file and we would be contacted further in due course. We received an email from our local prefecture ( Gueret in Creuse ) at the beginning of March giving us both appointments on 16th and this was quick and efficient. The new cards arrived by recorded delivery on 27th! At every stage ( we had to produce full paper dossiers ) everyone was efficient and courteous and very helpful and the process went without a hitch. As was stated by a previous member, now for driving licences and also vaccinations!

  4. Just to add to the comments – we applied on-line in December ( Charente Maritime) – very straightforward-, got a date in February to go to La Rochelle, the process took just 10 minutes, and were told it would take 3 to 4 months to receive the cards. They turned up about two weeks later! So, nothing to worry about.

  5. Good luck to everyone with their CDS. Ours took 18 months instead of the promised 2. We did finally get our 4 year Talent Visas though.

  6. The process was unusually smooth and efficient. Emails were polite and clear. Interview was short—only a couple questions and one I couldn’t answer and she just shrugged. I did take my French birth certificate which I wasn’t required to do but it certainly shifted her attitude. I went with all the documents referenced in my application and she only ask for my ID photo and passport. So grateful for the simplicity of the process. I was told I’d receive card within six weeks after finger printing, and it came in three weeks: a six year residency till October 2026—I’m over the moon appreciative. Now to figure out citizenship.

    1. Really helpful comments, thank you. I have yet to have my appointment and worry about my French…!

          1. She asked if I was really born in Paris & I produced my certificate
            She asked date of my divorce that I had left blank – I said I didn’t remember she shrugged and then I recalled month & year

            Ok
            That’s it

  7. I had my appointment at the beginning of March and I am still waiting for my card to be posted?
    What can be done about that? Is there someone I can contact

  8. I applied on October 22nd and was given a reference number. My wife applied the same day and has had her carte de sejour for two months. I sent a handwritten letter to the prefecture requesting an update but have heard nothing. Seven months! I’m wondering if my application has been mislaid but don’t want to complicate things by applying again. Has anyone else had to wait this long?

  9. On residency card applications
    Do you have to write your application in French or can you use English?
    thanks

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