Ask the expert: What Brits need to know about France’s post-Brexit visa requirements

Ask the expert: What Brits need to know about France's post-Brexit visa requirements
Brits are newbies to the world of visas and work permits in France. Photo: AFP
The world of visas and work permits is already familiar to non-EU citizens like Americans, but for UK nationals coming to France this is new territory. We asked immigration law expert Fiona Mougenot for her advice.

Brexit has ushered in a lot of changes, but for British people wanting to move to France or do some short-term work here, the most noticeable will be requirements for visas and work permits, which were unnecessary under European freedom of movement.

The system – the same as the one already in place for other non-EU nationals like Americans, Canadians and Australians – does take some navigating if you are not used to it.

So we asked Fiona Mougenot, an immigration expert and managing director of global immigration services company Expat Partners, for her advice.

The rules broadly break down into three areas; UK nationals who were already living in France before December 31st 2020, UK nationals moving to France from 2021 onwards and people who don't live in France but want to be able to work here on a short-term basis.

Already resident by December 31st, 2020

These people are relatively speaking the lucky ones, as they are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, which protects their right to stay.

However everyone living in France before the end of 2020 must apply for a new carte de séjour residency card – even people who are married to French nationals or people who already have a carte de séjour permanent.

An online process has been set up to make applications – read about how it works here.

Fiona said: “For people covered by the Withdrawal Agreement things really are quite straightforward because the process is online and there is a lot less in the way of supporting paperwork that is required – no birth certificates required for example – and site is simple to use.

“Some people prefer to use a professional to complete the application for them and we have accompanied some clients to the appointment at the préfecture and that has been a very simple procedure too.

“It seems that the French have put some effort into making this a straightforward process.”

Fiona added one caveat – that people already resident but working either as posted workers or on a company secondment need to check with their employers that their paperwork and social security forms are up to date.

Moving to France

For UK nationals moving to France after January 1st 2021, a visa is now necessary.

There are different types of visa depending on whether you will be working, studying, retired etc and the key thing about visas is that they must be applied for from your home country before you make the move.

READ ALSO How to apply for a French visa

 

Fiona said: “The visa application process is also online and is relatively straightforward to use, the site itself lets you know if you have made a mistake in your application.

“The key thing to remember is that supporting documents like a CV need to be in French, but for most types of document you can supply your own translation and don't need to pay for a certified translation. If you are asked for a certified translation, however, make sure you select one from the list approved by the French state.”

READ ALSO How to find a certified translator

If you're intending to come to France to work, certain types of visa need evidence of a work contract.

However, Fiona said: “With people coming to work, the first thing we do is check whether they fall into any of the categories for the talent passport – this is an excellent scheme, one of the best things that France has ever done in immigration terms.

“There are 11 categories and it really does cover quite a lot including the French Tech visa, job creation, corporate officers, innovative companies – quite a wide range and a straightforward process.

“Processing times for these have also been quite quick in the past, although we haven't done a British one post-Brexit yet.” 

Working in France
 
The third category is people not living here but wanting to do some work in France – this could cover business travellers, people doing short-term work or contractors or musicians and artists wanting to tour in France.

They need to be aware of two things; visas and work permits.

France allows people to work without a visa for a maximum of 90 days, but most types of work will need a work permit, although certain sectors including culture and sport are exempt.

READ ALSO Visas and work permits: How Brits can work in France after Brexit

 

Fiona said: “There is no need for a visa for anyone if they are working for less 90 days, but the work permit is crucial and catches some people out if they are not careful – some companies assume that workers who are visa exempt don't need a work permit, but that is not the case. 

“There are certain categories of people who are exempt from work permits based on the category and sector of work and this would include things like people travelling for meetings, conferences and cultural or sports events.
 
“So British musicians will still be able to tour in France – although that is not necessarily the case for all EU countries as they all have different requirements which will make pan-European tours more difficult.
 
“There is also an exemption for people doing short-term work or work as contractors in fields including IT, finance and engineering – but they have to be providing expertise.
 
“The definition of that is not entirely clear-cut, but you would need to demonstrate that they have special skills and they would need to be being paid at a fairly high rate. So for example someone on a contract to maintain elevators might not qualify as providing expertise, but someone overseeing a major engineering project would.
 
“It is important for companies employing people on this basis to make the assessments in advance and have any work permits necessary in case of an employment inspection.”
 
She also highlighted two areas that people need to be particularly careful of – the strict 90-day limit and requirements of other EU countries.
 
 
She said: “People need to remember that getting a visa or work permit for France doesn't entitle you to work in any other EU country – if you are working in more than one country you need the relevant permits or visas for each country and they all have different requirements.
 
“The other thing that companies and individuals need to be very aware of is the 90-day limit.
 
“The limit covers all Schengen zone countries so frequent business travellers who go all over Europe need to keep a very close eye on their days count.
 
“Two crucial points – even just an hour in a country counts as one day, and holidays also count. It's 90 days in the bloc in total, so companies need to know whether employees are holidaying in Europe and how long for so that they don't accidentally exceed their 90 days.”
  
Citizenship
 
The rules covering non-EU citizens don't apply to people who also have the passport of an EU country, so if you qualify for citizenship of France, Ireland or any other EU country through family or marriage then this could be worth exploring as an option.
 

Immigration lawyers can help with citizenship applications.

Fiona said: “Overall my impression is that the French really have put some effort into making this straightforward – especially for people covered by the Withdrawal Agreement – and I think that is deliberate to make the country attractive to settle in.

“President Emmanuel Macron is keen that the country is attractive for investment and I think that is part of this.”

Fiona Mougenot has lived in France for 40 years and is the Managing Director of Expat Partners, which offers global immigration services. Find out more at www.expatpartners.com.

 


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