What happens to Brits in France who don’t register for residency before September 30th?

What happens to Brits in France who don't register for residency before September 30th?
Photo: Denis Charlet/AFP
The final deadline is fast approaching for UK nationals who moved to France before December 31st 2020 to make their application for residency. But what happens to people who don't apply in time?

Who?

This applies to British nationals who were resident in France before December 31st, 2020. They all need to apply for the residency permit known as a carte de séjour – even people who have been here a long time, who are married to a French person or who previously had a residency card.

It also applies to people who already hold a European carte de séjour, are in the process of applying for a French nationality, or are married or PACSed to French or other EU nationals.

The only group who don’t have to apply are Brits who have already obtained dual nationality with an EU country, although they may apply if they wish. Children under 18 do not need to apply.

When?

The deadline to have made the application was extended by three months – until September 30th, 2021. 

Although this does give a little more breathing space, it is still vital that people get their applications in on time.

How?

The application process has been greatly simplified and streamlined – you can find out how it all works HERE.

The French government has set up a special online portal for Brits covered by the Withdrawal Agreement to apply, and has previously said that this site will be closed after the cutoff date.

Note that a statement from the British Embassy in Paris said that “All adult UK Nationals need to obtain a residence permit bearing the words ‘UK Withdrawal Agreement from the EU’. But in fact the post-Brexit cards contain the words “Article 50 TUE” on one side, and Article 18(1) Accord de retrait du Royaume-Uni et de l’UE on the other.

So what happens to people who miss that deadline?

Officially British residents who miss the deadline to apply become illegal migrants, known as sans papiers in French.

Kalba Meadows from citizens’ rights group France Rights said: “If you miss this deadline without ‘reasonable grounds’ you’re at risk of losing your right to live in France altogether – you could effectively become a sans papiers or undocumented migrant with all that that entails.”

People living in France without the appropriate papers cannot legally work, they are not entitled to healthcare, social care or benefits and they will not be able to legally rent property.

Having citizenship of an EU country has in the past spared Brits most of the administrative formalities of moving abroad, thanks to EU freedom of movement. But those days are now over and Brits will become what is known in immigration terms as Third Country Nationals.

And just like other Third Country Nationals such as Americans, Canadians and Australians, if they want to live in France they will need the appropriate paperwork – a residency card or carte de séjour or, for those who moved after January 1st, 2021, a visa.

But what does that mean in practical terms for people who are already here?

At this point we move into slightly unknown territory – this is an unprecedented situation so although we know what being undocumented means in terms of immigration status, what we don’t know is exactly how this will be enforced.

French authorities have tried to make this process relatively straightforward for Brits living here, and the political rhetoric coming from the top has been sympathetic to the situation faced by people who moved here by exercising their rights under freedom of movement and then abruptly had those rights taken away from them – so it seems highly unlikely that French police will start rounding up and deporting people the second the deadline has passed.

The main question is whether they will accept late applications after the deadline and what impact late applications will have on the October deadline to be in possession of the residency permit.

Rights groups in France and the British Embassy have long been concerned about those Brits living off the radar in the country, who still might not be aware of the bureaucratic hoops they now need to jump through thanks to Brexit.

Even to this day The Local receives emails from people unsure whether they need to apply.

Official figures suggest some 135,000 Brits have already applied for the carte de séjour but if the unofficial estimate of the number of Britons living in France is right – around 150,000 – then many more are yet to apply.

What next?

Brits have until October 1st, 2021 before they are legally obliged to be in possession of their post-Brexit carte de séjour.

Rather than being rounded up and deported, what is likely to happen in the months after that is problems will arise for those without cards when dealing with official aspects of French life.

Undocumented migrants cannot legally work in France, they cannot access healthcare and are not entitled to any social care or benefits and from October onwards Brits are likely to be asked to produce their carte de séjour if they want to access any of these things.

Even if you don’t plan on working or claiming benefits, almost everyone will need healthcare at some point and if you are staying in France illegally this could be a problem – in short, if you have health problems you could end up facing both a hefty medical bill and a deportation order.

People without the appropriate paperwork will also find it very difficult to cross borders, so travel will be effectively ruled out.

There are of course people who live illegally and off the radar in France, many of them failed asylum seekers. Their lives are generally very difficult indeed and it is not a situation that anyone would aspire to be in.

Reasonable grounds?

The Withdrawal Agreement contains a provision for people to make late applications if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to have missed the deadline.

In practice, however, we don’t know exactly what constitutes reasonable grounds. It would probably have to be an extreme or unusual situation that made it impossible for you to apply in time – rather than simply missing the deadline or not realising that it applied to you.

Can I appeal? 

If you have applied for residency and been turned down you have the right to appeal the decision – full details HERE.

If you have failed to apply in time, you have fewer options and as mentioned above there is little clarity on what will be considered ‘reasonable grounds’ to have missed the deadline.

For more information on the process, head to our Dealing with Brexit section, and if you are struggling with the paperwork or the application process these are the groups that will provide help for free.


Member comments

  1. We have lived in France for 15 years. I have received my WA CdS. My husband is Canadian and has a permanent CdS and I assumed that he would not need to take any action but now I have read that he needs to apply for a new one under the WA. I cannot find anything official about this and IMO, it makes no sense but if that’s the rule, he will apply. Does anyone else know for sure if this is correct?

    1. Hi Lesley, Can you quote what you read where? That makes no sense. The WA agreement is UK withdrawal, not Canada’s, so what is the wording that’s causing alarm?

      1. This is taken from the French government website for making an application

        ‘This online service is intended only for British nationals and their family members, of British nationality or third-country nationals, residing in France or coming to settle in France before December 31, 2020’.

        I agree that it makes no sense for my OH to have to change his permanent CdS but it seems as though that’s how it is. Presumably it’s because it was granted to him at the time because he was married to an EU citizen.

        1. Oh yes. Had forgotten that bit. Thanks. Doesn’t he just have to send his CdS in for exchange, after 10 years, probably as you did?

          Anyway best wishes & sorry delayed reply, but had people working on the roof.

          1. Yes, you’re right – I completed his application online this morning. I had not initially realised that he needed to swap and had found it a bit odd. Plus, I could not find the correct information largely because I wasn’t thinking logically but all is well now.

          2. The sous prefecture in Beziers have been incredibly quick. He received an email last Tuesday and has his appointment this Thursday. He has to take a photo, his passport and his existing CdS.

      2. Looks like you are correct Lesley:

        If you have a spouse/partner or qualifying family member who is a (non UK) third country national (so holds a passport from a non EU country) they must also apply for their WA RP by 30 June 2021.

        Even if they hold a CdS obtained on the basis of your former EU citizenship, they MUST exchange it.

        Please note whilst UK passport holders are not given a receipt (récépissé) by the préfecture when they attend to provide their photograph and finger prints, TCN applicants are given a receipt so it’s advisable for TCN applicants to take 2 photographs to their rendez-vous.

      3. If you have a spouse/partner or qualifying family member who is a (non UK) third country national (so holds a passport from a non EU country) they must also apply for their WA RP by 30 June 2021.

        Even if they hold a CdS obtained on the basis of your former EU citizenship, they MUST exchange it.

        Please note whilst UK passport holders are not given a receipt (récépissé) by the préfecture when they attend to provide their photograph and finger prints, TCN applicants are given a receipt so it’s advisable for TCN applicants to take 2 photographs to their rendez-vous.

    2. Hi Lesley, yes – this is correct if his right to residency is through you – ie he has residency as a spouse or family member. You can email us on [email protected] if you need any further information

  2. I cant really imagine how a Brit does not know of the requirement for residence and why an application has not already been made. I presume there may be a few individuals with special reasons for not applying but to me I cannot envisage what they are unless illegal. Similarly with your previous discussion on driving licence: the rules have been in place for a Brit living in France for many years and it was very easy to exchange a British one for a French one, I did this myself several years ago for convenience at the time, not having a UK address.

    1. My wife and I applied to exchange our UK licences in Spring 2019. Early in 2020 my wife received a letter saying he exchange could not be progressed as she had not supplied the paperwork (she had). Shortly after, I received a letter saying my request had been rejected because the supporting paperwork was not current (it was 12 months before when I applied). Applications were closed unless your licence was due to expire ‘shortly’. In Jan 2021 the application process was suspended. It was not easy – it was/is impossible.

  3. y problem is I applied, got an official acknowledgement and then a date to go in to be finger-printed etc but could not go on the day. As indicated in the e-mail with the RV, I applied for a new date and got no reply. I have since sent two requests for a new date to the prefecture who acknowledge and say they will deal with any query within five working days and then silence. It is not possible to get through on the phone to the right department and we live 50 or so kms from the prefecture. The lady on the switchboard apologised and said ‘don’t worry they will come back to you eventually.’ I hope so. But in the mean time I thought about applying a second time. Does anybody have any thoughts on this? I have been in France permanently since 1995 and had a Carte de Sejour before which I sent them. In 2008 I was told I wouldn’t need it anymore… For the record my wife is French.

  4. It might be hard to believe but recent authoritative reports eg https://ukandeu.ac.uk/british-citizens-in-the-eu-the-other-side-of-the-citizens-rights-coin/ suggest that 10000s of UK citizens have still not applied for right to remain in France and other EU countries that are applying a strict requirement to apply and a deadline. The data that is available suggests that upwards of 25000 British living in France have not applied and in addition there is a lag of 50000 between applications made and cards issued. This is further exacerbated by the acknowledged fact that many UK citizens in France are undocumented. This is obviously remiss of them but there are historic reasons for it. What I find truly incredible is that the Embassy does not know what the shortfall is , and in response to my approach have said they are not interested. I cant see this sorting itself out and there would then be a great deal of hardship and anxiety. I dont think anywhere near enough has been done to reach out to people.

    1. Or to look at it this way, not the Embassy’s fault they don’t know, as no requirement since 2003 to register in France. No-one knows numbers for that reason, and not remiss of the residents either, as they didn’t need documents (though most probably should have done tax returns, even if not earning!). They might unknowingly have been living in France not meeting the minimum income requirement & are afraid of not meeting it now, not knowing that it’s been lowered for the sake of the application.

  5. I’m slightly concerned that it will be illegal not to have the actual card come October. Once the application is made and completed , receipt of the card is out of our hands. We applied 8 months ago , had our interview to take fingerprints etc a couple of weeks ago and were told we would have the cards in a couple of months. If that happens, then it will be well in time for October, but we applied 8 months ago. What are the chances of applications being made now resulting in an actual card by October ? Slim to none I would say. Everything we’ve applied for in France ( carte vital, exchanging licences, Cds,) have all taken a min of 7 months.

    1. I went the prefecture for fingerprinting and stuff in january. I received my carte de sejour within a month.

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