The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement guaranteed that Brits already legally resident in France before the end of the Brexit transition period (December 31st 2020) could stay here.
There was, however, an important caveat – those who were resident had to apply for a new post-Brexit residency card in order to regularise their status.
This applied to everyone – even people who had previously held a European carte de séjour residency card, people who have been here a long time, and those married to French nationals.
Those who previously had residency rights through a British family member (eg an American on a spouse visa connected to their British spouse) must also apply for the new card.
There were only a very few exceptions;
- Under 18s (who must apply once they turn 18)
- Brits who have dual nationality with France or another EU country
- In certain circumstances, diplomats or posted workers are exempt
The deadline to have applied for the new post-Brexit residency card was September 30th 2021, and the deadline to be in possession of the card was January 1st 2022. Those living in France without the card are considered to be living in France illegally.
But if you’re reading this article with mounting horror and realising that you missed the deadline, what should you do?
It depends on your circumstances;
The online portal set up to deal with post-Brexit residency applications is now closed, but there are two groups who can apply directly to their local préfectures.
Under 18s – a residency card is only required for over 18s. But British children who were living in France before December 31st 2020 are entitled to apply for the post-Brexit residency card as soon as they turn 18.
The application is done directly to their local préfecture and requires only ID documents and proof that they were in France before December 31st 2020, such as a school enrollment card.
Family members – Brits who were living in France before December 31st 2020 have the right to be joined later by close family members, including spouses or partners.
This application is done directly at the local préfecture and requires proof that the relationship began before December 31st 2020 – this needs to be legal proof so we’re talking things like marriage certificates, rather than holiday snaps. You also need proof that the partner/family member is covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and has their post-Brexit residency paperwork.
You can find more detail HERE on paperwork requirements.
If you don’t fall into one of the above categories, you were living in France before December 31st 2020 and you don’t have the new post-Bexit carte de séjour residency card then the likelihood is that you are now an undocumented migrant and could be committing an immigration offence.
If you have applied for your status but don’t have the card, then you need to contact your local préfecture as a matter of urgency. If you have proof that your application was made before the deadline then you won’t be in any legal trouble, but you do need to chase up your application and get the card as soon as possible.
The great majority of the roughly 200,000 applications received have now been processed, but there have been some administrative glitches where people’s applications have been lost or – in the case of people who applied on the no-deal portal that was briefly live in October 2019 – not correctly transferred onto the new system.
The proof of application refers only to those who made the application on the special website that went fully live in 2020. All Brits were required to apply on this, and applications made directly to préfectures pre 2020 are not valid.
It was a legal requirement to have made your application before the deadline date of September 30th 2021.
However, the political rhetoric coming from the French government has – so far – been quite sympathetic to Brits caught up in Brexit upheavals.
But if you are in breach of the requirements then the onus is on you to sort this out, and the sooner you do this the more sympathetic reception you are likely to receive.
The first step is to approach your local préfecture – take all relevant paperwork including proof of residency in France before December 31st 2021 and be ready to explain, with supporting documentation if you have it, why you did not apply in time.
There is a provision in the Withdrawal Agreement for late applications to be made, but it is vague when it comes to accepted reasons for the late application.
The French government states only “you were unable to make your request for legitimate reasons (for example, reasons related to your state of health, force majeure etc”.
Force majeure is also the phrase used in the Withdrawal Agreement, and the key is that it’s a major event that made it impossible for you to apply in time.
If you are worried that your French is not up to complicated conversations with the préfecture, there are a number of organisations who can help you – see here.
You can find more details of the new requirements in our Dealing with Brexit section.