by Steve Martindale
Originally planned for July, the launch of the portal allowing British residents to apply for a Withdrawal Agreement Residency Permit was pushed back to 1st October and then faced further delays before finally going live on Monday 19th October.
Britain left the EU earlier this year, but under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, nothing has yet changed for British expats in France. However, the Brexit transition period runs out on 31st December and anyone residing in France before this date and planning to stay as a French resident must apply for a residency permit via the site.
The online portal is for all Britons who become resident in France by the end of 2020 and their family members.
Those that make the move after this date will be subject to a different regime – one expected to be similar to that already in place for other Third Country Nationals such as Americans and Australians – and will have to apply for a residency permit in person at their local prefecture.
The website is available in both English and French and can be accessed via the this link.
The good news is that for the majority of people, the online service will be a simple and straightforward process and initial feedback from the portal is overwhelmingly positive. The French government has previously reassured the British community that it will do all it can to help people to secure their status and in a meeting with the Interior Ministry, a spokesperson assured The Bugle that they would be treating all applications “sympathetically”.
“We know Emmanuel Macron has said that the British community are welcome to stay here and this is the feeling I get too talking to French ministers and officials,” the British Ambassador to France Ed Llewellyn said ahead of the website launch. “The contribution of British people to France and to their local communities is recognised and valued and French officials are really trying to be helpful to us on the residency system.”
Launching the website, officials confirmed that British nationals who are resident in France before 31st December this year will have until 30th June 2021 to submit their applications, at which point the system will close. Due to the delays in launching the portal, it will not now be compulsory to be in possession of a valid residency permit until 1st October 2021. This delay is to give the local prefectures enough time to process the applications.
The majority of expats will face the simplest application which applies those who have been living in France for more than 5 years. “According to our estimates, three quarters of British residents have been here for more than five years; it will be a very simple process and they will need to supply as few documents as possible,” an official from the Interior Ministry explained to The Bugle. “Unfortunately we can not invent fingerprints, so one trip to the prefecture will be necessary. But while permits usually need to be collected in person, in this instance we will be posting out the final residency permit to your home address.”
Speaking on the morning of the launch, the official confirmed that 121 applications had already been processed in the first hour since the site went live, with 97% positive feedback and no technical glitches.
Applications must be done individually – you can not submit one as a family – and under-18s do not need to apply.
If you already have a 10-year “carte de séjour – séjour permanent”, then you still need to apply via the site, but this will be converted to the new residency permit. If you have already applied under the No-Deal website that was briefly open last year, then there is nothing you need to do at this time and your application will automatically be processed.
More Than Five Years
Expats who have been living in France for more than five years are already considered permanent residents and will be issued with a 10-year residency permit. You will need to fill in the online application and provide some supporting documentation including proof of ID (i.e. a passport), proof of when you moved to France and proof that you currently reside in France; this can include property deeds, a rental contract, a utility bill or a home insurance contract and there is no requirement to prove continued residence. The system is based on trust and you simply need to provide a document from when you arrived and a recent one.
Fewer Than Five Years
For those who have recently arrived, or who have lived in France for fewer than five years, the process involves a few more steps and will result in your being issued with a five-year residency permit. This can be renewed as a 10-year permit if you continue to live in France.
You must first select what category you are applying under: employed or self-employed, student, job-seeker, economically inactive (including pensioners), the family member of someone who meets the above conditions or the spouse, registered partner or concubin (i.e. live-in partner) of a French person.
People married to a French person automatically qualify for a 10-year permit, while those in a civil partnership or living together get a 5-year card.
If you are employed, you will need to provide an employment contract and if you are self-employed you will need to provide a business registration document. Self-employed people with a valid business do not need to provide further proof of income.
Students and job-seekers will be asked to provide proof of their status such as an employment contract, details of registration with the Pôle emploi (unemployment office) or details of a study course.
If you do not work or are retired, you must prove that you have sufficient resources not to be a burden on the French State at the time you make the application. This level is set as the RSA, or minimum income level, and is currently €564.78 per month for a single person or €847 for a couple without children. This is another area where the government has implied it will be lenient and the Interior Ministry official said that prefectures will be asked to interpret the means test rules in a “generous” way. If you own your own home, for example, this will be taken into account if your income falls below this level, as will any savings and investments. It is important to use the “extra information” box at the end of the application to explain your situation if necessary (note that it is best to do this in French).
Those who do not work or are retired must also provide proof of healthcare cover. This can include a certificate of private insurance, or an attestation de droits which can be downloaded from your Amelie account – your carte vitale alone is not sufficient. You must have lived in France for three months before you can apply to join the French healthcare system, so anyone who has very recently arrived will need to either take out comprehensive medical insurance before applying, or wait until they have been living here for three months and can supply proof of their application with the Cpam along with their residency card application.
When beginning your application, which is available in both English and French, you will be given a “code de suivi”. This will allow you to return to your application at a later date without having to re-enter any information (you have 20 days to complete it). You will also be asked if this is your “First request” or a “Complement”. If you are using this application website for the first time, choose “First request”. The “Complement” option is to be used if authorities request additional information following an initial application.
The remainder of the process is relatively straightforward and depends on your particular situation. If you are using the English version of the site, be aware that some of the translations are potentially confusing. After entering your Birth Name, you are asked for your “Username if different” – this is your married name where applicable. In the home address section numéro de voie (road/street name) has been translated as “channel number” and lieu-dit (a small hamlet) is translated as “locality”.
Once complete, you should receive an attestation d’enregistrement by email within a few minutes. This is a very important document as it acts as proof that you are a resident and have applied for the card. It can be used for all official purposes such as at the border, for employers and for social benefits until you get your card. It is not known how long the permits will take to process and this attestation must be used in the interim.
In due course, you will be contacted by your local prefecture and asked to make an appointment to provide fingerprints and a passport photo. Your card will then be sent to your home address by recorded delivery.
In general terms, the application process is as easy as can be expected and it is essential that all British residents in France complete their applications in the next few months to guarantee their status and rights. It will almost certainly be much harder to successfully apply after July 1st next year, or as a third-party national for those arriving after 1st January. ■