Buying a home in France after Brexit
We don’t yet know exactly how Brexit will affect British people wishing to move to France, but this guide and regular updates run through possible scenarios and include the latest news.
The After Brexit Guide will help you plot your way through a possible post-Brexit scenario, to ensure you can fulfil that dream of a wonderful lifestyle combining the best of our two cultures. The guide will help you to answer:
✔ How does a non-EU person access state healthcare?
✔ Will I be able to buy residential property in France?
✔ Could I take French citizenship?
And many more important questions.
Download your free After Brexit guide
Your Brexit FAQs
Can British people buy property in France after Brexit?
British people will still be allowed to buy a house in France after Brexit. Buying a home doesn’t come under the EU’s ‘four freedoms’, and anyone has the right to purchase. If there’s no deal, you will still need to do a bit more legwork by getting a visa to move there, but it’s no more than what thousands of Canadians, Aussies and so on do every year. A visa won’t be a hassle – you can see the number of options available to you in our visa page.
How do I buy property in France after Brexit?
Simply follow the same buying process that you would follow now – start your hunt on our property portal, speak to estate agents, arrange a viewing trip, chat to a currency exchange to sort out how to transfer to euros and you’re good to go. You should start your visa planning at the same time as you start looking for your home, but you won’t need to apply definitively until later – you need it to enter the country, not to buy the home.
What will healthcare be like for expats in France after Brexit?
If a deal akin to the Withdrawal Agreement goes through, then you’ll have an implementation period where you can continue with the same rights as before. Afterwards, it’s likely that you’ll need comprehensive insurance for French healthcare.
Can I buy a holiday home in France after Brexit?
Any British overseas buyer will be able to purchase a holiday home following Brexit. Just go through the usual buying process and then, when you want to visit your home, get a temporary entry visa. They’re usually valid for up to three months.
Can British people work in France after Brexit?
You’ll likely need to get a work visa from the French embassy, which can necessitate having a job offer in advance. Generally, this shouldn’t be an issue and will be even easier than in the US or Australia. That’s because proving you are more qualified than a local for a particular job is easy when you’re likely applying for one that requires English and you’re a native speaker!
Can I use my UK driving licence in France after Brexit?
From 29th March onwards, anyone with a UK driving licence in the EU will need extra documentation, but the exact terms of that will depend on the terms of the deal. Whether there’s a deal or not, the French government currently states that you won’t need a international driving permit if you have a translation of your UK driving licence if you’re in France for short periods. If you’re setting up home in France, they expect that you will be able to drive on your UK licence for one year, as long as you exchange it for a French one during that time. If there is a deal akin to Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, then you will be able to drive as now with your UK licence during the transition period.
For anyone currently living in France, the British government is urging them to transfer their UK licence to a French one before 29th March, to avoid having to go through a potential test. Even if there is no deal, it’s unlikely there won’t be an agreement on driving, but if there isn’t, drivers will potentially have to go through another test to get a French driving licence.
Currently, the process for exchanging your licence in France requires the following:
- Fill in the Demande de permis de conduire par échange
- Fill in the Demande de permis de conduire – Format de l’Union européenne
- Double-sided colour photo of your licence
- Copy of proof of ID
- Copy of proof of address
- Three photos with your name, address and date of birth on the back
- Double-sided photocopy of your proof of residency in France
- One pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelope
You then send the details to CERT EPE, TSA 63527, 44035 NANTES CEDEX 01 FRANCE if you live outside Paris. If you live in Paris, send it to Préfecture de Police de Paris, DPG / SDCLP, Centre de ressources des échanges de permis de conduire étrangers et des permis internationaux de conduite (Crepic), 1 bis rue de Lutèce, 75 195 PARIS Cedex 04 FRANCE.
News update 3 December 2019:
What could a Conservative victory mean for your post-Brexit move?
Current polling suggests that the Conservatives will be returned next week with a commanding majority in parliament. What will that mean for those who are unable to gain residency in the EU before the end of the transition period?
The Conservative party plans a tightening up of the rules on EU immigration if it wins the election next week. It is widely expected that this would be reciprocated by European Union countries for British people moving to the EU.
It is widely expected that this would be reciprocated by European Union countries for British people moving to the EU
There are five main planks to their immigration plans, and either could affect buyers in France if reciprocated.
1. No difference between EU and rest of the world
The manifesto says: “We will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. Regardless of whether they are from Europe or another part of the world, we welcome people who meet our criteria.” Anyone hoping, therefore, that some sort of special arrangement might operate between those countries where Brits and local people traditionally move, such as between France and the UK, may be disappointed.
2. US-style ESTAs for travel to/from the EU
As outlined by Home Secretary Priti Patel this week, rather than being allowed to travel to the UK on a national identity card as at present, EU citizens will need (a) a biometric passport and (b) to have pre-approval. She said: “In future, EU citizens will require an Electronic Travel Authorisation prior to travel, much like the US ESTA system.”
The ESTA for the USA requires visitors to the USA to apply at least three days before their travel and to pay $14 for a card that lasts five years. Every person needs one, including children. Failure to do so means they get turned away at the border (or refused boarding to their flight). The USA isn’t alone in this. Canada has a similar system called the eTA, which costs C$7, while New Zealand’s version, the NZETA costs NZ$9.
All the above systems are easy to apply for within minutes online and though you do pay initially they last for several years.
They also plan to “count in and count out” EU citizens to ensure they can be identified if they overstay the three-month travel limits likely to be imposed.
3. A points-based immigration system
The Conservative manifesto says: “We will create bespoke visa schemes for new migrants who will fill shortages in our public services, build the companies and innovations of the future and benefit Britain for years to come.” The basis of an application will be an Australian-style points-based immigration system.
This is where you score points for how desirable the government sees you as an immigrant. In particular, they give priority to people who speak good English and have good qualifications. Will Spain impose a similar system on British retirees?
4. Legal restrictions?
The Home Secretary said that the plans were intended to prevent terrorists and other dangerous criminals from entering the UK. However, could the UK, like the US, implement far more draconian restrictions? After all, the US immigration officials advise that people “who have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, have a criminal record, certain serious communicable illness, have been refused admission into, or have been deported from, the United States, or have previously overstayed under the terms of the Visa Waiver Program…” will be prevented from automatic entry.
If similar rules are introduced to the UK, and reciprocated by the EU, could it a youthful indiscretion 40 years ago prevents you retiring to the EU?
5. Access to healthcare and benefits
The manifesto says that people coming into the country from the EU will only be able to access unemployment, housing, and child benefit after five years. This is the same as for people moving here from non-European Union countries. Bear in mind that under Theresa May the health secretary was suggesting that a continuation of the EHIC system would be possible. So this is quite the departure.
The good news: The good news is that many thousands of non-EU nationals live in France, with a variety of visa options.
Update: 16 November 2018
Deal or no deal: what does each mean for your property in France?
After Brexit, either with a deal or no deal, the British will be “third-country” nationals when viewed from France. But we won’t be the only ones. The France Property Guide has readers from Sydney to San Francisco, the UAE to Brazil, but it is only from the UK, lately, that readers have been worrying about healthcare, visas and buying property.
Why the worry? France Property Guides has delved deep into the likely Brexit scenarios – soft Brexit, hard Brexit or no deal – and we are confident that there are no realistic circumstances whereby British people need to abandon their dream.
British people will have (a) no problem buying property in France and (b) little extra difficulty or expense living there. Even with no deal. Here is how we reached those conclusions:
Property ownership is not one of the EU’s four freedoms and so your right to buy property in France will not affected.
Ownership of property is not one of the EU’s four freedoms (goods, capital, work and services) and so your right to buy property in France will not be affected. That applies in whatever form Brexit happens, even with no deal.
A Brexit deal should mean we can rule out worries over healthcare. The current plan, as outlined by the UK Health Secretary, is for the UK to continue the EHIC system and cover the cost of reciprocal healthcare in EU countries. This will cover British retirees and “those with chronic conditions, disabilities or other long-term conditions that require ongoing medical attention.”
A Brexit deal should mean we can rule out worries over healthcare.
In the event of no deal you may need health insurance until a new EHIC system can be worked out.
- If you’re NOT living in France full time, normal travel insurance should suffice.
- Those working in France will pay into the French social security system and will be covered.
- If you are on a long-term visa you may need comprehensive insurance. There is already a wide variety of options available for as little as €300 per month.
British people will automatically become ‘Third Country’ nationals in France. The good news is that European leaders have stated categorically that even with no deal people from the UK will not require a visa for visits of 90 days or fewer in every 180. So you can travel backwards and forwards as many times as you like.
If you stay for longer than that, you may need a visa.
Working: The British government says that EU citizens moving to work in the UK after the transition period will need a work visa. We can assume that would be reciprocated by France. If you need a work visa you will be just like the hundreds of thousands of non-EU people successfully working in the UK. If you want to, it is perfectly possible to learn French, get your UK qualifications recognised, and work in France. Why not give it a try?
Other options include investor visas, company transfers and the European Blue Card. There is also the Irish passport option. Over 10% of the British population qualifies for one, and the processes to apply are simple and inexpensive.
Retiring: Nothing has yet been announced about the “economically inactive” moving countries. A visa waiver system may be implemented as they won’t be taking jobs from local people. You may have to prove sufficient income to avoid being a burden on the state. In France it’s an income of €10,000 for one or €15,000 per couple.
Third country nationals need a visa if staying for more than 90 days in any 180. So you will be able to live in France for half the year.
Of course there may be paperwork involved – but France has a modern and well-run bureaucracy and we are confident that the processes will be simple and transparent, as they are for American and Australia buyers today. In short, even with no deal, there are many ways to get a visa for France, most of them are quite painless.
Your questions answered
“I’m buying a holiday home”
No problem. Nothing should change.
“I’m buying investment property”
Buy away, there will be no restriction.
You may need a visa, but we expect it to be a simple system or visa waiver.
“I’m just visiting my home!”
You will have no problem at all traveling to France. Other Third Country nationals such as Americans, Australians etc. don’t need a tourist visa for France, and we have had no reports of them being held up unduly at customs
Not only are the potential problems with Brexit likely to have been seriously overblown, but there will be benefits too.
- The worries of so many British people about Brexit – we believe unfounded – have held back demand for French property. This is a great time to buy for those willing to fill in a couple of extra forms!
- Similarly, the evidence is that some Brits in France are returning to the UK, gaining from the weakness of the pound compared to pre-Referendum levels. This is a real opportunity to make an offer on under-priced property.
If you are ready to move to France, contact the France Resource Centre on 020 7898 0549 or email France@propertyguides.com.
Update: 24 September 2018, “No deal” advice through from government on pet travel and car insurance.
The UK government’s provided information on what we can expect in the case of a “no deal” Brexit for pet transport and car insurance.
UK nationals would need proof of third-party car insurance
If we leave the European Union without a deal, the UK will no longer be part of the ‘Green Card-free circulation area’. This means motorists will need to carry a Green Card to show proof of having car insurance. Normally, you should be able to request one from your insurance provider for free.
Motorists should expect documentation checks to take place upon entry to the Green Card-free area.
This is subject to agreements being reached between the UK Motor Insurers’ Bureau and those of other relevant countries.
“No deal” means live animals will require an EHC
Unless other rules are negotiated, anyone bringing a live animal from the UK – which will be outside the EU – into the EU will have to have an Export Health Certificate, signed by a vet or other authorising authority. They will have to go through an inspection process by Border Inspection Post and, after the inspection, the EHC would need to be signed by an ‘Official Veterinarian’.
For animals to be allowed to be exported to the EU, the UK would need to achieve ‘third-country’ status. If not, all exports would cease. However, other countries such as Australia have this status, so it seems likely.
Update: September 2018, Government offers “no deal” advice on passports, driving and roaming charges.
The UK government has announced what we can expect when travelling, driving and using mobiles in the EU after Brexit if the UK and EU don’t agree to a deal.
UK nationals may need at least three months’ validity on passports
UK citizens after Brexit will be considered as third-country nationals, ie as non-EU citizens. UK nationals entering a Schengen country (any EU country apart from Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia) will need to check their passports meet these conditions:
- Have an issue date no more than ten years before the date of entering a Schengen country
- Have at least three months before the passport expires
Third-country nationals can stay in a Schengen country for three months. As such, the government advises that the second requirement may in fact be for six months, to cover those three months within the Schengen area.
Roaming charges will fall to commercial decision-makers
If the UK exits the EU without a deal, it’ll be outside of the ‘Roam like at home’ rules. These allow EU citizens to use their data in any other EU country the same as in their home country.
UK operators will no longer be under the EU regulations if there’s no deal. This means they’ll be free to set their own surcharges – so it’ll come down to a commercial decision. However, Vodafone, EE, 3 and O2 have all confirmed they don’t have any intention to increase surcharges. Other operators have yet to commit.
UK licences may no longer be valid in the EU
The UK government has confirmed that UK driving licences may no longer be valid in the EU, if there is no deal agreed. In this case, the rules would default to International Driving Permits (IDP). The same as when UK citizens drive outside the EU, they’d have to apply for one of these before being able to drive.
There are two types of IDP.
The 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic governs the first type. After the UK exits the EU, they would be valid in Ireland, Malta, Spain and Cyprus. They last for 12 months.
The second type is governed by the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. The IDPs from this convention are valid for three years in all EU countries apart from those listed above. It’d also be valid in Norway and Switzerland.
Currently, the first type is available from the Post Office or directly from private companies. By the time the UK leaves the EU, both will be taken over by the UK government and available from the Post Office. When UK nationals travel to the EU, they’ll need their UK driving licence and IDP.
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How can the France Property Guide help you?
The France Property Guide is designed to support you through every stage of the French property buying process. From how to get started, to finding an estate agent, to covering all the important legal and financial considerations, our experts are here to share valuable advice and to help you every step of the way.
We have created the France Property Guide to help highlight the many pitfalls of buying in France after Brexit and to ensure that our readers can buy their dream home in France safely, without wasting time and money like many would-be homebuyers before them.
Over the last ten years, we have built up a network of trusted experts to provide independent, factual guidance on all aspects of buying property in and moving to France. Our France Property Guide country specialist, Yasmin Smith, has been talking to home-buyers in France and helping them to buy their property in France safely for a number of years. She is at the other end of the telephone at our Resource Centre to answer any questions and support our readers throughout the property buying process.
Our experts are trusted by well-known media such as Rightmove Overseas and the Radio Times to provide information and guidance about buying overseas property. They are regularly quoted in the media on the issues that really matter to people buying property and starting a new life overseas.