Retaining your EU rights before Brexit
UPDATE: 19th March 2018. Transition deal agreed.
The British and EU negotiating teams announced on 19th March 2018 that the UK’s transition period with the EU post-Brexit will continue to 31st December 2020. This extends by 21 months the period during which UK citizens can move to France and claim the same rights as before Brexit (see below). When you have become legally resident, which is a simple procedure (see below), you will retain your right to reside, work, study or open a business in France. You will also retain your rights to subsidised healthcare and a state pension.
The deal announced by the UK’s lead negotiator David Davis and the EU’s Michel Barnier means you should have longer than you first thought to move to France and receive the same EU rights as British expats who relocated pre-Brexit. We say “should” because as Mr Barnier said: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
The deal could still unravel, but this seems unlikely, and you can plan your new life in France with confidence. After the official Brexit day on 29th March 2019, the UK will enter an ‘implementation phase’. This will last until 31st December 2020.
As well as helping businesses to plan, the transition phase will help UK citizens in France to sort out their affairs, apply for residency and find somewhere to live, all without the panic that the March 2019 deadline had been creating for many of our readers. It will be of immense help both to those already in the final throes of moving to France, and those still in the planning stage.
It is especially good news for British people retiring in France, or with more complex and expensive health needs. The right to transfer your state healthcare benefits and receive an annual uprating in your UK pension is guaranteed at least until the end of 2020. That means that retirees will receive the “triple lock”, a pension that rises in line with inflation, average earnings or 2.5%, whichever is greater.
UPDATE: 1st February 2018. Transition deal won’t include right to move
The Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to allow the transition period to include the right to free movement of EU citizens to the UK. If reciprocated, it means that you have until 29th March 2019 to move to France.
Many people thinking of moving to France will be worried that they will face restrictions after Britain leaves the EU. In our most recent survey four out of every ten of our readers were worried by Brexit.
The news in December 2017 that an initial agreement had been reached not only sent the pound shooting up in value, but was a very welcome Christmas present to the British people hoping for a long, affordable and relaxed life in France. It spelled out the rights of people moving to France until March 2019: “There will be no change to the rights and status of UK nationals living in the EU while the UK remains in the EU.”
It was also assumed that this would be extended until December 2020 as part of the “status quo” transition period. However this week Theresa May said, “I’m clear there is a difference between those who came prior to us leaving and those who will come when they know the UK is leaving.”
This has caused immediate outrage. Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said: “Citizens’ rights during the transition is not negotiable. We will not accept that there are two sets of rights for EU citizens. For the transition to work, it must mean a continuation of the existing freedom with no exceptions.”
However, for British people wanting to move to France, the message is clear that only by living in France before 29th March 2019, when the UK leaves the European Union, will your right to live in France be guaranteed.
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We spoke to Fabienne Atkin, Associate Solicitor with Heslop & Platt: “the notion of ‘lawful residence’ will still have to be defined or refined further down the line so I would tread with caution. However, according to rules laid out by the European Union, from a fiscal point of view, you are automatically considered French tax resident if your main home is in France. You would also be considered resident if you spend 183 days in France in any calendar year, or if your principal occupation is in France, or if France is the country of your most substantial assets.”
The December agreement also laid out general agreements on the procedures for proving residency for those living in France before March 2019: “EU27 Member States may require UK nationals and their family members covered by the agreement to apply to obtain a status conferring the right of residence and/or obtain a residency document. Administrative procedures for applications for status will be transparent, smooth and streamlined. Where an application is required to obtain status, UK nationals will have at least two years to submit their applications. Residence documents will be issued free of charge or for a charge not exceeding that imposed on nationals for the issuing of similar documents. Further information on these administrative procedures will be provided when available.”
Fabienne therefore concludes: “It seems to me that if you have already settled in France before March 2019, British citizens should indeed retain their rights but France may still require them to apply for a special status (in which case the procedure should be streamlined).”
So while at present UK nationals do not have to register in France, while non-EU citizens do, it would be sensible to obtain a residence permit, carte de sejour, not least because it then gives you access to many state services. You apply at your local préfecture de police or through your local town hall office (mairie).
The required documents include your passport, birth certificate, proof of residence and proof of income. Employees could provide a certificate of employment and latest payment slips, while the self-employed people must provide proof too. Retired and unemployed people prove that they have enough money to live in France. To prove you won’t be a burden on the French health services, retired people can provide an S1 certificate from the NHS, working people and the self-employed will need to be paying into French social security, and if you’re not working but not retired either you will need to show that you have medical insurance.
The process should not take more than a few weeks.
Family purchase could open the door
The right to bring family to France is extended to dependent children and grandchildren of the legal resident. This opens up another angle for British people who wish to retain their EU rights but are not in a position to move to France yet.
Although only one person needs to become legally resident in France for the whole family to benefit, the cost of buying the home can be spread among many. Read our brand new guide, Buying Abroad with Family to see how to organise the legal and financial aspects.
Already convinced? If you’re ready to buy a home in France, Property Guides will be at Your Overseas Home, where those serious about buying can get answers to detailed questions from trusted lawyers, agents and currency providers. Click here to apply for FREE tickets to shows throughout 2018.
If you cannot buy before March 2019
For those who cannot establish legal residency in France before Britain leaves the EU, whether that includes the transition period or not, the “worst case scenario” remains as outlined in our guide “How to Live in France After Brexit”. Very roughly, these are rules that apply to Americans. Australians etc. It seems highly likely that a bespoke visa system would apply to the British who are, after all, just 20 miles away and arrive in France by the millions every year, but if not these are the rules that could apply:
• Non-EU passport holders can stay in France for up to 90 days without getting a visa. This can be spread over as many visits as you like, allowing for at least 12 weeks in the country spread throughout the year.
• The “long stay visitor visa” allows you to stay for up to 12 months, without the need to obtain a residence permit. You must prove that you have enough money or income to support yourself without working.
• There is no restriction on you buying a home in France and there are no limits on where.
• Non EU buyers are generally able to get the same deal on mortgages as EU citizens.
• If you wish to rent out your home you will need local authority permission and you will have to declare any rental income in France.
• There are many types of work visa, including the passeport-talent or the European Blue Card.
• You can request French citizenship after five years of living in France and if you can pass a French language test. Students can apply after two years.
• Retired people could also go for the carte de séjour retraité option but this requires you to prove you will be getting a retirement income while also maintaining your normal (habitual) residence outside France.