With the possibility of a no-deal Brexit seemingly ever more likely, British nationals in France are growing increasingly anxious about what they need to do as the clock ticks down. Kalba Meadows from the campaign group Remain in France Together explains the key issues to take care of.
These are anxious times for British people living in France as the threat of no Brexit deal seems to come ever closer. Our group – Remain in France Together – is working alongside the coalition British in Europe and The 3 Million, which represents EU citizens in the UK, to campaign for the citizens’ rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement to be honoured and passed into international law even if the rest of the deal fails – you can read about our ‘Last Mile’ campaign by CLICKING HERE.
Obviously all hope that sanity prevails, but it’s a good idea to make some personal preparations for a no-deal scenario. In this article we look at 5 ‘official’ areas that would benefit from a bit of advance TLC; next week, in Part 2 we look at some other, more personal issues.
1. Make sure that you’re legally resident in France under current rules.
That means you should:
Make sure that you’ve submitted tax returns in France if you’ve been here long enough to do so (even if all your income comes from the UK)
Make sure that you’re in the French health system and that you have an attestation of your rights even if you don’t yet have a Carte Vitale. Download a new attestation from your health provider’s (AMELI, RAM etc) website in February or early March 2019, just in case
Apply for a Carte de Séjour under current rules. This will evidence the date of your arrival in France and give you proof that you were legally resident on 29 March 2019. This may be like gold dust in the case of a no deal exit, and if there is a Withdrawal Agreement it could help you benefit from a streamlined process to receive a new card if necessary under post-Brexit rules
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2. Create, and keep up to date, a dossier as if you’re applying for a carte de séjour. In particular:
Collate all your Avis d’Imposition since you arrived in France. You may need them to prove the length of your residence. You can download them and print them out from within your account at impots.gouv.fr. Alternatively request a ‘bordereau de situation fiscale’ from your tax office for each year of your residence. You can do this online, in your account at impots.gouv.fr, by following these instructions.
Put together a file of utility bills for at least 10 years if you can. This will prove your continued residence.
If your name is not on the taxe foncière or taxe d’habitation bills for your household, or on any utility bills, get it added now.
For women in particular: make sure that the name on bills, bank statements, pension statements, payslips etc matches the name on your passport if possible.
Put together a file of bank statements, wage slips and/or pension statements for the last 5 years if you’ve lived here that long. Longer is even better – 10 years is best. You may need these to prove the stability and sufficiency of your resources.
3. Check your passport
You’ll need to comply with different rules to enter and travel around the Schengen area. There are two important issues that may affect your right to travel or to live here legally after exit, so it’s really important to start thinking about this now.
Firstly, Schengen Border Code rules mean that existing passports which were renewed early and therefore have over 10 years validity will no longer be valid right up to the expiry date written on the passport, but will be limited to the 10 years immediately after their issue date. For example, if your passport was renewed (under the old rules) 6 months before its expiry date, it would show a valid period of 10 years and 6 months. After March 29th 2019, you will effectively ‘lose’ the last 6 months validity, as third country nationals’ passports must have been issued within the last 10 years. Note: this may affect you even if you don’t travel – in order to remain a legal resident in France you need to make sure that the issue date on your passport is later than March 29th 2009.
Secondly, your passport must have at least 6 months’ validity on arrival, after discounting the period above.
There are more details on all of this in the UK government guidance here. It’s a good idea to read it now.
We don’t yet know what rights, if any, we will have to cross the border to or from any EU27 country if there is no deal, but dealing with these two issues now is a sensible precaution.
4. Check your driving licence
If you’re still using a UK driving licence, apply for a French licence now. On March 30th 2019 the EU rules under which UK licences are recognised in the EU27 will lapse if there is no deal. At present a UK licence can usually be exchanged for a French one without too much difficulty, although a driving test may be needed if there is no deal and you wish to exchange after 29 March 2019. The UK has confirmed that EU licences will still be valid in the UK after 29 March 2019, but you will need an International Driving Permit to drive in the EU27 on a UK licence.
Bone up on this in more detail via our special Driving Licence Factsheet.
5. Get your professional qualifications recognised now.
The European Commission has said that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, Brexit does not affect decisions made pre-Brexit by EU27 countries recognising UK qualifications under the general EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC). For details of which qualifications are covered CLICK HERE. So if you have a UK qualification covered by that Directive and you need to be able to use it, apply to get it recognised before 30 March 2019.
Don’t forget to look out for Part 2 of this article next week. If you can’t wait until then, check out this page on the Remain in France Together website: https://www.remaininfrance.org/no-deal-checklist.html .
Kalba Meadows is citizens’ rights coordinator of the group Remain in France Together, and a member of the steering committee of British in Europe.