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UK Citizens living in France after Brexit?

BrexitA number of clients have asked me about the implications of living in France after Brexit and whether it is worth applying for French Permanent Residency or Citizenship.

Whilst no one can claim to know the answer to the many questions, in what is a truly unique situation, I have compiled a short summary of the different options as I see them. I hope it is of interest or help to those who maybe considering what to do.

Firstly it should be noted that it has been accepted and agreed over the last couple of days, by Prime Minister May, Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande, that the formal triggering and commencement of negotiations (implementation of the Lisbon Treaty - Article 50), will not now happen until early 2017.

Thereafter, a period of two years is officially allowed for negotiations to take place - i.e. exit in 2019.

However some people are already predicting that they may take longer.

As I see the situation there are three options:

    • Apply for French Permanent Residency

    • Apply for French Citizenship

    • Take no action

I will try and briefly list what I see are the requirements and ramifications of each.

Applying for French Permanent Residency.

French Permanent ResidencyYou can apply for French Permanent Residency if you have lived in France for 5 years. There are some exceptions (mainly based around parenthood, marriage and if you happen to have been educated in France) - but for the vast majority, 5 years validated residency is required.

As is normal in France, you will be asked to provide copies of all birth and marriage certificates and passports along with details and proof of income etc.

There is no requirement to take a Language or French Culture test.

If granted, a Permanent Residency lasts 10 years. It does not allow you to vote but does allow you access to all the services of the French State. However you do retain your UK (or other) passport and UK citizenship is unaffected.

After 10 years your Permanent Residency theoretically expires, but who knows what the situation will be then?

Applications for French Permanent Residency must be made via your local Prefecture and no doubt requirements will slightly vary Department by Department.

 

Applying for French Citizenship.

French CitizenshipAgain there is a requirement to have lived in France for 5 years (with a few exceptions that will not apply to most people).

There will also be the requirement to provide copies of birth and marriage documents along with proof of income and police checks.

Citizenship confers all the normal personal rights such as French State services and voting rights and is permanent.

Depending on the Prefecture you will be required to either prove (by Certification) your French Language ability or sit an assessment examination. I am aware that in, some cases the assessment maybe required even if you hold a Certificate.

You will also be assessed on your knowledge of French Culture.

This can take several months and your file will have to be approved not only by the prefecture but also the local police and Marie.

At present, obtaining French citizenship allows a person dual nationality so UK citizenship/nationality is retained.


Taking No Action.

To some, 'taking no action' is a course of action in itself.

Today (22.07.2016), it is reported in the UK press that President Hollande has confirmed that British people living in France will continue to be welcomed after Brexit.

Prime Minister Mrs. May has said also she can see no reason not to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK. Her actual quote is “I expect to be able to do so, and the only situation in which that wouldn’t be possible is if British citizens’ rights in European member states were not being protected,”

In Summary.

The following are my personal thoughts.

The difference between applying for Permanent Residence or French Citizenship seems to me to come down to an individual's ability to speak French and take to cultural test (assuming all fiscal and personal verifications have been met).

The former has the disadvantage that the process will theoretically have to be repeated in 10 years with no guarantee of what will happen then.

Whilst the latter currently allows Dual Nationality there is no guarantee of that continuing. It should be noted that the Dutch already have strict rules on dual Nationality.

It is difficult to find accurate up to date figures but all statistics suggest there are at least double the number of French expats' living in the UK than vice-versa. Many therefore consider it would be a self defeating move for the French State to withdraw rights from UK expats'.

Another consideration is that because of the UK Fixed Term Parliament Act, it appears that the Prime Minister will be in post until 2020, by which time hopefully the vast majority of issues will be settled.

However the French President has to seek re-election in April/May 2017 and his current approval ratings are not good. It maybe that the French view of the situation will alter, for good or bad, over the next 9 months or so.

The final consideration and the greatest unknown must be what happens in the EU itself. Already there are signs that the initial petulant responses to the UK referendum are softening and that reason is prevailing. Hopefully that will continue, but I think it is the biggest unknown.

In Conclusion.

Following requests from a number of clients , I have tried to state as the options, as I see them, for British Expats' in the wake of the Brexit vote

Obviously the question is complex, with no clear and certain outcome whatever action is taken. A lot depends on personal circumstances and inclinations in the individual concerned.

There are a number of websites that give full details of application requirements for Permanent Residency and Citizenship. If anyone does wish to apply for formal status in France and requires my help with the administration, I am happy to help on an individual basis.

 

Contact me.


 

   
     
   
 
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