British citizens’ rights group lodges EU complaint over French residency system

The citizens' rights group RIFT has lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission over outstanding issues with residency rights for Brits in France.

British citizens' rights group lodges EU complaint over French residency system
The citizens' rights group RIFT has lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission over outstanding issues with residency rights for Brits in France.Photo: AFP

Brits who were living in France before December 31st 2020 – and are therefore covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – face a major deadline on January 1st 2022.

From then, they will be legally obliged to hold a carte de séjour residency card, and those without it can be denied employment, housing, benefits and healthcare and can be deported from France.

French authorities have issued more than 150,000 of the special post-Brexit residency cards, but with just days to go until the deadline, citizens’ rights group Remain in France Together (RIFT) says that many people are still waiting for their card.

READ ALSO What changes for Brits in France in 2022

The group, together with EU Rights Clinic, has now lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission, accusing French authorities of failing to comply with the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Agreement states that UK nationals who lived in the EU (and EU nationals in the UK) before the end of the Brexit transition period have the right to remain there, although countries are entitled to ask them to register for a new residency card or permit.

RIFT said that they had found the following issues raised by UK nationals in France, and had been unable to obtain answers from French authorities on the subject:

  • Not receiving a Withdrawal Agreement Residency Permit after an appointment (long delays)

  • Some Withdrawal Agreement beneficiaries have not yet been offered an appointment.

  • Ongoing unresolved questions with applications being “examined” (instruites) with no clear reason why and no consideration of the length of time in France or family finances.

  • Applications “classé sans suite” (closed/discontinued without being processed) or “classé sans avis favorable” with no appeals process indicated.

  • Lack of help with applications from the préfecture even for the vulnerable.

  • Children experiencing travel issues and parents being charged for DCEMs, old-style documents without the same biometrics as a WARP and therefore not offering children the level of protection from exploitation they could enjoy with a WARP.

  • No working system to change address or have a lost/stolen card replaced

  • Unreasonable requests for extra information

  • No adequate system for reunifying family with some being told to return to the UK to apply for a visa, or other family reunification application issues.

  • Removal from the CPAM medical system and issues with CAF, or other government institutions.

  • Denied and difficult access to France.

  • Errors on WARP cards (name, address, photo, etc.) along with incorrect rights shown (not permanent).

  • Wrong cards issued – such as a carte de frontalier, rather than a residence permit.

A RIFT spokesman said: “The EU Rights Clinic and RIFT have demanded that the European Commission take robust enforcement action against France to ensure it complies fully with its binding legal obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. A petition will also be lodged in parallel before the European Parliament.”

French authorities have issued several extensions to the deadlines for Brits to have made their applications for a carte de séjour, and also extended the deadline to be in possession of the card until January 1st 2022.

The most recent official data comes from September – shortly before the deadline for applications to be received – and showed that of the 162,000 applications received by French authorities, 151,300 applications had been concluded by September 6th – leaving more than 10,000 people still waiting.

Applications were made centrally on a specially-created online portal, and then passed to local préfectures for processing. Readers of The Local have reported big variations in waiting time between areas.

Find more on the admin for Brits in France in our Dealing with Brexit section.

Member comments

  1. Its a shame they have not included excessive delays trying to exchange British Driving Licences for French ones, and even Ants not following their own well published rules when rejecting applications.

  2. Richard: I have to say that the process was for us remarkably simple and efficient even our brief appointment at the prefecture was on time and our cards issued swiftly.

  3. I guess it’s unsurprising that the process is a lot more efficient in some places than in others. For what it’s worth, my experience in Paris was excellent. I received a carte de sejour with ease. Simple online application procedure (surprisingly little information requested) and a brief interview at the prefecture de police. Card arrived earlier than indicated. Perhaps the key factor was that I applied early. If there has been a rush of last minute applications it might not be a surprise that the process has slowed.

    1. Same here in the Aveyron … delightful people saw us through this at the Rodez préfècture wishing us well and sympathies about Brexit.

  4. I’m one of those still waiting, since attending a rendezvous in Montpellier prefecture back in May. Subsequent enquiries made by email to the ministry and the prefecture in November and December have elicited nothing but automated responses, none of them at all informative.

  5. early appointments were done very quickly – I helped people who were having problems understanding computer applications and I must say after Mid February applications made after that time slowed considerably for getting final appointments with the prefectures – it was mainly due to the numbers of people that the prefectures could handle and Covid restrictions which of course also restricted numbers able to pass through the actual buildings used. Another point I noticed was the computer systems now being used seemed to be leaving some staff behind as new practices were learned on the job which I’m sure slowed the process. All my people were finished by October but the response from prefectures when questioned was normally a standard response of please wait we will get to you ( one phone call made did get a sort of timing it was made15th Oct and we were given the information that they were working on March applications and hoping to finish them soon and start April applications)

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‘Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed’ – How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

A new in-depth survey on British nationals living in the EU has revealed the impact that Brexit has had upon their lives, and their attitudes to their country of origin.

'Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed' - How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

The study, conducted by academics at Lancaster and Birmingham universities, provides a snapshot of how Brits in the EU live – their age, family, work and education – and how they feel about the UK in the six years since the Brexit vote.

Unsurprisingly, it revealed that Brexit has had a major practical impact on the lives of Brits living in the EU – who are now subject to third-country rules and require residency cards or visas and face restrictions on voting and onward movement within the EU.

But the survey’s 1,328 respondents were also asked about their emotions towards the country of their birth.

Eighty percent of respondents said it had changed their feelings towards the UK.

A British woman living in Norway said she felt: “Deep, deep shame. Embarrassed to be British, ashamed that I didn’t try hard enough, or appreciate my EU citizenship.”

“Since Brexit I am disappointed in the UK. I am worried, and no longer feel like I have the same affinity for the country. It’s a shame because I love ‘home’ but the country feels so polarised,” added a British woman in her 30s living in Denmark.

An Austrian resident with dual British-Irish nationality said: “I feel disconnected, like it’s a completely different country from how I left it.

“So much so I feel more connected with my second nationality (Irish) despite the fact I never grew up in Ireland. It’s embarrassing what’s happened in the UK and what continues to happen. It’s like watching a house on fire from afar.”

The experience of living abroad during the pandemic also affected people’s feelings towards the UK, with 43 percent of people saying the UK’s handling of the Covid crisis affected their feelings towards the county.

A British woman in her 50s living in Spain said: “It was shambolic. Too late, too little, mixed messaging, lack of seriousness. So many deaths after what should have been a head start.”

A British man living in Greece described it simply as “a shit show”.

In addition to the Brexit effect, the survey also provided interesting and detailed data on the lives and profiles of Brits who live in the EU;

  • 69 percent had degree-level education
  • 77 percent worked in a professional or managerial role
  • 53 percent are of working age
  • 59 percent have been living in their country of residence for more than five years
  • 78 percent said it was very unlikely that they would move countries in the next five years 
  • The most common reasons for moving country were retirement (40 percent), family reasons (35 percent) and work (30 percent)

Almost all respondents said that Brexit had impacted their lives, with the loss of freedom of movement being the most common effect mentioned.

One man said: “My original plan (pre-2016) was to move to France on retirement, due in 2026. Brexit caused me to move sooner, in order to retain my European citizenship rights. The pandemic helped (indirectly) in that I got locked down in France in 2020, which enabled me to earn residence under the pre-Brexit rules. I had been talking to my employer about doing something similar before the pandemic broke.”

“I moved to France in 2020 in order to protect my right to live and work in France post-Brexit. My migration is 100 percent a result of Brexit,” said one American-British dual national.

Other respondents talked about the post-Brexit admin necessary to gain residency status in their country, financial losses due to the weakening of the pound against the euro and the loss on onward freedom of movement – meaning that Brits resident in one EU country no longer have the right to move to another.

The report also highlighted that only 60 percent of respondents had changed their legal status by security residency since Brexit.

For some Brits in the EU this is not necessary if they already have citizenship of their country of residence (or another EU country such as Ireland) but the report’s author highlighted that: “It may also offer an early indicator that within this population there are some who may find themselves without legal residence status, with consequences in the future for their right to residence, and access to healthcare, welfare and work (among other services).”

READ ALSO What to do if you have missed the Brexit deadline in France 

In total 42 percent of respondents were completely disenfranchised – the 15-year rule means they can no longer vote in the UK, while the loss of EU citizenship means that they cannot vote in European or local elections in their country of residence.

The British government has recently announced the ending of the 15-year rule, giving voting rights to all UK nationals, no matter how long they live outside the UK.