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Brexit: How Brits in France can secure residency rights for their children

British adults who were living in France before the end of 2020 should all now have residency cards, but for families the situation is slightly different - here's how to secure legal residency status for your children.

Brexit: How Brits in France can secure residency rights for their children
Photo by Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP

We’re talking about a very specific group of people here – British families who moved to France before December 31st 2020, and whose children were under 18 on that date. 

British families who want to move to France in the future will need a visa, and children can be included on parental visas – click here for more detail.

British adults who were living in France before the end of the Brexit transition period had until the end of 2021 to get themselves the special post-Brexit carte de séjour (residency card) and all Brits (with the exception of dual nationals who have citizenship of an EU country) should now be in possession of the card.

However, their children are in a slightly different position; legally they are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement in the same way as their parents, but the carte de séjour is only available to over 18s. 

Before turning 18 

Under 18s take their parents’ residency status, so as long as a parent or legal guardian has a residency card then their kids have the right to live in France and go to school here.

A residency permit is not required to either live in France, or to travel in and out of it for children.

However some parents have opted to get the special travel document known as the DCEM for their children, especially if the children are travelling without their parents.

“A foreign minor residing in France is not obliged to hold a residence permit. However, to facilitate their travel outside France, they can obtain a Document de Circulation pour étranger Mineur (DCEM),” reads the French government website.

This isn’t a Brexit-specific thing, it’s always been available for any non-EU children living in France with their parents. It’s not compulsory, but it just avoids any lengthy explanations are the border by providing clear proof that the child’s parents are legal residents in France.

Find out how to apply HERE.

When they turn 18 

Once the children turn 18 they will need to get their own carte de séjour in order to be legal residents in France.

The terms are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement in exactly the same way as their parents, but the process to get the card is slightly different.

When parents applied there was a special website set up to facilitate the post-Brexit cards, but this has now closed down. Instead, the application must be done via your local préfecture.

It’s advised to start this a couple of months before the child turns 18 and you will need to book an appointment with the préfecture’s immigration department – some préfectures have an online booking system, in other areas you will need to call or visit for an appointment – and then take along a dossier of information including your own carte de séjour and information relating to the child including a birth certificate, passport and school records to prove residency in the country.

Readers who have been through the process tell us that it has been pretty straightforward, but of course the experience can be different depending on the préfecture. 

The child will then be issued a carte de séjour in their own name, which gives them the legal right to live and work in France. 

Working in France 

Once the card has come through, the child has the legal right to work in France, but there is a bit of a grey area regarding working for children before they turn 18.

Technically the Withdrawal Agreement gives this right – and children can work in France from the age of 16 with their parents’ consent – but some employers ask for a carte de séjour and if this cannot be supplied they may be turned down for the job.

Often the more casual jobs that youngsters do won’t ask for the paperwork, but if you’re working for a national chain such as a shop or supermarket you may need paperwork. 

Once you have had the interview at the préfecture you should get a récépissé – a kind of receipt – and this can be used to provide proof of legal status for employers.


Of course, the way to avoid the hassle of residency paperwork is to become a French citizen.

If your children were born in France, you can apply for citizenship on their behalf once they turn 13 (citizenship for those born in France is not automatic unless one of the parents is French).

If they were not born in France they have to wait until they become an adult and then apply in their own right through residency, unless one of the parents is naturalised as French citizen.

Full details on citizenship for children can be found HERE.

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UK agrees post-Brexit rules to ease travel for French school trips

The UK has announced new measures that will simplify travel for French school parties - after the numbers of trips plummeted due to post-Brexit travel complications.

UK agrees post-Brexit rules to ease travel for French school trips

The bilateral deal was agreed in principle when French president Emmanuel Macron hosted UK prime minister Rishi Sunak at a summit in March, and the detailed plans were put before the UK parliament on Thursday. 

The UK has long been a popular destination for school trips from France, allowing pupils to practice their English and pre-Brexit around 10,000 trips a year were organised by French schools. School trips contributed around £100 million per year to the UK economy, according to travel companies.

However that number plummeted following the end of the Brexit transition period when new rules for travel came into effect.

“I wanted to do trips, but I gave up. It’s dead,” middle school teacher Murielle Bourré told local paper La Voix du Nord in December 2022.

The travel changes include EU citizens needing a passport to enter the UK – rather than an ID card – while any school pupils travelling from France who are not EU citizens are required to get a visa.

Around half of French people do not have a passport, since they can travel freely within the EU Bloc with the national ID card, and teachers reported major headaches when organising trips.

Several schools that have pupils who are not EU citizens put a halt to UK trips, since they were unwilling to leave behind some pupils, or require their families to undertake the visa process (which involves a £100 fee and a trip to the British Embassy in Paris). 

The new UK legislation will allow school groups to travel with ID cards only, and will exempt non-EU pupils from the visa requirement.

British Ambassador to France, Dame Menna Rawlings said: “My first-ever overseas trip was on a school exchange to France when I was 13 years old. With France, it was love at first sight, and the start of a life-long adventure of travel and exploring different languages and cultures.

“So I’m delighted that we are easing the travel of school groups to the UK in line with mutual commitments made at the March Summit between our Prime Minister and President Macron.

“This will help to refresh our people-to-people links, which are the beating heart of UK-France relations and our renewed Entente.”

The UK government specified that the new rules will come into effect on December 28th 2023 and will apply to people aged 18 or under, studying at a school or educational institution in France registered with the French Ministry of Education and seeking to enter the UK as part of a school party of 5 or more pupils organised by that school or institution. Visa national children who are part of these groups will also not need to obtain a visa prior to travel.

The rules for other French people travelling to the UK will remain the same – an ID card is no longer accepted, only a passport. 

At the time of the Macron-Sunak summit in March, The Local spoke to former British ambassador to France, Lord Peter Ricketts, who said he hoped the summit was the start of an “easing up” in UK-France relations.

He added: “But it’s the start of the UK and France trying to find limited areas where they can make improvements that will aid people’s lives, without setting a precedent for the rest of the EU.

“I think school trips was chosen because it is a sector that was hit particularly hard by Brexit, but also because it’s something that only really affects France and the UK.

“The market is not entirely, but very largely between the UK and France – coach parties going back and forth – so that’s an area in which France can do a deal without getting across other EU countries.

“I think the French are walking a bit of a tightrope because they are equally aware that in some areas what they do will set a precedent for other EU countries and they are being careful not to make concessions to the UK, effectively, in areas that could then involve other EU countries having to do the same thing.

“For example we know that there has been a lot of problems for British musicians who want to tour Europe and now find they need all sorts of extra paperwork – in that case a UK-France deal perhaps wouldn’t be particularly helpful because most people will want to tour other European countries as well.”