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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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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.