Around 150,000 British nationals reside in France. 50% of them work, and 28% have a French partner.
The breakdown of political negotiations and consensus around the Brexit deal is a source of great concern for many of these expats who wonder what will happen to them after Brexit.
In preparation of the possibility of a no-deal (“hard”) Brexit, the French government published a series of ordinances in early 2019. One such ordinance, dated February 6, 2019, sets out the rights of UK citizens who will stay in France after Brexit, granting them preferential treatment over the citizens of most “Non-EU” states. Below are the key points of the February 6, 2019 government order that has now been accompanied by two decrees, published April 2, and April 3, respectively, which also offer many additional practical elements, such as the costs of the permits (100 EUR), the paperwork involved, etc. The decree of April 3 deals with the formalities for ensuring the continuation of social coverage and public insurance schemes for British nationals in France.
British nationals may continue their professional activities in France beyond Brexit for a transition period of one year.
After the end-date of the transition period of one year after a no-deal Brexit, British nationals will need to be in possession of one of the various permits allowing them to stay, reside, and/or work in France.
A Condition of reciprocity
The government order and its effects are conditional on the UK government taking similar measures for the French nationals residing and working in the UK. Failure to ensure reciprocity would possible result in the suspension of the preferential treatment detailed below:
Two main categories of British Nationals
Like many European countries, France separates the Britons on its national soil into two categories. Their rights and entitlements differ.
The first category is UK Nationals in France for 5 years or more, at the date of Brexit. British nationals who have been residing in France for five years or more when Brexit happens will be automatically entitled to a Residency card that allows for them to stay and work in France for 10 years. They do have to request it though.
The second category is UK Nationals in France for less than 5 years, at the date of Brexit.
The British nationals who have resided for less than 5 years when Brexit happens will need to file applications for a permit, based on their personal situation.
Such permits include those for: students, employees, temporary workers, posted workers, independent professionals, unemployment beneficiaries, family-tie permits, long term stay/visitor, interns, etc. Unlike the previous category, their file will be examined on a case by case basis.
The government order sets out specific rules for certain categories of workers, such as British nationals who practice law in France and who wish to stay in France after Brexit.
The government order addresses many other labour-related questions that concern British nationals in France.
These include health and welfare coverage, the recognition of professional qualifications and equivalencies, and the attribution of jobs reserved for French/EU nationals.
Tips and Tricks
Human Resources departments should conduct an overview of all their worker’s situations, by making sure that they are in possession of the necessary paperwork to reside and work in France. Ask them if they are up to date with any visas or residency permits and if they know what they’ll be doing after Brexit happens and if they require any assistance.
British nationals residing in France on the date of Brexit should apply for a permit immediately.
We should bear in mind that most individual will have many options to consider. They should choose the one that suits them the best on a personal level.
For example, a British individual could contemplate requesting French citizenship, or, if he’s been in France for over five years, he could request the automatic long term visa that is provided for by the government ordinance.
Many British citizens, particularly in the south west of France, already have requested citizenship. Indeed, the number of requests has significantly increased, with already 3,000 British nationals in France applying to be French last year (there were 320 requests in 2015).
(There’s a language requirement, presence condition, and also ideological compatibility). The request is examined on a case by case.