Monday, 12 August 2019

Brexit – a reality check for UK citizens with a holiday home in France

Main points

• After Brexit, as a British citizen living in the UK you will lose your EU citizenship and free movement.
• You'll become a third country national - and you'll be treated to a new location in New Zealand, Chile, Morocco or anywhere else in the non-EU world.
• This will happen from the end of the transition period, 31 December 2020, if an exit deal is agreed.
• If the UK exits the EU with no deal, it will happen from Brexit day.

• All British citizens living in the UK and wanting to travel to the Schengen area will need to register under the ETIAS scheme - the European Travel Information and Authorization System.
• This is a new and completely new electronic system, which is expected to be in place by 2020, which permits and keeps track of which countries do not need to enter the Schengen Zone.
• Its prime function is security, but it is also designed to help manage borders and impede irregular immigration. Registration will be done online.

Those who live between the UK and France though are in a vulnerable position. You might need to do some tough thinking - and do it fast.

Many people, especially those with second homes in France, have been used to coming and going without restriction, often spending 6 months every year in France and 6 months back in the UK, being careful to ensure that they're not out of the UK for more than 183 days a year and therefore keeping their UK residence intact. If you're someone who's done this yourself, it might come as a shock to find out that you're quite possibly 'unlawfully resident' in France for several months each year even though you have the right to free movement within the EU. Why?

Because as an EU citizen, you're permitted to spend only 3 consecutive months in another EU country without exercising treaty rights and becoming legally resident. So if you arrive each year on, say, 1 March, you can stay until the end of May without formality and with just your passport. But from 1 June, if you want to continue staying legally in France you can only do so if you meet certain conditions. The bottom line is that you've 'got away with it' previously because France is the only EU27 country not to require EU citizens to report their presence after 3 months in the country - and because there are no real immigration controls at airports or Channel ports.

As a 3rd Country National, you will be able to spend 90 days in every 180 days in the Schengen area. So if you arrive at your French house on 1 March, you can stay there until the end of May. Then you must return to the UK for another 3 months before you can travel again, so you would not be able to return before September. During the 'home' period between June to September, you wouldn't be able to take any short trips to any of the other Schengen countries either, as the 90/180 day rule applies to the entire Schengen area, not just to any one country within it. So no quick Ryanair city breaks in between times.

But isn't this just a return to how things were before the UK joined the EU?

If you currently live for part of the year in France but are still resident (for fiscal and all other purposes) in the UK, you basically have some tough choices to make. And just to make things totally clear - you can apply for a Carte de Séjour ONLY if you're exercising treaty rights and are legally resident in France.

Here are your choices:

1. You can remain as a British resident and accept that your visits to France will have to be restricted to 90 days in every 180 days.


2. If you want to stay longer than 90 days at a time in France after Brexit day or end of transition, you can go through the immigration process in France. In a nutshell, this is what you'd have to do as a Third Country National:

• before you leave the UK you'd need to apply to the French Consulate in the UK for a long stay visa;
• once arrived in France, you would have 2 months to apply for a titre de séjour.
• If you're retired or otherwise inactive, you would probably apply for a card entitled 'Visitor' which doesn't allow you to work. You'd need to show evidence of 'sufficient and stable resources' - this is higher for Third Country Nationals than for EU citizens and is currently set at 1204€ per month for one person.
• For a visitor's titre de séjour note that you do NOT need to show evidence of health cover, although if after 5 years you want to apply for a carte de resident longue durée you would need to do so. The cost of a visitor's titre de séjour is currently 269€ and the card lasts for one year; it's renewable, and to renew you'd need to show the same evidence as for an initial application.

For more details, use this link to take you to the official government web page:


3. You can consider becoming legally resident in France before the end of transition on 31 December 2020 (if there is a leaving deal) or before Brexit day (if the UK leaves the EU with no deal) and therefore having your residence and other rights protected under the Withdrawal Agreement or under France's national no deal contingency plan.
But it's not just as simple as the amount of time you spend here - to be exercising your treaty rights and therefore legally resident means that you must shift your entire life to France - where you pay your tax, where you are registered for health care and all the rest.

You can't cherry pick here - residence means residence, to paraphrase a well known PM! What you'd be doing is moving everything to France: your fiscal residence, your health care, your home, the centre of your life. If you then want to travel back to the UK, you would do so as a French resident and you'd then have to look at how, as a French resident, you deal with the nuts and bolts of your life in the UK.

You'd also have to look at how your residency in France could impact on other issues, such as inheritance, which works very differently in France.