Moving to France after Brexit: what has changed?
As of 1st January, the UK left the EU. This isn’t news to anyone but what might be news, and what is still unfolding to some degree, is what happens next. France Property Guides have put together a useful overview for Brits planning a move to France. It's a worthwhile read if you're looking for some clarity:
The UK no longer being in the European Union raises plenty of questions for those British people planning on moving to France after Brexit. They now have the same rules as those of other ‘third country nations’, like Americans. Or do they? The UK is, after all, just 22 miles away and connected by a tunnel, not 3,000 miles!
However, while we hope that some flexibility will come in due course, just as it has for the EHIC and pet passport, the current procedures are exactly the same as for other third country nationals. So here is what we do know, taken from various French government websites.
As this is a new situation, left until the very last minute by politicians, things could change significantly. Therefore please do not make any serious financial commitments without seeking professional guidance.
The 90 day rule
The first thing to point out is that property buying is unaffected by being outside the European Union, as property per se is not one of the EU’s “four freedoms”. Residency is, however.
As the French government website says: “UK citizens will need a Long Stay visa if staying in France or in a French Overseas Territory for more than 90 days whatever the purpose of stay (work, studies, Au Pairing, passport talent, visitor, family reunification, family members of French nationals, etc).”
To avoid the need for a visa, once you make your first trip to France this year and have your passport stamped, you have 90 days there within the next 180. After that 180 days is up, you can once again start another 90 days worth of visits.
Bear in mind, however, that this is 90 out of 180 in the whole EU. So you cannot spend 90 days in France then pop down to Italy for another 90.
If you wish to stay in France permanently for the first time, and you have not been resident in France before, and are not joining a close family member covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, you will need to apply for a visa.
Applying for a French visa
There are many different types of visa available, the most common of which is the Visa Long Séjour valant Titre de Séjour (VLS-TS). Which you choose to apply for will depend on your individual situation as well as financial status as there are versions for salaried employees, those setting a business, etc.
Most of the new British applicants will be applying for a visa that allows them to retire to France, the visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour – visiteur.
One vital issue for many new arrivals in France is that in the past they could semi-retire to France. For example, they may have continued a certain amount of freelance or consultation work for their previous employer in the UK, or run a gite in France, or have a part-time job, for example as a gardener. That is not allowed on the visiteur version of the VLS-TR.
To apply for a visa, the current rules mean that you need to make the application from the UK, at the visa application centres in London, Manchester or Edinburgh. The process is all clearly laid out on the website in a simple step-by-step process.
There is, however, the possibility of making an application for a residence permit within two months of your arrival in France under the Carte de Séjour à Solliciter. After all, plans can change.
You will need to state the purpose of your stay in France and, for the retirement-type visa, promise not to do any paid work in France. To prove you can do that, you must provide the last three months’ of bank statements for a UK current account.
The amount you will need is still not entirely fixed, but the equivalent of the minimum wage €1,555 gross per month is usually quoted, per adult, or around €2,500 net for a married couple. This may be lower however, if you have no mortgage. And it need not necessarily be an ‘income’; having at least a year’s savings will also count if your income is not sufficient. France Property Guides will let you know as soon as the situation is clearer!
You must also have travel health insurance for the time you’ll be there and proof of where you will be living in France.
Each person on the application aged 12 and over will have to attend. You should make your appointment for at least 15 days before your planned arrival in France.
You will need to bring with you:
- Your passport with at least two blank pages and with a validity period of at least three months longer than the expiry date of the requested visa.
- Two recent identity photos.
- The supporting documents (originals and copies) depending on your situation and the reason for your trip, which must be translated into French.
- A means of payment for the fees to be paid when submitting your request, currently €99 for most people.
The consulate staff will check your file, collect the fees, take your photos, fingerprints, passport and supporting documents. This shouldn’t take more than about 20 minutes. The documents will then be forwarded to the consulate for processing and you can track their progress online.
It’s worth noting that the process need not be unpleasant! For an extra £28 you can upgrade to the Premium Lounge, where you get free photocopying, help with your application, email printing and the chance to submit any missing documents on the same day.
“Upgrading to our Premium Lounge,” says the website, “gives you the space and comfort to submit your visa application in an exclusive and spacious environment without queues. You’ll enjoy privacy and a selection of complimentary refreshments while receiving one-to-one assistance and support from one of our experienced agents.”
Buying a property in France
Thankfully, nothing has changed in this category! You are perfectly entitled to buy a property in France, as before. The system is fairly straightforward and normally the whole transaction, from an offer being accepted to owning your new property, takes up to three months. Over the last year, the property market has been buoyant in France, particularly amongst foreign buyers, many of whom are British.
Although being able to use your new property is now limited to 90 days in any 180, this still satisfies many people’s dream of owning a property in France. Indeed, with the enormous challenges we have all faced this last year, the desire to own a property in France has increased. Is this, perhaps, a situation where people want to make the most of life and realise their dreams now?
There are plenty of tremendous bargains to be found in many parts of France. It will come as no surprise to learn that rural properties with some land and fabulous views seem to be the number one wish on people’s criteria.
Moving to France after Brexit is undoubtedly a more complicated process, but it is still possible for British people. It’s still early days and our new status of being outside of the European Union is something which will, in all likelihood, be looked at by both the British and French governments.
The chances are that moving to France, whether permanently or or part time, will be something which will be made easier as time goes on. After all, both countries are fully aware of British people’s love of France – that is one aspect that will never change.