UK expats in France given post-Brexit hope

UK expats living in France have been given a glimmer of hope that they will be able to still live, work and drive in France after the British and French governments have come to post-Brexit agreements which safeguards UK citizens’ rights.

UK expats who hadn’t yet sorted out their post-Brexit residency permits breathed a sigh of relief when the French government announced they are extending the June 30th application deadline for an extra three months. And expats who have been having problems obtaining a French driving licence have been told they can still drive in France on UK driving licences.

Residency Permit Extension

The new extension allows expats to secure local healthcare, employment and pensions as well as access to property rentals and mortgage applications until they receive their permits. Under the terms of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, UK citizens who were legally resident in France at the end of the Brexit transition period are eligible for permanent residence, protecting their basic rights.

According to the British embassy, 135,000 Britons in France have already applied for post-Brexit residency, but this leaves approximately 13,300 that have still not applied, putting them at risk of falling through the net which could result in a loss of housing, employment and healthcare.

Related article: Start a Business in France in 8 Steps

The main people at risk are older people who have lived in France for decades, those in care homes, those who are married to French citizens or young British people who grew up in France and don’t realise they still need to have a permit to stay. People who already have residency permits from the earlier system also still need to apply for a post-Brexit permit in order to comply with the law. The three-month extension means these at-risk groups now have time to make their applications.

Driving Licence Agreement

In addition to the permit extension, French and UK authorities have finally reached an agreement on the recognition of British driving licences in France. This had caused great worry amongst UK expats who needed to drive for work or because they lived out in the countryside but couldn’t get a French driving licence due to various problems with the post-Brexit system.

The French government insisted that British expats residing in France would need to exchange their UK driving licences for French ones, or they would need to take a French driving test. However, complaints started flooding as the French processing system in Nantes and Paris battled to deal with over 100,000 applications, many of whom had have had their licence applications rejected by the new French licensing website, ANTS (Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés) because there had been no reciprocal licence agreement between the UK and France.

Those living and working in French rural areas felt panicked at the thought of receiving a fine of €15,000 if their licence wasn’t exchanged, or alternatively having to fork out nearly €2,000 for French driving lessons and a theory exam.
Now the British Embassy in Paris have confirmed that UK driving licences issued after January 1st 2021 will still be valid for up to a year from the date of issue of the resident’s new post-Brexit residence permit. Those with licences issued before that date are still able to drive in France for as long as that licence is valid. All of which gives expats a bit more time to sort out the exchange of licences.

For more information on applications for residency permits and driving licences in France, please consult the UK government’s Brexit website on Living in France. And if you’re an expat who wants to start a business or open a company in France, take a look at our free downloadable guide below, call our expert team on 0033 (0)1 53 57 49 10 or email us from our contact page and we’ll be happy to help.

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