Moving to France before Brexit: What you need to know

You are British and have lived in France for some time or Brexit rushed your life plans to make the big move you have been dreaming of for some time? Moving to France before Brexit, or more accurately before the end of the transition period on December 31, 2020, will give you access to the new residence permit. Considering it will be the first time you will need to undergo a residence permit process as a UK citizen in France, it may feel stressful and complicated, here are some guidelines to help you.

The good news is that the French government has made unusual efforts to simplify the resident permit request for British nationals already settled in France. No comparison possible to the process all the third-country nationals have to go through! They experience long waiting times at the Prefecture and information available only in French!

Get Brexit ready with the Withdrawal Agreement resident permit in France! Photo credit: Habib Ayoade

The special permit you need when moving to France before Brexit

Resident permit for British nationals mention “Accord de retrait”

There is no doubt there has been an increase in British nationals moving to France before Brexit. However, the French government cannot give clear numbers as yet;  considering France has never required EU Citizens to register as residents or to hold a residence permit when staying more than 3 months. 

As you may already know, a new resident permit with the mention « Accord de retrait » (withdrawal agreement), is now available for British nationals that moved to France before December 31, 2020.  And more specifically, you will need to prove that you have been residing stably in France before that date. 

The application for the new permit can be done from October 20, 2020, until June 30, 2021, exclusively online on this dedicated platform. However, it is not recommended to wait until the last minute to submit the application. Also, it is the first time the French government provides immigration-related information and process in another language than French! Let’s hope this will help you do the process smoothly.

If you had already submitted a residence permit request between October 2019 and January 2020 on the previous platform, you will not need to submit a second request on this platform.

Resident permit for British nationals’ family members from non-EU countries

Third-country national family members of a British national, who have settled in France before December 31, 2020, will have access to a permit based on their family connections. They should submit the resident permit application individually online the same way as their British family member. This possibility is granted to spouse, civil union partner, minor children, or dependent family members.

live in France before Brexit

Get your Withdrawal Agreement permit request right!

List of required documents to apply for a Withdrawal Agreement permit

To meet the criteria to remain in France past the transition period, you will need to provide proof that France is your main residence, proof of sufficient income, proof of health coverage, and proof of activity (for students or professionals). The list below is not exhaustive as, depending on your situation, you may be able to provide other proof of the 4 criteria stated above. See the detailed explanation provided by the French Ministry of Interior.

In addition to a valid passport and civil status documents proving your family links (if applicable), you should provide:

  • Proof that France is their principal residence before the end of the transition period (under both names for couples)
    • Rental agreement and quittance de loyer (monthly rent payment receipts), or
    • Copy of your title deeds
    • Utility bills (utility bills for two periods in each year for five years for permanent residence rights) with a billing address in France
    • Home insurance attestation with a billing address in France
    • French tax receipt (avis d’imposition)
    • French housing tax bill
  • Proof of sufficient resources
    • Bank statements
    • Certificate of financial support (for students)
    • Work contract and payslips
    • Business registration if you are a business owner
    • Proof of French unemployment benefits
  • Proof of healthcare coverage 
    • attestation of your rights from your healthcare provider or 
    • a copy of your private healthcare insurance policy
  • Proof of activity (if applicable)
    • Student card, proof of enrolment and a certificate of regular attendance (or the diploma – if applicable)
    •  Employer certificate 

It is recommended to have all the documents organised and ready before starting the online application. The documents must be in .pdf, .png, .jpeg or .jpg format. Each one of them must have a different name with a maximum size of 5MB.

You can start your application and then save it to finish it later for up to 20 days. The French Ministry of Interior Q&A will also give you valuable information when in doubt.

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What to expect after submitting the online permit request?

Considering the high number of applications, it is difficult to give an estimate as it may also differ from one Prefecture to another, but a 2-3 month waiting time would be an estimate.

You will receive a confirmation email once you have submitted your application with an attestation that you will need to print out and keep with you at all times as proof that you have applied. This document becomes your residence permit until you receive the final one. Make sure you save it as you will not be able to get another one.

In this email, the Prefecture will also give you an appointment that you will have to go to in order to provide your fingerprints and your picture ID following the Prefecture requirements. If you had a previous residence permit you will need to give it back during this appointment.

Remember that you will need to have a valid residence permit by October 2021 at the latest.

Your residence permit card will be sent by a signed registered post to your home address, the address you provided when you submitted the application. 

Do not follow up on your application with your local Prefecture as this will just cause further delays.

British and European plugs
Photo credit: Call me Fred

Actualize your current permit

Since the Brexit vote back in 2016, many British nationals requested a European citizen residence permit in France.  Every EU national living in France can request a residence permit “EU citizen”. It is not a compulsory permit.

If you hold a « European Union Citizen » permit, you will need to request the “Withdrawal Agreement” permit online before 30th June. Your EU citizen permit will no longer be valid after 31 October 2021.

Also if you change of address after you have received your permit “Accord de retrait”, you should request a new one online as long as the platform is active (June 30, 2021). After that date, the change of address should be notified at the Prefecture as it is the case for the third-country nationals.

The 3 main advantages of the Withdrawal agreement permit

Compared to other residence permits, the withdrawal agreement residence permit gives advantages or is available in conditions that are not available to any other third-country nationals. These advantages are available only under the Withdrawal Agreement permit. Therefore, British citizens moving to France before Brexit or better say before the 31st of December 2020.

No work permit is required for British citizens and their family members

If you started working in France before December 31, 2020, you won’t need to request a work permit or an authorisation to work from the DIRECCTE (DIrection Régionale des Entreprises, de la Concurrence, de la Consommation, du Travail et de l’Emploi). This right is extended to your family members whatever their nationality.

However, if you arrive in France after the deadline, you will need to request the relevant visa from the French consulate and then the residence permit. Some permits also require to request authorisation to work at the DIRECCTE.

moving to France before Brexit
Photo Credit: Aleks Marinkovic

2 ° Maintains the EU citizens’ residence criteria

European citizens can settle in another European country legally under the 2 below conditions:

  • Have sufficient income for himself/herself and the family members
  • Be covered by a complete health coverage

 There is no resident permit based on sufficient income allowing to work in France the way the Withdrawal Agreement permit does. The Visitor visa based on sufficient resources doesn’t authorise its holder to work in France.

Also, the Withdrawal agreement resident permit applies to British job seekers. However, under the current rules applied to third-country nationals, coming to France to look for a job is not a visa request motive.

Two situations should be considered for British job seekers in France:

  • If you are currently unemployed and have already worked in France. You will be issued a residence permit valid for up to 5 years.
  • If you enter France before December 31, 2020, with the aim of looking for a job and have never worked in France, you will be issued an APS (Authorisation Provision de Séjour) valid for 6 months. It can be renewed once if you prove that you have been looking for a job and that you have a real chance of being hired within a reasonable period of time.

3 ° This is a free work & resident permit

No stamp duty will be requested (Free resident permit) for people who arrived before 31/12

Most of the residence permits in France cost between about 50 to 250 euros depending on the permit requested.

If you want to live your dream, it is worth taking the plunge now and moving to France before Brexit. There is still a bit of time!

Photo by Tango Tsuttie

The duration of your residence permit when moving to France before Brexit

You have lived legally in France for 5 years or more

The duration you have been residing in France before December 31, 2020, will determine the duration of the residence permit. If you have been living in France for five years or more before the end of the transition period, you are entitled to a renewable 10-year permanent residence permit. You will need to prove that you have been residing lawfully in France.

What does it mean to reside legally in France when no residence permit was previously required? Well, as per European law every European citizen has the right to reside in another EU country if one of the following categories is met:

  • Having a professional activity (salaried or self-employed) or being jobseeker with unemployment benefits based on a past professional activity
  • Having sufficient resources for themselves and their family members, as well as being covered by a health insurance
  • Studying and having health insurance

You have lived in France for less than 5 years

If you have been residing in France for less than 5 years you will still be entitled to a residence permit. Its duration will depend on the motive of your stay in France and the duration applied to it (from one to five years duration). For instance, if you are in France for studies, the permit will be the duration of the studies, the same if you have a temporary work contract. If you hold a permanent work contract you will be provided with a 5-year permit. However, keep in mind that the duration of the permit when you have lived under five years in France is decided on a case-by-case basis by the Prefecture, so there might be some variation of the applicable duration given.

Same as the 10-year permit, this resident permit will be granted according to the right to reside of an EU national as explained above. 

How to keep the right to remain in France after the first permit expires?

To keep your right to reside in France under the withdrawal agreement you need to continue to be resident after the end of the transition period. For your first five years, you cannot leave France for more than six months per year.

Once you have completed this period you qualify for permanent residence status (the 10-year residence permit). With this permit, there are no requirements related to resources or healthcare coverage. As a permanent resident, you will maintain your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement as long as you do not leave France for five years in a row.

To wrap up: why moving to France before Brexit will help you

If you have the plan to live in France and haven’t made the plunge yet, you have a few more weeks to come and settle here. The withdrawal agreement residence permit really simplifies the process to gain the right to reside in France. If you can prove that you had a French stable residence before December 31, 2020, meet the other criteria explained above, and make the online residence permit application before June 30, 2021, you should meet the criteria to receive the permit. Well done for making this work! Bear in mind that this residence permit, allows you to travel as a tourist only within the Schengen zone for under 90 days.

It will still be possible to make the move after January 1, 2021, but it will be more of a challenge. We do not have clarity yet on what will be required, but we go towards the same processes as all the other non-EU nationals fall under the CESEDA (Code de l’Entrée et du Séjour des Etrangers et du Droit d’Asile). This means that for every stay over the duration of 3 months in a 6 months period, a visa request will need to be requested at the French consulate based on the motive of your stay in France.


The Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community.

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    • Mademoiselle Guiga

      Thank you for your comment, Lara!
      Great news that your husband managed to submit the application! How did you find the online platform? Did your husband find it clear and easy to use?

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