Moving to France 2024: Living & working in France after Brexit

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Moving & Living in France after Brexit

I am writing this article because towards the end of 2023, I was still being contacted by a number of clients who were unclear about the arrangements for moving to France post-Brexit. Many clients were unaware that they now require a visa to live in France if they want to stay for more than 3 months. Other clients, who knew that they would need a visa for France, were nonetheless concerned that the visa application process would be too difficult or complicated. I was also contacted by a number of younger people who wanted advice on finding work in France after Brexit.

I don't blame these people, because in my opinion the UK Government (and its right-wing press) have engaged in a conspiracy of silence on the implications of Brexit, especially when it comes to moving to other countries. They don't want to admit that Brexit has made things more difficult, especially for younger people. We were in the UK for 6 weeks last summer and I have to say that even our friends who were fairly up-to-date on current affairs, were unaware of some of Brexit implications. 

Moving to France after Brexit

In this article, I am going to stay positive and explain in simple steps how:

  • it is still perfectly possible to move to France in 2024 and live here long term.
  • If you are a UK National, it is still perfectly possible for you to live in France more than 90 days at a time.
  • UK nationals (like Canadians, Americans & Australians) can also apply for permanent French Residency, which enables them to live in France for up to 5 years.
  • working in France has become a lot more difficult - but there is a process where you can move to France and then set up a business or work
  • hundreds of UK nationals are still moving to France each year and setting up to live here long term. You are not alone.

Here we outline the steps you need to follow for moving to France after Brexit and how you can live in France long term. 

 

Applying for a long-stay visa France

french visa application

 

People will still want to move to France during 2024 and it is perfectly possible for them to do so. I have received a lot of emails recently from clients and they all start the same:

. . . I understand that I can now only stay in France for a maximum of 90 days . . .

To correct this misunderstanding, I will now outline the process you can follow to apply for a long stay visa in France.

If you simply want to visit France for a holiday or stay for a couple of months, then you do not need a visa for doing so. In that regard, nothing much has changed with Brexit (although you will need to take additional steps concerning driving in France, bring your pets, mobile phones, insurance, etc).

However, if you want to stay longer than 90 days at a time, then you will need to apply for a visa. A long stay visa is basically a sticker or a  stamp which is entered onto your passport by the French Consulate in your home country, which allows you to enter France and stay here for pre-determined time. The process is quite simple and only costs €99. There are 2 visa options, both of which relate to temporary stays in France (of 12 months or less):

  • a 6 month long stay visa if you plan to stay in France for between 3 to 6 months in a year;
  • a 12 month long stay visitor visa which allows individuals to live (and in certain circumstances, work in France). The visa is usually issued for a period of 1 year.

 

6 month Temporary long stay visa

6 month visa france

 

The temporary long stay visa is valid for up to 6 months. The visa specifically excludes you from working in France (even if you are working remotely). The visa is non-renewable after the 6 months ends. If you need or want to stay in France after the 6 months ends, then you will have to exit the country and then apply for the 12 month long stay visa to re-enter the country. This visa is intended for people who want a long holiday in France or have another social or family reason for living in France for up to half a year.

The benefit of this temporary long stay visa is that you will not be classed as resident in France (and thus not obliged to complete a French tax return documenting your worldwide income). 

To obtain a temporary long stay visa for France you will need to:

  • obtain rental accommodation for the duration of your stay in France
  • have proof that you have sufficient income to support yourself during your stay (currently €65 per day)
  • take out travel/health insurance or possess a Global Health Insurance Card (which replaced the EHIC European Health Card)
  • have a valid passport with at least 15 months before expiry

A lot of the visa application process has been transferred online, although in certain circumstances you will need to visit the French Consulate General in London (or your home country).

 

12 month long stay visa

12 month visa france

 

The 12 month long stay visa is very similar to the 6 month temporary visa. It enables you to come and go from France as often as you want. Apart from when you first arrive in France, your passport will not be stamped each time you leave or come back to France. You just need to show your visa and you will be waived through customs. The 12 month long stay visa is intended for people who are coming to France for an extended break or a sabbatical, or people thinking about moving to France longer term and want to try it out first. It only costs €99 and you do not need an immigration lawyer to help you.

[NOTE: If you are planning on working in France or setting up a business in France, then you would normally bypass this visa and apply directly for a French residency card (carte de sejour). You will probably need the assistance of an immigration lawyer for this as it is more complicated.]

The main differences between the 6 month and the 12 month visa are:

  • the 12 month visa can be renewed
  • you may need to set up private medical insurance to cover yourself in France (the Global Health Card may or may not be applicable - I have heard conflicting stories]
  • you will have to attend a mandatory X-ray for Tuberculosis when you arrive in France
  • towards the end of the 12 months, you can then apply for French residency (carte de sejour), which depending on your circumstances, will be granted for either 1 year, 2 years, 4 years or 5 years
  • You will need to show that you have sufficient income to support yourself in France (which as of 1 January 2024, is €1,766.92 per month gross income). This relates to each individual. A couple will need to show income of €3,500 gross income per month. If you have children, then you will need to show that you have income equivalent to 50% of the income requirement per child (in addition to your own income). You can also use savings in lieu of income (please see Income requirements for French Residency & Long Stay Visa for France for more details)

 

French visa application process

france visa

The visa application process for the 6 month visa and the 12 month long stay visa is the same. It takes about 5 minutes to complete the visa application process (although assembling the supporting documentation may take longer).

  1. You need to access the visa application portal France- Visas
  2. You will need to complete the visa application form. This will need to be printed out and signed & date. The application form will ask you for your details (name, date and place of birth, etc) and also your reasons for travelling to France. You will also have to sign a declaration promising not to exercise any professional work activity in France (although you can continue to work remotely from France). The original of the application form will need to be sent to the French Consulate (or their outsourced administrator), together with the application receipt number issued by France-Visas..
  3. You will need to provide a number of supporting documents;
      1. a scan of your passport. The passport needs to have been issued less than 10 years ago and contain at least two blank pages. The passport should be valid for the length of the long stay visa plus a period of 3 months beyond the date that you will leave France.
      2. 3 passport-sized photograph (see photo requirements Schengen visa).
      3. If you are not a national of your country of residence: proof that you are legally resident in that country (e.g. residence permit).
      4. 3 months of bank statements showing your full name and address, and proving that you have enough funds for the whole duration of the trip. If you are financially supported by your spouse/partner you will also need to provide a copy of your marriage certificate and the bank statements of your spouse/partner.
      5. Proof of accommodation in France (a rental agreement or an attestation d'herbergement signed by the Landlord) or if you own a property in France a copy of the Title Deeds of the house.
      6. a copy of your travel insurance policy (which must cover all expenses for medical, hospital treatment and repatriation costs for medical reasons) and or a health insurance policy or Global Health Insurance Card (see GHIC application process)

Your visa application must be made between 30-90 days prior to your travel to France. This is quite an important point. It is not possible to apply for a long stay visa earlier than 3 months before your travel. Once you have submitted your application via France-Visas, you will have a personal client area where you can follow the progress of the visa authorisation.

 

Remote working in France

remote working in france

 

I just want to talk about the issue of remote working in France, because I think a lot of people have some misapprehension about this. If you are applying for a 6 or 12 month long stay visa for France, then you are specifically excluded from working in France. It is a non-working visa. So this means that you cannot take up a job in France, set up a Company or work remotely in France. 

A lot of the clients that I speak to about the income requirements for a French long stay visa will often say:

". . . we will be OK for the financial requirement because me/my partner will be working remotely in France . . ."

 

You have to be very careful with this assumption because strictly speaking, if the French authorities discover that you are working for a UK company in France, then they will ask your company to pay French social charges on your earnings. And given that this is France, these social charges could be up to 100% of your salary.

I always advise customers that if they are called for an interview at the French Consulate for their visa application, they should:

  1. say very little about what they will be doing in France;
  2. never tell them that you will be working remotely in France; and
  3. if asked, explain that they will be returning to the UK regularly for work.

So this sends a clear message that the work is in the UK, not France. Now obviously, in connection with this work or for a project, you are permitted to answer emails, undertake preparatory work, whilst you are back in France. But the centre of the activity is clearly in the UK.

But, if you plan to be sat in France working 100% online doing your UK job, then you could get into trouble. Or more specifically, your UK employer could get into trouble. Now there is always a question of how anybody would find out that you are working in France remotely. My advice is that you shouldn't say anything to anybody and you should just keep your head down. You should also probably plan regular trips back to the UK (for work) and also keep records of any meetings you attend in the UK.

If you are running your own business in the UK, then these rules will also apply to you. In this situation, I would either advise you to say that you have staff members in the UK running the business on your behalf (and the income is passive income), or that you return to the UK for the work.

The next question that everybody then asks me is:

" . . . well how can I move to France? I need to keep working to meet the income requirements, but I am not allowed to work . . ."

Well, this is all part of the game. If you are looking to move to France and live here long term, then you need to view it as a two-stage process. Firstly, you will arrive for the first year on a long stay visa. You need to keep your head down and say very little about your work. Secondly, after 10 months of living here, you will then apply for French residency, possibly under the self-employed category of the carte de sejour (see below). If you are successful, you can then set up a French micro-enterprise company (which takes about 20  minutes) and then you will invoice your UK company for your work. You will have to negotiate a move from being an employee to become a contractor. You will pay French social charges on your invoiced earnings (about 24% of the total). Your UK employer will not have to pay French social charges.

It is all a bit complicated, but I know dozens of people who have followed this route. The trickiest part is often convincing the UK Company to accept you moving from an employee to a contractor, but if you have been working successfully (in France) for 10 months with no issues, then normally you can convince your boss that nothing will change. Also, when they realise that they no longer need to pay Employer NIC, pension contributions, employee benefits, etc; then they realise that it is a Win:Win situation.

 

Applying for French Residency after Brexit 

france long stay visa

 

If you arrive in France from 2024 onwards (on a long stay visitor visa) and you decide that you want to live permanently in France, then you are still able to apply for French Residency. Once you have been living in France for 10 months, you are then able to apply for a Residency Permit in France (which is called a Carte de Sejour).

The Carte de Sejour is a physical card which contains your photograph and signature. It is normally issued for a longer period than the visa. There are different categories of Carte de Sejour - covering students, self-employed, retired (non-working), looking for work, etc. I have heard of different cases where people have been issued with a carte de sejour for 1 year, 2 years, 4 years or 5 years. I think that it all depends on the circumstances and which category of Carte de Sejour you apply for. Normally if you are retired, you will get a 5 year residency. Even if the carte de sejour is only issued for 1 year, you just need to reapply to renew it each year.

France does not have an American-style Green Card system or an Australian-style Permanent Residency. You can either live in France on a 6 or 12 month long stay visa; a residency permit or you can apply for French Nationality. There is nothing in between. We use the term French Residency to cover anybody who applies for a residency permit (carte de sejour). The residency permit can be issued for 1 year, 2 years, 4 years, 5 years or 10 years (in exceptional circumstances). Once the residency permit expires, you will need to apply for a new one. So in effect, all of us Brits living here in France are only really temporary residents. There is no such thing as permanent residency in France. You are either here on a temporary permit or you become a French national.

The first common misconception about French Residency, is that people often believe that there is a single residency permit (often referred to as the Carte de Sejour). In actual fact, there are multiple residency permits/Long Stay Visas in France.

The Carte de Sejour, or Titre de Sejour as it is legally known, is the residency application process which applies to all nationalities, including Europeans. The Carte de Sejour was first introduced in France in 1926 and it regulated all foreign workers, requiring them to carry an identity card. There are 5 different types of residency :

  1. a long stay visa which allows individuals to live and in certain circumstances, work in France (sometimes referred to as 'Talent Passports'). The visa is usually issued for a period of 1 year, but longer periods can be agreed;
  2. a temporary residency permit, usually lasting 6 months and covering various non-work related reasons for residing in France (such as asylum seekers, voluntary work, people caring for sick relatives);
  3. a multi-year residency permit, which is usually issued to current holders of a long stay visa and enables them to stay in France for a further period of up to 4 years *;
  4. a retired persons residency permit, which is valid for up to 10 years and relates to individuals who live on their own resources, whether pension, investment, rental income or other source of income;
  5. the Residency Permit, which allows certain individuals (who arrived in France prior to Brexit) to live and work in France and is valid for up to 10 years.

* The multi-year residency permit has a number of categories depending on your reasons for living in France:

  • student - you're undertaking a recognised course of study or are on a study placement.
  • employed - you are employed by an individual or a company and have a contract of employment.
  • self-employed - you run a business or small enterprise on any of the fiscal regimes, including as a microentrepreneur.
  • job search or business creation
  • private or family life (for British Nationals married to (or dependents of) French nationals or British Nationals with existing Residency Permits)

looking to live in France for 6 months or more. In reality, French Residency is another name for a Long Stay Visa. 

The only thing which has changed following Brexit, is that the minimum income requirements for the carte de sejour have increased (from around €650 per month (for a single person) to €1,766.92 per month gross income) and you now need to meet a minimum level of French proficiency (but this is still only really holiday French).

 

Applying for a Carte de Sejour in France

carte sejour residencyTo apply for this permanent residency (or as everyone calls it, the Carte de Sejour), you are required to make an appointment at your local town hall or Préfecture (local government headquarters) and present the following information:

  • your passport and visa/existing residency permit (original documents and a photocopy)
  • 3 or 4 passport photos,
  • your arrêté de nomination (work contract details) and procès-verbal d'installation (signed work contract),
  • Proof of permanent address in France (EDF electricity bill or the house deed of sale (acte de vente) for a house bought in France or a signed lease agreement for the French address)
  • Birth certificate (for children less than 3 months old) and official French translation,
  • Information on your marital status, and if necessary, on those of your spouse and children (usually marriage and birth certificates with French translation)
  • Proof of sufficient and stable financial resources for 5 years (pay slips, tax notice, certificate of pension payment, bank certificate, property income, etc.)
  • Declaration on honour concerning the continuity of your stay in France (except exemption by the administration)

For non-European Union citizens, there is also a requirement to meet a minimum French language proficiency of Level A2.

Once you have deposited these documents, you will then receive a document called a récépissé from the Préfecture that proves you are in the process of applying for your Carte de sejour. Normally, you are not allowed to leave France until you receive your actual Carte de sejour (which can take anywhere between 4-8 weeks).

The French residency permits also allow the holder to travel freely throughout the Schengen zone countries for periods of up to 3 months (without the need for further visas).

 

Working in France after Brexit

working in france

 

The brutal truth of Brexit, is that it removed the right of UK Nationals to be able to work in France. So for the younger population, it kissed goodbye to the ability work a Ski season in the Alps. It closed the door on a year or two working as an Au Pair in France. It has stopped summer holiday jobs in France. And it has all but closed the prospect of being able to work in France.

There are some small exceptions for secondments to France (within a company), student placements in France (under a recognised Educational exchange scheme), studying and voluntary work. But for everything else, the simple hard truth is that it is no long possible for British people to move to France and work.

If a Business wants to emply you in France, even for a temporary job, then it will need to apply for a work permit on your behalf. As part of the application for the work permit, the business will have to show that there is no suitable applicants within France or the other 26 EU countries. So the business will have to show that out of 500 million EU nationals, none have applied for and/or are suitable for the job. The only suitable applicant, is you, as a non-EU citizen.

To give you a real example, we work with a representative for a holiday Company here in France, called Steve Jones. Steve had lived in France for 25 years prior to Brexit. He paid all his taxes in France, had a French health card, spoke fluent French, etc. He then got divorced from his French wife and returned to the UK in 2016. In 2022, he was head-hunted to set up a new branch in France for a UK holiday company. He had done a similar role for 10 years prior to leaving France. He literally was the ideal candidate for the job.

The UK holiday company had to apply for a work permit for Steve in France. The process took 18 months. During this time, Steve was coming to France for 3 months and then he had to stay in the UK for the next 3 months. The Company had to show that they had advertised Steve's role in multiple EU countries as well as in France. It was a farce. But this is what Brexit has led to and no UK politician will tell you that this is the new reality.

However, there is a route to be able to move to France and to be able to work (eventually).

 

Setting up as self-employed in France

working in france

 

So whilst the opportunity to get a job in France has effectively been closed down by Brexit. It is still possible to move to France and to work. But as I have outlined above, it is a bit complicated.

France does not currently have a Digital Nomad type visa (which other European countries such as Croatia, Germany, Spain, Malta, Greece, Romania, Hungary and Italy all have in place). Instead what you need to do, is have a bit of patience, quite a bit of money behind you and to stay under the radar for a period of time. It certainly helps if you have a remote-working type of job or are able to transition into this type of role. Similarly, if you are currently self-employed or work on projects, then you are going to be better placed.

It is a three-stage process.

Step 1, you will apply for a 12 month long stay visa and move to France. To meet the income requirements for the long stay visa, you will show your current salary from your job or self-employed earnings. If you are questioned about your work, then you will say that you will return to the UK regularly for work. You will not tell the French Consulate that you will be working remotely in France (otherwise your UK employer could be liable to pay French social charges on your earnings).

Step 2, after you have been living in France and continuing to do your role in the UK for a few months, you will then need to talk to your employer about your intention to remain in France and how you would like to transition from being an employee to become a contractor. The reason why you have to move to a contractor status is because you want to prevent your UK employer from having to pay French social charges. You can also explain that as a contractor, your employer will not have to pay Employer NIC, pension contributions, or provide additional employee benefits.

Step 3, after 10 months of living in France, you will then apply for a French residency permit, under the self-employed category of the carte de sejour. You can show your local Préfecture that you have a Service contract (with your UK employer) and that you will be undertaking similar contract work with other clients. You can explain that you will set up a French sole trader company ( micro-enterprise company) to handle your future earnings from your contract work outside of France. If you are successful, you can then set up your micro-enterprise company (which takes about 20  minutes) and then you will invoice your UK company for your work. You will pay French social charges on your invoiced earnings (about 24% of the total). 

So yes it is all a bit complicated, but nonetheless, it is still do-able. I know many people who have followed this route and they are now working quite happily from their base in France. All that you need to do, is remain focused on the vision of that warm summer evening in the future, where you are sat on your terrace with a nice bottle of French wine, a Brie oozing out on the plate and the crickets chirping away.

 

Living in France after Brexit

So hopefully, I have been able to reassure you that it is perfectly possible to still move to France after Brexit and to continue living in France if you decide to stay here. Brexit has made the process a bit more complicated (and expensive), but this is where the rubber hits the road with Brexit. I never believed that there would be some calamitous, cliff-edge impact following Brexit. Instead there will just be these small bureaucratic hurdles that the UK and British people will need to overcome. But for the average person, we can continue to live in Europe, it just means that we have more forms to fill in, we have to have more money behind us and we need to be a bit more organised.

 

fepa logoIf you need assistance with planning your move to France and getting set up when you arrive, we are happy to recommend the services of French Expat Assistance (FEPA), a relocation agency run by Sarah MacGilchrist. Sarah has lived in France for nearly 40 years and has an in-depth knowledgle of French administration. Her company is based in Brittany, France and she works with a network of partners who can help you with everything from applying for visas, setting up a business in France, opening bank accounts, arranging health insurance and completing your French tax return.

Sarah can be contacted by email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and by phone: +33 09 77 37 13 63

You can find the full range of services provided and the prices on the website: www.fepa.fr and on the Facebook page: French Expat Assistance.

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