The committee monitors the implementation and application of citizens’ rights, protecting UK nationals in the EU and EU citizens in the UK, including their family members.
The committee held the second of its biannual meetings in London yesterday (4 Dec 2023) and as part of the agenda, they received submissions from groups representing UK nationals and their families living in the EU.
RIFT were invited by the British Embassy to submit a short report on the issues experienced by our members and by those who contact us via our website.
We raised the following issues
· At the time of making their application, around 40% of our members had lived in France for less than 5 years. Many have now acquired permanent rights under Article 16 of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), having now lived in France for more than 5 years. However, France does not freely allow UK Nationals and their families, who reach this milestone, to have a Withdrawal Agreement Residence Permit (WA RP) (Article 50 Carte de Séjour (CdS)) reflecting their status.
· Those applying to ‘upgrade’ their temporary WA RP for a permanent WA RP are being told to wait until their current WA RP is due to expire. Whilst they hold the rights in the background, they have no documentary proof.
· Our ongoing survey shows that the majority of WA RPs issued to those with under 5 years of residence at the time of application, are due to expire between February and August 2026, with the earliest expiry date being January 2025.
· We have been advised that an online application system is being developed to simplify the process but have no further details at present.
Travel documents for minors and WA RPs for those reaching 18 years of age (and 16/17 in some circumstances)
· The Document de circulation pour étranger mineur (DCEM) is a travel document issued to the children of Third Country Nationals (TCNs) resident in France. Whilst not technically a requirement for the children of WA RP holders, the experience of our members is that they are being asked to produce them by border staff when travelling with their children or their children are travelling alone, for example as part of a school trip.
· For this reason, and because they can also be used when applying for a provisional driving licence, we recommend to our members that they obtain one for their child. However, the application process can cause issues.
· In November 2023 we provided a report to the British Embassy detailing some of the issues we have been made aware of.
· Our members have reported numerous issues regarding applications for WA RPs for those reaching 18 years of age (or 16/17 where the applicant is starting an apprenticeship, university, or other role)
· The following is a small sample of the issues being reported – Préfectures telling applicants that WA RPs are no longer issued, 5 year cards being issued to 18 year olds who have been resident since they were babies, préfectures telling applicants they must apply for a TCN CdS, préfectures telling applicants that they cannot apply before their 18th birthday despite this being incorrect.
· Our members have suffered consequences because of these issues; apprenticeships places have been lost, university grants have been refused and job offers have been withdrawn.
· Many of these young people have lived in France for most of their lives and are fluent in French, yet their experience post-Brexit is one of rejection and discrimination by the country they consider home.
· At present, family reunification under Article 10 of the WA, is only less of an issue as there are a limited number of cases. However, as with the issues above, many are caused through lack of understanding of the WA by préfecture staff and the rights it affords UK nationals and their families.
· There is no set process; applicants are advised on the French government website to contact their préfecture to find out how to apply, but are met with either misunderstanding, misinformation, or silence.
· When an application is lodged, préfectures are not issuing the appropriate receipt to applicants; this means that despite applying within the required 90 days of arrival, applicants have no proof of application and could be deemed to have exceed the 90/180 days limit for visa free travel to France/Schengen area.
· Some applicants are being told incorrectly that they must return to the UK and apply for a visa before they can apply for their WA RP under the WA.
· Préfectures are repeatedly making mistakes which are often a denial or refusal of rights under the WA.
· The WA sets out the rights and circumstances under which a dependent descendant or ascendent can join a WA RP holder.
· The definition of a ‘family member’ is found in EU Directive 2004/38/EC. As with EU citizens, the definition of dependent is not clear and therefore neither is the evidence required to demonstrate dependence (financial or medical dependency).
· We acknowledge that clarity on this is not simple as people do not easily fit in boxes, however, there needs to be more information for those considering applying on this basis and for préfectures who tend to err towards refusal rather than finding a way to help people to "fit".
· Some are issuing the wrong documents for joining family in a creative attempt to fit them in the system.
· There is no official body for people to turn to for practical support when they are having issues with the French administration or when their WA rights are being infringed or refused.
· Whilst Your Europe can provide general advice, it does not provide the type of support our members require.
· The Ministère de l’intérieur has a dedicated email address but in our experience the service provided to individuals is only slightly better than their experience with their local préfectures.
· Emails regularly go unanswered, applicants are simply told to contact their local préfecture or when provided, the information is not correct.
Following the submission of our report we have been invited to contact the representative of the EU commission to arrange a further meeting.
You can read more about our previous meeting with the EU commission here.