The last part in the saga of us getting our residence permits for France. But first…
An important reminder: If you are British and have been living permanently in France since before 31st December 2020, you must apply for a new WARP residence permit by 1st July 2021, even if you already have a permanent titre de séjour. See this site for more information
If you have been following our battle to obtain our titres de séjour, residence permits for France, you will know that we had finally received our email invitations to attend interviews at the Préfecture in Le Mans.
On the allotted day we armed ourselves with the required documentation and set off early for the hour’s drive to the city. Given that the last time we had been to Le Mans was a year and half ago, before most of us had even heard of COVID-19, it was a bit of a surreal experience. The previously packed roads were quiet, bars and restaurants closed and the car park of Les Quinconces Cultural Centre where we usually park, was practically empty. With cinemas, theatres and other cultural venues still closed since the lock down in November 2020 and with so many people still working from home, there were very few people about.
We made our way to the Préfecture, arriving half an hour before our appointments. (I like to be punctual!) The security guard on the gate checked our invitations and said even though we shouldn’t have arrived more than 15 minutes early, (it didn’t say that in the email), he would let us in. We checked in at the front desk and were directed back to the department we had visited in 2019. The paper ticket dispenser had been replaced with a touch-screen check-in system. We tried several on-screen options to register our presence but none of them seemed relevant for Brits who had been summoned to provide fingerprints and passports for their residence permits. So we sat down and watched and waited.
All the other visitors arriving in the salle d’attente, waiting room, were from other countries (ie, not from the UK) and each one came in, struggled in confusion with the touch screen before giving up and sitting down. One young Japanese student sensibly walked out and returned with a member of staff she had found. He too tried every option before shrugging and walking out. But it eventually became clear that there were two ladies who took it in turns to walk through from the interview rooms and called people in from the list on their clipboard.
A few minutes after our allotted appointment time, one of the ladies arrived and called us into another large hall which had a series of numbered cubicles down the middle. She was very friendly and once we had seated ourselves in the right cubicle, she took her place on the other side of the glass screen and, starting with me, asked for the print-out of the invitation email, my passport (which she photocopied – even though we had already had to provide digital copies of our passports during the online application) and a proof of address (I gave her a downloaded, printed copy of our last electricity bill). She photocopied it and returned it. I handed over my ID photos and she cut them out and stuck them on two different bits of paper. She asked for a few pieces of information like my mobile phone number and I was then asked to provide my signature and we spent quite a few minutes waiting while the machine on the desk slowly scanned my fingerprints. I was a bit worried that these would get rejected as I had lost the tips of two fingers in an accident in my 30’s, but all seemed to be satisfactory and she finally thanked me and Colin and I swopped seats so that he could sit next to the slot in the glass screen. He then went through the exact same process. Finally she smiled and informed us that our cards would be posted to our home address in 2-3 weeks and wished us well.
We were really elated that all had gone smoothly and any niggly fears that we would be rejected for some reason were finally put to rest. It would have been lovely to celebrate, to treat ourselves to a nice lunch in town, to get a coffee even, but that just wasn’t possible in these strange times. So we drove back to the mill and ate a cheese sandwich on the balcony, over looking the river!
Then this morning, two and half weeks after our trip to the Préfecture there was a knock on the door and our lovely post lady announced she had two letters that needed signing for. And yes!!! Our cards had arrived! Colin has just rushed out to buy a bottle of bubbly to celebrate.
We now have WARP residence permits for 5 years ( the maximum we could have as we had not been resident for five years before Brexit) and those will automatically be renewed for 10 year ones when they expire.
These residence permits recognise that we had become residents of France before the Brexit deadline of 31st December 2020, which entitles us to keep most of the rights to live and work in France that we originally had as EU citizens. However, thanks to the British government, we are no longer EU citizens and no longer have the freedom to travel, live and work anywhere else within the EU or the right to vote in France.
From the beginning of 2021, Brits wishing to come and live in France are subject to the same stringent requirements that have always been demanded of any citizen of a non-European country.
If you are in a similar situation to us, all the best to you and I hope everything goes smoothly. Do leave a comment and share your experiences.