Reader Question: My husband and I went to the prefecture in August; I had my Withdrawal Agreement residency card within three weeks but there is no sign of my husband's card. I emailed them and they just said it can take a while. As we were both at the same appointment why should it take so long for the other card and I am not sure what to do now or where to go.
Usually, the appointment to give fingerprints and a photo is the last step so that the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) residency card can be printed and sent out.
As in your case, this typically happens within a month or so, so it is not normal to still be waiting for the other card several months later.
The cards – unusually, as most ordinary French cards for foreign residents are collected from the prefecture – are being posted out in the case of Britons’ WA cards.
Some Britons have been told, however, that if they are out when the postman/woman calls they may have to go back to the prefecture to collect it instead, so it is possible this is what happened with your husband’s card. It is also possible an error has been made.
What to do to chase up the card
We would suggest contacting the prefecture again about the missing card, stressing the French legal requirement for Britons to physically hold a card by January 1, 2021.
France’s decree of November 20, 2020 (updated in 2021) on rights of WA Britons in France states at article 5 from January 2022 that they ‘must be equipped with a residency card’ for purposes of entry to France after travelling away; in other words you may be expected to show the card at the border.
Article 7 of the same decree states that “[WA Britons] are obliged to possess a residency card from January 1, 2022. Before this date, if they are living in France, these Britons benefit from the right to live in France without having a residency card, as well as the right to work and the social security rights deriving from this”.
The French phrase is: Ils sont tenus d’être en possession d’un titre de séjour. It means that Britons’ basic rights in France are not guaranteed from January 1 without a residency card.
In the run-up to October 1, 2021, which was previously the deadline for holding a card, several readers reported problems cropping up with employers and others.
We note that article 27 of the French decree refers to individuals’ rights continuing nonetheless while awaiting a decision of the prefecture about issuing their residency card, or awaiting a judgment in the case of an appeal against refusal.
However, it is highly preferable not to have to rely on this clause in cases where, from next year, border officials or employers etc. are likely to be asking to see the card.
You mention you have already been in touch with the prefecture, so you probably have their email, however the IOM, one of the bodies that was formerly funded by the UK government to help Britons with their applications, has a useful list of contact emails for residency card matters at French prefectures, at this link.
If your prefecture has other means of getting in touch, such as booking a physical rendez-vous to see an official, or a phone number for its accueil des étrangers service, we suggest using whatever means possible to get in touch at this stage. Check its website for information.
This also applies to any readers who have not yet had their residency card meeting to give fingerprints.
Put in place a proxy with La Poste
We also suggest your husband puts in place a procuration (proxy) with La Poste so that if your postman/woman calls with his card when he is out you can accept it for him. You can designate someone as your proxy at this link, with scanned versions of an ID document and proof of residency (eg. utility bill dated in the last three months).
If you are still struggling, a possible source of help is a local Maisons France Service, which has staff able to assist free of charge with administrative tasks of various kinds. You can find one at this link.
As a last resort you could also flag the problem to the British consular services by using this online form. You could also, if the problem becomes urgent, seek help from a French avocat (lawyer) with expertise in le droit des étrangers (foreigners’ rights law).