Can you hold a residence permit for France while living in the UK?

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Can you live in the UK while holding a residence permit with withdrawal agreement (WA) for France, and if you do, do you risk penalties?

The answer is not as simple as it seems. Here we look at a few scenarios.

Note that in a basic sense, where you live is defined as where you have your primary residence (foyer) and live “usually”. Most people know where it is and it’s probably also where your spouse and dependent children live.

Your foyer is also a key criterion for tax residency. If in doubt, there are others, like if you spend more time in France than anywhere else in the year.

From the first day of life in France, you must declare your worldwide income here.

Read more: France or the United Kingdom: do you pay your taxes in the right country?

Applying for a WA card was dependent on living in France at the end of the Brexit transition period, ie. December 31, 2021.

Read more: Nearly 100,000 residence permit granted to Britons in France in 2021

The app required you to enter the date you moved (installation date).

Second home owners should not have applied as their usual residence was the UK, but some claim to have done so nonetheless.

France has been generous with the limited paperwork to obtain a card, especially for those who have attested to having lived here for more than five years to obtain a “permanent residence” card.

The latter had only to present an identity document and any dated document indicating that they had resided in France for more than five years, such as an electricity bill or a rent receipt. Strictly speaking, the WA treaty stipulated that Britons would have to – barring special circumstances – have a total of five years in which they spent at least half the year in their host country to obtain such a card.

Read more: Do you need a language certificate to obtain a French residence permit?

Read more: Provide multi-year residence permits in French to include a language test

There is speculation that people who got cards wrongly could be caught out due to tax office checks into why they are not declaring income in France. That said, we haven’t seen any evidence that there is the will or manpower to do so.

A spokeswoman for the tax administration told us that she was carrying out “datamining” to check for tax evasion, including in matters of domicile. However, she did not confirm whether this included the matching of tax declarations and residence permits. She said falsely holding residence cards is not their concern but rather that of the Home Office.

The Interior Ministry did not respond to questions about it. However, the Penal Code stipulates in article 441.7 that making a false certificate to obtain a residence permit is liable to three years in prison and a fine of €45,000.

What if you got a card and have since returned to the UK?

If you have been issued a temporary (five year) card, WA rules state that you may lose your right to later convert it to a permanent card if you are away from France for more than six months per year (365 day period) from the start of residency, unless there are exceptional reasons for longer absences.

However, the WA indicates that if you have a permanent card (renewable after 10 years), the right to reside in France is only lost after five consecutive years of absence. A department spokeswoman said: ‘The person should keep their card and ensure they return at least once every five years.

“However, they must remain in France long enough for their absence from French territory to be considered over.”

We asked what was considered “long enough”. A spokesman for the European Commission has previously said that under EU law “absence” must be taken at face value, without conditions.

Note: If you’re moving to France, you must apply online to update your address on your WA card within three months, although some people are reporting issues with the process. Read our advice on: tinyurl.com/change-address.

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