Well a little knowledge is a dangerous thing they say. They also say the devil is in the detail and to avoid paralysis by analysis. And so it is that my ever decreasing circle spirals on regarding Brexit, residency and my circumstances. Time to phone a friend! I’d really welcome your thoughts on the questions I pose below - thanks in anticipation.
Own 2 houses outright - one in the UK, one in France
French house treated as a holiday home, lock up and leave, purchased 6 years ago
Kept cumulative time in France less than 6 months in total per year
Not registered in France as a resident or under Tax regulations, nor within the Health system (there is of course the “footprint” through property ownership, ie house taxes, utilities, bank account etc)
UK resident /tax payer
Age 60, retired through ill health, in receipt of a company pension
Pension income is sufficient to meet statutory requirements for residency
Married to Lisa, our children are grown up / independent
No other income (for either of us)
Want to be able to be in France for more than the 3 months on / 3 months off expected in case of “no deal” Brexit
Appears “all” (hahaha) that’s needed is for me to:-
Apply for residency
Register for Tax
Buy health insurance
Does this need to happen pre-Brexit? Does it make any difference?
Which residency permit should I apply for?
What happens when I visit the UK? I.e. are there restrictions about how long I can visit other than the “less than 6 months” test?
What happens if Lisa is not resident? I.e. assume she would only be able to visit France for 3 months and not return for another 3 months?
My wife had Irish Grandparents - is it worthwhile her applying for an Irish passport?
Why complicate matters by becoming a french resident unless you really want to? Residency is more than just spending more time in one country than another, both psychologically and administratively. Your car for example would have to be reregistered here, and would you be happy to leave the NHS as you are below state pension age. You would be a visitor back in the UK - how does that feel to you?
Anyway, if you have sufficient income then unless things change radically you won’t have problems becoming resident in the future if you suddenly find that’s what you want.
Thank you Jane, that’s very helpful - you make some good points. I’d not thought along the lines of a long stay visitor visa to date so I’ll investigate further.
Certainly the Irish passport route makes sense in any event…assuming that could be secured are there downsides to dual citizenship that I should think about?
I’ve had another thought (must stop) - can I take as read that having a long stay visitor visa does not avoid UK residency test restrictions, i.e. if outside UK for more than 180 days a year…could lead to a challenge on my domicile / residency status.
Hi Stella, thanks - yes indeed this is where I was in my thoughts around my opening message. What I don’t know is what I don’t know (if you see what I mean) - so would a permanent move to France create other issues (like could I go back to Blighty as often as I’d like - up to a point etc). To be more precise, I’d like to know all the ins and outs rather than just doing it
I’d definitely endorse the suggestion that your wife applies for an Irish passport Aidrian. Simple process, no downside and it only costs €80. For many years I held both British and Irish passports. Having two passports was useful in some of the countries my job brought me to. When I first lived in France in '81 I registered as British but when I bought here in 2004 and then moved in 2010 for no particular reason I used my Irish “identity”. I’m glad I did as now there’ll be no Brexit disruption. Who could have imagined?
About ten years ago I didn’t bother to renew my British one, it was a hassle getting it to the Embassy in Paris etc, and despite a lot of travel since I’ve never had need of it.
A pal of mine near Nice has “converted” to Irish via his granny’s birthplace too. So it’s becoming quite fashionable
From what you’ve said, your objective is to be able to spend periods of longer than 3 months at a time in France.
That’s what long stay visitor visas are for.
Alternatively, if your wife gets an Irish passport then probably you can do this because although Freedom of Movement doesn’t give you the right to stay longer than 3 months in France as a visitor, France pays very little attention to the comings and goings of EU citizens so no-one would stop you.
As said, changing your country of residence has wider implications in terms of healthcare, tax (eg you would no longer be eligible to take advantage of ISAs and other saving schemes that are tax free to UK residents).
To eventually qualify for permanent residency in France as a Brit established prior to Brexit, you need to prove continuous residence over a period of five years. We all of us accumulate paper trails as we move around, so if you have been in France then your paper trail automatically reflects this and it’s easy to prove, and vice versa. For instance your bank statements indicate where you’ve spent your time, your utilities consumption shows whether you’ve been using your house in France or not. And as you say, HMRC have very sticky fingers; if you don’t make a complete break with the UK it will be difficult to get them to agree that you are a “leaver”. It sounds as if you will have several “ties” (1. Resident during previous tax year, 2. Accommodation tie 3 Family ties (children resident in the UK), and the more ties you have the fewer days you can spend in the UK without being classed as resident. With 3 ties you would be restricted to 45 days per year in the UK, with 4 ties you’re limited to 15 days. If the UK refuses to consider you non resident, that would certainly complicate things if you wanted to assert your right to residency in France.
Thank you all very much, so helpful. Feels like a twin pronged attack fits the bill for now - annual visitor permit and sort out Irish passport for Lisa. Seems these are the least seismic options!
Just to clear my mind on this, if say I had a permit for 5 months and stay for that period, return to UK on it’s expiry, could I go back to France (say) 6 weeks later and stay for another month? Total stay in France 180 days max. Or does the 3 month exclusion period then apply?
Many thanks again.
As Anna has said, in the UK residency is not as simple as just spending 183 days a year there. The test for residency includes all then other ties, so its only if you have no other ties to the UK that the 183 days is the deciding factor. Since you do have other ties, then I think you only have to spend between 30 and 60 days in the UK to maintain residency. Somewhere on the gov.uk website is an interactive bit where you can check your status, but can’t find it right now. However search for statutory residence test UK and you’ll find information like this
Quite frankly if you are not sure you wish to become a french resident then don’t let Brexit rush you into it. The people who are panicking about it do seem to be those in general who are borderline about meeting the criteria to be given a carte de séjour or who have been living here below the radar so can’t prove their residence. From what you’ve said you’re not in these categories. British people moved to France long before the EU, and will do so after Brexit too.
I’m sure I read somewhere - and it is certainly on this forum - that if the length of time spent in France is longer than that spent in each other country (wherever), then France becomes the main place of Residence for Tax implications.
Certainly something to be aware of if one is considering spending time in several countries.
Hmmm, if France does it purely on time within its borders and the Uk does it on “ties” then it sounds like you could wind up with both nations considering you resident - which will bring its own set of frustrations.
Time spent is an important point - just one of many for France.
There have been folk who tried to make the system work for their personal benefit, but fell foul due to misunderstanding the “time spent” aspect. When all is said and done - why would anyone consider the place where you spend most of your time NOT to be your home (your base.)
Well no, because the France-UK tax treaty sets out a series of tie breakers to be applied in cases where at first sight you meet both sets of residence criteria.
I forget the details but IIRC, the final tie breaker is, if you’re a citizen of one country and not the other, you’re classed as tax resident in the country of which you’re a citizen.
And I think that’s the end of the line as far as the rules go, so if that doesn’t solve it then you have to go the tax authorities and give them all the details and ask them for a decision. But normally you’ve got your answer before you reach that point, it’s unusual for all other aspects to be exactly evenly weighted down to being a citizen of both countries.
To be fair I wasn’t thinking that it would be any more onerous than having some earnings in both countries - you don’t have to be resident in France to be liable to French taxation (think of gîte income for instance).
But it is extra hassle which you probably don’t want if it can be avoided.
You declare worldwide income in one country only, and that’s the country where you are deemed to be fiscally resident. To any other countries where you have tax liabilities, you only declare the income that’s taxable in that country. A situation shouldn’t arise where two countries consider you tax resident. You need clarity on this so that you can organise your finances, otherwise if you’re declaring worldwide income in 2 countries you would get the worst of both worlds because your tax free savings and any tax breaks you take advantage of in the one, would be taxable in the other (ISA interest would be taxed in France, Livret A interest would be taxed in the UK, etc).