This is dumb:
The convention has always been that EU countries do not charge citizens of other EU countries for any registration or regularisation process, nor do they charge for visas and residency cards for non-EU spouses of EU citizens. I expect this was done because the marginal cost of waiving the fees is vastly outweighed by not having millions of people bitching about having to pay to exercise their rights under EU law.
With Britain set to leave the EU, the Home Office needs to come up with a way of regularising the presence of approximately 3m EU citizens who currently have a right to be there. A simple registration process is the best way to go about it – sorry, mass deportations are not going to happen – and it is in everyone’s interests to make this as painless as possible. Imposing a £65 charge was stupid to begin with, and scrapping it the most sensible thing to do: it would cause far more resentment than it’s worth, and £200m is chump-change considering half the country seem happy to hand over £39bn without so much as a parliamentary debate. It comes across as petty and vindictive, and makes for very bad politics.
France has advised all British citizens to apply for a residency permit within 1 year of March 29th, and is not charging them a processing fee. From what I’ve seen, their approach has been calm, measured, and sensible. Perhaps some Frenchmen have taken to Twitter demanding Brits be charged 65 euros for the trouble, but if so I’ve not seen them. Unlike certain Brits, I don’t think the average Frenchman is interested in punishing foreigners for being caught up in political events outside their control.
Yesterday I submitted my documents on the second attempt, and at least this time it was successful. It wasn’t without complications, though. Firstly, I got a different fonctionnaire, so of course the required list of documents changed. Fortunately, I’d brought “spare” documents with me just for this eventuality, and two of them were needed. Secondly, when I handed over my income tax statements – which are not on any list, but nevertheless a requirement – I was told they were incomplete. I opened up the French tax website, logged into my account, and showed her exactly what was available for me to print. She looked blank and said “normally there are several pages” and “I need the one they sent to your home”. I said I don’t receive paper copies, I’d opted for the electronic version only and this is all I have. So she processed my application, gave me the receipt, but told me I had to come back with my proper tax statements which I could get from a building over the road. Fortunately Annecy is small, and everything beside each other.
I crossed the road, bracing myself for a battle with bureaucrats in the tax office; the prefecture closed in half an hour, and I had no appetite for coming back another day. I spoke to the lady at reception and explained everything, and she said “Oh yes, there’s a room over there where you can log in and print it out.” To my astonishment, there was: a room with two or three computers and a printer which cost nothing to use. I logged into the tax website and discovered that while everything else was identical, there were more pages to my tax statements when going through their own system. Weird, but I didn’t care: I printed everything off, crossed the road back to the prefecture, and handed them in at the counter I’d been sat at 15 minutes before. Job done, I think.
Everything in France is either insanely complicated or surprisingly easy and you have no idea which it will be until you try it. This was a mixture of both, but at least they didn’t charge me. Britain shouldn’t charge EU citizens either.