Enfin, 2020 is behind us. After a tumultuous year, our lives and livelihoods were upended in unimaginable ways due to a pandemic caused by a new virus known to all now as COVID-19. We discovered its existence exactly a year ago and its contagious infection spread with lightning speed around the world. And equally as fast, the discovery of several vaccines, which the medical community has begun administering to those who will accept it.
Will 2021 be a kinder year?
We certainly hope so. Some of us got infected and sick. Others lost their livelihoods after working years to build them. Worse, loved ones left us without a chance to say goodbye. We learned to homeschool, work at home, master the Internet and learn new skills to pass time.
Effective vaccines are available to the general population in 2021. So, if we all remain vigilant, we should see the possibilities of normality return to our lives by next fall.
So, what’s in store for those of us living and working in France in 2021?
Moving towards deconfinement and vaccinations
Whew! We’ve avoided a third national lockdown and children began school on January 4th but some of us begin the new year with a stricter evening curfew. Fifteen regions in eastern France advanced their curfew from 8pm to 6pm, mainly where new cases are soaring.
It should come as no surprise that our French restaurants, bars, cafés, museums and galleries remain closed after the partial reopening of non-essential businesses during the holiday season. Socializing and shopping translate into higher cases of infections that evolve into hospitalization and pressure on the French ICU units. The French government has promised to review the situation again by January 20, 2020.
The campaign to launch vaccinations in France began on December 27, 2020. Mauricette, a 78-year-old French woman under long term care in a hospital, was the first person to be vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.
“It didn’t hurt at all.” – Mauricette, 78, first French person to be vaccinated againsT COVID-19
Phase 1 of inoculation will begin in earnest mid-January, when all elderly over-75-years-old and frontline workers and firefighters over 50 or with existing co-morbidities will receive vaccinations. These elders can sign up for vaccinations by reserving online or by telephone with their general doctors. According to the French authorities, no one is obliged to take it but at least 60% of the population should if there is to be any impact on stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
Phase 2 begins in February, when a further 14 million people considered highly vulnerable in medical care, the elderly under-75-years-old and frontline health workers will also be vaccinated.
The general population is expected to receive their jabs by April, May and June. France has enough doses to inoculate 27 million people against COVID-19, but the latest global poll finds the French the most reticent in the world to be vaccinated.
New laws that change our way of living
Brexit is finally real
As of January 1, 2021, Great Britain fully leaves the European Union (EU) and reclaims its full sovereignty after negotiating trade agreements with the 27 EU countries.
For British citizens living in France for more than five years, you will be eligible for permanent residency and a 10-year renewable residency permit.
For other UK residents here in France before 31 December, 2020, you will be able to stay but you must apply online for the new residency permit before 1 July 2021, in line with the Withdrawal Agreement. You need to have your new residency permit before October 1st 2021.
For both French and UK nationals wishing to cross borders to visit or work, easy crossings by train, car and plane are a thing of the past. You must pass customs and immigration control and you will need your passport. National European Identity cards will only be accepted until October 2021, and if you plan to stay for a length of time, you need to apply for a visa.
Don’t forget to inquire about your data roaming services on your cell phone when you cross UK-France borders as previous rates may no longer apply. Also, be aware of the products you are taking across the border that may now be subject to taxes.
If you are a transporter of goods, lorry drivers must anticipate and declare their merchandise and vehicle information online to customs and border police to avoid long delays at the border.
As a result of Brexit, students wishing to begin study in the UK will no longer qualify for British student loans and will pay higher tuition fees until a new model is set up to assist EU and Swiss students.
Police Reform – Caught on Camera
All police and law enforcement officers in France will wear body cameras as a standard by July 2021.
The cameras, known as body-worn video (BWV) or body-worn cameras (BWC) —and caméras-piétons (pedestrian cameras) in French — will be attached to a police officer’s uniform, and will be turned on whenever the officer is on duty in public. They will record interactions and incidents between the officer and the public.
The Ministry of Interior, Gérald Darmanin, said the cameras are intended to help build public trust in the police, to add transparency to their actions, and to protect both the police and the public.
New tax hikes
We are all using more energy at home and at work due to confinement during the pandemic. Unfortunately, gas rates regulated by Engie increase to an average of 0,2% on January 1, 2021 based on the barometer applicable since Dec. 1, 2020. Expect an increase in your energy bill.
Walk-in showers are essential
Ground-floor apartments and single-family houses in housing estates or for rental must be equipped with walk-in showers. In new housing, this also becomes compulsory.
Stamps cost more
The price of the Green Letter stamp increases from €0,97 to €1,08; the red stamp for a priority letter of increases from €1,16 to €1,28. The Ecopli stamp (the cheapest) will rise 10 centimes, from €0,95 to €1,06. La Poste justifies its increase of 10% due to the drop of postal services during the pandemic.
Fees on property sales
In the event of the sale of a property for separation or other reasons, the notarial fees fall by 1.9% on average for the release of the mortgage. There are now two prices which correspond to two brackets: €78 for capital less than €77,090 and €150 above €77,090. Legal fees are now fixed.
Home improvement grants
Many of us turned to home improvement during our long periods of confinement. The grant scheme MaPrimeRenov’ opens its application process further to help stimulate the economy while contributing towards a green transition. The scheme — which grants households up to €20,000 to carry out energy-saving renovation work — entered into effect a year ago, and any work done in the past few months can be covered by the scheme. Beneficiaries must apply for assistance at the beginning of the new year.
Electrical cars get a boost
Owner or tenant households with electrical cars and who want to equip their parking space with a charging device can benefit from a tax advantage as of January 1, 2021. This device, capped at €300 and 75% of the cost of the installation, succeeds the energy transition tax credit (CITE).
New bike identification
Vive le vélo! With so many people relying on their bicycles to circulate during the pandemic, it’s no surprise that bike theft was on the rise. In order to help fight against robbery, concealment, or illegal resale of bicycles, new bikes sold in France must be marked with a unique identifying number starting on January 1, 2021.
Good-bye to single-use plastic
Following last year’s ban on plastic plates, cups and bags, this year, plastic straws, cutlery, lids, styrofoam takeaway containers and cups, coffee stirrers, and even those long sticks tied to children’s balloons, will all be a thing of the past. In order to reduce waste, the free distribution of plastic water bottles at the office will no longer be allowed. Food vendors will be obligated to accept containers brought in by customers in order to encourage re-use and move towards a strategy of zero disposable plastic in 2040. For more details on what single-use plastics have been banned and when, check this handy chart from Zero Waste France.
Health breaks or not
Hearing aids reimbursed
To help hearing-impaired persons, hearing aids, which in the past have been cost-prohibitive, are now covered 100% by French national health insurance (Sécurité Sociale) and supplementary insurance with a cap of €950. Entry level devices will be sold for €950 each — with €240 to be covered by Sécurité Sociale and the remaining €710 by complementary health insurance. Those applying should note that only certain hearing aids are reimbursed in full. Some optical and dental costs are also covered 100%. Check the official Assurance Maladie website to learn more.
The French health insurance fund no longer supports reimbursements.
Minimum wage boost
On January 1, 2021, the salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance (SMIC), or minimum wage, increased by 0.99% for an added €15 gross monthly. On the basis of 35 hours per week, the monthly minimum wage is thus raised to €1,554.58, or €10.25 gross per hour and €8.11 net per hour.
Winter sales to save or spend your money
Due to the health crisis and irregular openings of stores the past year, the winter 2021 sales have been delayed until January 20th and will last four weeks as usual.