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How long will British second-home owners be able to stay in France after Brexit?

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How long will British second-home owners be able to stay in France after Brexit?
How long can you spend in your dream house in France? Photo: AFP
12:35 CEST+02:00
For the many British people already living in France Brexit is already complicating their lives - but what about second home owners or people who simply enjoy extra long holidays in France?

France has long been a popular second home destination for British people and many of them, especially retirees, spend many months at a time at their property in France, while still maintaining a home in the UK.

Britain's membership of the EU has meant there is no limit on how many months of the year they can spend in France. But of course all that will surely change after Brexit, which is currently scheduled for October 31st.

The British citizens advice group RIFT (Remain in France Together) puts it quite simply: "Make no bones about it. Brexit will change the life, and the lifestyle, of anyone with a second home in an EU27 country or who spends more than three months at a time in an EU27 country."

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Until now British people in France have been able to come and go without visas and residency permits. Photo: AFP

We have written extensively on what will happen to people living here - especially when France published its no deal contingency plans in April - but what about those who want to carry on living in the UK but also spend time in France?

Once Britain leaves the EU or at the end of any transition period, British people in France - living permanently or not - will become third country nationals.

What happens then depends on whether Britain leaves the EU with or without a deal.

During a transition period - which is currently agreed  to run until December 2020 (although it may be extended if both sides agree), people can move freely exactly as they do at the moment while the UK and the EU will negotiate on what the rules for the future will be.

If the UK leaves without a deal all freedom of movement will stop on the date the UK leaves. People who are already legally resident in France on the leave date are covered by France's no-deal contingency plan, but people who merely wish to visit or are in the country but are not legally resident are not.

If the UK leaves without a deal it's likely that there will be a lot to arrange and the rights and rules for second home owners will probably not be at the top of anyone's to-do list.

So the short answer is that we don't know.

However it seems likely that the rule will follow one of the models that currently exists for visits between non-EU countries.

At present the majority of EU countries operate the 90 day rule for people who do not have residency or a work or study visa.

Americans, Australians, Indians and other non-EU nationals in France will already be familiar with the 90 day rule - people who are not resident here can spend up to 90 days out of every 180 in the EU (with or without a visa depending on the country you are visiting from) but after that must either apply for residency or a work or study visa.

A Facebook group aimed at second home owners called Living in both the UK and France notes that applying for a visa is not a straightforward affair.

"It's fairly complex and costly and involves an interview and proof of medical insurance," reads a message on the site.

"In neither case do we retain any automatic right to travel to Schengen countries, but only the opportunity to request permission to travel. Ownership of property in France is not relevant to travel authorisation."

Over a year you could spend 180 days in total in France but not consecutively, you would have to spend time outside the EU (such as back in the UK) in between.

You can do your 90 days as one block or as several shorter trips, but in every 180 days the total number of days must not exceed 90.

It's worth pointing out that the 90 day rule applies to the total number of days for all countries in the Schengen area. So it's no good spending 89 days in France then popping over the border to Spain for a few days, the 90 day clock will only stop ticking once you leave the EU.

The EU offers this Schengen Area calculator to allow you to calculate your stay.

 

READ ALSO How Britons in France should make the most of the Brexit delay

At present the UK - which although it is still for the moment in the EU is not and never has been in the Schengen area - operates a 180 day rule.

Tourists are generally welcome to stay in the UK for 180 days out of every year before they need to apply for additional visas, although again visitors from some countries require a visa to gain entry to the UK, but a tourist visa will suffice for the first 180 days.

So it is possible that the UK will seek to arrange a reciprocal arrangement of 180 days for its own citizens in other countries. However given the UK's hard line on freedom of movement in negotiations to date that may well not happen.

Either way, it would need to be negotiated during the transition period, which only happens if the UK leaves with a deal.

So what happens if you overstay your allowed period?

Well there are strict rules on visa overstaying, but until now some countries have been more rigorous than others in how they apply them.

Overstaying your welcome can result in a fine or deportation. You may also find that your passport gains an 'illegal immigrant' or 'illegal overstay' stamp which is likely to make it very hard for you to re-enter the country (or potentially other countries) at a later date. 

Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries are all strict about entry and exit dates, but among Australian and American visitors France gained itself a reputation for being fairly relaxed about the precise date that people leave.

However there is no guarantee that this will continue after Brexit and there are penalties should you be caught.

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Boggy - 12 Jul 2019 14:45
Instead of jumping on the band wagon by writing scare stories. Just wait until it happens as no-one as yet knows what's going to happen.
aquitaineguy - 12 Jul 2019 18:41
There is, at this moment, no need to disbelieve this article one bit. I wonder if these much stricter stay provisions in France are likely to cause Brits to no longer invest in second homes in the likes of France, Spain, Portugan etc?
bryan.kirby - 12 Jul 2019 19:02

This sounds like scaremongering.Do you really think France will do anything to upset the "Golden Goose" British who spend absolute millions here each year. Try to have more positive acticles.We are sick to death with Doom and Gloom stories
William - 14 Jul 2019 11:58
Positive articles? Perhaps you can come up with some as I can't see any positives at all.

All our lives have already been badly affected by this mess. The drop in the pound alone has reduced the real value of my pension. I'm poorer now and there doesn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.
Mike - 15 Jul 2019 15:38
How interesting that some people (on here and elsewhere) believe this sort of, clearly factual reporting is "scaremongering"!! It actually admits, in one part, that we "don't know", but is describing the possibilities and what happens with others. Clearly, we are all "fed up" with it, but I would much rather have all this info or speculation up front, than Boris-type, simpleton "have faith, have optimism" cobblers.
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