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90-day rule: How long can British second-home owners stay in France after Brexit?

90-day rule: How long can British second-home owners stay in France after Brexit?
How long can you spend in your dream house in France? Photo: AFP
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 Brexit is set to change that.

The British citizens advice group France Rights 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 the situation for people living in France but what about those who want to carry on living in the UK but also spend time in France?

At present we are in a transition period, and people can continue to move freely (allowing for coronavirus-related border restrictions) until that ends.

The transition period is currently agreed to run until December 31st, 2020 (although it may be extended if both sides agree before July 2020) and during that time the EU and UK will negotiate on what the rules for the future will be – in between attempting to negotiate a trade deal and many other aspects of the future relationship.

So everything stays as it is for the next 6 months but after that we don't know what will happen.

This is one of the things still to be negotiated, but 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.

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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

It's possible that the UK will seek to negotiate longer access to EU countries such as France for its citizens, but any such arrangement would have to be reciprocal and given the UK's hard line on freedom of movement in negotiations to date that may well not happen.

Either way, it remains TBC despite several campaigns to allow a 180 day rule that doesn't require people to divide their 180 days into two portions of 90 (so that people could, for example, spend the summer in France and the winter in the UK).

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.


Member comments

  1. I note that the preceding comments were added before the current article appeared (Jan 2020), so they must be referring to a previous incarnation.

    I am a British national living in Canada (with Canadian citizenship) with a Canadian husband. We have a second home in France and stay here for just under 6 months every winter. Until last year did not need visas based on my British nationality.

    We are retired, but there is no such thing as a retirement visa and so we applied for a long-stay tourist visas (available up to 1 year).

    We came in October (2019) and obtained visas in Canada because the threat of a no-deal Brexit was looming and we did not want to be forced back to Canada after 3 months.

    The process was rather daunting the first time, but now I know what to expect it will be easy. Having a home in France is important. It meant that we have a place to live, and thus did not need to prove that we had enough money to pay for accommodation here.

    We had to take out emergency health insurance (cost depends on age and pre-existing conditions if you are over 60) and purchased return tickets before going for our interview. We had to take the last 3 months of bank statements to show that we have sufficient income, which is approximately 35 Euros per day (if you have a home, health insurance and transport already). We also had to pay a processing fee of about 150 pounds each.

    We could not apply more than 3 months before we intended to leave.

    The most annoying part of the process was that we had to travel to a main centre that had the appropriate visa office. This could be quite a distance depending on where you live in the UK. The visa process was easy and quick. Our passports were returned within a week.

    I find it hard to believe that British citizens will be offered any special deal with respect to the 90 day visa ruling. Why should they be?

    So, if visas are required for British citizens to stay longer than 90 days, they should not be fearful of the process, but they will have to prove that they have sufficient funds to cover costs (living, health, accommodation) while in the EU, which will be a deterrent to some people.

  2. Surely, if any unsolicited advice is to be offered, it must be; “Plan for the worst – Hope for the best”.

    As no one has the slightest idea what will, ultimately, happen; should we not, all of us, do the sensible things e.g. apply for a CdS, Carte Vitale, change of Driving License, Tax status, etc.?

    This has been my full-time activity since taking up residency in December 2018 (to fulfil residency law requirement before the original March Brexit deadline) during which period I have gained a 5 year CdS, my Carte Vitale, and am part way through converting and importing my UK cars.

    I hope, and intend, to fulfill my other obligations before the October deadline such that I have some ammunition to fire if, and when, it becomes necessary.

    Those without such clearly required necessities are, in my opinion, offering themselves up as hostages to fortune.

    I wish everyone who wants to remain the very best of luck; but I urge you all to help yourselves rather than rely upon others (especially politicians – of any hue – who evidently have no actual interest in our predicament) to do all you can to safeguard your own future status.

    For the foreseeable future we’re on our own – it’s down to us to survive

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

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