Second home owners in France: What are your rights after Brexit?

While British nationals who are permanent residents in France have been grappling for some time with what Brexit means for them, second home owners will also be affected by the changes after December 31st - here's a reminder of what Brexit means for them.

Second home owners in France: What are your rights after Brexit?
British second home owners in France are facing some hard choices. Photo: AFP

For many people who own property in France, the country is more than just a holiday destination. Second home owners frequently spend long periods here, get to know their neighbours, learn the language and often have long-term plans to move to France permanently.

But whatever their plans for their second home in France, Brexit is likely to have an impact. Many people assume that owning property in France gives them extra rights, but this is not always the case.

Here's the current situation for second home owners on some of the most commonly-raised issues – length of stay, residency, healthcare and making the move to France permanently at a later date – after December 31st, 2020.

Length of stay

This is the biggest question for second home owners – how long can they stay in France after Brexit? While some people use their French property purely for short breaks others, especially retirees, often spend long periods at a time in France or divide their year completely, spending the summer in France and the winter in the UK or vice versa.

Under European freedom of movement there is no limit to how long you can stay and no need to plan in advance – if you're having a great time and haven't yet sampled all the wines of the Bordeaux area then just extend your stay by another couple of months, no problem.

However this will almost certainly change after December 31st, 2020, which is when the Brexit transition period ends.

Exactly what the rules will be for second home owners after this date we don't know, it's one of the (many) things that still need to be agreed between the UK, the EU and member states like France.

At this stage, however, it seems likely that British citizens will be subject to the 90 day rule that already governs the visits of non-European citizens such as Americans and Australians.

The 90 day rule states that people can spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without requiring a visa. So in total you can spend 180 days (six months) in France but crucially you cannot spend more than 90 days at a time – ruling out extended summers in the French countryside or five months skiing in the French Alps.

The 90 rule also covers your time anywhere in the Schengen zone, so if you plan to visit another country as well this will limit your time in France even further.

Read more on the 90 day rule and how it works here.

For longer stays, non-Europeans are required to get a visa, a process that is expensive and complicated and for people who are not working requires you to demonstrate that you have sufficient resources never to be a burden on the French state. Find out more about visa rules here.


For people who want to spend longer than 90 days at a time in France there is the option to move here full time and apply for residency.

You can benefit from the more generous provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement if you are legally resident in France before December 31st, 2020.

READ ALSO What is the Withdrawal Agreement and does it cover me?

However to gain French residency you must establish the country as your main residence, which means registering with the health system and filing an annual tax return (even if all your income comes from the UK you still need to file a tax return in France if you are a resident here).

There are also conditions attached to being 'legally resident' and they are more onerous than simply owning property or being on French soil – find out what legal residency means here.


This is not something that British people in France have previously had to worry about, as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) has entitled British people to treatment in France should they fall ill or get injured while they are here.

However as a European scheme this will not be available to British people after Brexit.

An agreement on healthcare has been reached for people who are full time residents in France, but at this stage there has been no deal for visitors or non-resident second-home owners. This means that British visitors to France will need to make sure they have comprehensive travel or health insurance in order for their costs to be covered, in the same way as you would for trips to America or other non EU countries.

Moving to France at a later date 

For many second home owners the ultimate dream is to make the move to France permanent, often after retiring. But while this has been a comparatively simple process, after the end of the Brexit transition period it is set to get a lot more complicated.

Exactly what the rules will be for Brits moving to France after December 31st we again don't know – it's on the long list of things yet to be negotiated (along with the little matter of a trade deal) – but they will not be as straightforward as under freedom of movement.

It is likely that the rules will be similar to those now in place for other third country nationals such as Americans, Australians or Canadians. Third country nationals can and do move to France of course, but the process is considerably more complicated, not to mention expensive, and requires visas and – for people not working such as pensioners – extensive proof of your financial situation.

READ ALSO Can British people move to France after the end of the Brexit transition period?


People who have a European spouse or partner – or a British spouse or partner who is legally resident in France by December 31st – can claim spousal rights, which is slightly easier but not exactly hassle free. Find out more here

There's also the issue of healthcare for pensioners – at present the UK government still pays healthcare costs for British pensioners living in France, but while that will continue for people already living here, early indications are that the UK is not seeking the same deal for people who move after December 31st. 

In conclusion then, owning property in France and even paying the French taxes such as the taxe d'habitation that come with it does not entitle you to much in the way of extra rights after Brexit and for many second home owners, life after December 31st is going to be considerably curtailed.






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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.