American Robert, 36, and French Élodie, 29, last week became the first long-distance couple to reunite in France after eight months of being separated by Covid-19 travel restrictions.
“I'm happy, it's been so long, we needed to be together,” Robert told French media when he arrived at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport north of Paris.
France, along with the rest of the EU, effectively closed its borders in early March to all but essential travel in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
To this date, even after the EU somewhat slackened travel restrictions for those coming in from its external borders, travellers from a long list of countries – such as the US, India and Brazil – are still barred.
France allowed French residents to return along with travel for “imperative family reasons”, but these did not cover unmarried couples in long-distance relationships who simply wanted to reunite.
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France only recognises couples as such if they live together, are married or PACSed (a civil partnership or pacte civil de solidarité).
Unmarried couples have long complained that they are treated as second-class couples due to their lack of official documents “proving” their relationship's validity.
The group #LoveIsNotTourism campaigned for months to push France to make good on their promise to let unmarried couples reunite in France, after France's Secretary of State in charge of tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, tweeted in early August: “This virus does not like love, we do!”
Lemoyne promised the government was setting up a process that would allow partners separated due to Covid-19 to reunite.
Initially, the line went that all long-distance couples where one person lives in France and the other person in a non-EU country would be eligible to apply for the laissez-passer (travel pass), the government said.
But according to the procedure set up on September 21st 2020, only couples of one French national are eligible to apply for the free pass. No mechanism has been set up for non-French couples where one person resides in France.
According to the rules on the French consulate in Boston, couples applying for the pass must prove:
- That their relationship began at least six months before the borders closed, so no later than September 2019.
- That they have previously been to France and that the main reason for their visit was that they were visiting their partner (which excludes professional reasons or other long-term projects).
Love Is Not Tourism – which also had been lobbying French political representatives for weeks – took to the streets of Paris to protest the delay in issuing the travel passes.
?Merci @afpfr #LoveIsNotTourism continue de se mobiliser pour rendre plus inclusifs les critères d’attribution du laissez-passer (résidents, enfants mineurs, primo-entrants, relations <1an, renouvelmt du LP). @Interieur_Gouv @francediplo @senateurJGM #LoveIsNotTourismFR https://t.co/IYaBvRqr2B
— Paola Chapdelaine (@PaoChap) September 28, 2020
Now, the ball seems to be rolling and Robert and Élodie just the first of several couples that will be able to reunite in France.
The French consulate in Buenos Aires tweeted on September 30th that they had received their for two travel passes for binational couples aiming to reunite in France.
#BuenosAires : nos 2ers laissez-passer #LoveIsNotTourism ont été délivrés ce matin à des Argentin.e.s engagé.e.s depuis l'?? dans une relation sentimentale avec des Français.e.s installé.e.s en ??. @FR_Consulaire @JBLemoyne @FranceArgentine https://t.co/QBhkLZOX3G
— Julien Bouchard (@julienbouchard_) September 30, 2020
Member of the French Senate Joëlle Garriaud-Mayland responded to a Twitter user who confirmed having received the first travel pass issued in the Maghreb, saying: “So happy for you two! You see now that you didn't have to despair.. All the rest of the couples in the same situation should be able to reunite soon,” she wrote.
Tellement heureuse pour vous deux ! Vous voyez bien qu’il ne fallait pas désespérer…. Tous les autres couples dans la même situation devraient pouvoir se retrouver bientôt. Nous continuons avec @JBLemoyne à faire tout notre possible pour cela. #LoveIsNotTourism https://t.co/7ZOlQvGLGW
— Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam (@senateurJGM) October 4, 2020
The tourism secretary previously confirmed to The Local that there would be no differentiation between heterosexual couples and LGTBIQ couples in the process to issue travel passes.