Brexit: What changes in France from January 2021?

Once the Brexit transition period ends, Britons will start to notice some differences - especially when travelling between France and the UK. Here's what is set to change.

Brexit: What changes in France from January 2021?
Many things will change for British citizens from January. Photo: AFP

Although the UK actually left the EU in January 2020, the rest of the year was a transition period, which meant that on a day-to-day basis not much changed.

But after the end of the transition period on December 31st, 2020 the differences will start to be felt.

Here's an outline of what is changing;

Entry to France

This isn't a permanent consequence of Brexit, but in the short term entry to France might be limited for British people after January 1st. This is because of the EU's Covid rules for non-European countries.

Since March, the EU's external borders have been closed, which means that travel is only allowed for essential purposes from countries such as the USA and Canada. That means no tourism, no family visits and no visits for second-home owners.

From January 1st, the UK will be outside the Bloc, so will fall under this rule unless an exception is made.

Passport queues

From January 1st 2021, British people no longer get to use the EU passport queue at ports, station and airports.

This probably won't have a huge impact on most people but the tous passports queue tends to be longer so if you are planning a very tight connection it might be wise to bear this in mind.

French customs officials have also warned that people arriving on the Eurostar at Gare du Nord could face longer waits due to the required extra checks, and an expanded waiting area has been created for arrivals from the UK. 


From January 1st, British passports that have less than six months until their expiry date will no longer be valid for travel within the EU.

This is the same rule that is already in place for British travellers to several other countries, including the USA, but will now also apply when travelling inside the EU. So anyone whose passport is nearing its expiry date will need to renew.


Any British national who wants to stay in France for more than 90 days out of every 180 will from January 1st need a visa. This applies to both people who want to move here and holidaymakers or second home owners who want to spend more than 90 days at a time here.

READ ALSO How will the 90-day rule work in France after Brexit?

The French government has now published its visa requirements for UK nationals – click here for details.


Britons who are resident in France before December 31st 2020 do not need a visa.

They do need to get a residency card (carte de séjour), but are not obliged to have the carte de séjour until October 1st 2021.

For British residents of France who want to travel in and out of France between January 1st and October 1st, the Interior Ministry advised that it would be easier to have either a carte de séjour or the certificate of application for the card at the border in order to avoid being mistaken for a tourist. 

When you apply for the carte de séjour online you receive an automated attestation d'enregistrement via email which can be shown at the border as proof that you are a resident.

READ ALSO How the carte de séjour residency website works


Visitors to France can continue to drive on their UK licence after January 1st and do not need an International Drivers Permit. You will, however, need to get a 'green card' from your insurance company which acts as proof that you are insured.

British residents in France will need to swap their UK licence for a French one – but you have until December 31st 2021 to make the swap – full details here


In the end Britain's Brexit deal with the EU did contain details on health cover for UK visitors to Europe. Buried away deep in the Christmas Eve Brexit deal was details on the provision of reciprocal health care for Brits visiting the EU and EU citizens in the UK.

The UK government has said UK residents with a current EHIC card can use it until the date expires.

The Brexit deal also contains mention of a new UK-specific health insurance card, which will be introduced at some point in the future. This link contains the latest info on EHIC cards.

British residents living in France will need to register with the French healthcare system if they have not already – here's how to do that. Once you are registered, you will also need to a apply for a carte européenne assurance maladie (CEAM) which is the French equivalent of EHIC and entitles you to treatment elsewhere in Europe, or in the UK if you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

Identity cards

From October 2021, the UK will no longer allow entry from EU citizens with an ID card, only a passport will be accepted. This won't affect many Brits as French ID cards are only issued to French citizens, but if you're planning a trip to the UK with your French partner, friend or mother-in-law you need to remind them that they will need a passport to travel.



Probably the biggest post-Brexit travel complications are for four-legged travellers, since the EU Pet Passport scheme, which has allowed reasonably frictionless travel for dogs, cats and ferrets, will no longer apply.

An agreement of sorts has been reached on this, with the UK being granted 'listed' status. But travelling with a pet will still be more complicated and require different paperwork – full details here.


The cherished tradition of the French booze cruise will be coming to an end, with the reintroduction of strict limits on the amount of alcohol and tobacco that can be brought over the border without paying import duty.

The UK government has now published details of how much alcohol you can bring back from France, and although it's enough for some decent holiday souvenirs, the days of driving to Calais and loading up the car are over. There are also limits on the total value of all types of goods you can bring into the UK from France.


Member comments

  1. I’m not sure that the above content re. healthcare is correct.
    The BBC says British visitors can still rely on EHICs:
    “UK nationals will need a visa if they want to stay in the EU more than 90 days in a 180-day period. They will still be able to use their EHICs which will remain valid until they expire. The UK government says they will be replaced by a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), but there are no further details yet on how to obtain it”

  2. So… British subjects, resident permanently in France… will we need separate health insurance to have cover if we visit the UK in the future?

  3. Will British citizens arriving from US be allowed in the EU queue if they have a carte de séjour (same as Green Card lane in US)?

  4. Will British citizens arriving from US be allowed in the EU queue if they have a carte de séjour (same as Green Card lane in US)?

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‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work.