EXPLAINED: France’s post-Brexit visa requirements for British citizens

Since the Brexit transition period ended, British nationals coming to France may need a visa. Here's how the post-Brexit system works.

EXPLAINED: France's post-Brexit visa requirements for British citizens
Photo: AFP

Since January 1st 2021 British nationals lose their European freedom of movement, which for many people means entering the complicated and expensive world of visas, which is already familiar to other non-Europeans such as Americans and Australians.

The French government has now published its visa requirements for Brits coming to France after January 1st, and the application process is open for anyone who needs one.

UK nationals who had already moved to France before the end of 2020 have a different set of rules – click here for full details.

Who doesn't need a visa to come to France?

Tourists – for example those coming on short holidays to France, travelling to visit friends or family or spending limited periods in their second homes do not need a visa.

That's because the UK is part of the list of countries whose nationals don't need an actual Schengen visa for short stays in the EU.

The time limit for these visits is 90 days out of every 180. In total over the course of a year you can spend 180 days in France without needing a visa – but these need to be split up into two blocks of 90.

It's also important to know that your 90-day limit covers the whole EU, so you can't do 90 days in France and then head to Spain.

Full details on how the 90-day rule works HERE.

Who does need a visa to come to France?

Those UK nationals who want to spend more than 90-days at a time here.

It doesn't matter whether you plan to stay long-term or you just want a four-month holiday, if you intend to be here longer than 90 days, you need a visa.

The French government guidance says: “As of January 1st 2021, UK citizens will need a Long Stay visa if staying in France or in a French Oversea Territory for more than 90 days whatever the purpose of stay (work, studies, Au Pairing, passport talent, visitor, family reunification, family members of French nationals, etc).”

There are lots of different types of visa, and people who are moving here permanently to work can look at several different options depending on their work status.

People who intend to do paid work while in France – even if they are spending less than 90 days here – will also likely need a visa, depending on the type of work.

More details on the types of visa available HERE.

Those who have no intention of moving to France, but just want to spend more than 90 days at a time here can get a visitor visa – this allows you to stay for up to a year, needs to be renewed every year and requires an undertaking that you will not be doing paid work while you are here.

You will also need to provide financial information to show that you can support yourself for the duration of your stay (more on that below).

What about second home owners?

Those who own property in France are not exempt from the visa requirement and must choose between either limiting their stays to less than 90 days per 180, or applying for a visa.

The French government says of second-home owners: “If you are spending between three and six months a year in France in total, you are not considered as a resident in France and cannot apply for a carte de séjour under the withdrawal agreement. You will have to apply for a temporary visitor visa – visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur.

“If you spend more than six months a year in France, you are then considered as a French resident and must apply for a long stay visitor visa (visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour visiteur).”

How do you get a visa?

The key thing about the visa is you have to apply for it in advance from your home country. So British nationals need to apply at the French consulate in the UK.

The initial process is online, you can head to the French government's visa wizard HERE and enter your details and it will tell you whether you need a visa and what type. This portal has now been updated with the post-January 1st requirements for Britons.

You first need to set up an account on the site, then fill out the form with all the relevant details. You then submit it and print out the form and receipt and take that printout along with all the supporting documents requested to your nearest French consulate.

The type of supporting documents you need to provide will vary depending on the type of visa you request, but if you're coming here to work you need a work contract or – in the case of self-employed people – financial information demonstrating that your business is viable.

For second-home owners who don't intend to work, the information will be around your financial status.

You can find more information on financial requirements HERE, but the guidelines figure is that you need around €1,200 for each month of your stay – this can either be evidence of a regular income such as a pension or a lump sum for the whole year – roughly €14,000 – in a bank account.

Most types of visa last a year, so you will need to do this for every year you want to spend more than 90 days at a time in France if you want to remain as a visitor.

People moving here permanently get a visa first and then apply for a residency permit known as a carte de séjour.

How much are they?

Visas are not free, you will be charged a fee and this is not refunded even if your application is denied.

You can find the full list of fees here, but generally short-stay visas are €80 and long-stay are €99.

This is only part of the cost, however. Most supporting documents that you supply must be translated into French and you will need to pay for a certified translator to provide these. Find out more about certified translations and costs here.

This sounds like a massive pain, do I really have to do this?

Unfortunately, yes. European freedom of movement had freed British people from this type of paperwork, but now here are only two options for UK nationals coming to France; spend less than 90 days at a time here or get a visa.

Among non-EU nationals like Americans and Australians, France has earned itself a reputation as being not too fussy about the exact exit date of people who aren't working or claiming benefits, as long as it's fairly close. It's also true that there is likely to be a 'bedding in period' for the new rules.

However we would suggest that people don't rely on this. 

If you are caught over-staying your allocated 90 days you can end up with an 'over-stay' flag on your passport which can make it difficult to enter any other country, not just France, and is likely to make any future attempts at getting visas or residency a lot more difficult.


Member comments

    1. I am married to an Irish citizen with an EU passport. We both live in the UK. We are both retired and want to move permantly to France. Do I need a visa?

      1. Geoff
        Your question is different from mine – because it appears you were both living in UK at the time Brexit transition rules ended, and you now want to establish a permanent home inside an EU country. It’s clear that you will be entitled to a French residence permit because your spouse is an EU citizen. It’s not clear to me whether you will need a long-stay visa while you obtain a home and the permit. I would contact the French Consulate in London to ask them about this.

  1. Same question from me – I cannot find an answer to the question of having a British passport but Portuguese residency, and wanting to spend time in other European countries (whilst not endangering our Portuguese residency and not contravening any other country tax rules, etc). If we had citizenship rather than residency, it would not be a problem obviously. Thank you

  2. My understanding is that since we are inside Shengen we can move freely for periods that don’t trigger permanent residency, that is, up to 180 days. There are (in normal times) no border checks anyway. However, I don’t yet know the number of days you can have been out of the country when we come to renew our residency in 10 years. For an EU residency, we we are having to give up, it is 2 years cumulatively out of the 10, but for a non-EU resident it is only 10 months! Don’t know what we get with this pathetic ‘WA’ residency card. . .

  3. We applied for long stay visa 2 weeks ago but after chasing TLS Contact in London (who are charged with processing visas from UK) heard back today stating that only a very specific group of people are able to apply (since 22nd December) and does NOT currently include anyone looking to make a permanent move to be a new (or imminent) main residence post Brexit. Therefore currently falling through the cracks and in limbo until things change with travel (Covid) restrictions I guess or they’re able to make allowances given any special circumstances.

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Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”