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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‘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.