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.