On December 21st France announced the total closure of its border with the UK following the announcement by the UK government of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus which it said could be up to 70 percent more contagious.
The border was completely closed for 48 hours before reopening on December 23rd for certain groups of travellers only.
On January 14th, Prime Minister Jean Castex added a quarantine requirement to travellers from the UK.
Here's how France's rules work:
Who can travel?
Only certain groups of people can travel. These are
- French citizens
- Citizens of another EU or Schengen zone country
- British citizens who are beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement (ie people who were permanent residents of France before December 31st 2020)
- People spending less than 24 hours in France in transit to another country
- Members of an official mission or diplomatic staff and their families
- Health professionals engaged in Covid-related care
- People engaged in the international transport of merchandise (such as lorry drivers)
- Transport workers or fishing crew
- International students
- Professors or researchers in a French educational establishment
- Non-EU citizens travelling on a 'talent visa'
- Anyone who has a pass issued by the Interior Ministry
- People moving to take up residence in France or another EU member state before December 31st
- People travelling to France for medical care
- People travelling for child-custody reasons, as recognised by a court
- Humanitarian workers
- Cross-border workers
- Seasonal workers
- Journalists travelling for work-related reasons
This rules out travel for tourism, visits from second-home owners and visits friends or family in France.
What paperwork do you need?
You three things – a Covid test, a sworn declaration and an international travel certificate.
Negative Covid-19 test – this must be taken within 72 hours of travel – the test should be a PCR nasal swab test. Until January 18th, certain types of the rapid-result antigen tests are permitted, but only those listed by the French health ministry HERE. Only PCR tests will be accepted. Children under 11 are the only group exempt from the test requirement
Sworn statement – declaring that you have not had any Covid symptoms during the 14 days before your journey. You can find a copy of the statement HERE.
International travel certificate – as was required during lockdown, an attestation de déplacement international (international travel certificate) is again required for trips from the UK. You can find the form HERE to download and there is a version in English. You need to fill in your personal details and then tick your reason for travel from the list provided.
You will need to have this paperwork ready before departing the UK and it will be requested by your travel provider before boarding your plane/ferry/train.
The attestation is a signed statement sworn on your honour that the information you provide is true, so there shouldn't be any need for extra proof – but non-French citizens are advised to have wit them proof of residency as well. There is now a separate category on the form for British nationals who are beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement (ie people who were permanent residents in France before December 31st 2020).
Documents accepted as proof of residency are the carte de séjour residency card, the emailed receipt acknowledging your application for a carte de séjour or proof of address including a rental contract or utility bills.
What about quarantine?
From Monday, January 18th, a quarantine period has also been added In addition to having a negative Covid test before you travel, you need to self-isolate for seven days after arriving and then get a second test. Here is how and where to get a Covid test in France.
The self-isolation can be done at a location of your choice and announcing it, the Prime Minister said people would be expected to make a sworn statement that they will self-isolate, so it doesn't sound like health authorities will be checking.
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See also on The Local:
⚠️ Travel to ??: From Monday 18/01, travellers coming from outside of the EU, including from the UK will need to:
➡️show a negative PCR test before their travel
➡️Self-isolate during 7 days upon arrival
➡️Take a second test after their 7-day isolationhttps://t.co/pJ1QK8mQUR
— French Embassy UK (@FranceintheUK) January 14, 2021
What about travelling from France to the UK?
This was never affected by the ban, so you can still travel the other way, although all arrivals in the UK from France need to fill out a contact locator form and quarantine on arrival, as has been the case since the summer.
From January 18th (pushed back from the original start date of 15th) all arrivals into the UK will also need a negative Covid test.
UPDATE: To give international arrivals time to prepare ⏱️ passengers will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departure to England from MONDAY 18 JANUARY at 4am ?
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) January 13, 2021
All arrivals into the UK from France are still required to quarantine for 10 days, even with a negative Covid test and the British government is discussing bringing in requirements for a hotel-based quarantine.
Both PCR tests and the rapid-result antigen tests (widely available on a walk-in basis from pharmacies in France) will be accepted, although they must met certain specifications.
The UK government guidance says:
“The test must:
- meet performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml
this could include tests such as:
- a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
- an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device
“It is your responsibility to ensure the test meets the minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details so you must check with your test provider that it meets those standards.
“You may not be able to travel if the test does not meet these standards. It is your responsibility to ensure you get the right test that meets the above requirements.”
What services are running?
Travel in both directions has been extremely disrupted, so we would advise anyone with a booked journey to check with their transport operator.
How long will this go on?
The rules were reviewed on January 7th, when the French prime minister announced that they will stay in place 'until further notice'.
Also bear in mind that other countries have their own restrictions in place – not every European country has lifted the ban and those that have mostly have similar 'essential travel only' rules in place for UK arrivals. Most countries also require testing and/or quarantine.
Is there anything else to worry about?
Yes, Brexit. Since March 2020, the EU has closed its external borders and only essential travel is allowed for people coming in from outside Europe. Travel within the EU has not been affected by this, which during 2020 included the UK.
However once the Brexit transition period ended on January 1st the same rules have applied to the UK as they do to America, Canada and other non-EU countries, which means no non-essential travel into France.
So even when France lifts its travel ban, there will still be the EU rules to contend with.
Do you have questions on the travel situation? Email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to answer them.