SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

LIVING IN FRANCE

Explained: The post-Brexit rules and charges for sending parcels between UK and France

From ordering things online to gifts from family members, parcels sent between France and the UK are subject to different rules and extra charges since Brexit.

Explained: The post-Brexit rules and charges for sending parcels between UK and France
International parcel deliveries have new rules after Bexit. Photo: AFP

All types of parcel – whether commercial or private – are affected by changes to postal rules that came into force when the UK left the EU.

There are three main changes; costs, customs declarations and rules on animal products.

Customs declarations

As well as having the appropriate postage, all items apart from documents sent from the UK to the EU need an extra customs declaration form attached.

This form asks for the sender and recipient’s details, whether the item is a gift or an item sent for sale (which affects the level of duty in some countries) and a detailed description of what is in it – so birthday or Christmas parcels slightly lose their element of surprise. The form is available to download here.

This rule does not apply to people sending parcels from Northern Ireland.

The same also applies to people sending parcels from the EU to the UK, the customs declaration must be completed before sending, either at the post office or in advance by downloading it from the postal service of the relevant country. All customs declarations being sent to the UK must be completed in English.

Cost

There is also an extra cost to having items sent from the UK to France and it’s split into two parts; a handling fee from the parcel carrier (which is usually €10 for La Poste and varies with other carriers) and extra VAT/TVA charges for non-EU parcels.

If you’re ordering online from a business, the extra charges will usually be added when you pay and normally the sender would pay the fees – however it’s far from uncommon for these not to have been paid in full, in which case the recipient is charged before they can accept the parcel.

These fees can be significant, sometimes more than the value of the item you ordered, so check carefully on all fees before you order.

There have also been numerous reports of people receiving a nice little gift from family in the UK and then being charged significant amounts to collect the parcel. Although it’s a lovely idea for granny to send you a little home-made gift, you might have to suggest that she waits and gives it to you in person.  

Animal products

Importing products derived from an animal into the EU from a Third Country (which is what the UK now is) is a complicated process and the rules apply to both businesses and individuals, and to items carried in person or send by mail.

The EU’s strict phyto-sanitary rules mean that all imports of animal derived products technically come under these rules – so sending a nice box of chocolates by post is now not allowed (due to the milk).

Known as Personal Imports (which also covers items that you bring back in your luggage after a trip to the UK) these have some exemptions including limited amounts of baby milk, food required for medial reasons or limited amounts of honey and certain fish products – find more information here.

Parcels that contain banned animal products can be seized and destroyed at the border.

Online orders

So it’s all pretty complicated and because of this, many UK-based companies have simply stopped accepting orders from customers in the EU, so if you’re buying online it’s best to check in advance whether the company will deliver to France in order to save yourself the hassle of going all the way through the order process before being told that your French address is outside their delivery area.

Member comments

  1. I’m not sure why everyone is so surprised about animal products. Having travelled to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand none allow you to take in things like meat or cheese. So why should the EU countries be any different. This was one of the many advantages of being a member which we have decided as a nation to reject. So for all those who visit Europe for your holidays and can’t live without your English breakfast, maybe time to consider a “staycation” as there will be no british bacon on the Costas this year.

  2. Why are people surprised about the increased cost of goods? Probably because it was kept quiet and over shadowed by the ‘no tariffs’ deal. Those of us of a certain age can remember paying/collecting quite large sums for customs fees and VAT etc. As a postman it was always a pain in the neck that we had to take cash – no cheques – for the charges and had to face the abuse from the public who invariably didn’t have the cash to hand. The worst were the folks in big houses, with shiny new cars who then spent an hour scouring the house for the cash. Could be quite comical at times.
    So now us expats will be buying most of our stuff on EU websites where postage is often free. So who got the better deal?

  3. Yes same here, late delivery of clothes sent from Asda, (shows e global and a French site with payment in euros), and today they asked for 23 euro for each packet, x 2, €46, so I guess now all the other clothing sites will be the same, wallis, marks etc,

  4. I complained yesterday about a parcel which was sent from UK on the 21st Dec .Tracking was telling me it had left Uk on the 25th and then no further movement To my great delight it has now arrived in my home although tracking has not been updated.TrevorGibbon

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

VISAS

‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres

Appointments

Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said. 

SHOW COMMENTS