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Reader question: Can Brits stay more than 90 days in the EU if they have a spouse with an EU passport?

As British nationals get to grips with the 90-day rule that now governs all trips to EU and Schengen countries, readers are asking if having a European spouse makes any difference to the limit?

Reader question: Can Brits stay more than 90 days in the EU if they have a spouse with an EU passport?
Is having an EU spouse useful for more than love and companionship? Photo: AFP

Question: I have an Irish passport but my wife has a British one. I am therefore able to visit France for more than 90 days out of every 180, but can she do the same as my wife?

This question is one of several The Local has received on a similar theme as British nationals face life under the EU’s 90-day rule.

90-day rule

This rule applies to all non EU-nationals travelling into the EU or Schengen zone for whatever reason – holiday, family visits or visit to second homes.

It has therefore long applied to visitors from American, Canada, Australia etc but since January 1st 2021 has also applied to Brits.

If you intend to do paid work while in the EU, you will probably need a visa even if you stay less than 90 days and there are some countries whose nationals need an entry visa even for a stay of less than 90 days – find the full list here. The overseas territories of France and the Netherlands have extra restrictions in place.

The rule says that people who are not resident can only spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU. So in total over the course of a year you can spend 180 days, but not all in one block.

This Schengen calculator allows you to calculate your visits and make sure you don’t overstay.

It’s important to point out that the 90-day limit is for the whole Schengen area, so for example if you have already spent 89 days in Spain you cannot then go for a long weekend in Berlin.

People who want to stay longer than that have to get a visa – either a visitor visa if they simply want to make a prolonged visit or a long-stay visa for people who intend to make their home in an EU country.

But what about people who are the spouses of EU citizens?

Having an EU spouse is useful in a number of ways to do with immigration (plus if you pick a good one they might put the bins out) but unfortunately not when it comes to the 90-day rule.

The EU’s immigration guidelines state that non-EU passport holders can join their EU spouse in a European country for three months, but after that must apply for a residency card (if they intend to stay) or a visa.

The good news is that applying for both residency or a visa can be simpler if you are applying as the spouse of an EU passport holder.

For visas the system varies between countries but generally you won’t need proof of financial means if your spouse is working, while for pensioners the income and health cover requirements are generally more relaxed. 

Member comments

  1. As always the Local has provided a useful overview. However, when to comes
    to visas the devil is in the detail. The article would be *really* useful
    if links were included to application processes.

    People who want to stay longer than 90 days in 180 have to get a visa – either a visitor visa or a long-stay visa. This article was sourced in
    France but is referenced by The Local in Spain. I am still looking for
    details of how to obtain a visitor visa – clearly a Spanish matter as
    the EU extension visa does not seem appropriate.

    Can anyone assist with clarification of what visa is needed to stay
    in Spain for 180 days en bloc – and how to obtain such? Information
    is needed by September for those UK nationals who habitually spend
    their winters in Spain over the five colder months of the year.

  2. The french government’s website guide to visas explains very clearly how to stay longer than 90 days, if required. And, for those with 2nd homes who want to spend more time in the summer (more than 90 days in a stretch) a ‘short long-stay’ visa is possible. Interestingly, Crete, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania have chosen to stay out of the 90 days in 180 day rule. Visa application to french consulate appears pretty straightforward. It’s a nuisance, and I wish we didn’t have to do it, but not as bleak as the press make it out to be.

    1. The article does not give nearly enough detail on this matter of 6-month stays for Brits with an EU spouse. These will normally be people with 2nd homes. I understand that the Brit has to go to the prefecture within 3 months of arrival and then apply for a “Carte de Séjour de membre de la famille d’un Européen”. But do the prefectures make a difference between (a) people wanting a CdeS because they wish to become permanent residents; and (b) people wanting a CdS in order to say for 6 months? As I say above, most 2nd home-owners will be in category (b). I’ve looked on the website of the prefecture du Var but all I see are references to applications for a VLS-TS, and this is for permanent residents. We would like to stay for 6 months but do not want to be mistaken for permanent residents. Hopefully ‘The Local’ will clarify this point for all of us.

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WEATHER

Reader question: Why are the leaves falling in summer and does that mean my garden is dead?

It might look like fall outside in certain parts of France, but it certainly feels like summer. So why are the leaves falling from the trees? And what does that mean for your garden?

Reader question: Why are the leaves falling in summer and does that mean my garden is dead?

Reader question: It’s only the middle of August and already the leaves have fallen from most of the trees – my lawn is covered with dead leaves like it’s the middle of autumn. Why is this happening and does it mean the trees are dead?

France is having a hot, dry summer and humans and animals are not the only ones suffering amid the heat. Plants and trees are looking pretty sickly in many areas and you may have noticed an unexpected sprinkling of dead leaves on the ground – one that you might normally expect for the fall months. 

The short answer is that the trees are thirsty too. As a result of a lack of water, trees can lose their foliage, but if you’re a gardener you don’t have to worry too much: this is a self-protection mechanism. 

While seeing leaves falling in early August might be surprising to you, it actually is a natural reaction from trees that are just trying to protect themselves from high temperatures. 

Nathalie Breda, the director for research at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE),  said trees are a lot like humans when it comes to heat: they sweat when it is hot.

“Transpiring is an active part of temperature regulation,” said Nathalie Bréda to French radio service FranceInter. “This is the first step the tree takes when the temperature is high – it pumps water through its roots, which eventually turns into water vapour once it reaches the foliage, later being released into the atmosphere.

“The tree will pump water through its roots, which will turn into vapour once it reaches the foliage, and which will be released into the atmosphere.”

This helps to keep the tree at a lower temperature than the air. The tree does this by ‘opening its stomata’ (similar to pores) – which allows the plant to release water. 

However, once temperatures get even higher, and there is less water for trees to draw upon, then they ‘sweat’ less. 

“Once the tree feels that there is less water in the soil, it limits the opening of the stomata to conserve water and preserve itself,” said Bréda. 

This means that the tree gives up on its foliage to help conserve water, causing the leaves dry out and fall to the ground. 

Do gardeners have to be worried?

While conserving water in this way can weaken the tree in the long term, it does not mean that the tree dropping leaves in your garden is dead. Most trees should recover, even if it takes several years after a drought to do so (as it did, for instance, with the years 1976 and 2003).

Trees shed their leaves in the fall when they sense cold, unsuitable weather is coming. It is the same principle where they seek to conserve water and energy. 

That being said, when the tree loses leaves prematurely, this means it has finished growing prematurely for that season. Practically, trees need to open their stomata in order to photosynthesise, as this is the part of the tree that allows the entry of carbon dioxide. Failing to do this can put the tree at risk, as the plant needs to photosynthesise to remain healthy and protect itself against insect attacks and frost waves. 

Bréda explained to FranceInter that “after the 2018 heat wave, all the spruce trees in Eastern France were killed by bark beetle insects. This happened because they were weakened.”

It also takes plants one or two seasons to be able to recover and build back up their reserves. Experts worry that with recurrent climatic distress, the plants will not “have the time to recover from one year to the next.”

A sign that the tree is suffering amid severe drought might be ‘weight loss,’ Bréda explained to FranceBleu. “When drought becomes very severe, we even see that trees lose weight. Meaning, they use the water in their elastic tissue to compensate for the lack of water in the soil.”

What can I do to protect my trees?

For gardeners or home owners looking to protect their trees, another idea is to trim the branches back – this would allow them to reduce their foliage and better conserve their water. The quick answer would typically be to simply water the tree, but with most of France on some level of drought alert – water restrictions are in place almost everywhere across l’Hexagon. 

READ MORE: MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

For urban areas, Bréda recommends that cities reconsider the way of planting vegetation in the city: it is necessary to “review the size of the tree planting hole, and move the road (asphalt) away from its roots a little. This would allow the soil around it to better rehydrate when it rains.”

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