Flowers, seedlings and bulbs – what are the rules on bringing plants from the UK to France?

Keen gardeners have been warned that bringing plants, cuttings or seedlings to France from the UK is no longer allowed under EU health rules in place since Brexit.

plants not allowed to be brought into France
Image: Free-Photos/Pixabay

The EU has strict health in rules coverings imports of plants or animal products – these cover foods, as seen in the ‘ham sandwich rule’, but also plants.

READ ALSO Bovril, tea and ham sandwiches – what can you bring from the UK into the EU?

The rules – aimed at preventing certain diseases and pests from entering the region, which could live in the soil or on plants – apply to anything entering the EU Bloc from a third country, which from January covers trips from the UK to France.

Everything from citrus fruit trees and vine plants to potted household plants and cut flowers are covered, meaning people cannot bring treasured garden plants with them when they move to France.  

Seeds and bulbs however are still allowed, but if you want to bring them into France, you’ll have to have a phytosanitary certificate known as a PC, and the items must be inspected at the border.

You can obtain a PC from the Plant Health Authority in either England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, depending on where the plant was grown.

In order to get your PC certificate from the relevant authority, you will have to pay a fee of £25.52 per batch of seeds or bulbs. An inspector may also be required to carry out tests on the plant matter, costing a further £127.60 for 30 minutes and then £63.80 for every 15 minutes after that.

See the UK government website for further details on fees and how to apply for your certificate.

Given the high fees however, it doesn’t really make sense to bring your seeds and bulbs over to France and you’re much better off buying them locally instead.

The same law also bans bringing most kinds of fruits, vegetables and fresh-cut flowers, so you may want to think twice about what you’re carrying in your car or bag, when you cross the border.

There are very particular exceptions in the fruit and vegetable category including bananas, pineapples, kiwi and coconuts.

READ MORE: Extra costs, more paperwork: ‘Post-Brexit rules are nightmare for small businesses in France like mine

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French government clarifies post-Brexit rules on pets for second-home owners

Brexit hasn't just brought about changes in passport rules for humans, pets are also affected and now the French government has laid out the rules for pet passports for British second-home owners.

French government clarifies post-Brexit rules on pets for second-home owners

Pre-Brexit, people travelling between France and the UK could obtain an EU Pet Passport for their car, dog or ferret which ensured a hassle-free transport experience.

But since the UK left the EU things have become more complicated – and a lot more expensive – for UK residents wanting to travel to France with pets.

You can find a full breakdown of the new rules HERE, but the main difference for people living in the UK is that that they now need an Animal Health Certificate for travel.

Unlike the Pet Passport, a new ACH is required for each trip and vets charge around £100 (€118) for the certificate. So for people making multiple trips a year, especially those who have more than one pet, the charges can quickly mount up.

UK nationals who live in France can still benefit from the EU Pet Passport, but until now the situation for second-home owners has been a little unclear.

However the French Agriculture ministry has now published updated information on its website.

The rules state: “The veterinarian can only issue a French passport to an animal holding a UK/EU passport issued before January 1st, 2021, after verifying that the animal’s identification number has been registered in the Fichier national d’identification des carnivores domestiques (I-CAD).”

I-CAD is the national database that all residents of France must register their pets in – find full details HERE.

The ministry’s advice continues: “If not registered, the veterinarian may proceed to register the animal in I-CAD, if the animal’s stay in France is longer than 3 consecutive months, in accordance with Article 22 of the AM of August 1st, 2012 on the identification of domestic carnivores.”

So if you are staying in France for longer than 90 days (which usually requires a visa for humans) your pet can be registered and get a Pet Passport, but those staying less than three months at a time will have to continue to use the AHC.

The confusion had arisen for second-home owners because previously some vets had been happy to issue the Passport using proof of a French address, such as utility bills. The Ministry’s ruling, however, makes it clear that this is not allowed.

So here’s a full breakdown of the rules;

Living in France

If you are living in France full time your pet is entitled to an EU Pet Passport regardless of your nationality (which means your pet has more travel rights than you do. Although they probably still rely on you to drive the car/book the ferry tickets).

Your cat, dog or ferret must be fully up to date with their vaccinations and must be registered in the national pet database I-CAD (full details here).

Once issued, the EU Pet Passport is valid for the length of the animal’s life, although you must be sure to keep up with their rabies vaccinations. Vets in France usually charge between €50-€100 for a consultation and completing the Passport paperwork.

Living in the UK

If you are living in the UK and travelling to France (or the rest of the EU) you will need an Animal Health Certificate for your cat, dog or ferret.

The vaccination requirements are the same as for the EU Pet Passport, but an ACH is valid for only 10 days after issue for entry to the EU (and then for four months for onward travel within the EU).

So if you’re making multiple trips in a year you will need a new certificate each time.

UK vets charge around £100 (€118) for a certificate, although prices vary between practices. Veterinary associations in the UK are also warning of delays in issuing certificates as many people begin travelling again after the pandemic (often with new pets bought during lockdown), so you will need to book in advance. 

Second-home owners

Although previously some French vets had been happy to issue certificates with only proof of an address in France, the French government has now clarified the rules on this, requiring that pets be registered within the French domestic registry in order to get an EU Pet Passport.

This can only be done if the pet is staying in France for more than three months. The three months must be consecutive, not over the course of a year.

UK pets’ owners will normally require a visa if they want to stay in France for more than three months at a time (unless they have dual nationality with an EU country) – find full details on the rules for people HERE.