Travel to France: What is the ‘second homes exemption’ in the UK’s travel rules?

Travel from the UK to France is currently quite tightly restricted by UK rules, while the French rules on travel were relaxed at the start of the month - but the UK rules do have special provision for second-home owners. Here's what the rules say.

Travel to France: What is the 'second homes exemption' in the UK's travel rules?
Photo: Patrick Herzog/AFP

Travel between France and the UK is, of course, governed by two sets of rules – those put in place by the French government and those set by the UK government.

On the French side things travel rules have recently relaxed and travellers from the UK no longer need to prove that they have ‘essential reasons’ for travelling to France – opening up the possibility of tourism, family visits and trips from second-home owners.

To enter France you will need a negative Covid test and a declaration that you have no Covid symptoms – find the full details HERE. Arrivals are also asked to self-isolate for seven days on arrival, but this can be done at a location of your choice and there is no enforcement.

Once in France you need to be aware of local restrictions, which now vary across the country with some areas in lockdown, things can change quite quickly – find the latest information HERE.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel between France and the UK

On the UK side, however, the rules are stricter with travel out of the country only allowed for essential reasons.

There was a provisional date of May 17th for the relaxation of these restrictions, but the noises coming from the UK government in recent days suggest that this may be pushed back. 

A new bill due to be discussed on Thursday, March 25th, contains provisions for a £5,000 fine for going on holiday, but there are also suggestions it may include an exemption for second-home owners.

However under the present rules, among the reasons listed for ‘essential’ travel is one that may interest second-home owners.

The rules states that travel is allowed “to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property.” Find the full rules HERE.

The rules do not make it clear how you prove that you are travelling to your second home to do activities relating to selling or renting it, as opposed to merely visiting it – we have asked the UK government for clarification on this point – but some of the documents suggested by the UK government on its travel page include “letter or appointment details from estate agent, relevant contract or letters detailing sales, or other appropriate documentation”.

To leave the UK you will need to fill out a form for international travel.

You also need to bear in mind restrictions on re-entering the UK – this requires a negative Covid test and a passenger locator form. Once there you need to quarantine for 10 days and buy a compulsory travel testing kit from the government’s list of approved suppliers – these cost around £200 per person.

France is not currently on the UK’s ‘red list’ of countries although there has been speculation that it could be added. If that happens, the entry requirements are the same but the quarantine must take place in a government-approved quarantine hotel, which cost more than £1,000 per person.

Member comments

  1. How about going to second homes in Italy through France? Do you know anything on that? And if you are going to get it Covid safe for renting it out, how do you prove that?

  2. This blog is such an explanatory blog for all those who are planning their trips to schengen area for coming months of summer. Previously the embassy and consulate were very strict for travelling to schengen region especially for tourism purpose. However just sometime back some relief has been given on travelling, although the news is not yet totally out therefore there are some confusion going in everybody’s mind. However in such a situation if one reads this blog, he or she will easily get an idea of how and when he or she can plan the travel to France. I am very much impressed by the blog. The next plan that I have made is of applying for online France visa UK so that I can easily travel to desired places once I have my visa in hand.

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Reader question: How does getting a French visa affect the 90-day rule?

If you're not an EU citizen and you're coming to France, you need to either get a visa or abide by the 90-day rule - but can you combine the two?

Reader question: How does getting a French visa affect the 90-day rule?

Question: I have a property in France and I’m looking at getting a six-month visitor visa so we can spend more time there since Brexit, but how does this work with the 90-day rule? Do we still use that rule for the rest of the year?

If you’re not a citizen of an EU country and you want to spend more than 90 days at a time in France, you will need a visa. This has always been the case for non-EU nationals such as Americans and Australians, but since Brexit it also applies to Brits.

Many British second-home owners who were previously accustomed to splitting their time equally been France and the UK now have to either limit their stay or get a visa.

We’ve got a complete guide to how the 90-day rule works HERE

And a step-by-step guide to getting a visa HERE

There are many different types of visa, but the one that many second-home owners have opted for is the 6-month visitor visa. This allows you to keep your main residency in your home country without having to worry about things like tax status, but enjoy lengthy visits to your French property.

But if you have a six-month visa, then what are the rules for the other six months of the year?

Essentially, having a visa suspends the 90-day rule when you are coming to France – so within the period of validity of your visa you can spend as much time in France as you like and you don’t need to worry about counting the days.

However it’s important to note that this is only the case for France – the 90-day rule covers the whole of the EU and Schengen zone, so if you make any trips to – for example – Germany or Spain during the period when your French visa is activated, those days still count towards your 90 day limit.

Once your visa has expired, you revert to the 90-day rule when it comes to trips to France, meaning that you can be here for 90 days out of every 180 but at the end of that period you must leave the Schengen zone.

This operates on a rolling calendar, so you always count back 180 days from the present date to see how many days you have spent in the EU in that period, and therefore how many you have left – if you’re confused, the online Schengen calculator HERE allows you to input your dates and work out your total. 

If you intend to roll your visa period directly into your 90 days you will need to leave the Schengen zone at least for one day, otherwise it will appear that you have overstayed your visa – you need to exit the EU, and then re-enter without a visa to allow your days to be correctly calculated.


And a quick note on tax. The 90-day rule and visa rules refer to your immigration status, but if you intend to spend up to nine months of the year in France, you need to also check your tax status both in France and in your home country to avoid breaching the rules on tax residency.

Immigration checks

Over the years France has earned itself a reputation as being one of the less strict countries in Europe when it comes to policing stays from visitors. However, Brexit appears to have changed this with many people reporting stricter border checks and some people being fined or having their passports stamped for over-staying their 90 days.

It’s likely that you won’t be checked every time you enter and leave, but if you are caught overstaying a visa or a 90-day limit, the penalties can be more severe than a simple fine. If your passport is stamped as an over-stayer it is likely to make future travel (anywhere in the EU, not just in France) more difficult, and you may also be rejected for future visas.