Reader question: What happens if I over-stay my 90-day limit in France?

Reader question: What happens if I over-stay my 90-day limit in France?
Over-staying your 90-day limit can cause problems for future travel to any EU country. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP
With reports that Spanish police will be 'rounding up and deporting' Brits who have over-stayed their welcome, what is France's policy on non-EU nationals who stay longer than their 90-day visa free limit?

Question: I see reports in the media that Spanish police will start rounding up and deporting Brits who have stayed longer than 90 days, could that happen in France too? I know several British second home owners who are sure that French authorities will do nothing?

Well first we should point out that Spanish authorities have denied the reports in UK tabloids that they intend to start immediate deportations.

However for any non-EU citizen in an EU country, over-staying is an immigration offence.

What is the rule?

Non-EU nationals, including Brits, can stay for 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without needing a visa or a residency permit. You can find a full breakdown of the rules HERE, but broadly you can stay for up to 90 days in every 180 – this can be in the form of one long stay or several short stays.

The limit is for time spent within the EU, so you cannot simply move to a different EU country, you need to leave the Bloc altogether and go to a non-EU country.

This doesn’t apply to Brits who have their permanent home in France – although they do need to apply for a residency card – find out how HERE.

READ ALSO Why some Brits will have to leave the EU on March 31st

Are there any extensions because of Covid?

The EU has issued some general advice on this, encouraging member states to grant visa extensions where necessary and to waive sanctions on people who have overstayed due to travel restrictions.

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As ever though, decisions on border issues remain with national governments within the EU and in France travel is for the moment possible, so there are no extensions. You may be able to challenge a penalty if you can prove that you were sick with Covid when your 90 days expired and therefore couldn’t travel.

What are the penalties for people who do over-stay?

If you spend more than 90 days in the EU or Schengen zone without a visa or residency permit then you are officially an over-stayer. And unlike the pre-EU days when passport control consisted of a man in a booth with a rubber stamp, scanning of all passports on entry/exit of the EU makes it pretty easy to spot over-stayers.

The EU lists a range of possible penalties although in practice some countries are stricter than others.

In previous years France has gained the reputation of not being too fussy about exact leave dates – provided it is within a few weeks and provided the person has not been working or claiming benefits, but it seems that enforcement has been stepped up in the post-Brexit period with several Brits reporting being stopped at the border and fined.

The Local has received several reports of people being stopped as the exited the country and fined if the entry stamp in their passport was more than 90 days old. A record of the fine can also be placed in your passport.

Within the system, anyone who over-stays can be subject to the following penalties;

Deportation – if you are found to have over-stayed, countries are within their rights to either imprison you and deport you, or give you a certain number of days to leave. In practice, deportation is rare for people who aren’t working or claiming benefits, they are more likely to be advised of the situation and told to leave as soon as possible

Fines – fines can be levied in addition to other penalties and vary according to country. Fines issued so far by France for over-staying the 90 days are of €198.

Entry ban – countries can impose a complete ban on re-entry, usually for three years although it can be longer. A complete ban is usually only put in place for people who have over-stayed for a significant amount of time

Difficulties returning to the Schengen area – even if you avoid all of the above penalties, the over-stay alert on your passport will make it more difficult for you to return to the EU, and this applies to any EU or Schengen zone country, not just the one you over-stayed in. People who have this alert on their passport are likely to face extended checks at the border and may even be turned back. You will also likely encounter difficulties if you later apply for a visa or residency 

People who simply stay in an EU country without securing residency become undocumented immigrants and will not be able to access healthcare or social security provisions. If caught, they face deportation.

How will they catch me?

Police in France have the right to stop anyone and require them to show official ID – for foreigners a passport.

But even if you avoid contact with any authorities while you are here, your passport is checked as you enter and leave the EU, making it pretty easy to spot who has been here longer than 90 days.

This system is likely to only get more strict with the introduction of the EU’s new Entry and Exit System, scheduled for 2022.

Member comments

  1. Seeing the latest news regarding a British woman being forbidden entry to Spain because on a previous visit her passport had missed being date stamped, I wonder how long it will be before something similar occurs in France. The border police here seem to be gung ho in stamping every British passport with a leaving or entering date stamp, regardless of the owners being resident of visitor.. We’ve just returned to France and, despite showing and discussing our 10 year residential cards, the police still stamped an entry date on our passports. If we make another trip to the UK in 7 or 8 months time, I can certainly see the possibility of an officious policeman taking issue with us for having stayed too long in France. Knowing that police rarely accept that they’ve made a mistake, is it likely that the sight of our residential cards will persuade them that they wrongly date stamped our passports?

  2. The 90 day rule applies to the *Schengen* area. This is much the same as the EU plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein but minus Ireland (where Brits have unlimited freedom of travel) and Cyprus. However, I believe France’s overseas territories (Martinique, Guadaloupe, Réunion, French Polynesia etc) are excluded so time spent there doesn’t count, see How this would be sorted out if you took two weeks out of a stay in France to go to Guada (which we do every year) I don’t know.

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