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What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit in France?

If you're visiting France from a non-EU country your time here is limited, unless you have a visa - but what happens to people who overstay and how strictly are the rules really enforced?

What happens if you overstay your 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

The 90-day rule has long applied to non-EU nationals like Americans, Canadians and Australians and since Brexit is also applies to Brits.

However it’s not always clear what happens to people who overstay, and whether the rules are being strictly enforced on the ground. 

What is the rule?

Certain 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 does not apply to people who live in France and have a residency card. 

If you want to stay longer than 90 days – either because you are moving to France full-time or because you want longer visits – you will need to get a visa.

You can find full details on the types of visa HERE and how to apply HERE, but the key thing is that visas must be applied for in advance from your home country – you cannot come to France and then apply in order to extend your 90-day stay.

What are the penalties for people who overstay?

If you spend more than 90 days in the EU or Schengen zone without a visa or residency permit then you are officially an overstayer. 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 overstayers.

This is set to become even more stringent when the EES scheme comes into effect next year – full details on that HERE

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

Within the system, anyone who overstays can be subject to the following penalties;

Deportation – if you are found to have overstayed, 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 overstaying 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 overstay 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 is France really enforcing these rules?

Among EU countries France has a reputation for being among the less strict, and deportations are rare for people who are not working or claiming benefits, unless they have been in France for many years without the correct papers.

If it’s a question of simply over-staying by a few weeks it’s very unlikely that police will come to your home and deport you.

However, that doesn’t mean that there are no consequences of your over-stay – what’s likely to happen is that you will be caught next time you leave France.

Passports are stamped and scanned on entry, which means that border officials can see how long you have been in the country – if your arrival date was longer than 90 days ago you are likely to be flagged as an overstayer.

This is likely to lead to a fine – €198 is the standard amount but it can be more in certain circumstances – and you may be banned from re-entering France.

A re-entry ban can be either for a limited time period or indefinitely and even if you avoid a ban your passport is likely to be stamped as an over-stayer, which can lead to complications for further travel anywhere within the EU. 

Member comments

  1. 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 https://france-visas.gouv.fr/web/france-visas/competence-autorites-francaises. 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.

  2. 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?

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DRIVING

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

France's Ministry of Transport has announced that toll-fees will increase in 2023. Here is what motorists in France can expect.

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

With French motorists already expecting increases in fuel prices starting in January, the cost of travel on many of France’s motorways will also increase in 2023.

Toll rates on the main routes across France are set to go up by an average of 4.75 percent starting on February 1st, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Transport on Friday.

These rates already rose by two percent in 2022. 

While the increase is still lower than the rate of inflation (six percent), motorists in France can still expect driving to become more expensive in 2023, as the government does away with its broad-scale fuel rebate (€0.10 off the litre) at the start of January.

As of early December, the French government was still discussing plans for how to replace the fuel rebate. The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, told Les Echoes in November that the government was considering a targeted, means-tested “fuel allowance” for workers who depend on their vehicles to commute to and from work. 

How much will I be affected?

The degree to which drivers will experience increased costs depends largely on what kind of vehicle they use, in addition to how far you plan to drive on the toll-road. 

Vehicles are broadly classified as follows:

Class 1 (Light vehicles): these are cars and minivans. This class also includes vehicles pulling trailers with a combined height of no more than 2m and a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of less than or equal to 3.5 tonnes.
Class 2: Large utility vehicles and camping cars
Class 3: Heavy goods vehicles, coaches, other 2-axle vehicles, motorhomes taller than 3m
Class 4: Vehicles taller than 3m with a GVW greater than 3.5 tonnes
Class 5: Motorbikes, sidecars, quad bikes, three-wheeled motor vehicles 

The next determining factor for how significant the price rise will be depends on which company is operating the road you use, and there are several different companies that operate toll-roads in France. 

Each year, toll (péage) prices in France are adjusted and re-evaluated for the following year on February 1st, following discussions between the government and the main companies that operate the French freeways. The fees are in part used for road maintenance costs. 

To estimate the cost of tolls for your next French road trip, you can use the calculator on this website

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