France bans all non-essential travel from the UK over Covid variant fears

France is to place tough new restrictions on arrivals from the UK over fears of the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19 which now makes up half of new cases in the UK.

France bans all non-essential travel from the UK over Covid variant fears
Travel from the UK is to be strictly limited again. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

“There is a new situation with the progression of the so-called Indian variant in the United Kingdom,” said government spokesman Gabriel Attal, announcing the change.

At present France’s travel rules apply to everyone, even if they are fully vaccinated.

The new rules will be introduced at 0.01am on Monday, May 31st and they are;

  • Travel will only be allowed from the UK for vital reasons or motif imperieux, similar to the restrictions in place between December and March (full details below). Travel to second homes or to visit family and friends is not accepted as a vital reason. You will also need to fill in a form stating your reason, find it HERE
  • People who are resident in France – including British residents – will not need to prove a vital reason to return to France, nor will French citizens or citizens of another EU country
  • Anyone entering France from the UK will need to show a negative PCR or antigen test taken within the previous 48 hours (not the previous 72 hours as was previously the rule)
  • Arrivals should self-isolate for seven days, although this will not be enforced by police visits

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said: “Compelling reasons will be required for non-EU foreign nationals not resident in France joining France from the UK.

“A PCR or antigen test less than 48 hours old will be required from anyone travelling to France from the UK;

“On arrival, travellers will be required to observe a 7-day isolation period. For the time being, given the low incidence of Covid in the UK, police checks on quarantine addresses will not be applied to them.”

The testing and quarantine rules will apply to all arrivals into France from the UK, including French and EU citizens and people who have their permanent residence in France, although previous travel restrictions have included exemptions for hauliers and other vital workers. 

READER QUESTION: Can I transit through France despite the new travel restrictions?

France already has in place strict rules on travel from India, which bans almost all transport and enforces a strict 10-day quarantine, enforced by visits from the police. This quarantine regime will not be enforced on arrivals from the UK. 

However the French government had become increasingly concerned about arrivals from the UK, which has seen a rapidly rising number of cases, particularly in hotspots in the north of England.

Germany and Austria have already imposed additional measures for people arriving from Britain over variant fears.

The list of accepted reasons for vital travel previously published by France (with documents accepted as proof of travel) are as follows;

Family reasons

  • The death of a parent, grandparent, child or sibling or visit to one of these family members who has received a terminal medical diagnosis (death certificate or doctor’s letter will be needed)
  • Childcare by a parent or guardian with custody or visitation rights (court letter and proof of address)
  • Providing vital assistance to a sick or disabled person (document establishing relationship)
  • Travel for legal or judicial reasons (letter or summons)
  • A legal or economic reason that makes it impossible to remain in the country you are travelling from eg the expiry of a residency card 
  • Travel for reasons of personal safety eg domestic violence or custody dispute (any documentation relating to the situation)
  • Returning to your main residence (proof of residency eg carte de séjour, receipt of application for carte de séjour or proof of address, plus tickets showing your outward journey)
  • Students beginning or ending a period of study (documentation from the place of study)

Health reasons

  • Medical emergency (one person can accompany the sick person if necessary, doctor’s letter or hospital appointment card)

Work-related reasons

  • Vital work requiring an in-person presence where the work cannot be cancelled or postponed without disproportionate consequences (attestation from employer plus professional card if applicable)
  • Health professionals engaged in Covid-related work (professional ID)
  • Diplomatic or state work trips which cannot be cancelled or postponed (professional ID and/or letters from relevant ministers)
  • High-level sports professionals participating in fixtures approved by the sports minister (professional ID and documentation from the sports ministry)

Extra reasons

  • Couples who are married or in a civil partnership where one of the members is living abroad for professional reasons
  • Minor children attending school in France while the family home is established abroad
  • Couples with children, one living in France, the other abroad and separated.
  • Students taking a competitive examination

According to French government figures, around 10,000 people arrive into France from the UK every day, of which around 3,000 are hauliers, often passing through France on the way to other destinations.

Member comments

  1. Does anyone have an idea of what the rules will be on driving through France if arriving from the UK and its compulsory quarantine? How does that work?

  2. And how does one buy food for the quarantine days if isolating in ones own home in France, are we able to go to a supermarket at all ? we cannot bring food in with us on arriving from UK because most imported foods from UK are banned as i understand it post Brexit, so i wonder how it will work..

    1. We came over last Thursday. Brought packs of pitta + a wholemeal, smoked salmon, various cans, lots of veg and eggs. Had pasta, chicken in freezer, and some other cans in the house already. Short of wine as we predicted future restrictions, so took it all back in December.)
      Ouistreham customs searched us and asked for an inventory. Import duty due on stuff valued over €300, (not tools clothes etc that go back and forth.
      Local friend in France has got us milk, cheese and butter and French bread. PCR tests are easily booked at the end of Q. 10 days is worse, but it goes fast. 2 to go, tests booked for Friday. Good luck.

        1. No.
          7 days is current Q length. We’re doing that. We had our negative PCRs before leaving. We have arranged PCRs at the end of Q. Local health org agree this is the right procedure.
          We took no dairy or meat on our journey. Cans of beans and tomatoes, bread, veg for personal consumption, soya milk, limited quantities of fish & alcohol are not restricted as far as I know and port check did not raise issues with any of that.
          We had less than €300 UK non-personal purchases on board, and had invoices, but would have saved a few minutes by having an inventory of vehicle contents & values.
          If we were FR residents or had applied for residency (we have), the inventory would not have been necessary, we were later told. SPS rules would still apply though.

      1. Thank you, that is v helpful to know what one can import and i had not previously heard about the inventory and questions of value of contents of suitcase / holiday clothes and books. What a palaver.

  3. We were told that vaccines would be the solution. Companies all over the world joined a race to get us a working vaccine which they did. Governments have spent lots of money in the vaccination programs and tell us every day ; Vaccines work. Get vaccinated.
    Yet being vaccinated or not does not seem to have any impact , no influence whatsoever in restoring the basic right of movement, restarting the economy and clawing back our sequestered personal freedoms.
    There will always be another strain of COVID. If the vaccine works against the strains, as we are being told, why do we have to quarantine after been vaccinated and submitted three PCR tests?

    1. Totally agree. We can only hope the coming app gets rid of this nonsense.

      Question : Does this also apply to French people coming back from briefly visiting UK ?

    2. Until vaccines are widely and globally distributed, and until more than 25% of people in Europe and France are vaccinated, we can’t expect to see a real impact immediately. It will take time. We assume there will be boosters for variants (similar to the flu shot) that will continue to allow us to live more and more normally. This is a NEW disease. The variants are new. We won’t have full data on the efficacy of the current vaccines against these new strains until year’s end or next year. It will take until end of 2022 for us to really have our lives restored. As things open up, we will keep having new challenges, new variants, new deaths. But hopefully as vaccines are rolling out, these numbers will keep dropping. The US has the lowest number of new cases since the pandemic started because they have really rolled out vaccines. It’s good news and it will be so for us here as well. Courage!

      1. You appear to have information that I am not aware of. Listening to the BBC (Today program) , I hear ministers saying vaccines appear to be effective against the new strain and most people in need of special care are not vaccinated.
        If pharmaceutical companies can develop and trial a vaccine from scratch in about a year’s time, why it’s not possible to determine (quickly) if the vaccine is effective or not against a particular strain? I understand we needed to make sacrifices to protect the health service and people’s lives , but I am starting to believe that some of these decisions are blunt, sloppy and not properly thought.

  4. Still confused on Americans traveling to France. Have heard as of June 9th and then July 1st. How would an American prove they have been vaccinated? What will be accepted?

  5. Following today’s announcement re. mandatory quarantining of UK visitors into France, what is the situation for UK visitors wishing to transit through France from Calais to Spain? Is this possible?

    1. same for me, those crossing to Calais to drive into Italy, where we have a 2nd home? That we also want to put in place for letting it?

      1. Let me know if you get any information with regards to transiting through France to other EU countries please.

  6. Quarantines are for good reasons. Good really loves you, pls be safe get vaccinated asap and NEVER skip the second dose, only after 2 weeks of the 2nd dose you’re vaccinated fully. Eat, exercise healthy to avoid any clots pls use a mask with the full vaccine to prevent infections to unvaccinated people from any leftover virus in you from previous infections. Others and I also love you! Luke 14 :25-33 Forsake all you have everyone and yourself for J

    Luke 16 :13 Work for J not pay$$, then J will give you and your family the food and clothing if they follow too

    Matthew 25 :34-36 & Mathew 6 :3-4 & Luke 12 :33 Sell everything you got and give to poor dying in hunger, and pls keep all giving in secret

    Mark 16 :15 & John 17 :21 Share the Truth to everyone working with others in love and peace

    Revelation 13 :16-17 & 14 :9-11 Don’t take the mark of the beast right hand or forehead the only way to buy or sell *It is not covid vaccine or mask, but maybe a microimplant or quantum technology implantable or tattoo

    Revelation 17 :15-18 & 18 :8-10 US Is most likely the Babylon to be destroyed in one hour with fire.

  7. Do you know if we cross into France to go to Italy, but overnight in a hotel and we stay there with room service so we don’t eat with other people (even if we are double vaccinated but we have kids), and then we drive into Italy? We’ll have to take the food you can take onboard such as Mike A. was saying in his comments, and it makes it every time more difficult. Would that work? And I need to know if needing to go and set up a house for rent would allow us to cross France into Italy from the UK. thanks for any comments on this. Before we were allowed to cross France w/o stopping (or stopping at an Aire and weeing by the car w/o getting into the bathroom) and that was by the rules…

  8. France is simply applying the same (perhaps unnecessary) measures as the UK government. Who knows who’s right. They’re politicians so they probably don’t have a clue.
    To be a politician is a strange thing. No matter what your principles are, you will be obliged to compromise them in order to get a deal with someone you don’t trust. I wouldn’t do it in a million years. That said, shouldn’t we expect our representatives to be more than that?
    I believe that Johnson and, particularly, Hancock have lied about everything. Cummings is an unlikeable character but, in this situation, I think he’s telling the truth. Resignations should follow but, due to the lack of honour in the current crop of ministers, they won’t.

    1. Could you seriously imagine any of the current crop of politians, no matter what side of the ditch they are on, falling on their swords.

  9. I cannot understand what is so hard to comprehend about the restrictions that are going to be in place from the 31st. If you come from the UK into France the restrictions apply. It doesn’t matter if you are driving to Mars the restrictions still apply. What’s so hard to understand? It’s a great pity they are not permanent.

  10. The information on PCR and antigen is confusing.
    A PCR test is easy to produce at the border as it comes from an official test company showing time and dates.
    How is it done with an Antigen test, do you take the device with you?

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For members


‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres


Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said.