The French government has announced tighter rules on travel to and from the UK due to the explosion of Covid infections caused by the Omicron variant.
These rules, which include tighter rules and pre-departure tests and obligatory quarantine (full details here), apply to all travellers whether fully vaccinated or not.
And significantly France has banned all non-essential travel to and from the UK. This rule is in place until further notice.
That means that only those travellers who belong to a certain list of “essential” (motif impèrieux) categories can travel to the UK and the same goes for travel in the other direction – from the UK to France.
But the criteria for those who qualify for essential travel is different in both directions which is confusing many people.
Tourists and second home owners as well as those who want to visit family in France are not included on the list.
The following groups are allowed to enter France from the UK;
- French citizens and their spouse or partner* and children
- EU citizens who have their permanent residence in France, or in another EU country and are transiting through France in order to return to their home. Spouses, partners and children of EU nationals living in France or another EU country are also covered by this – although if you are transiting through France you face further restrictions on method of travel – more detail here
- Nationals of a third country with a valid European or French residence permit or long-stay visa with their main residence in France. Proof of residency such as a titre de séjour (residency card) or visa de long séjour (long-stay visa) will be required. (Currently Britons are only allowed to transit through France by air, not by road. More info here.)
- British nationals who are covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (This refers to Britons who were resident before Brexit and have a post-Brexit residency card. However it does not state whether or not this covers only British residents of France.)
- Non-EU nationals who benefit from a family reunification visa or are covered by refugee status
- Health professionals engaged in the battle against Covid, or travelling to do research or internships connected to the pandemic. Spouses, partners and children are also covered by this
- Non-EU nationals who have a passeport talent visa, plus their spouse, partner and children
- Students enrolled at a higher education establishment in France
- Employees in the road, sea, or air transport industries travelling to France or through France for work-related purposes, including hauliers
- Non-EU nationals involved in diplomatic or consular work
- Travellers spending less than 24 hours in France in transit to another country in an international airport zone- see here for the rules on transit passengers
- Employees of the Channel Tunnel or police or customs staff engaged on work at the border.
From January 6th, new categories were added
- Work trips that cannot be postponed, an attestation from the employer stating that the trip is essential will be required
- Elite athletes travelling for competition, approval is required from the French sports ministry
- Transit through France to return home to another EU country
* A conjoint (spouse or partner) is defined as a couple who are either married, pacsé (in a civil partnership) or concubiné (living together) – if you are not married or pacsé be prepared to provide proof of living together such as joint utility bills.
From France to the UK
Unusually, the French travel rules also cover leaving France, and the criteria for leaving are slightly different to those for entering the country.
- French nationals or foreigners returning to the country of residence or origin (without guarantee of returning to France unless they have an essential reason) as well as their partners and children.
This then appears to cover Britons resident in France who want to head to UK with their French or foreign partners and children.
However some Brits living in France report being stopped at the border and asked to provide proof of residence in the UK, although the wording on the form suggests that returning to either a country or origin or a country of residence is an accepted reason. The Local has asked for clarification on this point.
Other categories covered by essential motives are as follows and as the attestation form suggests you may be asked to show evidence.
- A direct family member (parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings) has died in the UK
- Obligation to appear in court or another administrative body
- Enrolment in a university exchange programme
- Urgent medical treatment scheduled in the UK (under certain conditions, they can be accompanied by one extra person)
- Strict professional reasons (transport workers for example)
- Status as a health worker or researcher
- Diplomatic status
- Career as a professional athlete
From January 6th
- Work trips that cannot be postponed, an attestation from the employer stating that the trip is essential is required
Unlike under previous travel restrictions there are no exemptions for travel for compassionate reasons such as visiting seriously ill family members.
There is also no property exemption to allow second-home owners to visit and travel for tourism or family visits is also banned.
Even if you meet the criteria for essential travel, you will still be required to take tests and fill in many form – you can find the full checklist for travel in both directions HERE.