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Essential reasons: Who can travel between France and UK?

France has barred all non-essential travel to and from the UK, meaning only those who fall into certain categories can travel. Here's a run down of those who count as having a "motifs impérieux".

Essential reasons: Who can travel between France and UK?
(Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP)

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.

They are

  • 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.

They are:

  • 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.

Paperwork

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.

Member comments

  1. Can I just ask how many people have had the enjoyment of owning a home in France and are now, thanks to brexit and the narrow mindedness of those who are supposed to be negotiating on behalf of each partner have had to have the additional payments of health certificates for their pets, are not allowed to bring food for these animals or for the humans, are paying habitation taxes etc and are now considering selling their properties with high costs. If the “high ups”in the negotiating process could possibly have some consideration and regard for the owners of these properties and the excess costs involved in visiting them they might, just might, have an ounce (sorry gram) of compassion unless they wish to have a mass exodus of UK home owners. Please, all we want us to be able to return to France during our holidays as per previous brexit.

    1. Everything isn’t about Brexit to us in Europe and the things that are were avoidable if you were awake and weren’t so self-entitled you did nothing about it. This situation has been written in big neon letters since the British voted to leave in 2016.

      And there’s this little cold-like thing on earth called COVID. It seems it’s quite bad. But apparently the UK has it beaten, so all the British now want to leave Britain on holiday.

  2. My son is due to start a work placement in Paris in July for 12 months as part of his university degree. I don’t see any of the above criteria allowing him to enter France. Is anyone else facing a similar situation or can comment?

    1. When I first read the new restrictions & then checked the French site last weekend it did allow for international students. Get your son to look on the French gov site. Good luck

      1. PS Sorry. If it’s only if enrolled in an ed. establishment then I may be misleading you, but he could ring the consulate to clarify.

  3. Must admit to being a bit fromaged off with paying to have my bin emptied etc and no interest in allowing visits . The main problem seems to come from the pseudo French who still are happy to travel to the uk , but are keen to keep us second home owners out ‘because of covid’

  4. THE TRUTH OF OUR CURRENT SITUATION RESTS WITH ALL THE MISLEADING STATEMENTS BY OUR POLITICAL LEADERS. HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL ALL THE SO-CALLED BENEFITS SHOW THEMSELVES ?
    I KNOW THAT BREXIT WAS BY A DEMOCRATIC VOTE, JUST, BUT THE POWERS THAT BE ,TOLD SO MANY EXAGGERATED CLAIMS THAT ARE UNREALISTIC ?
    I HOPE THAT THE COUNTRY I LOVE WILL NOT RUE THE DAY THAT WE ARE STRANDED OUTSIDE A EUROPE, WITH A POTENTIAL MARKET OF HALF A MILLION , WE HAVE SHOT OURSELVES IN THE FOOT. I DOUBT IF I WILL EVER BENEFIT FROM THE SO CALLED ADVANTAGES .
    THOSE WHO RELY ON EXPORTS TO EUROPE ARE HAVING PROBLEMS NOT OF THEIR MAKING.

  5. The govt website is still listing compassionate reasons for travel and not showing permission for familial reunification of EU family members resident in France.

  6. What are the rules on UK nationals travelling into France from countries other than the UK, for instance other EU member states?

  7. Hi Solid. (‘tho this site shows that I’m replying to a “fionasteph6”!),

    At least I’ve seen a few comments in UK internet musings, asking since when was going on holiday a (God given) right. The media are partly responsible for this, as is the so-called leader, & are almost surprised when people say they plan to stay in the UK. Lots of people there can’t afford any holiday at all. They get forgotten until it’s time for a piece on food banks or welfare payments.

    Yes, 2016 was a horror show.

    A lot of people don’t want to just visit their holiday homes vchayman, that’s a luxury the majority can’t afford, they want to feel international cooperation is most important.

  8. My mom is an EU citizen who will be moving permanently to live with me (her daughter) here in France. She is not vaccinated. Will she be allowed to enter under the essential reasons ?

  9. See, now other news outlets are saying family visits will be accommodated?
    Even the French prime minister said it.
    How on earth though can they justify not visiting dying or seriously ill immediate family? That’s disgusting.

  10. would going to France to spend Christmas with my daughter and the grand kids count as Essential Travel post Saturday

          1. Sadly yes – it is a political decision. Same thing happened last Christmas with the Delta variant.

  11. We travel back to the south of France on the 28 th December. We take the ferry then drive We usually stop over night half way down through France in a hotel . Can we still do this under new Covid rules we have our cart sejour. Thanks Alan

  12. so how i read it.. after the the new rules kick in.
    France > UK (uk open and currently accepting – France saying prefer you not to go) – is there any more clarity around that rule??
    UK > France (crystal clear)- if you reside or have a spouse THEN you have the right to re-enter, but must quarantine after providing a negative PCT test (48hrs)
    Help or clarity welcome… Or probably just best to wait for more responses form official sources

  13. So – I’m confused about the rules. As a British passport holder, with the right to remain in France, can I effectively circumvent these rules – relying on the first exemption when traveling to the UK and my residency / employment in France when returning? Or does the “returning to their country” in the first exemption effectively exclude those now permanently resident in France? (Duplicate posting here as I accidentally posted to a less relevant page before, oops)

  14. I am a British second home owner currently at our house in Haute Savoi. My wife and I applied for and obtained Long Stay (temp) French Visas – if we returned to UK could we come back under current regs. We are staying put until clarified (and maybe after if its the wrong answer!)

  15. I am a British Citizen and have French Residency – am I reading it correctly that we can travel to the UK – could we potentially get stopped

  16. The article above states that transit through France in less that 24 hours is OK, but elsewhere it states transit only allowed in airports. We wish to drive through to Italy. Does anyone know for sure which is correct??

  17. My French wife and I arrived in the UK to stay with our daughter in the middle of nowhwere, on the anglo welsh border. Took our test and posted it Saturday morning after driving all night, received results following Tuesday evening. How on earth can we get a test and results in the UK 24 hours befor returning home. The system here is rubbish. Before leaving it took 12 hours from pcr to results being received by mail. Any advice welcome.

    1. We are in the same boat. We’ve had to book a slot at a drive through at Gatwick Airport on Wednesday before taking the car ferry to Dieppe on Thursday. Results in 40 minutes, £35 each.

      1. Thanks for that Jonathan? Unfortunately Gatwick is a 4/5 hour drive and we would have to return to pick up luggage and dog and then another 5/6 hour drive to Folkestone check dog in and buy a ticket …but £35.00 incredible the cheapest I have found so far is £105 pound each at Birmingham airport with a 3 hour wait for results. Grateful and may yet take that path. Thanks again.

        1. Definitely too far for you! It doesn’t need to be pcr to return to France, antigen is accepted. So my price not comparable with yours. Good luck! We just got our negative result and depart in the morning. We can’t wait to be home.

    2. Boots do a quick turn around antigen test….30mins from testing to results and you get a certificate….as long as you cab get to a Boots from where you are!

      1. Thanks. In the process of phoning all the Boots within a 30 mile radius. Thus far no luck but will persist.

        1. Log onto boots.com and if you go to their covid section you can book online…they don’t charge you until you actually have the test, so although you have to ‘pay’ up front…if you don’t find a location to suit you’d not be charged…it’s only 30£ I think
          Good luck,

  18. Both my husband and I have (separately) returned to France, where we are permanent residents. Entry to France requires a negative test and that can be an LFT but only one carried out through a private testing centre. We paid £45 each and had the results in 15 minutes, booked to be done around 15 hours before we were due to travel. PCR results can be obtained in around 3 hours from some centres but cost upwards of £150 so LFTs coming into France are best value and good enough. The UK required PCRs for post arrival testing, thus ensuring more money for Tory donor chums running testing scams .. err, sorry, testing companies.

  19. Any advice on completing the France to U.K. form?
    Is residing address French address ( I am a British French resident, British passport holder)

    Initial country of Origin – presumably England?
    Final Destination – England

  20. I don’t like promoting these companies but http://www.c19testing.co.uk (and probably others) do self adminsitered antigen tests – you do them yourself at home then you upload a picture of the result and your passport and within an hour or so you get a certificate in your email. They are not time or event sensitive so you can keep some tests in the cupboard for whenever you might need them.

  21. Any update on this issue, re travel from France to the UK? Due to fly to UK Friday 21 January – we are British passport holders, French residents

    “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.”

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STRIKES

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Unions representing cabin crew on several airlines have threatened to take strike action over the Christmas holidays in a series of increasingly bitter pay disputes.

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Cabin crew for Air France have already outlined dates for possible strike days, while unions representing staff at Easyjet and Ryanair are threatening “massive disruption” unless their demands are met.

The SNPNC-FO union, which represents cabin crew working in France, is calling for pay increases for its members working for budget airline Easyjet, warning that if no agreement is reached there will be a “very high risk” of walk-outs over Christmas.

Strikes, prices and services – what you need to know about travel over Christmas 2022

No exact dates have been proposed yet, but the union says that the current pay offer does not cover the rising cost of living, adding “the management will be responsible for the disruptions suffered by our customers”.

Cabin crew at Air France have filed a provisional strike notice from December 22nd to January 2nd, although whether staff actually walk out depends on how the pay negotiations go.

“This notice should serve as a warning to our management,” explains a union leaflet. “If this warning is not heeded, only a strong mobilisation will be able to tip the balance.”

So far the only confirmed strike action is at Air Antilles and Air Guyane – which mostly run flights between France and the Caribbean and French Guyana. Their staff will be walking out between December 17th and December 22nd, unless there is a breakthrough in pay negotiations. 

Ryanair crew working in Belgium have also threatened strike action over Christmas, although so far their French colleagues have not revealed any strike plans. 

Things look better for rail and ferry travel, with no strikes currently planned – although anyone with a trip to the UK planned should be aware of strike days planned by British rail staff over the Christmas and New Year period.

French airport ground staff and air traffic controllers won themselves a pay rise after strike action over the summer holidays. 

You can find all the latest strike information for France on our strikes page HERE.

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