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BREXIT

Five things to expect when crossing the border from the UK to France

Brexit means the border between the UK and France also becomes an external border for the EU, which means things are different for people crossing it. Here's five things to expect.

Five things to expect when crossing the border from the UK to France
Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

None of these are new rules, they were all previously in place for non-EU citizens and people travelling to France from outside the EU, but they now apply to Britons who had previously enjoyed a more relaxed travel experience thanks to European freedom of movement and their status as citizens of an EU country. 

So far, enforcement of all of these rules seems to vary and not everything is checked on every crossing, but border guards and customs officials have been stepping up checks on arrivals from the UK so it is best to be prepared.

Passport stamping

The end of European freedom of movement for Brits has meant that UK nationals join Americans, Canadians, Australians and other non-EU citizens in the world of visas and the 90-day rule.

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule HERE, but in brief Brits can only spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without getting a visa.

And in order to keep track of this, your passport may be stamped as you enter France.

People who are residents of France should not be stamped, but you will need to remember to show your visa or residency card at the border along with your passport. Here’s what to do if you are a resident and your passport is stamped.

Picnic confiscation

When it left the EU, the British government also opted to leave the single market and the EU-wide protocols on health standards and animal welfare – and this has an impact on any food you might try to bring into France.

Whether it’s sandwiches for the journey or bringing in British treats like Bovril for your European friends and neighbours, there is now a long list of items that cannot be brought in.

READ ALSO Bovril, tea and hand sandwiches – what can you bring from the UK into an EU country?

This covers all animal products and you can find the full list HERE.

Pet passports

Your pet too has lost his or her status within the EU, so their European pet passport is no longer valid.

If you are bringing a cat, dog or ferret into the EU you now need to get an Animal Health Certificate for each trip, unless you live in France in which case you need to get a French pet passport.

Full details of how that works HERE.

Plasterboard, plants and power tools

If you are bringing items worth more than €430 into the EU you may now have to pay duty on them.

People moving house have an exemption – but need to provide a detailed itinerary for customs officers plus proof of their move – but people who just want to bring over items such as DIY materials for a second home may face steep bills in customs duties if they are stopped at the ports.

READ ALSO Do you have to pay duty if you bring furniture to France?

And keen gardeners may want to note that bringing over flowers, plants and bulbs for your garden is now outlawed under the same sanitary and phyto-sanitary rules the affect your ham sandwiches.

Proof of accommodation

Non-EU citizens entering France can be asked to provide proof of where they are staying, as well as insurance and their financial means.

This not always strictly enforced, but arrivals can be asked to provide proof of a booking in a hotel, gîte, B&B or similar or alternative proof of accommodation such as proof of address for second-home owners.

Those coming to stay with friends or family can be asked to provide a certificate known as an attestation d’acceuil, or alternatively proof that they have a minimum of €120 for each day of their stay.

And . . . Pandemic paperwork

Hopefully a temporary change, but remember that France currently has strict entry requirements from the UK, with arrivals needing to present a form stating that their reasons for visiting are essential, an undertaking to quarantine for seven days and a negative Covid test taken within the previous 48 hours.  

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel between France and the UK

Member comments

  1. Regarding the 430 euro limit on goods or gifts, how do customs officials distinguish these from holiday luggage and personal effects? Just a phone will exceed the limit! What are the guidelines? Very important for caravans and motorhomes, and in my case a cruising yacht, which literally contain everything including the kitchen sink! How do border officials decide which stuff on board is to be counted as imported goods or gifts? Tough question but I know someone out there knows the answer! Thanks 🙂

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For members

VISAS

‘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

Appointments

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. 

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