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SECOND HOMES

Brexit: How second-home owners can properly plan for their 90-day limit in France

With the 90-day rule now a reality for British second-home owners and visitors in France, we take a look at how to maximise your time here, while not falling foul of EU rules on length of stay.

Brexit: How second-home owners can properly plan for their 90-day limit in France
JPhoto: Jean-Pierre Clatot/AFP

Know the rules

As most people will now be aware, since the end of the Brexit transition period, UK nationals who do not have a residency card or visa face limits on how long they can stay in the EU.

This has always been the rule for non-EU citizens such as Americans and Canadians, but since Brexit it applies to Brits as well.

The 90-day rule has a few quirks that it’s worth familiarising yourself with.

READ ALSO How does the 90-day rule work in France since Brexit?

The basic rule says that since January 1st, 2021, Brits can stay for 90 days out of every 180 within the Schengen zone without needing a visa.

The date of entry is considered as the first day of stay in the Schengen territory and the date of exit is considered as the last day of stay in the Schengen territory.

However, it is possible to leave and re-enter the Schengen Area over that six-month period.

“The 180-day reference period is not fixed,” as the EU explains, “it is a moving window, based on the approach of looking backwards”.

That means taking a calendar and highlighting all the time spent in Schengen countries already over the past 180 days.

There are also Schengen calculators that do the job for you. 

If police or border officials ever question how long you’ve been in the EU, this will be how they calculate if you’ve overstayed or not. 

It’s worth stressing as well that the Schengen rule doesn’t work with the calendar year, it’s always a case of counting back 180 days.

Not just France

Crucially, the 90 day limit refers to the entire Schengen zone – that’s Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden plus Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland.

You may spend no more than 90 days out of every 180 in total in those countries – so you need to calculate not only your stays in France, but any other European travel that you do too, including business trips.

France residents

Brits who have a right of residency in France (either through a visa or a carte de séjour residency permit) do not have their time in France counted towards their 90-day limit.

However they must still abide by the rule if they travel to other Schengen zone countries.

Accept that you may have to spend three months away from France 

Whatever your preferences or calculations for your time spent in France and other Schengen countries, once the 90-in-180-day period is over, you will have to spend 90 days outside of the Schengen Area. 

As the europa.eu website puts it, “an absence for an uninterrupted period of 90 days allows for a new stay for up to 90 days”.  

Plan ahead to make sure this absence from the Schengen Area doesn’t fall at a time when you want to be in France (or any other Schengen country). 

However, remember that you are always counting back the last 180 days, so if you have not exhausted the 90-day limit over the past six months, you will not have to leave the Schengen Area until that’s the case. 

When that happens, spend 90 full days outside of the Schengen Area and France will give you a new period of 90 days.

Remember that travel days count

The clock starts as soon as you enter the Schengen zone, so if it takes you the best part of a day to drive down to your French property, then you’ve used up two days on travel there and back.

It might therefore be more efficient to take longer breaks, rather than multiple short breaks.

Any time in the Schengen zone counts, so if for example you pass briefly through France on your way to non-Schengen Morocco, that’s one day gone from your allocation, even if you were only in France for a few hours.

Consider neighbouring countries outside Schengen 

If you have to leave France but you don’t want to return to the UK, consider spending some time in countries outside of the Schengen Area that aren’t too distant. 

Morocco, Cyprus and Turkey are three options with more temperate climates and affordable prices.

Plan ahead

Decide which part of the year is most important to you in France – whether it’s the summer sunshine or winter in the Alps on the slopes – and plan ahead to make sure you have enough days left of your allocation.

Also bear in mind that this is France so transport strikes are not exactly out of the question. It would be a good idea to have a couple of days in hand just in case your plane/train/ferry back to the UK is cancelled because of industrial action.

Don’t assume that nobody will be checking

Among non-Europeans like Americans and Australians, France has over the years gained itself a reputation as a country that is not too fussy about exact exit dates.

However that doesn’t mean that no-one checks and British visitors to France have reported that most passports of non-residents are now stamped at the border.

This makes it easy for border officials to see exactly how long you have been in France, and whether you have overstayed your allocation. The EU also has new technology coming down the line that will allow for stricter checks on length of stay.

If you are found to have overstayed you can be deported, fined and refused re-entry.

France in general tends to reserve deportation and fines for people who have been illegally working or who have overstayed for many months, but an ‘over-stayer’ stamp in your passport will create all sorts of problems for future travel in France and the rest of the Schengen zone.

If you want to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France you will need a visa – find out how to apply HERE.

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For members

STRIKES

What to expect from the February 7th strike in France

February 7th marks the third day of mass strike action in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. From planes and trains to school, ski lifts and power cuts - here's what to expect on Tuesday.

What to expect from the February 7th strike in France

The next ‘mass mobilisation’ in the ongoing battle against pension reform is scheduled for Tuesday, February 7th, and will be followed by another one on Saturday, February 11th.

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

Tuesday’s mobilisation is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that support is likely to be high and disruption severe on certain services.

It will come as French lawmakers debate the bill in the Assemblé Nationale.

Workers in essential services such as transport must declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance, allowing transport operators to produce strike timetables, which are usually released 24 hours in advance.

We will update this story as new information is released.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Who is winning the battle over French pension reform?

Trains

The four main unions (CGT Cheminots, Sud Rail, CFDT Cheminots, and UNSA Ferroviaire) representing workers with France’s national rail service, SNCF, have all called for strike action on Tuesday, February 7th.

During the day of action on January 31st, 36.5 percent of railway workers went on strike, compared to 46 percent on January 19th.

In addition to Tuesday’s strike action, two of the above unions, CGT and Sud Rail, have also called on workers to strike on February 8th. However, as of February 2nd, the other two primary unions had not made any calls to take part in Wednesday’s action.

Intercity and TER trains operated by the SNCF will likely see services disrupted on Tuesday with many cancellations. International trains including the Eurostar could also be affected.

City public transport

In the Paris region, the main unions representing RATP (Paris region public transport services) issued a joint statement on February 1st saying they would join calls for mobilisation on February 7th.

Traffic was severely disrupted on the most recent day of strike action, January 31st, on certain RER lines, with some lines like the RER C running an average of 1 train out of 10. As for the Paris Metro system, several lines only ran during peak hours and many stations across the city were closed. Many buses continued running, though with delays to usual operating times.

Other cities including Marseille and Lyon will likely see a repeat of severely disrupted bus, tram and Metro services.

In Lyon, on January 31st, public transport services were strongly impacted by strike action, and one metro line did not run at all throughout the day. 

Air travel

While it is not yet clear what level of disruption to expect in air travel, the leading civil aviation union, USACcgt, has called on “all DGAC (French civil aviation authority) and ENAC (National school of civil aviation) staff to go on strike en masse and take part in demonstrations” on February 7th, according to reporting by Le Parisien.

During the two previous mobilisations, approximately 20 percent of flights operating out of Paris-Orly airport were cancelled, but other airports were not affected. 

Ports

Port and dock workers walked on January 31st. It is not yet clear if they will join actions on February 7th, but typically strikes in this sector impact commercial ports rather than ferry ports. 

Schools

Tuesday’s strike will take place during the first round of winter holidays – so students in the Zone A (Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Limoges, Lyon, Poitiers) will already be off school.

You can find out more information about France’s school zones here.

Nevertheless – one of the major unions representing teachers, Snuipp-FSU said in a statement that they hope to see an “amplification” of previous walkouts, as they called on teachers to walk out on February 7th.

Primary school teachers (maternelle and elementary schools) are required to inform students and families at least 48 hours in advance of their intent to strike.

On January 31st, the Ministry of Education reported that about 25.9 percent of teachers walked out, in comparison to the 38.5 percent who walked out on the 19th. Numbers offered by the Snuipp-FSU union were higher – they said that about 50 percent of elementary school teachers walked out, and that 55 percent of secondary school teachers did so as well.

In addition to industrial action by teachers, several student unions, like the “National Student Movement” (MNL), representing high school students have made an effort to mobilise French youth across the nation, with some blocking the entrance to their high schools on strike days. According to the Journal des Femmes, the MNL has called on high schoolers across the country to walk out again on the 7th.

Ski lifts

BFMTV reported on January 31st that a walkout was scheduled for seasonal workers for approximately one hour and thirty minutes on Tuesday, February 7th. This means that in some resorts, ski lifts and stores could be closed. 

READ MORE: What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

The two unions that represent more than 90 percent of workers in ski resorts have also called an ‘unlimited’ strike which began on January 31st. This means further actions could come later in the month as well.

Petrol stations

French refinery workers have threatened to strike for a 72-hour period beginning on February 6th. Union representative, Eric Sellini, told AFP that these actions could result in a “lower throughput” for petrol and a “stoppage of shipments.”

This could mean that there may be shortages of petrol and diesel at some filling stations if the blockades are successful in stopping supplies leaving the refineries.

The mobilisation on January 31st saw a significant number of refinery workers walk out – between 75 to 100 percent at some refinery and oil depots, according to the union CGT.

Power cuts 

Workers in the energy sector (electricity and gas), primarily represented by the union FNME-CGT, have announced plans to strike from February 6th through 8th. 

The day of action on January 31st had 40.3 percent of employees at EDF (France’s national energy provider) walk out, in comparison to 44.5 percent on January 19th.

Some workers in this sector have taken what they call “Robin Hood” actions to “distribute free electricity” to hospitals, schools and low-income housing areas.

On January 31st, striking workers brought about significant load reductions in some power plants across the country – approximately 3,000 MW according to La Depeche. However, these reductions in power reportedly did not lead to any power cuts on the 31st.

Demos

Demonstrations are expected in cities and towns across the country.

January 31st, the most recent day of large scale mobilisation, saw over 1.27 million people take to the streets according to the interior ministry. In Paris, the number of protesters was estimated at 87,000, higher than the 80,000 clocked last time, the ministry told AFP.

In Lyon, the route for the demonstration has already been decided, according to Lyon Capitale. It will begin at 12pm in front of the Manufacture des Tabacs. The procession will move toward the Place Bellecour.

Unions are hoping for a similar turnout on February 7th.

Other strike dates

The above information relates to February 7th only. Unions have also called for more walkouts on February 11th. 

Additionally, the strike by oil refinery workers is expected to run for 72 hours, meaning it will continue into Wednesday, February 8th. There could be more action in later days by oil refinery workers, as they have called for an ‘unlimited strike’.

Other unions have also declared ‘unlimited’ strikes, so there could be disruptions on these services on other days – these include ski lift operators and truck drivers.

It is highly likely that further one-day or multi-day strikes will be announced for February and March, as the pension reform bill comes before parliament, you can keep up to date with out strike calendar HERE.

We will update this article as more information becomes available, and you can also keep up with the latest in our strike section HERE.

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