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BREXIT

UPDATE: Should Brits living in France have passports stamped at borders?

Brexit has ushered in a host of changes to travel rules but confusion still surrounds the issue of passport stamping - we asked the French government what the rules are.

Passport control at the French border in Ouistreham.
Passport control at the French border in Ouistreham. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

As Brits are no longer EU citizens, crossing the border between France and the UK has become more complicated and for most people now involves having their passports stamped.

Travel to France: What has changed since Brexit?

But what about Brits who are resident in France?

Who

British tourists or people on short visits to France will usually have their passports stamped on entry and exit, in order to help border police keep track of the length of their stay.

Brits who do not have residency status or a visa are now limited to 90 days in every 180 within the Schengen zone and the passport stamp helps to keep track of this (although if your documents are not stamped it doesn’t mean you can stay longer, stays can also be tracked electronically).

Residents

Brits who are resident in France need to be able to prove their residency status at the border, so when asked for a passport on entry or exit from France, you should always hand over both the passport and the carte de séjour residency card.

If you do not yet have the card, you can use the acknowledgement of your application as proof if you moved here before December 31st 2020. Those who moved here after that date will need a visa.

We asked the French Interior Ministry what the rules are on passport stamping, and their answer was very clear.

“Since the effective exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union on January 1st, 2021, only British nationals who are residents of France are exempt from having their travel documents stamped when entering or leaving the Schengen area.

“Residency status is attested by the presentation of a titre de séjour or an attestation that an application for a titre de séjour has been filed with the préfecture for beneficiaries of Article 50 [the Withdrawal Agreement, which covers Brits resident in France before December 31st 2020].

“In the absence of such documents, the passport of British nationals will be systematically stamped to verify the authorised length of stay in the Schengen area for non-resident persons.

“British nationals married to a French or European national are not an exception to this rule unless they have a residence permit or an equivalent movement document.”

So is that what happens at the border?

Not always. It seems that some French border guards are also pretty confused on this issue and The Local has received numerous reports of UK nationals who had their passports stamped despite presenting their cartes de séjour and explaining that they were residents in France.

Many people have simply been told that the rule is that all British passports get stamped, while one border guard said that only UK nationals married to a French citizen were exempt.

Is this a problem?

Other than cluttering up the pages of your passport, is this actually a problem?

British Embassies around Europe say no. Ultimately, your right to residency in France is proved by your carte de séjour and that will always trump a passport stamp. But many people have raised concerns about being detained or questioned at a border in the future because of an incorrectly applied passport stamp.

The British Embassy in Germany told our sister site The Local Germany: “Stamping a passport at the border does not mean that a decision on residence status has been taken. The stamp merely documents that the passport holder was checked in the place stated on the stamp, whether this check had been performed in the course of an entry or exit, and which means of transport was used.

“The stamp entails neither the loss of rights under the Withdrawal Agreement nor in any other way a change of legal status. Consequently, a stamp on entry does not need to be annulled and may be retained unaltered in the passport as a souvenir.

“If however someone exits the Schengen area more than 90 days after their passport was stamped, then they should also carry with them a document demonstrating their current residence status, for example as a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Paris said: “We have made the Ministry of the Interior aware of this issue and will continue to raise it with them.”

Has this happened to you? If so, please tell us about it by completing the brief questionnaire below.

Member comments

  1. The problem is one of consistency . If the passport is stamped on exit but not on returning then when renewing the carte de sejour it will appear you’ve been out of the country for an indefinite period. What’s needed is for the border guards to either do it or not do it but be consistent

    1. I would think the physical stamp is irrelevant as your personal details and arrival or departure information is recorded off your passport electronic data strip. I’m not British so have no experience of what happens at ferry ports, do the Customs have electronic readers at all ferry ports ? and in the unlikely event of an issue arising, you can prove your movements with your plane or ferry ticket.

  2. I am a French-British dual nationality resident in France who plans to visit the UK where I have a house. Which passport would be better to use when travelling to the UK? I assumed my British one, but will it have to be stamped?

  3. I recently flew from Marseille to Stansted and had to be quite forceful telling the guard not to stamp my passport and had to show him my carte de sejour.When I returned I simply used my carte de sejour so no problem.To answer my own previous question time spent getting through customs was no longer than in 2019.

  4. Why is this nonsense constantly fretted over when third country nationals have resided in and moved about the EU for decades? The procedures are in no way new. Yet even the French Interior Ministry gets it wrong (as does this article, in not questioning their statement), in stating that on entering the EU/Schengen area in France, only the holders of French residency should not have their passports stamps. This is clearly wrong, as residency in any EU state entitles the same exception to stamping. This is clear from the official EU ‘Practical Handbook for Border Guards’, section 6.2.i.

    This states that “No entry or exit stamp must be affixed in the following cases: i) to the travel documents of nationals of third countries who present a residence card provided for in Directive 2004/38/EC.

    You’d have thought someone responsible for the coming and goings at the EU’s external border might have read this.

  5. I have a slight variation on this issue. My British passport expires in June 2022 but was issued in May 2012 and if I was a U.K. resident I could not travel to France on it after mid November. U.K. passport renewals are currently taking 11 weeks online to renew from France. Does anyone know if the same six month rule applies to British citizens with cartes de sejour as well as British tourists? I fear I shall have to miss a wedding in the UK at end of Nov!

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READER INSIGHTS

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local asked readers for their top tips for places to visit along the French coast and we were overwhelmed with suggestions for beautiful beaches, off-the-beaten-track villages and lively resorts.

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local has been seeking out France’s best coastline in recent weeks, after a disagreement on an episode of our Talking France podcast where Editor Emma Pearson defended La Vendée as home to the best (and most underrated) coastline in the country, while journalist Genevieve Mansfield fought for Brittany. 

To settle the debate, The Local asked its readers to share their favourite place to go on France’s shores, and the results are in, along with exclusive recommendations:

Brittany wins

Almost half (48 percent) of those who responded to The Local’s survey about the best part of France’s coastline voted for Brittany. 

Where to go

Several people recommended the Morbihan département.

Angela Moore, said her favourite part of this area was the islet between Vannes and Lorient, which is home to romanesque chapel and the Etel river oyster, a delicacy in the area. 

Others chose the Morbihan for its “lovely little coves, wonderful beaches and seafood,” as well as for boat rides in the gulf. Meanwhile, some pointed out Carnac, as a spot to visit, as the town is known for its prehistoric standing stones.

Some preferred travelling further north in Brittany, and they recommended the Finistère départment.

Rebecca Brite, who lives in Paris’ 18th arrondisement, said she loves this part of France for the overall atmosphere. Her top recommendation was to “Go all the way to the Baie des Trépassés and stay at the old, traditional hotel-restaurant of the same name. Pretend you’re in the legendary kingdom of Ys, swallowed up by the sea on this very site.”

The other part of Brittany that came highly recommended was the Emerald Coast (Côtes d’Armour) – specifically the Côte de Granit Rose.

The Mediterranean coastline

The Mediterranean remained a very popular vacation spot for readers of The Local, with almost a third of respondents claiming it as their favourite part of the French coastline. From sailing to cliffs and architecture, the Mediterranean had a bit of everything according to The Local’s readers.

Cassis and the Calanques were among of the most popular responses for where to go and what to see in this part of France.

One respondent, Gini Kramer, said she loves this part of France because “There’s nothing like climbing pure white limestone cliffs rising right out of the sea. The hiking is spectacular too.”

Some counselled more lively parts of the riviera, like the old port in Marseille, while others suggested the quieter locations.

David Sheriton said he likes to go to the beaches of Narbonne: “It’s a gentle slope into the sea so great for the (grand)children.” He said that the area does have a “few bars and restaurants” but that it does not “attract the party crowds.” 

In terms of beautiful villages, Èze came recommended for being home to “the most breathtaking views of the French coastline,” according to reader Gregg Kasner.

Toward Montpellier, Dr Lindsay Burstall said that La Grande Motte was worth visiting, for its “coherent 60’s architecture.” Burstall proposed having “a chilled pression au bord de la mer while watching the world go by…”

Meanwhile, three readers listed locations near Perpignan, and all encouraged visiting the area’s “pre-historic sites.”

Sally Bostley responded that her favourite areas were “between Canet-Plage and Saint-Cyprien-Plage” and she advised visiting “Collioure, Banyuls with the aquarium, Perpignan, nearby prehistoric sites, Safari Park, Prehistory Park.”

Other parts of the coastline

Though these locations may have received less votes overall, they still stood our in the minds of The Local readers:

Normandy did not receive as many votes as its neighbour Brittany, it is still home to unique attractions worth visiting. The WWII landing beaches “plages de débarquement” came highly recommended, along with cathedrals and abbeys in the region, like Coutances in the northern Manche département.

Reed Porter, who lives in Annecy, likes to go to Êtretat when he visits Normandy. He had several recommendations, starting with “les falaises!” These are the dramatic cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Porter also suggested visitors of Êtretat head to “the glass stone beach” and the “old town” for its architecture. If you get hungry, there are “oysters everywhere all the time.”

Basque country was also highlighted for its proximity to the Pyrenées mountains. Maggie Parkinson said this was the best part of France’s coastline for her because of “The long views to the Pyrénées, the pine forests, the soft, fresh quality of the air, the many moods and colours of the sea – gently lapping aquamarine waves to thunderous, crashing black rollers churning foam onto the shore.”

A huge fan of the area, Parkinson had several recommendations ranging from cuisine to “cycling the many paths through the tranquil pines, visiting Bayonne, the Basque Country and the Pyrénées or northern Spain (for wonderful pintxos).”

She said that she loves to “[chill] on the endless, wide sandy beaches or [rest] on a hammock in the park” or “[catch] a local choir sporting blue or red foulards singing their hearts out to traditional or rock tunes.”

Similar reasons were listed in favour of Corsica as France’s best coastline, as it is also home to tall mountains with beautiful views over the water.

If you are looking to visit Corsica, Paul Griffiths recommends “having a good road map” and then “just [driving] quietly along the coast and over the mountains.” He said that this is “all easily doable in a day” and along the way you can “find beautiful beaches, lovely towns with good restaurants – especially Maccinaggion and Centuri – to enjoy one day after another.”

Finally, the preferred coastline location for The Local’s France Editor, Emma Pearson, also got some support by readers, with one calling La Vendée an “unpretentious” and “accessible” place for a vacation.

Respondent Anthony Scott said that “Les Sables d’Olonne and Luçon both epitomise the spirit of Vendée.” He enjoys the “inland serenity and historic sites, beautiful beaches and inviting seashores” as well as “traditional appetising meals.” He also noted that the area is “not too expensive.”

READ ALSO Brittany v Vendée – which is the best French coastline?

Many thanks to everyone who answered our survey, we couldn’t include all your recommendations, but feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below.

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