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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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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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