The issue of passport stamping has been causing concern for UK nationals who are residents of France, since many have reported having their passports incorrectly stamped as visitors on entering or leaving France, in some cases even after pointing out the mistake to officials.
But now one British resident of the Hérault département of southern France has reported how she was detained, questioned and fined at the border after her passport was incorrectly stamped as a visitor.
Since the end of the Brexit transition period, the passports of British visitors are stamped on entry to and exit from France, allowing border officials to calculate their 90-day limit in the country.
This should not, however, be the case for Brits who have residency in France, to whom the 90-day rule does not apply.
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Photographer Kerry, however, fell victim to this as she travelled from her local airport of Montpellier to a shoot in the UK.
Kerry, who has lived in France for five years, applied for her carte de séjour residency card before the deadline of September 30th but is yet to receive the card itself, although she has an appointment at her local préfecture to give fingerprints. The deadline to actually be in possession of the card is not until January 1st 2022.
She said: “I travel a lot for my work, although obviously less over the last 18 months, but I went to the UK in July and when I came back into Montpellier my passport was stamped.
“I didn’t think it would be a problem because I have the email showing that I applied for my carte de séjour, plus an email from my local préfecture confirming my appointment to go and give fingerprints and a photo.
“But I was leaving Montpellier last week to go to Gatwick for a shoot, and when I showed my passport to the official at the airport he told me I had over-stayed my 90 days.
“I was taken into an interview room with three officials and a woman started shouting at me telling me that since Brexit Brits can’t just come and go as they did, they have to abide by the 90 day-rule.
“I’m fully aware of the rules, but as someone with residency the 90-day limit doesn’t apply to me. I tried to show them the emails but they weren’t interested and said they didn’t count as official proof of my residency status.
“In the end I had no choice but to pay the fine if I wanted to get on the flight.”
As well as being fined €198 by the Douanes Françaises for a passport violation, Kerry’s passport also received an extra stamp showing that she had been fined for overstaying – something that could create further border difficulties when she next travels.
She said: “I have my appointment at the préfecture next week so hopefully I will have the card soon, but it was a really scary experience, especially as I need to be able to travel for my work.”
Kerry had first applied for her carte de séjour back in October 2019 – on the no-deal site that was briefly open – applications from this site were transferred onto the new website that opened in October 2020, but it appears that Kerry’s was not transferred correctly, so she had to restart her application when she chased it up with her local préfecture after waiting for months for a response.
The deadline for UK nationals to be in possession of the carte de séjour was extended from October 1st 2021 to January 1st 2022 to allow officials time to deal with the backlog – the latest figures from September showed that 10,000 people had applied but were still waiting to receive the card.
Kerry’s case comes after our sister site The Local Spain reported on a British woman who was denied entry to Spain because her passport had not been correctly stamped on exit.
The Interior Ministry has previously confirmed to The Local that Brits living in France should not have their passports stamped, but hundreds of readers told us theirs had been stamped at the border, even when they pointed out the error to officials.
The Ministry said: “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.”
The Local has also repeatedly raised the issue of passport stamping with the British Embassy in Paris, who said they had raised the issue with the Interior Ministry.
The Local has approached the Interior Ministry for comment about Kerry’s case.