Brit detained and fined at French border over incorrectly-stamped passport

A British resident of France has told how she was branded an 'over-stayer' and fined at the French border because her passport has been incorrectly stamped.

Passport control.
Passport control. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

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.

LATEST Should Brits living in France have their passports stamped?

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. 

Member comments

    1. I’m afraid the incompetency doesn’t stop there. I have wasted about 6 months of this current year waiting for various administrative processes to be completed two of which were denied after waits of 1 and 3 months respectively.
      There is definitely an undercurrent of “we’ll teach you for being British” in many instances, for most of the others it’s at best indifference or just plain laziness.

        1. Posting about my experiences is no indicator of a chip on my shoulder.
          You, however, are a regular visitor to these pages and appear to think you know everything and everyone when, in fact, you know sweet Fanny Adams.
          I use my real name because I have no need to hide behind a pseudonym and I stand behind my comments.
          Have a nice life.

          1. I always have a nice life working people like you up because you are so easy to annoy. I can assure you that we have far more important things to worry about then teaching you British a lesson for leaving. In fact we are glad to see the back of you and just wish you would stay out permanently.

        2. Treatment shouldn’t vary in first-world countries – wherever you’re from and whether you’ve got a chip or not ( and you would know all about having a chip wouldn’t you boggy, you rascal ).

          1. Alan, I always prefer my chips with fish like I used to get when at Cambridge in the 60’s, cooked in beef dripping. Yum, yum.😄😛

  1. Saturday 13 November we came back from the UK via St Malo. At passport control we had the slip when we applied for our WARP, we were told by the officer the he did not recognize the paper and insisted that he stamped our passport, he said if we did not have our CDS it had to be stamped to record the date we entered France, also said we should not be living in France as our French was not good enough.
    When we arrived home checked the post and guess what the cards had arrived!
    Do I need to get the stamp reversed – if so how, are we now on the Shen-gen system with a 90 day limit (France is our home we do not have property in the UK), also we plan to holiday in Spain next year could this cause a problem?
    Feel for Kerry we are worried was sure we did things right but was told different by an aggressive official at passport control

    1. Clearly the border staff just make it up as they go along. A worrying lack of direction and co-ordination in what’s an important role these days.

  2. I have gone through Toulouse airport with my UK passport and a WARP Carte de Sejour without stamps or difficulties. I have travelled once with my recipisse before my carte was issued and ditto no problems.
    The PAF at Toulouse have always been courteous and polite.

  3. I applied for titre de séjour in April, acknowledgement of receipt of application arriving immediately afterwards, since when I have had no word whatsoever from the préfecture despite sending two messages via [email protected].

    And yet, when I came in via Dieppe in September, they accepted my printed-off acknowledgment email and didn’t stamp my passport. I have given up hope of getting my titre de séjour now as I am leaving in a few days to go and see family in the US and won’t be back in time for the 1st January deadline. Any ideas of what I can do about it gratefully received. I am also applying for an Irish passport as a back-up.

    1. have you contacted your prefecture direct? Which one is it? They are the ones who will respond to you. I would try make an appt with them before you go and take in your dossier in full (two copies of everything) as it really will be your best chance. You should be able to make an appt online depending on the prefecture. I presume you lived in France before the end of 2020? Good luck – I am stil waiting for mine since Dec last year!

      1. Hi Leonie, many thanks for the suggestion. Much appreciated. I will see if I can manage to do as you suggest, though have just three more days before I leave. It’s Gironde.

  4. I believe that your Carte de Séjour will be sent to your address in France. It will need to be signed for by you at the time of delivery. If you are unable to do this, it is possible to register with La Poste online and apply online for a procuration (within about 2 weeks of first delivery) to appoint a proxy. This person may collect the letter from the relevant post office. Otherwise the letter will be returned to the sender. Both the personal registration and the procuration have a processing time and will need electronic copies of various documents to be submitted. Roger

    1. I am still waiting for my carte de sejour – 11 months. I made an appt to try push things on and go in to show my dossier since I had heard nothing since Dec 20 and at the prefecture interview I was told I had been rejected but seeing my dossier they changed my mind and my fingerprints were taken. I did not receive any recipisse, mentioned above. It is now five weeks and no card as yet though I was told it would be within the month and no requirement to be signed for so if this is not the case as per roger’s note perhaps it was sent back! I seem to read different things everywhere I look. Re passport stamps: during lockdowns when I had to travel I had all my paperwork and my passport wasn’t stamped but since opening up I have stopped showing anything to do with residency as it becomes a saga explaining and they read everything then take great pleasure in stamping anyway. I have been told a few times they will only stop stamping if /when you have your actual card, and a couple have made charming comments saying you may well be rejected with glee in their voices. There is very little consistency. Good luck everybody!

  5. This is at least the second article which has repeated this quote from the French Interior Ministry: ““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.”

    This is worryingly incorrect. It should read “only British nationals who are residents of THE EU are exempt from having their travel documents stamped.”

    As British residents of Italy who will probably be driving through France to the UK and back in the near future, this is a matter of concern to us, and no doubt to others, too.

  6. All this illegal activity by the police (!) shows once again that they are literally ‘a law unto themselves’. They feel perfectly free to ignore their own government’s regulations as and when they feel like it. Obviously, not all are behaving in this manner but it doesn’t take many to blacken the force’s reputation and I know a lot of our French neighbours don’t trust their local police ever!

    Only a couple of weeks ago, we came back via St Malo and had our passports date-stamped, despite showing the cheerful young policeman our Cartes de Residence. He even joked with us about living in France as he hit his date-stamp across the pages! Fortunately,, we won’t be returning to the UK for at least another 12 months, so I assume this “90 day stay period in any 6 months” will have run out of time for us and will be irrelevent by then.

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Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”