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

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

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?

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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. 

Member comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.😄😛

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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 ).

  9. 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.

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