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‘Fit to fly’: What kind of Covid tests are valid for returning to or entering France?

A traveller, watched by a masked member of testing staff, swabs his nose at a rapid Covid-19 test site at a US airport
Photo: Frederic J Brown / AFP
Covid rules for anyone wanting to enter France from abroad vary from country to country, with non-EU countries - such as the US and UK - facing more stringent requirements than residents and citizens of EU Member States.

Here are the rules to enter France from non-EU countries, including the UK and US.

The basics

All travellers from non-EU countries – whether they are fully vaccinated or not – currently require proof of a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours of departure to enter France from any country outside the EU or Schengen zone. 

But what sort of tests are acceptable? Is a self-administered home test sufficient? 

The short answer to that last question appears to be “possibly”. But it’s complicated as we explain below. But basically you can’t turn up at the border with a self-test showing a negative result and expect it to be accepted. The results have to be verified by a lab or a professional.

Basically your testing provider must provide written proof of your negative PCR or antigen test that can be used to show border control or airline, rail companies.

It is the traveller’s responsibility to ensure that they have the required negative Covid-19 documentation and can produce it upon request by either border officials or representatives of airlines, ferry or rail operators. Not having this document means you will not be able to travel.

All non-EU arrivals, including UK subjects, must also sign an official declaration ‘on their honour’ – the form is here – that they accept that further testing can be performed on arrival in France, and that they have no symptoms of Covid-19.

UK ‘Fit to Fly’ tests

Even vaccinated travellers aged 12 and over from the UK require proof of a recent negative Covid test to enter France. The test must have been taken within 48 hours of departure and can be a PCR test or antigen (lateral flow).

The PCR tests will likely take longer to get the result and the certificate you need for travel and they are more expensive. 

This proof of a negative COVID-19 test is known as a ‘fit to fly’ test in the UK. It’s worth searching for this when you arrange your test with a private testing company.

What about self-administered tests?

Things get a little murky here.

The UK government site for France says this: “Self-administered tests are not accepted.” This seems to make it appear pretty clear that any test required for travel to France must be carried out by a professional at a designated test site.

But many “fit to fly” test providers in the UK sell home-test PCR or antigen kits for travel to France. 

This is what the French Embassy in London says about self-tests: “Please note that self-administered tests, the results of which are not certified by a laboratory (eg tests provided free of charge by the NHS), are not authorised for travel.

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See also on The Local:

“The NHS says it will not be providing tests for travel. It is therefore necessary to resort to private companies offering a similar service.”

So this suggests that self-tests can only be used for travel as long as the test is sent to a lab and analysed, which is the case for all PCR tests. But for antigen it’s less clear.

Some companies offer home test kits antigen tests and say you only need to send photo of the negative test result along with proof of ID to get a valid ravel certificate. It’s unclear if these travel certificates would be acceptable for entry.

Many UK-based Covid testing companies also send you a home test to be carried out during a guided video call by a professional. If the result is negative, the company will send a travel certificate that can be used for boarding. Again it’s not clear if these will be acceptable. Some companies such as this one warn that their “lateral flow test is not suitable for travel to France”.

The French consulate in London confirmed to The Local that home tests where the results are verified by a lab are valid for travel. And as for those that are verified by photo or video the consulate said it would depend on what information was on the travel certificate

Ultimately it’s wise to check with your test provider and make sure the certificate has information such as the type of test, the date and time of the test as well as the name of the lab that verified the results.

READ ALSO: Are self-administered Covid tests valid for travel to France from UK?

And if you are really in doubt it’s probably best to get an on-site test. It may be more expensive but the results should arrive on time and your travel certificate should be valid.

What’s clear is you can’t just arrive at the border with a negative self-test kit in your hands and expect it to be accepted.

If you search for a ‘Fit to Fly’ test and specify France as your destination, you will be directed to companies performing tests that should meet the standard for travel to France. 

Be warned though there are many tales online of flights being missed whilst passengers wait for results.

Travellers must also sign an official declaration ‘on their honour’ – the form is here – that they accept that further testing can be performed on arrival in France, and that they have no symptoms of Covid-19.

As well as a negative ‘fit to fly’ certificate, unvaccinated travellers – who can only enter France for ‘essential reasons’ – will be instructed to self-isolate for seven days, and will also need to complete an official declaration stating their reason for travel – that declaration is HERE.

TIP: The French embassy in London says those who are travelling to the UK for very short periods (not sure many are given the need to self-isolate until the result of day 2 PCR test comes through) can use their pre-departure PRC or antigen test to return to France if it is still within 48 hours of when the test was carried out.

Remember, too, if you’re later heading back to the UK, you will need to arrange and take tests before departure and on arrival.

Covid-19 testing for travel from US to France

On December 6th the US advised citizens against travel to France, because of the recent surge in Covid-19 infections and concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant.

Americans are not banned from visiting a country under a level 4 travel advisory notice, but are urged to avoid unnecessary travel, and to make sure that they are fully vaccinated if they must make the trip.

The website of the US Embassy in France says travellers from the US must present the results of a negative PCR or antigen test, carried out less than 48 hours before travel, ‘or they will not be allowed to board their transport to France’.

READ ALSO: What are the travel rules between France and the US?

Airlines are in charge of verifying test results. It is up to the traveller to ensure that the test they have taken meets the required standard – it must be ‘capable of detecting the N protein in Covid’ – for travel to France.

Self-tests won’t be valid for the flight to France.

Testing centres are widespread in the US and you will normally have to give your email address or phone number (some won’t accept foreign numbers) in order to receive your results. The system may vary from state to state and among each testing centre. (If you have any insight or experience on getting tests in the US valid for entry to France please let us know).

Vaccination rules remain the same: travellers need to be fully vaccinated, having had their last dose a full 14 days before boarding their flight.

Those returning to the USA need to be tested for Covid-19 no more than one calendar day before their flight. 


Member comments

  1. Does anybody have experience of Randox Certifly tests? Seeing as it’s a pre departure test I presumed it’s acceptable to fly to France, but because it’s done at home (and the test result uploaded to their app in order to get a certificate to fly) I’m now doubting it as ‘self tests’ are not allowed…

  2. Has anyone uses the in store Boots antigen test system to enter France? Website says it issues a certificate and identifies the N-protein…
    Thanks

  3. The C-19 Testing by Cerulean send you tests to do at home and then you send the result with a picture of your passport and they send you a fit to fly test with a QR code- I’ve used them in July and in October and they were fine. For what they say- that is redacted in a muddy way- I think they mean that the NHS test cannot be used…..

  4. Thanks Margaret

    Since I posted I have found Concepto in Crawley will do it, so I will book with them for 26th Morning for a same day result, my flight is 0815 27th.

    Steve

  5. According to the article the antigen test to return to France (french resident) requires a QR code on the negative test. I cannot find any testing sites in the South of England that will give a QR code on a negative test.

    1. Hi,
      I have had more success.

      I checked names mentioned on this site and rang Corona Test Centre. They confirmed that they do the n protein test and give you QR codes for their antigen tests. I have suggested they include such information on their website as a marketing ploy! I am getting a same day result for Gbp39 and have booked into one of their clinics. I am using them the day before for their same day pcr test costing £99. Sadly the Pcr test will be 54 hours before I leave the U.K. and hence I need the antigen one.
      https://uk.ambafrance.org/COVID-19-rules-for-travel-between-France-and-the-UK-28918

      I don’t plan to do any more weekend trips to London after this one until the three test requirement is lifted!

  6. The article would be more complete if it also covered what kind of “fit to fly” test you need to take IN FRANCE to enter the UK.

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