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SECOND HOMES

CALCULATOR: How to work out your 90-day allowance in France

If you're visiting France and you're not a citizen of an EU country, your visits may be limited by the '90 day rule' - here's how it works, who is affected and how to calculate your trips so that you don't overstay your allowance.

CALCULATOR: How to work out your 90-day allowance in France
Photo by Eduardo Soteras / AFP

Who?

If you have the passport of an EU country – including dual nationality – you are not covered by the 90-day rule and are free to come and go from France as you please.

Non-EU citizens fall into two categories – those covered by the 90-day allowance and those who are not.

Citizens of certain countries, including India, need a visa for any visit to France, even just a long weekend, but other countries allow up to 90 days of travel without the need for a visa.

Brits, Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders are all covered by the 90-day allowance – find the full list here

Blue marks the EU/Schengen zone, green is countries covered by the 90-day rule and citizens of red countries require a visa even for a short trip. Map: European Commission

What?

The 90-day rule states that you can spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing to get a visa or residency card.

The allowance is for the whole Schengen zone, so if you’re travelling to multiple European countries your tally is for all the days you have spent within the Bloc.

For example, if you spent 85 days in France and then travelled to Spain for a fortnight, that would take you over your 90-day allowance because both France and Spain are Schengen zone countries. 

The allowance means that in total over the course of a year you can spend 180 days in the EU/Schengen zone without needing a visa – but the crucial point is that your 180 days cannot be all in a single block.

This means that, for example, you can’t spend the summer in France and the winter in the UK, or vice versa.

How?

So – the crucial bit – how do you go about calculating your allowance?

The people most likely to be affected by this are second-home owners and freelance workers or contractors who make multiple short work trips to the EU.

If you travel for work, it’s important to note that your 90-day allowance covers all trips for all reasons – so you need to add in any European holidays as well as work trips to your total. 

It’s when you’re making a series of short trips that things can get complicated, because the 90-day rule is calculated on a rolling calendar, so that at any point of the year you need to be able to count backwards by 180 days, and have only spent 90 of those days in the Schengen zone.

You also need to be aware that any time spent in the Schengen zone counts as one day – so even one-hour stopovers take one day off your allowance. 

The easiest way to keep on top of this is to keep a diary (paper or electronic) with your travel days marked in it, and then use the online Schengen calculator to check that you’re within your allowances.

Short stays and stopovers can add up more quickly than you might think.

The online Schengen calculator can be found HERE – simply input your travel dates and it will tell you how many days you have left. 

What if you have a visa?

People who want to spend more than 90 days at a time in France have two options – get a visa or move here full-time and get a residency card.

Visa – for second-home owners the 6-month visitor visa is a popular option. This allows you to keep your main residence in your home country, but spend plenty of time at your place in France. 

For the dates when your visa is valid, your trips to France do not count towards your 90 day allowance – but trips to any other EU/Schengen zone country still count towards that 90-day allowance. Once your visa runs out, the 90-day clock starts again, unless your get a new visa – more details here.

Residency – if you take up permanent residency in France any time spent in France obviously does not count towards your 90 days. However, it’s worth pointing out that you are still bound by the 90-day rule when travelling to other EU/Schengen zone countries – full details here.

Overstaying

Many readers, especially Brits who were previously in the happy position of not having to worry about calculating 90 days, have asked us whether they really need to go through all this hassle.

The unfortunate answer is yes – passports are checked regularly as you enter and leave the Schengen zone, and upcoming technical changes mean this will only get stricter.

People who spend more than 90 days at a time in the Schegen zone without having a visa are classed as overstayers, and passports are likely to be stamped or flagged.

Overstaying is usually punished by a fine, but having that ‘overstay’ on your passport also means that future travel is likely to be a lot more difficult, and you may also have trouble with any future visa applications.

People who travel for work should note that keeping track of your 90 days is your personal responsibility, not your employers’. It seems that many UK employers are still pretty clueless about post-Brexit changes, so don’t rely on your company’s HR department to calculate your allowance.

At present passport checking and stamping at the border is varied and variable, but changes to EU travel coming in later this year will mean that the process becomes more automated, and overstayers will have nowhere to hide. 

READ ALSO Passport scans and €7 fee: What changes for EU travel in 2022

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TOURISM

What to know when visiting France’s lavender fields this summer

Known affectionately as 'blue gold,' France’s lavender fields are a popular tourist attraction every year. Here is what you need to know about visiting them:

What to know when visiting France's lavender fields this summer

Lavender is the “soul of Provence,” the French region where the fields can be found. Like wine, lavender was brought to France around 2,000 years ago by the Romans. The flower is the emblem of ‘Haute Provence’ regional identity, though the fields stretch from just outside of Nice almost all the way up to Valence, and they are not fully exclusive to France.

Even the washerwomen, those whose job it was to clean clothes and linen, were referred to as les lavandières in France. 

The flowers, which can be found mainly in two species in Provence, have several uses – as oils for cooking and bathing, as a perfume for soaps, and even as an antiseptic for healing wounds and scars.

The lavender essential oil that comes from Provence is even an AOP (L’Appellation d’origine protégée) in France. 

When is the best time to see the fields?

Typically, the lavender flowers from around mid-June to early-to-mid August. However, depending on the weather, especially if there is a drought or hotter temperatures, the lavender might flower sooner than normal, which is likely the case for this year.

This is unfortunately also a side effect of climate change, which might be pushing up the lavender flowering season.

Where should I go?

The Valensole plateau is perhaps the most famous place to go for lavender fields. Speckled with several small Provencal towns, the area is beautiful, with a mountainous backdrop in the distance. If you go here, you might also be able to see the sunflower fields too.

Sault is perhaps a bit less known, partially because due to its altitude, the lavender typically flowers a bit later.

It is still a great place to go see the fields, and every year the town hosts a Lavender Festival in August. Walking (or cycling) between the villages (Aurel, Saint-Trinit and Saint-Christol) is very manageable.

This is not too far from the Sénanque Abbey, a medieval 12th century abbey which is surrounded by lavender fields. You might notice some small stone houses called bories in the fields, which were historically used for field workers.

Luberon Valley is another location that comes highly recommended. In the area, there is a regional national park, home to rosé wines, castles (chateaux) and charming villages, like Gordes, a stunning hilltop village.

Here you can also find the Musée de la Lavande, if you are looking to learn more about harvesting, producing and distilling lavender, its industry, and some interesting regional history.

How to get there?

You can take a TGV train to Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, or rent a car. With a car, you can also enjoy the several scenic routes that allow you to see the fields from the roads.

What else is there to do while in the region?

The area is also known for its rosé wine, so you could take the opportunity to go visit some vineyards or spend some time wine-tasting. 

In the summer months, the south of France can get quite warm. If you are looking to go swimming or enjoy the water, the Gorges du Verdon are not too far away. Though a bit of a tourist hotspot, the canyon is a beautiful and a wonderful place for paddling along in a canoe.

If you’re a fan of hiking, you can always go for a (light) hike along the Ochre Trail near Roussillon. Here, there are two marked paths that will take you through sunset-colored red and yellow cliffs in an old quarry.

Words of Wisdom

Unless you have been given express permission, do not pick the lavender, as this is the farmer’s livelihood. You can always buy a bouquet from nearby souvenir shops for your photo shoots! 

Also, stick to the paths that exist to avoid trampling any crops, and of course do not litter in the fields. 

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