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What foreigners in France need to know about 2023 passport control changes

You might have already heard about changes to travel rules from 2023 due to the EU's EES (Entry and Exit System) - if you're a foreigner and you live in France, here's what this will change for you.

What foreigners in France need to know about 2023 passport control changes
The EU's new EES system will change border control procedures for non-EU citizens. Photo by Olivier CHASSIGNOLE / AFP

The year 2023 will bring in two big changes to how the EU controls its borders – EES and ETIAS.

You can find a full explanation of what they are here, but EES is the one that will affect travel for foreigners who are resident in France.

Who?

We’re talking here about non-EU nationals who are either living in France or are here on an extended stay – people who have either a carte de séjour resident card or a long-stay visa.

For tourists, those making short trips to France such as family visits or second-home owners – click HERE.

If you have the passport of an EU country other than France, the EES does not affect you, and you can carry on travelling as normal. If you are a dual national, EES will only affect you if you are using your non-EU passport for travel. 

Where?

EES applies to the EU’s external borders, so if you are travelling between France and Belgium then nothing changes.

However if you are entering France from a non-EU or Schengen zone country (eg the UK, USA, or Australia) then extra checks will be in place.

What?

EES does not change any of the rules around residency or length of stay in France (or any other EU country), so the 90-day limit remains in place for non-residents, while the rules on visas and cartes de séjour remain exactly the same.

What EES is intended to do is tighten up border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day rule for tourists and visitors. It will do this by introducing a new computer system that enables passports to be automatically scanned at the border – checking both biometric details like fingerprints (for extra security) and entry and exit dates to calculate the 90-day limit for each traveller.

It does away with the process of border guards manually stamping passports on every entry and exit from the Schengen zone.

So what does this mean in practice for foreign residents of France?

Anyone with a residency card or long-stay visa is, naturally, not constrained by the 90-day rule – and in order to avoid having their passports stamped, they show both their passport and residency card/visa at the border.

A spokesman for the European Commission told The Local: “Non-EU nationals holders of residence permits are not in the scope of the Entry/Exit System and ETIAS. More about exceptions can be found on the website. When crossing the borders, holders of EU residence permits should be able to present to the border authorities their valid travel documents and residence permits.”

We asked the Interior Ministry for guidance on this, and they told us: “EES only concerns non-EU nationals, without a long-stay or residence permit, who are paying a private or tourist visit for less than 90 days.

“Non-EU citizens holding a residence permit (titre de séjour) or a long-stay visa are not eligible for EES.

“These persons must present their residence permit or long-stay visa, as at present, when crossing the border. The control procedures do not change for these categories of travellers.”

Unfortunately, the new automated passport controls can only read passports, there is no option to also show a visa or residency card.

Residents of France, therefore, will have to avoid the automated gates and instead go to manned passport control booths, in order to be able to show their residency documents and avoid starting the 90-day ‘clock’.

When?

EES is set to come into effect in May 2023. It has been postponed several times before, mostly due to the pandemic, but the European Commission says it is current due to take effect in May.

What happens if I use the automated passport gate by mistake?

As we mentioned, EES does not change the rules around length of stay it only tightens up enforcement of them.

If you swipe your passport through an EES gate, this starts off the 90-day ‘clock’ ticking, so that the next time you exit the Schengen zone, your passport will likely show you as having over-stayed your 90-day limit.

This is basically the same as what happens at present if a border guard stamps your passport in error when you enter the country.

The over-riding principle is that a residency permit will always trump a passport stamp – so you are not in danger of losing your residency status or being deported if you end up with either a manual passport stamp or an EES clock. AS long as you can show a valid residency card or visa, that guarantees your right to stay in France.

However, what is likely to happen is that your passport will be flagged as over-staying when you leave the country, and you will have to find a border guard and explain the situation to them – depending on passenger volumes this could take some time so you’re looking at delays and lengthy explanations at the border.

In short, it will be a hassle rather than a disaster, but it could be time-consuming to explain and in the worst cases could see you missing your flight/train/ferry. 

Member comments

  1. What does this mean for UK residents in France with a carte de sejour who travel from France to another EU country? Or those who travel to France from the UK through another EU country such as Belgium? Do they need an EES?

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FRANCE EXPLAINED

How do the French really feel about the English?

Deadly enemies, friendly rivals, sporting adversaries or the butt of jokes? While 'French-bashing' is an established trend among certain British communities, how do the French really feel about their cross-Channel neighbours?

How do the French really feel about the English?

As France prepare to take on England in the football World Cup, there has been plenty of mostly good-humoured banter on both sides, but in general this is a complicated relationship.

First let’s get one thing clear – while we are aware that English and British are not the same thing and that the UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, French people tend to be pretty vague on the difference between les anglais and les britanniques. What we’re examining here is largely an English phenomenon, but media or politicians who at least nominally represent the whole of the UK will also be making an appearance. 

Listen to the team from The Local discuss the French-English relationship in the latest episode of Talking France – find it on Spotify, Apple or Google podcasts, download it HERE or listen on the link below.

Saturday’s World Cup football clash is making headlines on both sides of the Channel with French sports paper l’Equipe getting in early with the franglais headline ‘God save notre king’ – their king being, of course, star striker Kylian Mbappé.

Over on the other side of the Channel there were reports of English fans boycotting baguettes and croissants ahead of the big match, while the French commentator Julien Hoez found himself the subject of a UK newspaper article after making a flippant comment on Twitter about an (objectively revolting-looking, it must be said) fish-finger and cheese croissant on sale in England.

Hoez is far from the first Frenchman to be less than flattering about British food, with former president Jacques Chirac once remarking: “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food.”

But away from banter about food and football, English ‘French-bashing’ can be more serious.

In the midst of an actual war in Europe, British MP (and, briefly, prime minister) Liz Truss remarked that “the jury is out” when asked whether French president Emmanuel Macron was a friend or foe of Britain.

Her remark is part of a long tradition of British politicians who have decided to make verbal attacks against France or the French, usually to try and distract from problems at home.

It goes way back to British portrayals of Napoleon Bonaparte (did you know that it was British cartoonists that created the myth that Napoleon was short? In face he was of average height for a man of his time) right through to tabloid headlines over Covid travel rules.

Interestingly, this is a trend that’s much less prevalent among French politicians and media, where tabloid headlines about the UK – where they exist at all – tend more towards teasing than vitriol.

Political commentator – and a Brit who has lived in France for 25 years – John Lichfield told us: “I think when British politicians engage in a bit of French-bashing they assume that their people will like it and their media will lap it up and therefore there is a sort of constituency for that type of French-bashing in England, not necessarily in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

“It’s not something that French politicians really go in for because there’s not much of a constituency for it, I don’t think there are many votes for Macron or anyone else in seeming to be anti-British.”

He added: “What’s interesting at the moment – with the England v France match – is that it focuses attention on where this ‘French-bashing’ is coming from – and it is an English thing, not a British thing. Most Scottish or Welsh people, certainly the ones that I know, don’t tend to be particularly anti-French.

“It comes from England and particularly from the English-based British media. There is of course a certain amount of teasing of Britain and British people in the French media, but nothing like as insistent and as vicious as you get from the other side of the Channel.

“I think it’s partly that we are an island and when we look out on the world France is what we see, so it’s the French that we pick on, whereas France is continental so when they look around they have lots of neighbours that they like to tease or to dislike – they don’t have the same obsession with England or with Britain as the English have with the French.”

But politicians and media and one thing, while ordinary people are another.

It’s rare for Brits living in France to report any verbal attacks or aggression from the French because of their nationality – although of course teasing and banter, particularly around sports events, are par for the course.

READ ALSO The French phrases you will need for France v England football banter

John said; “I always find that French people who don’t know Britain have a quite weird view of it – they think that we’re either all old people in bowler hats and pinstriped suits or we’re punks with purple hair and razor blades hanging off our ears who are smashing up pubs. They don’t seem to think that there’s much in between, so you do get a kind of cartoon view of Britain – as there is a cartoon view of France in England.

“In 25 years of living in France I’ve only once ever been attacked for being British – and that was by a farmer during an outbreak of foot and mouth disease that had come over from Britain, so he had an axe to grind. 

“But on several occasions I’ve had rude comments and signs made at me while driving through Britain in cars with French number plates

“I think there is still a lot of warmth towards Britain in France because of two world wars and that is not forgotten. We tend to have a rather cartoonish view of both word wars and not recognise the huge contribution made by the French towards their own defence in World War I and more of a contribution at the beginning of World War II than we ever give credit for as well, whereas I think a lot of French people – especially older French people – do remember what happened in 1944 and 1914-18.

“So there are many reasons why there are different attitudes going across the Channel – but really the British and French are very similar in many ways. I’ve said before that our two countries are like sisters who live next door to one another, constantly looking over the fence to see what the other is doing (the British more than the French it should be said) but there is this type of sisterly quarrelsome relationship in which both countries admire each other more than they would like to admit.” 

You can listen to the team from The Local discuss French-bashing and their experiences as Brits in France in the latest episode of Talking France – find it HERE.

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