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How the EU's EES and ETIAS border systems will affect foreigners in France

The Local France
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How the EU's EES and ETIAS border systems will affect foreigners in France
French border control will change with the introduction of EES and ETIAS. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

You will likely have heard about the EU's new border control systems known as EES and ETIAS - but many of the changes will not affect people living in France.

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The years 2024 and 2025 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.

After several delays EES is due to be introduced in 2024 - with a provisional start date of October - with ETIAS shortly afterwards at the start of 2025. 

Coverage in most media tends to focus on tourists and holidaymakers - but the position is slightly different for people who are resident in France (with either a visa or a carte de séjour), people who are citizens of France (or another EU country) and second-home owners who have a visa.

EES

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 and those making short trips to France such as family visits - click HERE.

Second-home owners who do not have a visa and rely on the 90-day rule fall into the same category as tourists, but those who have a short-stay visitor visa will need to show their visa at the border and are therefore not covered by EES - full details HERE.

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If you have a French or other EU passport, the EES does not affect you - 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.

EES is applied to countries that are in the Schengen zone but not the EU (Norway, Iceland and Switzerland) but does not apply to non-Schengen EU countries (Cyprus and Ireland).  

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.

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"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?

The exact date is still to be confirmed, the EU says only "the second half of 2024" (after the Paris Olympics) and is asking border officials to be ready by the end of the summer.

An unconfirmed report from Channel Tunnel operator GetLink has Sunday, October 6th 2024 as the start date. 

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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.

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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. 

ETIAS

The second change due to come into effect in 2025 is ETIAS.

What?

This is a change to anyone covered by the 90-day rule. Citizens of many non-EU countries including the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand can spend up to 90 days in every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa – the so-called ’90 day rule’.

This is set to change – people are still entitled to spend up to 90 days in every 180, but the process will no-longer be completely admin free. Instead, travellers will have to fill out an online application before they travel.

Once issued, the authorisation lasts for three years, so frequent travellers do not need to complete a new application every time but it must be renewed every three years.

Each application costs €7, but is free for under 18s and over 70s.

For anyone who has travelled to the USA recently, the system is essentially similar to the ESTA visa required for short stays.

Who?

This only applies to tourists and visitors to the EU, not non-EU citizens who live here.

Residents of France will show their visa or residency card at the border, instead of the ETIAS visa, exactly as they do at present. French or other EU passport holders will show their passport.

Delays

The one thing that could affect all travellers - France residents or not - are delays at the border once the system is introduced.

The new requirements require more information at the border - including fingerprints and facial scans from people covered by EES, or the online visa waiver for those covered by ETIAS.

These are therefore likely to make crossing the border a lengthier process - especially around the introduction period as people get used to the changes.

This could cause delays or queues at busy periods such as the start of school holidays, or at border points with a high volume of traffic, such as the UK Port of Dover which already struggles with post-Brexit travel requirements during busy periods. 

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Comments (2)

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Anonymous 2023/01/21 11:14
The Daily Telegraph is reporting this morning that EES has been postponed. Is that true?
Anonymous 2022/10/31 18:50
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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