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What second-home owners in France need to know about 2023 passport control changes

You might have already heard about the EU's new Entry and Exit System (EES) which comes into effect in 2023 - if you are a second-home owner in France, here's what it means for you.

What second-home owners in France need to know about 2023 passport control changes
Passport control is changing from 2023 for non-EU citizens. Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

The year 2023 will bring in two big changes to how the EU controls its borders – EES and ETIAS, and both of them can affect second-home owners in France.

You can find a full explanation of exactly what the new systems are here but there are several aspects that particularly affect second-home owners.

Let’s look at EES first.

Who?

We’re referring here to people who own property in France but do not live here. 

If you are a resident in France, click here, while tourists and those on short trips such as family visits can click here.

EES only affects people who are non-EU citizens, so if you have the passport of an EU country then this does not affect you. If you are a dual national, it will only affect you if you are travelling on your non-EU passport.

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 entry to France or length of stay, so the 90-day limit remains in place for non-residents.

What EES is intended to do is tighten up border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day rule for non-residents.

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.

What does this mean for second-home owners?

If you own property in France you will likely already be aware of the 90-day rule, which limits stays in the Schengen zone to 90 days in every 180 – you can find a full explanation of the rule HERE.

Most second-home owners from non-EU countries decide to stick to the 90-day limit, but others choose to get a visitor visa in order to allow them to spend more time at their French property.

No visa – if you don’t have a visa, then in immigration terms you are a tourist, and that means that EES does apply to you. 

At the border you will need to supply biometric data such as fingerprints at all EES checkpoints – this will include most entry points to France such as airports, but discussions are still ongoing about the three French passport control points that are on British soil; at the port of Dover, at Folkestone for the Channel Tunnel and at London St Pancras for the Eurostar. There are fears that these will create practical problems that will lead to more long queues, hence the ongoing discussions.

Your passport will also be scanned and will record your entry and exit dates to the Schengen zone, and will calculate whether you are within your 90-day limit. If you have spent more than 90 days out of the previous 180 within the Schengen zone, you will be flagged as an over-stayer and be liable to a fine and a ban on re-entry.

READ ALSO What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit in France?

With a visa – if you have a visitor visa then the 90-day rule does not apply to you (which is probably the reason you got it) and neither does EES.

The French Interior ministry explained to The Local: “EES only concerns non-EU nationals, without a long-stay visa 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 visa are not eligible for EES.

“These persons must present their residence permit or 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 as well.

Visa-holders, therefore, will have to avoid the automated gates and instead go to manned passport control booths, in order to be able to show their visa and avoid starting the 90-day ‘clock’.

When?

EES was set to come into effect in May 2023 but has now been postponed until “the end of 2023”.

And what about ETIAS?

ETIAS isn’t set to come into effect until November 2023.

It is aimed at tourists – which in immigration terms includes second-home owners who do not have a visa. It does not affect residents in France or visa-holders.

ETIAS is in effect a ‘holiday visa’ – those travelling to France for short stays or holidays from outside the EU will have to apply in advance online for a visa, and pay a €7 fee (although there are exemptions for under 18s and over 70s).

The visa then lasts for three years before it needs to be renewed, and can be used for multiple entries to France (or any other EU or Schengen zone country).

The online application process requires only a few personal details and the visa should be issued automatically within 72 hours. In essence it is very similar to ESTA visa currently required for tourists entering the USA. 

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