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Will France really exempt British second-home owners from post-Brexit visa rules?

The Local France
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Will France really exempt British second-home owners from post-Brexit visa rules?

The French Senate has voted in favour of loosening visa rules for Brits who own property in France - but is this likely to become a reality? And what about other non-EU nationals who own property in France?


On Tuesday, the French Senate voted in favour of the country's new Immigration Bill - including an amendment that would "ease the conditions of entry into France for British citizens who own second homes in France."

You can read full details of everything contained in the bill HERE.

But the bit about British second-home owners is contained in an amendment to the bill that was put forward by a senator.

The short amendment is confusingly worded (the final version can be found here) - it appears that the goal is to create a visa exemption for British second-home owners. Essentially this would restore pre-Brexit travel conditions, when Brits (as EU citizens) could come and go as they pleased without being limited to 90 days in every 180, or having to get a visa for longer stays.

However it remains unclear exactly how this would be applied and what documents would be required when crossing the border between the UK and France. 


The amendment was one of three about second-home owners that were submitted during debates on the new Immigration bill.

The one that was adopted (n° 489 rect. ter) was submitted by Senator Martine Berthet, who represents the Alpine area of Savoie and is a member of the right-wing Les Républicains party and aims to "ease conditions of entry to France for British citizens who own second homes in France."

The amendment references difficulties Brits have faced since Brexit with obtaining visas to spend more than 90 days out of every 180, including "technical challenges (malfunctioning of the TLS contact website, few appointments available, etc)". 

READ MORE: 'We'll give up our French house' - users speak of their frustration with TLS visa site

The second amendment was submitted by Senator Corinne Imbert, representing Charente-Maritime in western France - this was a lot more specific and detailed the creation of a new five-year visa available to all non-EU property owners (not just Brits).

Imbert's proposal would have allowed visits of up to six months per year - the same amount of time as the current short-stay visitor visa - but which would last for five years, rather than having to be renewed annually like the short stay visitor visa.

However, this amendment was rejected.

The third amendment was submitted by Senator Michel Canévet representing Finistère in Brittany.

His amendment would have added the word 'property-owner' (propriètaire) after the word 'visitor' under the categories for granting long-stay visas listed in Article L.312-2. His amendment had the goal of addressing the issue that "many foreign property owners from outside the European Union are unable to visit their properties freely or for as long as they wish, even though they pay property taxes". 

It also referenced how British second-home owners in Finistère have been "particularly penalised by the 90/180 day Schengen rule since the Brexit." This amendment was also rejected by the French senate.

What next?

The possible relaxation of visa requirements for British second-home owners is a long way from being a done deal, as the Assemblée Nationale will have the final say on the bill.

EXPLAINED How does the French Senate work?

MPs in the lower house can toss out Senate amendments even if the Senate has agreed on them - and in fact this happens relatively often.

The Immigration Bill is due to come before the Assemblée in December and is expected to prove highly contentious.

The right-wing Les Républicains do not have a majority in the Assemblée, so it's thought to be unlikely that their amendment will pass - and in fact it's far from certain whether the Immigration Bill itself will be passed. 

If the amendment in its existing wording is passed, it also remains to be seen how France's Conseil d'État would treat the relaxation of visa rules for second-home owners and what requirements they would put in place for those who fall into this category. 


This is not the first time that relaxing rules for second-home owners has been proposed, so even if Berthet's amendment fails - are there any other options for second-home owners?

Visas v 90 days

At present, people who are not citizens of an EU country and who own property in France have two choices; limit their visits to 90 days in every 180 or apply for a short-stay visitor visa.

EXPLAINED How does the 90-day rule work?

The visa allows unlimited stays for the duration of the visa (although people need to be aware that their tax status can change if they are out of their home country for a significant period of the year) but only lasts six months per year, so second-home owners need to reapply every year.

Many second-home owners have told us that the visa application process - especially dealing with TLS Contact centres - is time-consuming and stressful. 

The limits on visits affect all non-EU second-home owners, but the campaign for a special visa has picked up since Brexit, as thousands of British second-home owners suddenly found themselves limited in how long their can visit their properties - there have been several petitions and campaigns to both French and EU authorities on this issue.

The exact proposals vary, but most suggestions are for a long-term visa that allows people who own property in France to come and go as they wish during that period.


Others are pushing for a change to the 90-day rule to allow visits of up to 180 days. The 90-day rule allows people to visit without a visa for a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period. This affects, for example, people who like to spend the winter in the UK and the summer in France, or vice versa, as once their 90-day limit is reached, they have to wait a while for it to build-up again.

The UK uses the 180 day rule - allowing visa free visits of up to 180 days per year, with no limits of how you arrange those days - and some people are calling for France to switch to this system. 

UK-France deal?

In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum, big issues like trade took centre stage, while citizens' rights was focused on allowing Brits in the EU (and EU citizens in the UK) to stay in the place they called home.

Then came the Boris Johnson years (and the Liz Truss weeks) when relations between France and the UK sunk to a historic low and it seemed that agreement on anything was virtually impossible.


However, since Rishi Sunak took over as UK prime minister relations have improved - at a spring summit in France he and Emmanuel Macron announced a special provision for school trips to the UK that would lift some of the administrative burden.

Exact details are still to be revealed, but UK newspapers reported this week that a deal was close to being announced. 

So with this new, more positive relationship, is a deal likely for second-home owners?

EU rules

Ultimately, the problem is that the 90-day rule is an EU rule, not a French one - so anything that France does potentially affects other countries in the EU by setting a precedent. 

We spoke to former British ambassador to the UK, and current member of the House of Lords, Lord Peter Ricketts for some expert opinion.


He told us: "I think the Macron-Sunak summit was a start, yes, the beginning of a bit of an easing up.

"But it's the start of the UK and France trying to find limited areas where they can make improvements that will aid people's lives, without setting a precedent for the rest of the EU.

"I think the French are walking a bit of a tightrope because they are equally aware that in some areas what they do will set a precedent for other EU countries and they are being careful not to make concessions to the UK, effectively, in areas that could then involve other EU countries having to do the same thing.

He added: "I think school trips was chosen [for an announcement at the Macron-Sunak summit] because it is a sector that was hit particularly hard by Brexit, but also because it's something that only really affects France and the UK.

"The market is not entirely, but very largely between the UK and France - coach parties going back and forth - so that's an area in which France can do a deal without getting across other EU countries."


A deal specifically for British second-home owners could also create a precedent for other non-EU nations such as the USA, Canada and Australia to request similar deals for their citizens. 

For more information on how the current system works, and how to get a visa, head to our second-homes section or visa page.


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