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Will France ever loosen post-Brexit visa rules for British second-home owners?

The Local France
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Will France ever loosen post-Brexit visa rules for British second-home owners?

A Senate amendment that aimed to create a special exemption for Brits who own property in France has been defeated - but is there any possibility of France loosening visa rules for second-home owners?


France's Assemblée Nationale has rejected a Senate amendment to the upcoming Immigration Bill that aimed to "ease the conditions of entry into France for British citizens who own second homes in France."

The short amendment was confusingly worded (the final version can be found here) - it appears that the goal was to create a visa exemption for British second-home owners. Essentially this would have restored 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, its parliamentary journey is over after the amendment was struck out.


It did not even get as far as the full debates in the Assemblée nationale, being struck out at the committee stage by the Commision des lois (law committee), whose job it is to ensure that bills comply with existing French law.

The reasons for the refusal were as follows;

The application to cancel the amendment stated that: "The automatic granting of a long-stay visa based solely on property ownership could be perceived as favouring a category of people because of their financial situation, creating inequality in relation to other foreign nationals who have to follow a more rigorous procedure to obtain such a visa."

It added that the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement already contains provisions for Brits to acquire either a visa or a residency card.

A second amendment on the same topic added: "Nothing justifies this exemption, British citizens made a sovereign choice to leave the European Union and renounce the advantages that come with it. The simple fact of owning a second property is not sufficient grounds to justify exemption from visa requirements."

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

What next?

This is the end of the road for this particular amendment - 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.

EXPLAINED How does the French Senate work?

The bill itself is still at committee stage and full debates are due to begin in the Assemblée on December 11th.

At that stage, MPs can add more amendments - and several have indicated that they may put forward new amendments relating to second-home exemptions.

However the reasons for the rejection of the first amendment - that there is no justification for an exemption for Brits - suggest that similar amendments would also fail.

The wording of this text - "The automatic granting of a long-stay visa based solely on property ownership could be perceived as favouring a category of people because of their financial situation, creating inequality in relation to other foreign nationals who have to follow a more rigorous procedure to obtain such a visa" - could also pose a problem for similar amendments.

Although several French visa types do have financial requirements, the basic principle is that a person must be able to support themselves and not be a burden to the French state.

The idea of giving a person special status because they can afford to buy two properties does seem, on the face of it, to fly in the face of the French ideal of égalité.


This is not the first time that relaxing rules for second-home owners has been proposed, so what are the other options for second-home owners if this bill fails?

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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