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Visas and second homes: What are the main issues for Brits in France post-Brexit?

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Visas and second homes: What are the main issues for Brits in France post-Brexit?
Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

Since the end of the Brexit transition period, Brits have faced new requirements for visiting or living in France. Here are some of the most common problems that readers of The Local have encountered with navigating the world of visas, residency cards and the 90-day rule.

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Pre-Brexit, UK nationals benefited from EU freedom of movement - which meant that moving to France did not require visas, while visitors could spend months at a time here without worrying about the 90-day rule.

But since the end of the Brexit transition period in January 2021, Brits have entered the world of 'third country nationals' who require visas and residency permits to live here, and have restrictions on visits (the same way that other non-EU nationals such as Americans, Canadians and Australians have always had).

Over the last couple of years, The Local has received a lot of questions about how the system works and which are the best visa options for Brits in France - whether they're moving here to work, retiring here or wanting to spend time at a second home.

Brits already living here before the end of the Brexit transition period were able to benefit from the Withdrawal Agreement. This meant that they could stay, but had to register for a special post-Brexit carte de séjour residency permit.

Although the process was a long one, it seems that most people eventually got their card with few problems and are now able to use the card whenever necessary to prove their right to stay. In general, France has not seen the same type of problems as in Sweden and Denmark - where hundreds of Brits have been expelled from the country because they did not have the correct post-Brexit paperwork.

Those who move here after that date, or with to visit for long periods, will need a visa.

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Here are the most common queries that people have raised;

Under 18s - perhaps the biggest issue for people who were already living here prior to 2021 is teenage children. Children do not require a carte de séjour, but once they turn 18 they must get one. Children who were living here with their parents before the end of the transition period still benefit from the Withdrawal Agreement, but cannot use the special online portal set up for post-Brexit residency cards. Instead, the application must be made directly at the préfecture.

EXPLAINED: How Brits in France can secure residency rights for their children

Under 18s who do not yet have the card have reported issues with proving their right to residency when, for example, they start learning to drive or want to get their first job. There have also been some issues with travel - full details here.

Moving to France

Brits who move here after January 1st 2021 don't benefit from any kind of special deal and are treated exactly the same as other non-EU citizens such as Americans, Canadians and Australians - which means visas and residency permits.

'Be prepared to wait' - readers' tips on getting post-Brexit visas

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Some of the most common questions we are asked is what type of visa to apply for - we address that question in more detail here. It's important to have the right kind, as all visa types have their own rules, for example a visitor visas requires an undertaking that you will not work in France.

The other thing that frequently catches people out is the post-visa paperwork. Getting the visa is far from the end of the admin - you will usually need to validate it upon arrival and may also be required to go for a medical appointment, take language classes or register with the OFII - more detail here.

Second-home owners 

The largest volume of questions we have received have been from second-home owners struggling to understand the restrictions on the time they can spend here. 

Pre-Brexit, Brits who owned property here could spend as long as they liked here, but since Brexit the 90-day rule applies. In short, second-home owners must restrict their visits to 90 days in every 180, or get a visa if they wish to spend longer.

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The 90-day rule itself is quite complex, you can find a full explanation here and the answers to some common questions below;

For many people, 90 days in every 180 is enough, but those who want to stay longer will need a visa.

The biggest confusion here is around the type of visa needed - confusingly, France has two visas known as a 'visitor visa' - however they are very different.

Second-home owners who want to keep their main residence in another country should take the short-term visa known as visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur - or VLS-T. This is usually valid for 6 months and you can have one per year.

The other type of visitor visa is the long-term visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour visiteur or VLS-TS. This is for people who intend to live in France without working (eg pensioners). It may seem attractive to second-home owners as it lasts for a year, but by applying for this visa type you are telling French authorities that you intend to live here. This means extra post-visa requirements (as outlined above) as well as implications for tax and healthcare. 

You can find a full explanation of the difference between the two 'visitor' visas HERE. 

Second-home owners who wish to keep their main residence in the UK also need to be aware that they are not entitled to the post-Brexit carte de séjour - some of these were issued in error, but having this type of card when you do not live in France can create all sorts of problems from issues with the French taxman to problems with car registration - full details here

And finally a word about tax - residency in immigration terms and 'tax residency' are not the same thing, and spending a large portion of the year in France can affect your tax status.

Many people also ask us if France is likely to either relax the 90-day rule for second-home owners or create a special second-home owner visa. We don't pretend to be able to predict the future - but we put that question to the former UK ambassador to France to ask his opinion. Here's what he said

If you have a question not covered in this article, feel free to email us on [email protected] - you can find more information in our Brexit section HERE.

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