Second homes For Members

France passes law to exempt British second-home owners from visa requirements

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France passes law to exempt British second-home owners from visa requirements
British second home owners could benefit from a visa exemption. Photo: AFP

French MPs have passed an immigration law which includes a clause that could potentially exempt British second-home owners from post-Brexit visa rules.


France's highly controversial immigration bill was passed in a revised form on Tuesday night, and most of the headlines were dominated by measures like cutting access to benefits for foreigners and an amnesty for undocumented workers.

You can find a summary of the bill - and what it means for foreigners in France - HERE.

But buried in the text is one clause that could have a significant effect on Brits who own property in France.

There are, however, several more hurdles to clear before this can become law. 

What does it say? 

The text says: "Long-stay visas are issued automatically to British nationals who own a second home in France. They are therefore exempt from having to apply for a long-stay visa."

It adds, however, "The conditions for the application of this article shall be specified by decree in the Conseil d'Etat".

So no more visas?

Not so fast, although the law has been passed in parliament there are still several more steps before it can become law.

It must first be submitted to the Conseil constitutionnel (constitutional council) which examines whether the law complies with the French consitution.

As the article mentions, it must also go to the Conseil d'Etat (state council) to clarify exactly how this exemption would be applied.

Either of these could strike down the motion - either on the grounds that it contravenes EU law (specifically around the 90-day rule) or the French constitution.

French MPs who rejected this proposal at an earlier stage of the bill did so on equality grounds - that it provides an advantage to one group based solely on their financial means (ie they can afford to own two properties).

Why only Brits?

There are of course plenty of non-EU nationals who own second homes in France including Americans, Canadians and Australians.

All are bound by the 90-day rule which specifies that they can only spend 90 days out of every 180 at their French property - if they want to spend more time they must apply for a short-stay visitor visa.


The proposal has been put forward to address complaints from British second-home owners since Brexit - before the UK left the EU those who had property in France could benefit from unlimited stays, but this has changed since Brits are no longer EU citizens.

The change as outlined would essentially return British second-home owners to pre-Brexit rules. 

Why does Emmanuel Macron's government want this?

It doesn't. The original immigration bill made no mention of second-home owners, and was instead focused on improving integration of immigrants and addressing skills shortages by more targeted migration.

The second-homes article was added on the bill's journey through the Senate - proposed by a Senator for the Haute-Savoie area in the Alps, an area popular with second-home owners.

It was voted down by MPs on the Commission des lois on the bill's first journey through parliament, but has re-appeared on the revised text that was created by the joint committee of Senators and MPs known as the CMP. 


How would it work?

Good question - the article as it appears in the bill is very vague and specifies only that things would be clarified later by the Conseil d'Etat.

It is not clear how second-home owners would demonstrate that they are exempt from visa rules at the border, what proof would be accepted and how passports would be dealt with - especially with the imminent arrival of the new EES border control system

When would it become law?

If it clears all the procedure hurdles as described above - and that's a big if - the changes would come into effect when the immigration bill is signed into law.

Ultimately it is up to the government to decide when bills become law, but it is expected that the immigration bill would come into effect some time in 2024, although it's possible to add later start dates to certain clauses. 


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John Winters 2023/12/20 17:12
The British are still UK citizens - just not EU citizens. Typo in your article.

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