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What's the deal with passport stamping in France?

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
What's the deal with passport stamping in France?
Passport control systems at the French border. Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

There are clear guidelines in place about who should have their passport stamped when they enter or leave France - but the letter of the law doesn't always seem to be applied on the ground. Here's what you need to know.


When you pass through a French border control post, officers will check your passport and - in some cases - stamp the date of your entry or exit of the country onto one of the blank pages in the booklet.

Although the system should be clear and simple, it becomes complicated when conflicting information is given on the ground.

Here's what the rules say, and whether it's really a problem if your passport is incorrectly stamped.

Who should be stamped?

The purpose of the date stamps for entry and exit is to calculate how long you have been in France, and therefore whether you have overstayed your allowed time - whether that is the time allowed by a short-stay Schengen visa or the visa-free 90-day allowance that certain non-EU nationals benefit from. 


Those people who are exempt from 90-day restrictions should therefore not have their passports stamped.

EU passport - people who have an EU passport should not have it stamped, because they have the right to unlimited stays due to EU freedom of movement.

Dual nationals - people who have passports of both EU and non-EU countries should not be stamped when they are travelling on their EU passport. However, because the passports of dual nationals are not 'linked', those travelling on their non-EU passports will be stamped, unless they have other proof of residency.

READ ALSO What are the rules for dual-nationals travelling in France?

French residents - the passports of non-EU citizens who have a residency permit in France (carte de séjour) should not be stamped, because they have the right to stay in France for as long as their permit is valid.

Visa holders - people who have a long-stay visa or a short-stay visitor visa should not be stamped, because they have the right to stay in France for as long as their visa is valid. 

Tourists/visitors - people making short visits to France who do not have a visa should be stamped, with the stamps keeping track of their 90-day allowance. Visitors from nationalities who do not benefit from the 90-day rule (eg Indians) are also stamped.

Travel practicalities

When crossing a French border, you should present your passport along with other documents - visa or carte de séjour - if relevant. Don't wait for border guards to ask whether you are a resident.

It should be noted that the carte de séjour is not a travel document and cannot be used to cross borders, not even internal Schengen zone borders. The only valid travel documents for entering France are a passport or national ID card. Any other forms of ID - driving licence, residency card etc - cannot be used for travel purposes.

Border problems

While the rules on stamping are simple in theory, many readers of The Local have reported having their passports incorrectly stamped at the border, and this seems to be a particular problem for non-EU nationals who are resident in France.


Travellers are also often given incorrect information by border guards - for example being told that only holders of the post-Brexit Article 50 TUE carte de séjour are exempt from stamping, that all non-EU nationals must have their passports stamped or that only being married to a French national exempts you from stamping.

None of these are correct.

It's also sometimes the case that people whose passports should be stamped - tourists, visitors and second-home owners who don't have a visa - do not receive the stamp. For frequent visitors this can be a problem because it looks as though they have had a long stay in France, due to their exit not being recorded.

The system of stamping itself is also a bit haphazard with stamps scattered throughout the passport book in random order, so border guards sometimes make mistakes and miss an entry or exit stamp and therefore think that people have overstayed when they haven't.


So how much of a problem actually is it if your passport is wrongly stamped?

It's one thing to know the rules yourself, it's quite another to have an argument with a border guard, in French, when a long queue is building behind you. Numerous Local readers have reported feeling that they had no choice but to accept a stamp when an implacable guard insisted upon it.

But is this really a problem?

One thing is clear - if you are a resident of France then you have the right to re-enter, and your proof of residency (visa or carte de séjour) takes precedence over any passport stamps. So it's not a question of being barred from the country - it can, however, be inconvenient as it might lead to delays at the border while your passport record is queried.

Meanwhile people who did not receive correct exit stamps can be incorrectly told that they have over-stayed and even be liable for a fine. 

Will the new EES passport control system improve this?

Theoretically, the EU's new Entry & Exit System - which does away with the manual stamping of passports - should get rid of these problems.

However, as we have seen, theory and what actually happens on the ground are two different things.


The EES system, due to come into effect later this year, brings in two main changes - it makes passport checks more secure by adding diometric data such as fingerprints and facial scans and it does away with manual stamping of passports and replaces it with scans which automatically calculate how long people have been in France.

You can read full details of how it works HERE

So that should eliminate the problems of unclear stamps, stamps being read wrongly or passports not getting the stamps they need.

Residents in France - carte de séjour and visa holders - are not required to complete EES checks and should have a separate system at ports, airports and railway terminals.

However, at present it's pretty common for border guards to give incorrect information to non-EU residents who are resident in the EU - let's hope that they are properly briefed before EES is deployed.

Have you had problems with passports being incorrectly stamped? Please share your experiences in the comments section below


Comments (3)

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Ayesha 2024/05/22 21:28
I am British with French residency. I have the opposite problem - ie getting my passport stamped when travelling around the EU. eg when travelling from France to the UK (no stamp), UK to Germany (passport stamped) and then flew back to France, and couldn't find anywhere to get my passport stamped to show I have exited Germany! Do you have any tips for that? I've kept my boarding passes etc but would rather avoid an issue at the immigration desk. Thank you
Tanya 2024/05/18 12:44
My passport is stamped everytime I leave and arrive despite me providing my carte de séjour. My only concern is running out of passport pages because as you say trying to explain to the French border guard that they are wrong is never going to go down well!
Tony 2024/05/17 16:43
What about the spouse of an EU citizen who is travelling with his spouse under Freedom of Movement provisions?

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