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How can British second home owners spend more than 90 days in France?

Second-home owners are now limited to 90 days in France.
Second-home owners are now limited to 90 days in France. All photos: AFP
While Brexit has thrown up many complications for British people who live in the EU there is another group who are impacted by the changes - second home owners.

Thanks to its proximity, climate and relative affordability (not to mention the good wine and cheese) France has long been a favoured destination for British second home owners.

Some intend that eventually their second home will become their main residence – often by retiring to France – while others just enjoy spending prolonged periods of time in their French bolthole but want to keep their main home in the UK.

We’ve covered how Brexit affects those who plan to retire here, but what about people who want to just carry on enjoying long breaks in France?

READ ALSO How to retire to France

For non-residents the 90-day rule now applies.

This has been in place since January 1st, but Covid-related travel restrictions for the first half of the year have meant that many people are only now being impacted by it.

The rule – the same one previously in place for all non-EU citizens wanting to spend time in EU countries – states that you can spend 90 out of every 180 days in the EU without needing to get visas or residency.

So people who like to spend long, relaxed summers in France, or those who enjoy spending the ski season whizzing down the French Alps, are finding that their plans are curtailed by Brexit.

This site has a fuller explanation of how the 90-day rule works, as well as a calculator to allow you to work out your visits.

A few things to note are;

  • The rule allows for 90 days in every 180, so in total in the course of a year you can spend 180 days in France, just not all in one go
  • It is a rolling clock, so the 90 days are always counted from the previous 180 days, not from the start of the year
  • The rule applies to the whole of the EU, so if you have three months in France you can’t then go to Turin for the Eurovision Song Contest within the same 180 day period
  • The clock only stops once you leave the EU and head to a non-EU country (which now includes the UK).

READ ALSO How British second-home owners can properly plan their 90 days in France

But are there ways round this to allow for longer trips?

Deal/lobbying

The 90-day rule is an EU rule but it is possible that France and the UK could come to a separate bilateral deal here. The UK operates the 180 day rule, where people can spend 180 days per year in the country without a visa or residency and they don’t have to divide them into two 90-day blocks.

This has raised hopes that a similar deal could be put in place for France and several campaigns are running to push for this.

While it could become a deal eventually it’s unlikely to be a priority for either government ahead of the many other Brexit-related issues, as well as the little matter of an ongoing pandemic, not to mention the fact that relations between France and the UK appear a little strained at present.

READ ALSO Current rules for Brits in France ‘as good as they’re going to get’ says ex UK ambassador

Visa

As things stand now, there are two options to spend more than 90 days at a time in France – residency or a visa.

There are lots of different types of visa available – see more on the topic here – but for people who intend to just take long holidays in France the best option is likely to be the visitor visa.

You will need to give assurances that you will not be undertaking any professional activity while in France, so this won’t be suitable for people who want to work remotely from their French cottage for a few months.

You will need to provide a lot of personal documentation including details of your financial situation to show that you can support yourself and will not become a burden to the French state, as well as proof of medical insurance and paying for the visa, which is between €80 to €99 depending on the type.

For the full guide on getting a visitor visa, click HERE.

The visitor visa lasts a year and while you are free to come and go between France and the UK during that year, you will need to apply for a new one each year that you wish to spend more than 90 days in France, or register for a visitor’s carte de séjour.

READ ALSO How much money do you need to get a visa for France

Residency

If you really want to spend long periods in France you may be looking at taking up French residency.

This is more than simply declaring ‘I’m a resident’. To become resident in France you will first need a visa, and then apply for a carte de séjour residency permit.

You will also need to file annual tax returns with French authorities, even if all your income comes from the UK, and register with the French healthcare system.

READ ALSO French tax declaration – what you need to know

You cannot be resident of two countries at once, so if you become a French resident you have to give up your British residency which has an impact on things like tax and access to the NHS. It’s worth pointing out that ‘residency’ in immigration terms is not the same thing as tax residency.

Hoping to slip under the radar/cheat the system

For British people who have got used to coming and going with minimal paperwork or checks this can seem like an attractive option.

For non-EU nationals like Americans and Australians France has earned itself a reputation as being not too fussy about the exact exit date of people who aren’t working or claiming benefits in France, as long as it’s fairly close.

However we would suggest that people don’t rely on this. Unlike the pre-EU days, passports are now automatically scanned when you enter and leave the country, which makes it easy to spot over-stayers.

If you are caught over-staying your allocated 90 days you can end up with an ‘over-stay’ flag on your passport which can lead to you being deported and fined, as well as making it difficult to enter any other country – not just France – and is likely to make any future attempts at getting visas or residency a lot more difficult.


Member comments

  1. on the 90 day max stay in france, can you split into 2 x 21 days for exemple in the 90 day period ? stay for 21, leave for 40, come back again for 21 etc ? anyone know pl ?

  2. As far as I understand it you have 180 days after the clock starts ticking from your first arrival in France to spend up to 90 days, however you wish. You have to wait until 180 days after your first arrival to start another 180 day period. I am no expert so please, anybody, tell me if I am wrong!

  3. @JohnE, As far as I can tell you’re right. On the day of your first arrival in 2021 the clock starts and you are allowed any 90 days in the following 180. It is also important to remember that a) this applies to the whole Schengen area and b) in a year or so’s time you will also need to get a travel permit online in advance (like the US ESTA) to travel from the UK to anywhere in Schengen. These will last three years and cost 9€.

    Additionally if you spend less than 90 days in the Schengen area (not just France) during any 180 day period you can’t carry over the remaining unused days to the next 180.

    And, given that the UK currently appears to be governed by a gang of pathological liars, narcissists, fantasists and psychopaths I would not hold out much hope for alternative arrangements either EU wide or specifically for France. Don’t blame me, I voted Remain.

  4. Note that while becoming a French resident means giving up UK residency this now has minimal effects on your right to access the NHS. The UK has recently moved to a position in common with most EU countries. As long as you remain a UK *citizen* you have a right to free access to the NHS for planned treatment even if you are resident elsewhere. GP services and A&E are, of course, open to everyone regardless of citizenship or residency.

  5. I am a second home owner and therefore have this problem.
    To get a visa for extended stay one must provide proof of medical insurance cover for the duration of the visa – 1 year.
    I am 79 years old and obtaining medical cover is almost impossible. Any suggestions for sympathetic insurance companies.

  6. What I want to do is have a French residency permit (Titre de Sejour) and have two houses; one in France and one somewhere else and spend about 6 months in each residence.

    I just learned today that if you have a Titre de Sejour and are outside France more than 3 months, then the Titre de Sejour is invalidated and you have to start all over again with the Visa.

    So I am not sure how to make this work, other than just use a tourist visa and live in my French house 3 months a year.

    Any angle I am missing here?

  7. The Uk actually allows many people to be out of the country for more than 180 days and still keep their status as tax residents (through the Statutory Residence Test – see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rdr3-statutory-residence-test-srt). France, however, will regard anyone staying for 183 days or more as a resident for tax purposes. It is therefore possible that you can go to France for, say, 270 days in any particular year (not every year for ever, under the SRT) but will find yourself obliged to fill in a French tax return and be taxed. The France-UK Double Taxation Convention (2008, but still in effect) is very clear, however, that you should, as a UK resident, only be taxed in one place (unless you already have dual citizenship) but the paperwork to claim this and get your money refunded may be just too much to make the longer stay worthwhile.

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