How does the 90-day rule work in France?

All non-EU citizens face limits on how long they can spend in France - and since the beginning of 2021 that includes Brits. Here's what the 90-day rule is and how it works.

How does the 90-day rule work in France?
Long, lazy summers in France now come with a time-limit for British visitors. Photo: AFP

Who does the 90-day rule affect?

This rule is for visitors to France who are not citizens of an EU or Schengen zone country.

The rule has been in place for many years for citizens of several non-EU countries – for example Americans and Australians – but began to be applied to British visitors after January 1st 2021, when the Brexit transition period ended.

British people who were full-time residents in France before December 31st 2020 are not covered by the rule (but do have to apply for a residency card in order to remain – more details here).

British people who have dual nationality with another EU country – for example Ireland – are not covered by the rule, provided they travel using their EU passport.

The main groups affected are tourists planning an extended stay and second-home owners.

How does the rule work?

Not all countries qualify for this, for some countries including India you need a visa for even short stays, but if you are British, American, Canadian, Australian or a New Zealander you are entitled to 90 days visa-free.

The rule states that non-EU/Schengen visitors can spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without applying for a visa or residency.

So over the course of a year you can spend 180 days in the EU, but not all in one go. This rules out, for example, second home owners spending the summer in France and the winter in the UK (or vice versa) – your stays have to be divided up into at least two blocks of a maximum of 90 days, followed by 90 days outside the EU.

The other crucial thing to point out is that the 90-day limit applies to the whole EU bloc, not just a single country. So if you had already spent 88 days in France and then George Clooney called and asked you to spend a week with him in his villa on the shores of Lake Como, you would have to turn him down as a trip to Italy would exceed your 90-day limit inside the EU.

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.

Are there ways round it?

Second-home owners, in particular, may want to spend more than 90 days at a time in their French property – so what are the options for them?

In most cases this will require 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.

READ ALSO How to get a visitor visa for France 

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 paying for the visa, which is between €80 to €99 depending on the type.

The visitor visa lasts a year and while you are free to come and go between France and your home country 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.


Second-home owners who wish to spend a significant amount of time in France may consider taking up residency.

This is more than simply declaring ‘I’m a resident’.

READ ALSO French tax declaration – what you need to know

All residents in France are required to complete an annual tax declaration, even if their all their income comes from outside France, and in order to access healthcare you will have to either pay for private cover or register with the French healthcare system.

You cannot be resident of two countries at once, so if you become a French resident you have to give up residency of your home country which has an impact on things like tax and – for Brits – access to the NHS.

British second-home owners who wish to apply for the post-Brexit carte de séjour residency card must have been full-time residents in France before December 31st 2021, and need to apply for the card before September 30th, 2021.

The card comes with its own conditions, see more on those here.

Could the 90-day rule be changed?

Second-home owners from the US/Australia etc have always had to work around this rule, but the post-Brexit change came as a shock to many Brits who had got used to coming and going between France and the UK as they pleased and spending months at a time at their French properties without having to worry about paperwork.

The 90-day rule is an EU rule but it’s possible that France and the UK could come to a separate bilateral deal on this issue in the future.

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 trade and other contentious issues (as well as the ongoing pandemic and major recessions that all countries will be dealing with over the next few years).

Can’t we just slip under the radar?

In previous years France has earned itself a reputation among non-EU travellers as being not too fussy about the exact exit date of people who aren’t working or claiming benefits, 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 Bloc, 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 make 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.

For more information on residency, driving, healthcare, travel and pets after Brexit, head to our Dealing with Brexit section.

Member comments

  1. Hello, in order to get a carte de sejour and to transfer residency (including tax), is it wise to get a visa first?

  2. I believe there is another way to avoid the 90 day rule but does not appear to be widely known. That is, if a non EU citizen is travelling with an EU citizen and is a close family member (eg spouse) and the period of stay fir the non EU citizen is the same as the family member then those days are not counted towards the 90 day rule.

    Have you seen this ruling ?

    1. Hi John, no, this is not the case. People who have an EU spouse or partner can apply for a spouse visa, or in some cases residency through their spouse, but they cannot stay visa-free for more than 90 days

  3. If you get a 6 month visitor visa how does that affect your 90 days in 180 days for the other 6 months? For example when your French visa expires do you have to wait 90 days before re entering an EU country?

  4. A question….if one is in France…and happens to be booked to exceed the 90 day rule…can they travel to Switzerland and remain for several days and then reenter France…thus lessening their days actually staying in France? Thanks, Gary

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For members


Which French airports will be hit by cancellations during Tuesday’s strike?

Tuesday marks the latest pension strike in France and flight cancellations and delays should be expected as air traffic controllers walk out. Here's which airports will be affected and when.

Which French airports will be hit by cancellations during Tuesday's strike?

Tuesday, June 6th, is the latest one-day strike in the ongoing battle over French pension reform.

Although the strike will hit several sectors including public transport and schools, the worst affected services will be flights.

Find the full list of Tuesday strikes HERE


Although the strike only lasts for 24 hours, France’s civil aviation authority said to expect that flight disruption would run from the evening of Monday, June 5th until 6am on Wednesday, June 7th.

It’s also possible that some flights will experience knock-on disruption later in the week if, for example, planes end up in the wrong place after the strike.


The disruption will be concentrated on certain airports.

The Direction générale de l’aviation civile (DGAC) has requested that airlines cancel 33 percent of flights in and out of Paris Orly airport.

It has also requested that 20 percent of flights in and out of the following airports be cancelled;

  • Lyon
  • Marseille
  • Nice
  • Toulouse
  • Bordeaux
  • Nantes

Other airports – including Paris Charles de Gaulle airport – should be unaffected by the air traffic controllers’ strike.

The choice of which flights to cancel is left up to airlines, and most airlines try to protect long-haul flights to minimise disruption.

Anyone with a flight booked is advised to contact their airline.


Flights which are merely passing over French airspace – known as overflights – may also be affected by the air traffic control strike.

Around half of all flights in French airspace at any one time are passing over the country, rather than taking off or landing in France, but are still controlled by French air traffic control.

If you have a flight passing over France on Tuesday, it may be delayed or have to take a longer route to avoid France. There could also be some cancellations – again, passengers are advised to contact their airlines.

Other disruption

The flight cancellations are caused by air traffic controllers striking.

So far, other airport staff such as baggage handlers and security staff have not indicated that they will be taking strike action on Tuesday, so most airports should be functioning as normal.

However, previous pension strike days have seen some ‘surprise’ actions such as blockades at Paris airports. 

Rail services are also expected to be lightly disrupted on Tuesday, although most city public transport is expected to run as normal – the advice is to leave plenty of time for your journey to and from the airport. Taxi drivers will not strike. 

Towns and cities across France will see marches and demonstrations on Tuesday. 

You can find the latest strike announcements in our strike section HERE.