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What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit in France?

If you're visiting France from a non-EU country your time here is limited, unless you have a visa - but what happens to people who overstay and how strictly are the rules really enforced?

What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit in France?
Over-staying your 90-day limit can cause problems for future travel to any EU country. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

The 90-day rule has long applied to non-EU nationals like Americans, Canadians and Australians and since Brexit is also applies to Brits.

However it’s not always clear what happens to people who overstay, and whether the rules are being strictly enforced on the ground. 

What is the rule?

Non-EU nationals, including Brits, can stay for 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without needing a visa or a residency permit. You can find a full breakdown of the rules HERE, but broadly you can stay for up to 90 days in every 180 – this can be in the form of one long stay or several short stays.

The limit is for time spent within the EU, so you cannot simply move to a different EU country, you need to leave the Bloc altogether and go to a non-EU country.

This does not apply to people who live in France and have a residency card. 

If you want to stay longer than 90 days – either because you are moving to France full-time or because you want longer visits – you will need to get a visa.

You can find full details on the types of visa HERE and how to apply HERE, but the key thing is that visas must be applied for in advance from your home country – you cannot come to France and then apply in order to extend your 90-day stay.

What are the penalties for people who overstay?

If you spend more than 90 days in the EU or Schengen zone without a visa or residency permit then you are officially an overstayer. And unlike the pre-EU days when passport control consisted of a man in a booth with a rubber stamp, scanning of all passports on entry/exit of the EU makes it pretty easy to spot overstayers.

This is set to become even more stringent when the EES scheme comes into effect next year – full details on that HERE

The EU lists a range of possible penalties although in practice some countries are stricter than others.

Within the system, anyone who overstays can be subject to the following penalties;

Deportation – if you are found to have overstayed, countries are within their rights to either imprison you and deport you, or give you a certain number of days to leave. In practice, deportation is rare for people who aren’t working or claiming benefits, they are more likely to be advised of the situation and told to leave as soon as possible

Fines – fines can be levied in addition to other penalties and vary according to country. Fines issued so far by France for overstaying the 90 days are of €198.

Entry ban – countries can impose a complete ban on re-entry, usually for three years although it can be longer. A complete ban is usually only put in place for people who have over-stayed for a significant amount of time

Difficulties returning to the Schengen area – even if you avoid all of the above penalties, the overstay alert on your passport will make it more difficult for you to return to the EU, and this applies to any EU or Schengen zone country, not just the one you over-stayed in. People who have this alert on their passport are likely to face extended checks at the border and may even be turned back. You will also likely encounter difficulties if you later apply for a visa or residency 

People who simply stay in an EU country without securing residency become undocumented immigrants and will not be able to access healthcare or social security provisions. If caught, they face deportation.

How is France really enforcing these rules?

Among EU countries France has a reputation for being among the less strict, and deportations are rare for people who are not working or claiming benefits, unless they have been in France for many years without the correct papers.

If it’s a question of simply over-staying by a few weeks it’s very unlikely that police will come to your home and deport you.

However, that doesn’t mean that there are no consequences of your over-stay – what’s likely to happen is that you will be caught next time you leave France.

Passports are stamped and scanned on entry, which means that border officials can see how long you have been in the country – if your arrival date was longer than 90 days ago you are likely to be flagged as an overstayer.

This is likely to lead to a fine – €198 is the standard amount but it can be more in certain circumstances – and you may be banned from re-entering France.

A re-entry ban can be either for a limited time period or indefinitely and even if you avoid a ban your passport is likely to be stamped as an over-stayer, which can lead to complications for further travel anywhere within the EU. 

Member comments

  1. The 90 day rule applies to the *Schengen* area. This is much the same as the EU plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein but minus Ireland (where Brits have unlimited freedom of travel) and Cyprus. However, I believe France’s overseas territories (Martinique, Guadaloupe, Réunion, French Polynesia etc) are excluded so time spent there doesn’t count, see https://france-visas.gouv.fr/web/france-visas/competence-autorites-francaises. How this would be sorted out if you took two weeks out of a stay in France to go to Guada (which we do every year) I don’t know.

  2. Seeing the latest news regarding a British woman being forbidden entry to Spain because on a previous visit her passport had missed being date stamped, I wonder how long it will be before something similar occurs in France. The border police here seem to be gung ho in stamping every British passport with a leaving or entering date stamp, regardless of the owners being resident of visitor.. We’ve just returned to France and, despite showing and discussing our 10 year residential cards, the police still stamped an entry date on our passports. If we make another trip to the UK in 7 or 8 months time, I can certainly see the possibility of an officious policeman taking issue with us for having stayed too long in France. Knowing that police rarely accept that they’ve made a mistake, is it likely that the sight of our residential cards will persuade them that they wrongly date stamped our passports?

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TRAVEL NEWS

How Brexit and Covid have derailed Eurostar services between France and UK

The French boss of Eurostar has laid out how the combination of the pandemic, Brexit and ongoing uncertainty over new EU travel rules have left the company in a very precarious position.

How Brexit and Covid have derailed Eurostar services between France and UK

The Eurostar CEO Jacques Damas has laid out the company’s woes in a long letter to British MPs, stating that as things stand “Eurostar cannot currently pursue a strategy of volume and growth. We are having to focus on our core routes . . . and to charge higher prices to customers”.

He said that two things have significantly damaged the company – the pandemic (worsened by the fact that the company received no state aid from the UK government) and Brexit which has made travel between France and the UK considerably more complicated with more checks required at stations.

Damas said that peak capacity at both London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord is 30 percent less than it was pre-Brexit, because of the increased infrastructure needed to check and stamp the passports of travellers.

He said: “Even with all booths manned, St Pancras can only process a maximum of 1,500 passengers per hour, against 2,200 in 2019.

“It is only the fact that Eurostar has capacity-limited trains and significantly reduced its timetable from 2019 levels, that we are not seeing daily queues in the centre of London similar to those experienced in the Channel ports.

“This situation has obvious commercial consequences and is not sustainable in the mid to long-term.”

He added that the increased passport checks and stamping needed since Brexit adds at least 15 seconds to each passenger’s processing time, and that automated passport gates are less efficient.

The other factor that has hit the company hard was the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, leading to revenues being cut by 95 percent for 15 months.

The London-based company struggled to access government financial aid due to its ownership structure, with both the British and French governments reluctant to assume sole responsibility for bailing out the company.

It began as a joint venture between the British and French governments, but then the British sold off its share to private investors.

Damas said: “Contrary to the £7 billion in state aid given to our airline competitors, Eurostar did not receive any state-backed loans”. 

By May 2021 the company was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and was eventually bailed out to the tune of €290 million in loans and shareholder-guaranteed loans and equity – although this saved the company it has now left it with huge debts to be repaid.

The CEO’s letter was responding to questions from British MPs on the Transport Select Committee who wanted to know when trains would again stop at Ashford station – which has been closed since March 2020. Damas said there was no immediate prospect of that, or of reinstating the route to Disneyland Paris, while the company grapples with these financial problems.

He added that there is also “considerable uncertainty” around the new EU travel systems known as the EES and ETIAS, which are due to come into effect in 2023 and which will require extra checking of passports at the EU’s external borders – such as the UK/France border. 

READ ALSO Fears of ‘massive travel disruption’ in 2023

Many Eurostar passengers have commented recently on increased ticket prices, and it seems that there is little immediate prospect of prices going back down to 2019 levels. 

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