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BREXIT

UPDATE: Should Brits living in France have passports stamped at borders?

Brexit has ushered in a host of changes to travel rules but confusion still surrounds the issue of passport stamping - we asked the French government what the rules are.

Passport control at the French border in Ouistreham.
Passport control at the French border in Ouistreham. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

As Brits are no longer EU citizens, crossing the border between France and the UK has become more complicated and for most people now involves having their passports stamped.

Travel to France: What has changed since Brexit?

But what about Brits who are resident in France?

Who

British tourists or people on short visits to France will usually have their passports stamped on entry and exit, in order to help border police keep track of the length of their stay.

Brits who do not have residency status or a visa are now limited to 90 days in every 180 within the Schengen zone and the passport stamp helps to keep track of this (although if your documents are not stamped it doesn’t mean you can stay longer, stays can also be tracked electronically).

Residents

Brits who are resident in France need to be able to prove their residency status at the border, so when asked for a passport on entry or exit from France, you should always hand over both the passport and the carte de séjour residency card.

If you do not yet have the card, you can use the acknowledgement of your application as proof if you moved here before December 31st 2020. Those who moved here after that date will need a visa.

We asked the French Interior Ministry what the rules are on passport stamping, and their answer was very clear.

“Since the effective exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union on January 1st, 2021, only British nationals who are residents of France are exempt from having their travel documents stamped when entering or leaving the Schengen area.

“Residency status is attested by the presentation of a titre de séjour or an attestation that an application for a titre de séjour has been filed with the préfecture for beneficiaries of Article 50 [the Withdrawal Agreement, which covers Brits resident in France before December 31st 2020].

“In the absence of such documents, the passport of British nationals will be systematically stamped to verify the authorised length of stay in the Schengen area for non-resident persons.

“British nationals married to a French or European national are not an exception to this rule unless they have a residence permit or an equivalent movement document.”

So is that what happens at the border?

Not always. It seems that some French border guards are also pretty confused on this issue and The Local has received numerous reports of UK nationals who had their passports stamped despite presenting their cartes de séjour and explaining that they were residents in France.

Many people have simply been told that the rule is that all British passports get stamped, while one border guard said that only UK nationals married to a French citizen were exempt.

Is this a problem?

Other than cluttering up the pages of your passport, is this actually a problem?

British Embassies around Europe say no. Ultimately, your right to residency in France is proved by your carte de séjour and that will always trump a passport stamp. But many people have raised concerns about being detained or questioned at a border in the future because of an incorrectly applied passport stamp.

The British Embassy in Germany told our sister site The Local Germany: “Stamping a passport at the border does not mean that a decision on residence status has been taken. The stamp merely documents that the passport holder was checked in the place stated on the stamp, whether this check had been performed in the course of an entry or exit, and which means of transport was used.

“The stamp entails neither the loss of rights under the Withdrawal Agreement nor in any other way a change of legal status. Consequently, a stamp on entry does not need to be annulled and may be retained unaltered in the passport as a souvenir.

“If however someone exits the Schengen area more than 90 days after their passport was stamped, then they should also carry with them a document demonstrating their current residence status, for example as a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Paris said: “We have made the Ministry of the Interior aware of this issue and will continue to raise it with them.”

Has this happened to you? If so, please tell us about it by completing the brief questionnaire below.

Member comments

  1. The problem is one of consistency . If the passport is stamped on exit but not on returning then when renewing the carte de sejour it will appear you’ve been out of the country for an indefinite period. What’s needed is for the border guards to either do it or not do it but be consistent

    1. I would think the physical stamp is irrelevant as your personal details and arrival or departure information is recorded off your passport electronic data strip. I’m not British so have no experience of what happens at ferry ports, do the Customs have electronic readers at all ferry ports ? and in the unlikely event of an issue arising, you can prove your movements with your plane or ferry ticket.

  2. I am a French-British dual nationality resident in France who plans to visit the UK where I have a house. Which passport would be better to use when travelling to the UK? I assumed my British one, but will it have to be stamped?

  3. I recently flew from Marseille to Stansted and had to be quite forceful telling the guard not to stamp my passport and had to show him my carte de sejour.When I returned I simply used my carte de sejour so no problem.To answer my own previous question time spent getting through customs was no longer than in 2019.

  4. Why is this nonsense constantly fretted over when third country nationals have resided in and moved about the EU for decades? The procedures are in no way new. Yet even the French Interior Ministry gets it wrong (as does this article, in not questioning their statement), in stating that on entering the EU/Schengen area in France, only the holders of French residency should not have their passports stamps. This is clearly wrong, as residency in any EU state entitles the same exception to stamping. This is clear from the official EU ‘Practical Handbook for Border Guards’, section 6.2.i.

    This states that “No entry or exit stamp must be affixed in the following cases: i) to the travel documents of nationals of third countries who present a residence card provided for in Directive 2004/38/EC.

    You’d have thought someone responsible for the coming and goings at the EU’s external border might have read this.

  5. I have a slight variation on this issue. My British passport expires in June 2022 but was issued in May 2012 and if I was a U.K. resident I could not travel to France on it after mid November. U.K. passport renewals are currently taking 11 weeks online to renew from France. Does anyone know if the same six month rule applies to British citizens with cartes de sejour as well as British tourists? I fear I shall have to miss a wedding in the UK at end of Nov!

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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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