A lover of France campaigning for British visitors to be allowed to stay in France for 180 consecutive days has expressed his “disappointment” at the French government’s stance on the issue, which stresses that “the UK made the choice” to “renounce” its right to free movement in the EU.
Since Brexit took effect, British visitors to France – and the rest of the Schengen zone – can only spend 90 in every 180 days in the country – and bloc – without needing to acquire a visa.
Read more: The EU's 90/180-day rule: How does it work?
Several French senators have written to the government requesting that the 90/180 rule be reviewed, but the European and foreign affairs ministry has now responded that this is not a decision that can be taken “unilaterally” by France, as it relates to EU regulations.
‘Many British nationals feel aggrieved’
Finistère Senator Michel Canévet submitted a written question to the European and foreign affairs ministry, acknowledging that British people who were already in France before Brexit could obtain withdrawal agreement resident permits.
He added that “many people”, perhaps those with second homes who did not want to live in France full time, did not apply for a WA residence permit and must now go through standard procedure to obtain a titre de séjour.
“However, many of them, who own property in France, have built their installation in France on the rights of European Union [citizens] (and the ease associated with them).
“Discouraged by the administrative task related to the new residency procedures, many British nationals feel aggrieved by the 90-day rule.
“Engaged with community life (to associations, politics, the economy etc.), their presence [in France] contributes to our country’s economic vitality, especially in Brittany, the Périgord and Gers.”
Senator Canévet then asked if it was “conceivable” to allow British visitors a simplified titre de séjour procedure, despite the end of the withdrawal agreement process.
“Would it also be possible to harmonise the ‘[visa]-free’ periods allowed in France and in the UK, increasing the allowance to 180 days on French soil.”
This would mean that British and French citizens were allowed equal amounts of visa-free time in the two countries, as the UK already allows EU nationals to stay for 180 consecutive days.
However, EU nationals may only stay in the UK for 180 days in a year, which is the same for UK citizens in the Schengen zone. The difference is that British visits to France, for example, must be split into two 90-day stays, each sitting within their own six-month period.
‘The UK made the choice to renounce its freedom of movement’
In response to Senator Canévet’s question, the European and foreign affairs ministry has stated that: “the UK made the choice to renounce the idea of free movement of people, which allowed its citizens to live, study, work and travel freely in member states.”
It added that the 90-day allowance offered to British visitors is outlined in a 2019 EU regulation which details the list of third countries whose citizens have a right to visa-free travel in the bloc.
“In this context, it is not possible for France to unilaterally grant a derogation of the movement rules adopted at a European level to British citizens.
“For stays of three to six months, British nationals must apply for a visa de long séjour temporaire VLS-T ‘visiteur’.”
For longer stays, you should apply for a visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour VLS-TS ‘visiteur’, which lasts up to 12 months and can be followed by an application for a carte de séjour.
‘Current arrangement is unfair’
Steven Jolly, the founder of France Visa Free, a Facebook group calling for British visitors to France to be able to spend 180 consecutive days in the country, told The Connexion that the response from the French government was “disappointing”.
France Visa Free encourages its members to write to their local senators to raise awareness of the issue and request action on their part.
“Followers of France Visa Free have continued to write to senators over the summer, and some have secured promising replies,” Mr Jolly said.
Dordogne Senator Marie-Claude Varaillas has told the group that: “Brexit has resulted in putting an end to tax and social benefits that are given to citizens of the Schengen area, especially on the real estate question.”
She has also submitted a question to the government on this matter.
Savoie Senator Martine Berthet has stated: “The presence of the British is an opportunity for our economy and the entire tourism sector. In Savoie, we were able to measure this significantly last January when entry restrictions linked to the health crisis prevented many British tourists from visiting out ski areas.
“It therefore seems imperative to me to review the 90/180 Schengen rule. One possible solution would be to allow British nationals to stay in France for 180 continuous days without a visa. as the French can currently do in the United Kingdom.”
“The support from senators is welcomed,” Mr Jolly said. “However, the response from the French government is disappointing. First of all they repeat what is already known and seem to frame their answer around Brexit. We know that the current situation is a result of Brexit and we know that we can secure a visa for stays of up to six months.
“Sadly, the French government has not addressed the pertinent points of our argument that the current arrangement is unfair and damaging to both the British visitor and to France.
“Senators Savoie and Brittany recognise that British visitors bring economic benefit and any regulation that gets in the way of frequent visits is harmful.
“We want the French Government to seriously engage in looking for a resolution,” he added, suggesting that access to long-stay visas could be made easier.
“They could look for a bilateral arrangement. They could look at a visa waiver or they could call for a 180/360 rule.”
Mr Jolly also stated: “The French Government and for that matter the British government have to yet to realise that for the British visitor the current 90 days visa waiver is shared amongst 26 or more Schengen countries, whereas [citizens from each] Schengen zone countries can visit the UK without the need for a visa for up to six months.”