This week some French MPs are starting to examine France’s immigration bill, including a plan for an ‘automatic visa’ for British second-home owners, which would give them the right to visit for more than 90 days without any formalities.
We offer an update on positive MP feedback and a sample letter if you still wish to write to the French MP for the area where you may have a second home to show support or give other feedback.
Since we broke the news three weeks ago that the French senators had voted in favour of easy visiting rights for Britons owning second homes, the idea has caused significant interest from those concerned and in the English-language press.
The Senate, especially its dominant Les Républicains group, approved the proposal by Senator Martine Berthet of adding an ‘automatic visa’ right to the immigration bill. This would allow Britons with proof of home ownership to come and go without formalities, thus avoiding the complications that have arisen post-Brexit due to the EU’s 90/180 days rule.
Many readers have since been writing to French députés for their area of France to seek their support as the idea must be retained in the loi immigration text to become law after it is debated by MPs this month.
The debate in the full house starts on December 11, but already this week a smaller group of MPs in ‘commission’ are examining the text sent from the Senate.
An assistant for Ms Berthet said it is possible for the new article 1er K on the ‘automatic visa’ to be removed at this commission stage, but if it is, then députés who favour it could seek to reintroduce it later this month.
The amendment has had the most support so far from the centre-right/right party Les Républicains, so the biggest question will be whether or not government majority MPs, especially from President Macron’s Renaissance party will oppose it or leave it in the text.
It is only one article among many in the bill, all related in some way to the right to stay in France.
In the Senate debate, a government minister said the idea was unnecessary as Britons can apply for a temporary long-stay visa if they want to stay for more than three months, however, the senator who spoke for Ms Berthet to present her amendment explained that this procedure is long and difficult.
Ms Berthet has since told The Connexion that she “hopes the MPs will be sensitive to this issue and keep this provision in the text”.
The existing long-stay visa procedures were more aimed at people moving to France on a settled basis, and/or coming to work, not second-home owners who in some cases would be obliged to renew the formality every year.
MP from ‘Horizons’ party wrote with positive message
We can report receiving a helpful email from one MP from the government majority (a party called Horizons, allied to Renaissance), Philippe Fait, MP for Pas-de-Calais.
He said that he had read our article about the law carefully and had also already heard about the issue from local homeowners. He noted our comments about the difficulties the 90/180 days rule poses to many Britons who spend part of the year in France.
“As you stressed, the procedures seem to be long, complicated and costly, which poses problems, especially when many of the people concerned are pensioners,” he wrote.
“I wish to tell you that I have already written to the interior minister about this, expressing my concern and seeking clarifications on what should be done. However, I have not yet received an official reply.”
He said that he would be vigilant when the text comes up for debate in the Assemblée nationale and “understand(s) the importance of maintaining the traditional links between our countries and of supporting a population that contributes significantly to local life and the economy of our communes”.
He added: “I am open to reflecting on this question with my assembly colleagues and will take account of the arguments that you put forward about the importance of this group to the local communities. I strongly believe that balanced solutions can be found to respond to the needs of British second-home owners in France.”
How to email your French MP
If readers wish to write to the French MP for the area where they have a home they can find their email address as follows:
Visit this website.
Insert either your French commune or department name. Several MP names will probably come up, but you should be able to identify which represents the applicable area.
Click on the name of the MP in question.
On their information page, scroll down until you see their email address in the middle of the page. Click on it to open an email in your email software, or copy and paste it as appropriate.
Several readers have asked for suggested letter wording, and we are happy to help, however we strongly suggest using the following as guidance and adapting it with comments about your own situation, for example about how you are affected by the 90-days rule, how the automatic visa in article 1er K (see here) would help you, and how you contribute to the life of your commune in France.
You could ask a French-speaking friend to check your letter and/or use a translation tool such as deepl.com. It could be better than MPs receiving many ‘templated’ letters.
Sample letter to an MP
Monsieur/Madame [delete as appropriate]
Je suis britannique et propriétaire d’une résidence secondaire en France, à [insert commune name where your home is].
J’écris pour vous expliquer l’importance pour moi, de l’article 1er K du projet de loi pour contrôler l’immigration.
Cet article, adopté au Sénat, accorde un droit de visa de long-séjour aux Britanniques propriétaires d’une résidence en France, ‘délivré de plein droit’, sans qu’ils soient obligés d’en faire la demande.
L’article dit que les conditions seraient précisées dans un décret, mais il pourrait s’agir, par exemple, de présenter à la frontière une pièce qui prouve que l’on est propriétaire.
Cet article vise à pallier la situation actuelle, où les personnes concernées, qui avaient souvent l’habitude de passer presque la moitié de l’année en France, doivent maintenant entreprendre des procédures compliquées, longues et coûteuses chaque fois qu’elles veulent faire un séjour en France qui ne correspond pas à la règle européenne de ‘90 jours au maximum dans la zone Schengen par période glissante de 180 jours’.
Par exemple, ils doivent faire une demande de visa de long-séjour ‘temporaire’ pour tout séjour de plus de trois mois.
En plus, le consulat français à Londres et la compagnie TLSContact qui reçoit les dossiers pour lui sont débordés depuis le Brexit et ont du mal à proposer suffisamment de rendez-vous.
D’ailleurs, il n’y que trois bureaux de TLSContact, certains Britanniques doivent par conséquent faire des aller-retour jusqu’à 900km pour apporter leurs pièces justificatives.
La plupart de nous avons acheté nos maisons avant le Brexit et nous avons l’habitude de venir en France depuis des années.
Souvent, nous avons acheté, et rénové, dans des communes qui ne sont pas forcément des zones tendues pour l’immobilier, au contraire souvent nous avons acheté des maisons qui n’auraient pas intéressé les Français.
Personnellement, j’aime [ name of your village/town ] et je pense avoir beaucoup contribué à la vie locale depuis que je suis propriétaire.
Nous payons la taxe foncière et la taxe d’habitation et n’avons pas droit à la sécurité sociale française ni à d’autres aides sociales.
En tant que Britanniques, propriétaires dans les régions françaises, nous aidons à faire perdurer les liens historiques, chaleureux entre nos deux pays.
Les accords du Brexit n’ont rien prévu pour nous aider, car ils concernent seulement les Britanniques installés durablement en France.
J’espère, que vous pouvez réfléchir à l’utilité de cette nouvelle loi, qui me permettrait de continuer à venir régulièrement en France, et que vous ne l’opposerez pas lorsqu’elle sera examinée par les députés.
[insert your full name]
English translation (for readers’ information only)
Monsieur/Madame [delete as appropriate]
I am British and the owner of a second home in France at [insert commune name where your home is].
I am writing to explain how important Article 1K of the immigration bill is to me.
This article, which was passed by the Senate, grants long-stay visa rights to British people who own a residence in France, 'issued as of right', without their having to apply for this.
The article states that the conditions would be specified in a decree, but this could involve, for example, presenting proof of ownership at the border.
This article aims to remedy the current situation, where the people concerned, who often used to spend almost half the year in France, now have to undertake complicated, lengthy and costly procedures every time they want to have a stay in France that does not comply with the European rule of 'a maximum of 90 days in the Schengen zone per sliding period of 180 days'.
For example, they have to apply for a 'temporary' long-stay visa for any stay of more than three months in France.
What is more, the French consulate in London and the company TLSContact, which receives applications on its behalf, have been overwhelmed since Brexit and are struggling to offer enough appointments.
Also, there are only three TLSContact offices, so some Britons have to make round trips of up to 9 hours to get to appointments.
Most of us bought our homes before Brexit and have been coming to France for years.
Often, we have bought and renovated in areas that are not necessarily under pressure for housing; on the contrary, we often bought houses that the French would not have been interested in.
Personally, I love [ name of your village/town ] and I think I have contributed a lot to local life since I have been a homeowner.
We pay taxe foncière and taxe d'habitation and are not entitled to French social security or other welfare benefits.
As British homeowners in the French regions, we help to keep alive the warm, historic links between our two countries.
The Brexit agreements make no provision for helping us, only the British who have settled permanently in France.
I hope that you will consider the usefulness of this new law, which would allow me to continue to come to France regularly, and that you will not oppose it when it is examined by the MPs.