Britons' passports wrongly stamped on entry to France

Some British residents of France report their passports being - wrongly - stamped on return to the country from trips abroad. We look at how to avoid this happening.

4 January 2021
By Connexion journalist

Problems are being reported at the border for some British EU residents returning home from trips – meaning it is especially important to know your rights and have the right paperwork.

There are reports of some Britons being refused boarding at Heathrow onto planes going to Spain; others returning to EU countries, including France, have complained of their UK passports being stamped by border officials as though they were visitors.

This is not correct according to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA) rules – Britons who live in France and are covered by the WA, ie. because they were living in France before the end of 2020, should not have their passports stamped.

We understand this should generally be the case for any ‘third country’ (non-EU/EEA) national who is a resident in the EU, however in a briefing the European Commission recently stressed the point with regard to those covered by the WA.

It is not thought that passport stamping of UK residents of France is widespread here to date and we have not heard cases of people being refused travel to France, however The Connexion would like to hear from readers affected by either of these at news@connexionfrance.com

Campaigners for Britons in the EU are concerned that stamping, either on entry to, or exit from, EU countries where Britons live, could cause confusion, as normally this should only be done for Britons who are visiting, not those who are residents.

Stamps will notably be used by border officials in both directions (entry and exit) to check that UK visitors are not infringing the rule of visiting the Schengen area (including France) for no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.

The British in Europe coalition of campaign groups states it is following this up with the UK’s Foreign Office and EU member states, asking that they ensure border officials are fully informed, and it is calling on the European Commission to monitor the situation and take action in the case of infringements.

The British Embassy in Paris also now reports it is liaising with the French authorities over this.

The EU has previously stated that the handbooks issued to border guards were being updated prior to the end of the Brexit transition period,suggesting the problem may be due to teething problems with some officials not yet being aware of the latest rules on how to treat UK travellers.

In general current rules related to the Covid-19 crisis mean that, with minor exceptions, Britons travelling into France should only be those resident in France anyway.

According to EU rules, Britons covered by the Brexit WA should not have their passports stamped as long as they present: 

  • A new Brexit Withdrawal Agreement residency card
                   
  • A print-out of the email received confirming they have applied for the card
                              
  • A previously-issued EU citizens’ residency card, or failing that any other proof of being a resident. French officials have previously told The Connexion that this could include, for example, a recent utilities bill, such as an electricity or gas bill for your French home. 

The Connexion notes that some people who had passports stamped say they did not have time to even state they were residents before the passport was stamped. As a result we would advise making this clear before you hand it to the official, with words such as Je suis résident/e de la France et couvert/e par l’accord de retrait du Royaume-Uni; je n'ai pas besoin d'avoir mon passeport tamponné.

If you are able to do so, we also advise applying for a Brexit WA card before travelling out of France, as an attestation of applying for one is one of the documents explicitly listed by the EU.

Roger Boaden of British in Europe said: “We have heard of passports being stamped on both sides of the Eurotunnel and Eurostar journey, and on flights into Charles de Gaulle and Lyon – all by French officials.

“We have had several complaints, for example, of people boarding Eurotunnel at Folkestone and having stamps done by French officials, and this morning, someone’s (passport) being stamped on leaving via Eurotunnel at Calais.

“It suggest a breakdown in Schengen zone communication, as if you read the EU’s documents it’s clear that stamping of passports on entry and exit is not applicable to WA beneficiaries.”

One Connexion reader emailed to say: "My passport was stamped by the French passport control at the EuroTunnel on January 1. I remarked that he was stamping it and he acknowledged it was necessary. I have lived in France since 2003. He did not ask me if I was resident although I was driving a left-hand vehicle with a French registration plate. If this is truly necessary, I will need extra pages in my passport..."   

Another reader wrote: "At Folkestone on January 2 I showed our British passports, our present EU residency card (I also had the confirmation email of our request for new Brexit cards with me) and negative Covid tests. We were driving our French-registered car. A policewoman stamped our passports. We did not say anything as we were unaware that it was incorrect of her to do that though we were rather surprised. I hope it does not cause future problems."

A third reported their son had problems returning via Bordeaux airport to France, "despite showing his attestation confirming his application for his carte de séjour, confirmation of employment in France and his Carte Vitale". The reader suggested perhaps the French authorities should be able to provide letters to the effect that a stamp had been made in error, to show at the border next time.

Previous articles

Brexit and France: How visas, residency cards work in 2021

No Brexit cards denied so far to Britons in Dordogne

Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now