Why can EU citizens living in the UK enter France but Britons can not?

This is a misunderstanding of France’s latest Covid-related travel restrictions that apply to the UK

2 June 2021
The Eiffel Tower

EU citizens living or staying in the UK are allowed to enter France in order to transit to their home country Pic: Catarina Belova / Shutterstock

Reader question: I read in the UK media that EU citizens living in the UK have the right to go to France without an essential reason but a UK citizen in the UK does not. Is this correct?

This is partially correct but needs explanation.

An EU national who is living in the UK can enter France if they are French or if they are transiting through France to get back to their home country in the EU. 

France introduced strict travel rules for people coming from the UK on May 31, due to concerns about the spread of the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 in the UK. 

It means that anyone in the UK who wishes to enter France now needs to have an essential reason – of which there are 13.

You can read our article here showing all the reasons. 

France is not allowing EU citizens living in the UK to enter the country for leisure or for a holiday, in the same way that it is not allowing a UK citizen in the UK to enter the country for a holiday. 

However, if you are an EU national in the UK, you can enter France for the following reasons: 

“You are a European Union (or EEA/Swiss) national – including your partner (married, civil partner / partner you live with) and children – and you have your main residence in France; or you are transiting through France to your main residence in another EU country; or you are transiting through France the country of which you are a national.”

So, if for example, an Italian national living in Bolton in the UK wishes to travel back to Italy, they are able to do so by passing through France.

A UK national living in Bolton would not be able to do this.

There are other reasons on France’s official list that would permit a UK national in the UK to enter France.

For example, a UK national who has their main residence in France can enter and stay in France. Similarly, a UK national with a long-term visa for France can still enter and stay in France.

Finally, a UK national living in the UK is also allowed to transit through France on their way to another destination, as long as they remain in the airport/international zone for no more than 24 hours. 

France’s rules work in reverse too. Any UK national who is currently in France - either living in France or on a trip - is able to return to the UK as part of a list of essential reasons for leaving the country. 

France’s government website states:

“It should be noted that no foreign national wishing to return to his or her country of residence or origin will be prevented from leaving French territory.”

Covid-19: What are the rules for residents of France and travel to UK?

The rules that allow EU nationals in the UK to return home via France are in place for this same reason.

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