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Brexit and second home owners

Several readers have contacted us asking why we do not give more coverage to the topic of second home owners and Brexit - we would like to answer.

There are a number of reasons why we have focused more on long-term residents of France, although we have covered the second home topic several times in print and have a section on it in our helpguide to Brexit and Britons in France and recognise that the effects on second home owners are important to many readers as Brexit will impact how easy it is to visit France and how long they can stay.

The main reason why we have said less about this group is that their rights have not (so far) been part of the negotiations, so information has been limited. Only the rights of British people who are full-time residents of other EU countries have been discussed.

As far as second home owners go we can look ahead to some ways in which they may be affected as ‘third country’ (non-EU) citizens, however the precise details of this will depend on further negotiations during a Brexit transition period before the end of 2020 and whatever is agreed for the future UK/EU relationship. In the event of ‘no deal’, it would depend on whether there are any bilateral agreements made in the future between the UK and France.

If the UK leaves the EU on March 29, 2019 with a deal then it is expected that nothing should change for people visiting their second homes before the end of 2020 (the point of a ‘transition’ is to keep the status quo in terms of rights and obligations, giving more time to prepare). After that the UK will be a ‘third country’ but it might benefit from more favourable conditions than some other non-EU countries if so agreed before then (in which case the UK would also have to offer good conditions to EU citizens visiting the UK).

However, if the UK leaves with no deal, then the full impact of being a ‘third country’ would probably apply immediately, with no moderating factors, at least until such a time as any bilateral agreements could be signed. This is because a ‘transition period’ would only apply as part of a deal. 

  • People wanting to visit France from the UK after a ‘no deal’ Brexit would probably have to apply for visas from the French consular service, at a cost of €60. (The EU recently stated that whether or not Britons in future would have to have short-term travel visas would depend on how well the negotiations go). Second home owners do not have any special status compared to other visitors (staying in hotels etc).

These short-term Schengen visas for third country citizens allow a visit or visits of no more than 90 days (three months) in total in any 180-day period. After this visitors cannot come back to France (or other Schengen Zone countries like Italy or Spain) until 180 days after the first day of the previous visit/s. For example if you spend March, April and May in France, you cannot come back before September. Such visas may be of two kinds: for a one-off visit or for as many visits as you wish and they may be issued with validity periods of six months to five years.

Another kind of visa, costing €250, is available to non-EU citizens for stays between four months and a year, on conditions including proving you have enough resources and medical insurance to be self-sufficient and a commitment to not working in France.

  • If there is a ‘deal’ or if a bilateral agreement is signed between the UK and France waiving visa requirements, then visas would not be required but starting in 2021 Britons wanting to visit a holiday home in France would need ‘Etias’ authorisation, which the EU has agreed will apply to visitors from all non-EU countries that are exempt from needing full visas due to bilateral agreements. Etias will involve an online application and a fee of €7 and it will allow visits on the same basis as described above for the full visas (ie. not more than 90-days in any 180-day period). The authorisation once granted would last three years. Having criminal convictions in the last 10 years might be a bar (entry would be at France’s discretion).
  • After 2020 (if there is a deal) or after Brexit (if there is no deal) then Britons entering France will face stricter checks at the border and will go through ‘non-EU’ lanes. Non-EU citizens coming into France need to show they have medical insurance coverage of at least €30,000 and evidence of having funds to cover their trip, a return ticket and documents clarifying the nature of their stay and where they are staying. Private travel medical insurance would be needed after a ‘no deal’ Brexit and probably also after a Brexit transition period unless the UK and EU agree a continuation of the European ‘EHIC/CEAM’ scheme between the UK and EU (this does not exist for other non-EU countries).
  • Non-EU driving licences cannot be used in France unless accompanied by an international driving licence, which you can apply for from British post offices (again, a transition period would probably postpone this requirement).
  • 'Roaming' costs for using a British mobile phone in France could rise unless companies decide to maintain the current exemption from roaming charges that is enforced by the EU. Out of phone companies in the UK, Three has committed on its own behalf to maintaining the availability of roaming in the EU at no additional costs, while EE, O2 and Vodaphone have stated they have no ‘current plans’ to change the way they charge.
  • Second home owners would also be affected if there are disruptions to flights after Brexit (especially in the case of 'no deal', as nothing has yet been agreed regarding replacing the UK's participation in EU 'Open Skies' arrangements). Ryanair, notably, has flagged this up and is not currently allowing bookings for flights to France after March next year. Second home owners would also be affected if reduced travel to and from the UK led to some airports ending services to British cities or closing down. In future EU guarantees on compensation for late or delayed flights would also not apply on flights to France with a British-owned company.

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