Campaigners pushing for France to take action to create more flexibility for British visitors – especially second-home owners – to spend up to six months here more easily have won support from a senator.
Jean-Claude Requier, who heads a group of 14 centrists in the Senate, told the France Visa Free group that its ideas are “perfectly coherent”.
He said he will propose to his group that they add them as an amendment to the immigration bill that is currently going through parliament.
Charente-Maritime senator Corinne Imbert also told The Connexion she will consider doing the same.
The bill will be debated by the senators from March 28.
The campaigners believe more should be done to give Britons visiting France comparable freedom to the rules for EU citizens visiting the UK.
Since the UK left the EU’s single market, its citizens are subject to ordinary Schengen area rules on visits from people of non-EU nationalities – including most western democracies – who do not need visas for short-stay visits.
They are subject to a rule of not staying in the area more than 90 days in any 180-day period, looking back from a given day.
This contrasts with the UK’s national immigration rules on stays for citizens from countries such as France, exempt from short-stay visas, which allow a stay of up to six months.
EU rules mean staying up to six months a year is possible, but the stays must be spaced out, spoiling the plans of many British second-home owners who used to spend up to one half of the year in France.
Many of them bought homes pre-Brexit under other rules.
France Visa Free’s current requests to France include:
- Making renewed applications for a temporary long-stay visa entirely online. These visas permit a stay for a set period of up to six months, outside the 90-days rule, but each application must be started from scratch, even if it is for a similar stay at the same second home. This includes taking a lot of paperwork in person to one of three visa offices in the UK;
- Alternatively, introducing a ‘property owners’ visa’ which would allow people to come to France for 180 days a year at the time of their choosing, with the visa’s validity to last five years;
- Or, offering UK nationals a visa-waiver for France to come for six-month periods, similar to the UK’s rules.
France Visa Free founder Steven Jolly said: “Central to our argument is that France has the freedom to act.”
He pointed to the fact that France controls its long-stay visa rules and is creating new visas for workers in certain sectors, such as those lacking staff, in the new immigration bill.
UK daily newspaper i said last year that Spain’s tourism secretary had told it he would ask Brussels to relax the 90-day rule so British holidaymakers can stay indefinitely when they visit.
He reportedly said this was something that would have to be changed across the EU.
Last year, France’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said, in answer to a senator:
“It is not possible for France to unilaterally grant a derogation of the movement rules adopted at a European level to British citizens.”
However, The Connexion has been told by the Spanish Tourism Ministry that it has had a change of minister since the i report and it is not now pursuing this.
It directed us to ask Spain’s Interior Ministry about the issue, but this ministry also failed to confirm any current support for measures in favour of British visitors.
For more on the France Visa Free group, see here.
The group is encouraging supporters to write to other MPs and senators about its ideas.