All visitors to France without a visa, residency, or citizenship must respect the so-called 90/180-day rule.
Alongside Britons (who have been subject to the rule since Brexit) Americans, Australians, Canadians and any other person who enjoys visa-free access to the EU must also comply.
How does the 90/180-day rule impact entry to France for Britons and other 'third country' citizens?
‘Third-country’ (non-EU/EEA/Swiss) citizens of nationalities not subject to a requirement for short-term Schengen visas are free to come to France without visa formalities but are subject to the rule of staying no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.
Their passports are stamped with the date of entry and exit so border officials can check they do not overstay.
So as to have passports stamped, they have to join the ‘all passports’ lanes at EU airports, not fast EU-only automatic gates, and could, in theory, be asked for additional paperwork.
Britons are advised by the UK government to ensure that their passports have at least six months left to run on them and they should note that any ‘extra’ time obtained by renewing the passport early may not count.
See the checker tool here.
The general French rule is that non-EU visitors' passports must have been issued less than 10 years ago and be valid to a date at least three months after the intended departure date from France.
Paperwork that border officials may ask for from third-country nationals can include:
- a return ticket, proof of medical insurance for the trip (for Britons a Ghic/Ehic is acceptable)
- proof of sufficient financial means to cover the duration
- proof of accommodation such as a hotel booking, or if staying with a member of the public then a certificate they obtained from their mairie, called an attestation d’accueil.
People staying in their own second homes should bring proof of ownership, such as recent electricity or water bills, or a taxe foncière bill.
See here for a full list of these documents.
British residents of France returning home will, to avoid passport stamps and other checks, have to show evidence of being residents, such as a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement residency card or an attestation of having applied for one, or an EU citizen residency card or otherwise some other document such as a recent French utility bill.
What exactly does the rule relate to?
The 90/180-day rule relates to entry and exit from the entire Schengen area. This refers to the whole of the EU apart from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Ireland. Also included are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The EU states that this issue of checking on entry to the area by third-country nationals is very important because of the fact there are no internal border checks inside the area, such as when travelling from France to Spain.
The 90/180-day rule refers to not spending more than '90 days in any 180-day period’ in the Schengen area.
This concerns those people entering the area as visitors from third countries whose nationals are exempt from visitor visas (nationals of certain countries may not even visit France without a visa). The EU and UK reciprocally agreed on the fact that visitor visas are not required for Britons.
How is the 90/180-day rule calculated?
The EU’s latest definition is that it should be best understood not by looking forward in time from the point of entry, but rather by looking back. It should therefore technically be imagined as a ‘moving’ period of 180-days as opposed to a fixed period starting on the first day you enter the area.
In practice, this means that at any one time when you are in the Schengen area, you must not have spent more than 90 out of the last 180-days in the area.
The entry date is the first day on which you spend any time in the area, the exit day is the last day you are in the area.
One effect of this is that if you are ever away for a full period of 90 days (three months) then you will have accrued the right to another stay of up to 90 days.
- You could visit France for the whole of January (31 days), February (28 days) and March (31) which works out as follows: 31+28+31=90.
- You could visit in the whole of January (31), March (31) and then in June but leaving on June 28.
- You could visit throughout April (30) and May (31) and leaving on June 29, but could not then come back before September 28.
A short-stay calculator tool may be used to help with this.
It has two options: ‘control’ which is to calculate the length of previous or ongoing stays and check you are complying with the 90/180-day rule; ‘planning’ is to check the maximum length of stay which may be allowed if you enter the Schengen area on a certain day in the future.
Choose the relevant option and then enter your previous recent stays, with entry and exit dates in the format 00/00/00, eg. 01/02/21.
Is it possible to stay for longer than 90 days?
The only option for staying longer than 90 days is to apply for a visa de long séjour. There is a ‘temporary’ visa issued for four to six months which is not renewable and you must leave when it expires. There is another called visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour (VLS-TS) which lasts a year.
You would need to apply on france-visas.gouv.fr.
You will also have to attend a French consular office in your home country, taking documents showing you can support yourself during the trip and you have health insurance and somewhere to stay.
You could later either visit again to collect the visa or pay for it to be delivered to you.
Any time spent in France on a long-stay visa and/or carte de séjour does not count afterwards as part of the 90/180-day rule.