UK nationals visiting France to stay with friends and family can show, if asked, an invitation from their host as evidence of the reason for their stay, a senior spokeswoman from the Interior Ministry told The Connexion.
It comes after confusion over whether Britons need an attestation d’accueil from the host’s mairie for private visits.
Several official French sites refer to this form for non-EU citizen visitors but the sites are of a general nature and not specific to Britons.
Officially, exceptions to this include a family funeral or medical emergency, for which other specific documents are needed proving the circumstances.
The Connexion queried the point, based on Annex 1 of the Schengen Borders Code (SBC), which says a host’s written invitation is suitable if border guards check non-EU visitors entering the Schengen area to stay with members of the public.
National immigration laws may add to this if EU states wish, however we noted that the official site brexit.gouv.fr (see first question and answer) directs Britons to Annex 1 for supporting documents that they may be asked to show to demonstrate fulfilment of entry conditions.
The spokeswoman for the ministry’s section for foreigners’ entry and residency said: “The response I’ve had is that a host’s invitation can effectively constitute a document for private travel in the sense of the SBC’s Annex 1.
“Even so, in this case people will have to show proof of having at least €120 per day of their stay. This is why it can be of interest for people with limited means to ask their host to obtain an attestation d’accueil at the mairie.”
Showing sufficient financial means for the stay is listed by official French sites among items non-EU citizens may be asked to show under French rules and 'sufficient means of subsistence' are also listed by the SBC. Unofficial website Schengen Visa Info suggest showing proofs such as three months’ of bank statements, payslips, cash, credit cards or travellers’ cheques; French government site service-public.fr refers to 'cash, bank cards etc'.
In practice, however, The Connexion believes this is rarely asked for.
Visitors with hotel bookings may be asked for €65/day (and proof of the booking); those with attestations, €32.50, official sites state. Otherwise the default amount in the absence of proof of a booking or official attestation is €120 (see brexit.gouv.fr link above, footnote 1).
The attestation requires a €30 timbre fiscal from a tabac or online and proof of the host’s accommodation and finances to show they are able to look after the guest appropriately. A decision may be taken immediately, but can take up to a month (there is a tacit refusal if no decision is given by then).
It has existed in French immigration laws since 2004. A recent French legal order making changes to the main immigration code maintained the same wording about the attestation, but now under different article numbers in the code.
However, two immigration lawyers told The Connexion it is not asked for at the border for people from nationalities exempted from Schengen visitor visas, such as the UK. For others, it is needed to obtain the visa. This was confirmed by readers who have hosted non-EU guests.
Franco-American avocat Haywood Wise, from Paris, said: “In practice, this attestation is not demanded of persons who benefit from a visa waiver to travel to France for short stays, such as US or UK and other OECD country citizens.” Typically, only the passport is asked for, he said.
Avocat Sarah Sahnoun, from Cannes, confirmed this but added that if Britons want to be careful, they could send their guests a signed invitation (in French) to stay at their address, with dates, accompanied by a photocopy of their passport.
The British Foreign Office’s France travel advice page now advises bringing an invitation from your host but also says that you “may be requested to provide an attestation d’accueil”.
The UK only requires non-EU visitors to show a passport at the border. However, The Guardian reports cases of European visitors being treated heavy-handedly where there was suspicion of them entering to work without a visa.
- If you are British and recently visited France, or welcomed British visitors, we would like to know if you or they were asked for any additional documents, other than the passport, and if so, which. Let us know at email@example.com