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Brexit: What changes at French border in 2021?

Both visitors to France and residents should prepare for some differences in formalities when the transition period ends

When Brexit applies fully, from January 1, will there be changes at the border, such as having to join a different passport queue?

The end of the transition period from January 1 will bring differences, including, yes, the requirement to pass through slower non-EU passport lanes on arrival in France.

These lanes tend to be slower, especially in airports equipped with automated gates for chipped EU passports.

Other changes to bear in mind will depend on whether you are travelling as a visitor, including second home owners, or you are returning to France as a resident.


If you are visiting, it has been agreed between the UK and EU that no visa will be required.

However the first point to bear in mind for visa-free travel is the rule of not staying more than 90 days in any 180 in the Schengen Area. This includes France and neighbouring countries such as Spain and Italy.

As a ‘third country citizen’ your passport will be stamped at the border to check that you do not overstay.

This process is expected to be replaced around the end of next year with new IT technology called the ‘EU entry-exit system’. This will record name and passport details, entry and exit dates, a photograph and an image of the traveller’s fingerprint, and will replace the need for a passport stamp.

Later, by the end of 2022, a further formality called Etias will be required.

This will involve an online application before travel, with a €7 fee, to obtain permission to travel. Travellers will have to declare name, date of birth, passport number and criminal offences in the past 10 years, or 20 for terrorism. In most cases permission will be given rapidly. Once obtained it will last three years.

From January 1 you will also have to ensure that your British passport has at least six months to run. Any ‘extra’ time you may have obtained by early renewal last time may not count, so it is best to check that on entry to France the issue date was no more than nine years and six months ago. There is a checker tool at this link.

If bringing a pet, you are advised to check with your vet four months as to what papers you will need, as a British EU pet passport will no longer be a valid document.

Theoretically non-EU visitors may also be asked at the border to show other documents, such as proof of having sufficient financial means to support yourself during the stay (cash, travellers’ cheques, international bank cards…), a return ticket, medical insurance cover of at least €30,000 and any document clarifying the nature of the trip.

They may also be asked for a hotel or other booking or an attestation d’hébergement. The latter is a document that your host, if staying with a member of the public, can obtain by visiting their mairie and then send to you.

Having said this several Americans living in France told The Connexion their visitors are not routinely asked for these extra documents.


If you are a resident of France returning home from January 1, it will be advisable to carry evidence of being a resident. No precise list of documents has been provided so far, but this could include for example a recent French utility bill, your carte Vitale or a certificate de residence from your mairie.

The Connexion has been told however that border officials will be asked not to be heavy-handed towards Britons especially in the period before it becomes obligatory for residents to have applied for, or obtained, one of the new Brexit residency cards. At present the deadline for this is June 30, 2021.

Those who have applied for one of the new cards for Britons on the website set to open on Monday October 19, will be able to show the card if it has been issued or, if not, then a récépissé (acknowledgement of application) that you will have obtained after completing the application, showing that it is pending. One or the other is likely to be obligatory from July next year to provide proof you are a resident and not a visitor.

The rule on having six months to run on your passport in order to enter the Schengen Area does not apply to residents in an EU country, however as usual you will have to ensure your passport remains valid, especially as it also doubles up as your identity document while in France.

Previous articles

'New' UK campaign recaps 2021 changes for visiting EU 

Brexit: When do I have to renew my UK passport?

Brexit: When will the 90/180-day rule start?

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