British visitors to France who stay more than 90 days in 180 without a visa risk a €198 fine when they leave the country.
This information was confirmed to us by the Police Nationale and Interior Ministry.
It shows the importance of being aware of the Schengen area’s rules – and how British residents should proactively show proof of residency on entering France so as to help avoid a passport stamp.
A stamp could give the impression of having overstayed in France the next time a resident leaves for a non-Schengen state.
There have been reports of fines for departing visitors who had accidentally overstayed.
In another case a resident of France was fined due to having an entry stamp in her passport.
Photographer Kerry Morgan, a British woman living in Hérault, was fined when going to the UK in November, having received a passport entry stamp on returning in July from a previous visit.
She said she has reported her case to the British consular services, who are taking it up with the French authorities.
As well as being fined, Ms Morgan also received an exit stamp when leaving for the UK in November, as well as a separate stamp on which it was written that she had paid a €198 fee, although it was not explicitly stated to be an overstaying fine.
A Police Nationale spokesman said the fine, defined in a decree from August 13, 1981 is double the sum charged by consular services for a long-stay visa (€99).
He also said: “There is no other sanction linked to overstaying, nor specific annotation on the travel document indicating the person overstayed.”
He did not have official information about the €198 note in Ms Morgan’s passport, saying it could be that this is done by some border police.
He considered her case exceptional and said she had been unfortunate, but stressed the importance of showing proof of residence upfront to avoid a stamp, which should only be given to visitors.
Ms Morgan said she had argued her case after being told she would be fined.
“I showed an email with a prefecture appointment to give fingerprints [for a residency card], and said I had others, including the original email received after applying online, but they said it did not matter; it was too late.
“They were not interested in looking at it.” Ms Morgan, who often travels as a wedding photographer, said times have been hard due to Covid and “€198 is quite a lot to me.”
Problems can also arise if you come to France having – at time of entry – exhausted or exceeded the right to stay. The police said if a person who has used up their 90 days in 180 arrives, they would be refused entry and would have to stay in a transit zone awaiting a trip back.
Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. British visitors, including second-home owners, must check the length of their stays.
A useful calculator can be found here online.
The 90-day rule is calculated by rolling 180-day periods
At any one point when you are in the Schengen area, you should not have spent more than 90 days there in the last 180.
It is possible to apply in the UK to the French consular services for a temporary long-stay visa, which allows a stay of up to six months.
Exceptionally, it is also possible to apply to a prefecture to extend the right to stay in circumstances such as illness requiring ongoing treatment in France.
This is called an autorisation provisoire de séjour and it cannot exceed 180 days.