An immigration bill article giving ‘automatic visa’ rights to British second-home owners in France has been struck out by a committee of MPs – but could be resubmitted in a new format.
France’s new immigration bill, as presented by the Interior Ministry and amended by the Senate, is under scrutiny by the MPs’ laws commission before its full Assemblée nationale debate from December 11.
Article 1er K, described as potentially ‘life-changing’ by one Connexion reader, proposed allowing British second-home owners, on proof of property ownership, to visit for longer periods than 90 days without additional formalities but has been removed.
This article was put into the bill as an amendment by Senator Martine Berthet (Les Républicains, Savoie). She said it was justified by the close France-UK links, contributions that Britons make to local economies and the fact that since Brexit their only option for extended stay is to renew each time an application for a temporary long-stay visa, which she said is long, complicated and beset by technical difficulties.
Three amendments rejected
However, the laws commission accepted two amendments by MPs who called to strike out the article saying it was not justified. Another amendment, by MPs including the leader of the France-UK Friendship Group, Alexandre Holroyd, seeking to retain the article but modify it, was rejected.
Even so, an MP who supports the idea could resubmit it as another amendment, before the full debate by MPs from December 11.
Ms Berthet told The Connexion: “I regret that, in a close vote, the Assemblée nationale’s Law Committee decided to delete Article 1K, which facilitates entry into France for British citizens who own second homes.
“I note, however, that several members of parliament supported this approach. MPs still have the opportunity to reinstate the article at the public sitting.
“If this is not the case, I will use these debates as a basis for building a balanced solution to the difficulties that have arisen.”
Who opposed the article and why?
MPs Christophe Naegelen (Independent, Vosges), Michel Castellani and Jean-Félix Acquaviva (Femu a Corsica – Corsican autonomists) and Paul Molac (Independent, Morbihan) said that “nothing justifies such a derogation” because “the British made the sovereign choice to leave the EU and renounce the advantages that come from it, and in any case the simple fact of having a second home is not enough to justify giving a long-stay visa”.
Blandine Brocard (MoDem – centrists, allied to Renaissance, Rhône), Erwan Balanant (MoDem, Finistère) and Emmanuel Mandon (MoDem, Loire), also called for it to be removed, saying giving long-stay visa rights to people based on property ownership could be seen as favouring a certain group on the basis of their financial situation, causing inequality with other foreign people.
They said Britons can already apply for temporary visas for extended stays or other visas to move to France, after which they can apply for a multi-year residency card [editor’s note: retired people can usually only move to France on a ‘visitor’ visa, which must be renewed annually and cannot obtain a multi-year residency card].
Who supported the article?
Alexandre Holroyd (French overseas, Renaissance) put forward a supportive amendment, along with colleagues David Amiel (Paris, Renaissance), Thibault Bazin (Les Républicains, Meurthe-et-Moselle), Hadrien Ghomi (Renaissance, Seine-et-Marne), Michel Herbillon (Val-de-Marne, LR), Christophe Plassard (Charente-Maritime, Horizons – centrists, allied to Renaissance), Natalia Pouzyreff (Haute-Vienne, Renaissance) and Estelle Youssouffa (UDI – centrists, Mayotte).
Their amendment proposed, however, limiting the new right to people who owned property before January 1, 2021 (ie. before Brexit) and extending it to residents of the UK as well as UK nationals.
They said the automatic visa right could be compared to the automatic exemption from needing to apply for a short-stay visa (for visits for up to 90 days) that already exists for many non-EU nationalities, such as Britons, Americans, Australians etc.
They advised limiting it to those who owned their property before Brexit came into force, so as not to create any discrimination against other non-European owners in the future.
Why do they think a change is merited?
They said the current option of a one-off ‘temporary’ long-stay visa, usually issued for periods of up to six months, is not compatible with regular coming and going. If the second-home owners apply for an ordinary long-stay visa valid for a year (renewable) there is a presumption that their ‘second’ home is now becoming their ‘main’ residence, which is not suited to people who did not plan to move to France on a settled basis, they added.
“The formalities to obtain these visas are complex and poorly adapted to the situation of spouses of French people living in the UK who own a second home in France [editor’s note: they also need visas, though they are free in their case], including many retirees, who strongly contribute to the local economy and pay taxe d’habitation on their homes.
“Finally, during the 36th Franco-British summit in Paris on March 10, 2023, France and the UK agreed to establish a ‘dialogue on mobility’, and this exemption from having to ask for a visa could form part of this.”
When we contacted the office of Mr Holroyd on November 9 to ask his view, an assistant said he supported the idea in principle but had not yet decided on his exact position with regard to the amendment.
We have asked if he is considering re-submitting the article as a new amendment before the full debate starts in 11 days time.