Connexion readers have been telling us of their problems getting a longer-term visa to visit France over the summer.
It comes after we published an article highlighting issues with private firm TLScontact.
An appointment at TLScontact is the second stage for Britons applying for a visa to stay for more than three months at a time in France.
An online application has to be made at france-visas.gouv.fr, after which people have to log onto the website of TLScontact's UK-based services to book to take their papers to one of its UK centres in Manchester, London or Edinburgh.
Since Brexit, Britons have been subject to ordinary non-EU citizen rules and restricted to 90 days in every 180 days in the Schengen area unless they apply for a visa.
Connection issues are frequent
We asked for feedback from those who have used – or are trying to use – TLScontact’s website for a 2023 visa and your responses were largely negative.
Many readers highlighted the difficulty in getting an appointment through the service and the steps needed to restart an application process after a delay.
“We have been trying for 10 days to get on the TLS website and we cannot get in. We just go round in circles,” said J.H, echoing complaints in the original article over the site’s numerous bugs.
And the issues are not just with the company’s website; applicants are having trouble getting hold of anyone on the phone.
“The phone line number given [by the company] is unobtainable. No one ever calls back,” one reader added.
After trying to contact Edinburgh twice over a matter with no response, reader J.B contacted the London office.
“They told me to contact the Scotland team again about my issue, even after the radio silence, because I live in Scotland,” he told us.
Phone lines were also down at the beginning of this week according to another unnamed reader, unable to get through to the service to ask for some help over another website issue.
With a lack of appointments leading to holidays being pushed back or cancelled completely, some readers highlighted the bureaucratic fallout after failing to secure a slot.
“After 20 days from registering on the French Government site your TLS application is deleted if you haven’t booked an appointment - which I hadn’t been able to do [due to the lack of slots],” said A.A.
“If you do lose your application you have to reapply to TLS again but you cannot use the same email,” he added, causing further headaches for those already experiencing delays.
Read more: EU confirms plans to delay its new digital border system… again
Difficulties with getting an appointment to come to France have led some to even rethink their long-term prospects in the country.
“Other European countries do not deter visiting… [we are close to] diverting away from France,” said J.B.
Now, J.B is “preparing to put their [French holiday home] up for sale,” and says they are not the only people they know who have taken this step.
He says he will visit the home - in the West of France - once more in June to take photos and actively look to sell the property after 25 years of ownership.
“The bureaucracy is terrible,” he added.
Another reader said the process “has ruined our summer holiday”.
The Connexion wanted to get a response from TLScontact about your complaints. However while we were able to reach the company's helpline via the telephone number +44 02 38 32 30 11, no one was able to respond to our questions before we published this article.
We were however told that the service was “aware of some of the issues” surrounding its website.
Senator seeks visa law change for Britons
One potential end to the visa problems could be changes to French legislation.
Senator Corinne Imbert, from the right-wing Les Républicains party, is championing a law change that would grant a special status to those with second homes in France, allowing them to stay in the country for up to six months.
She had already requested a similar change back in 2020 - which was rejected - but is continuing to campaign for legislative changes.
It may be hard to pass such a law, however, that gives Britons special status without other nations demanding similar rights.
We are still looking for feedback from readers over issues with visa appointments.
Please let us know your experiences via firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!