A senator has confirmed her support for a new dedicated ‘second-home owner visa’ to allow non-EU owners to visit their French properties more easily and for longer.
Corinne Imbert submitted an amendment for the change to the upcoming Immigration Bill after The Connexion shared the latest ideas from the campaign group France Visa Free with her.
She proposes that the visa would be for all second-home owners living outside the EU and would be for five years, allowing visits for up to six months at a time in each year of its validity without extra paperwork.
Ms Imbert, senator and departmental councillor for Charente-Maritime, in west France, said she is determined to reintroduce the amendment as soon as she can.
The bill already contains proposals for new types of French visas for certain kinds of workers.
It was due to be discussed by senators from late March but has been deferred due to the pension reform controversy.
Read more: French senator backs campaign for easier visas for second-home owners
‘Many second-home owners in our departments’
She said: “Many of us have second-home owners in our departments.
“They’ve been here a long time and are really integrated into the life of our villages, including the local associations, so it is important.”
Currently, Britons and many other non-EU nationals with second homes in France must obtain a visa to stay longer than 90 days in any 180-day period, with the only option being a ‘temporary long-stay visa’ (VLS-T) valid for up to one designated six-month period at a time.
This involves complex applications both online and in person where, for example, people in the UK must travel to one of only three visa offices for in-person appointments to submit supporting documents.
The whole process, which costs over £100, must be repeated for any future similar stays.
The issue has been highlighted by Brexit and the fact these rules now apply to Britons who, according to the state statistics office Insee, own 86,000 second homes in France.
This is twice as many as any other foreign non-residents with most of the properties bought under the more flexible rules when the UK was a member of the EU.
Spain also reported to be seeking solutions for longer visits
A Spanish minister was also reported to have been seeking solutions to enable British visitors to stay beyond the limit of 90 days.
Former pharmacist Ms Imbert, 64, said: “It’s a problem for British people who for many years have had second homes and stayed more than three months a year, especially over spring and summer, and for whom they really are second homes, not just ‘holiday’ homes.”
Second-home owners pay local property taxes in full and do not qualify for French health reimbursements or other benefits.
France Visa Free has been inviting people to write to MPs and senators with suggestions of an online-only renewal after a first VLS-T, or a visa waiver for Britons for trips of up to six months at a time, as is possible under UK law for French nationals visiting the UK.
However, it was a third suggestion of a new special visa that Ms Imbert, who previously called for a special status for British second-home owners in 2020, decided to take up.
She said: “The five-year home owners’ visa seemed an appropriate idea so I got to work on that. It would avoid having to ask for a visa again every year.”
Five year home owners’ visa more likely to succeed
She said she thinks this is more likely to succeed than asking for dispensation from the usual 90-day rule just for British visitors. This is an EU rule and thus applies across the whole Schengen area.
"People would ask ‘why, just for Britons and no one else?’.
"For the same reason, I asked for the visa to be for non-EU foreigners in general.
“Otherwise it risks being seen as discriminatory.”
Immigration law, including visas and residency cards, is largely the responsibility of national governments, apart from certain specific areas over which the EU has a remit.
The latter include the limit of 90 days in the Schengen area, a scheme for highly qualified workers, and a rule that foreign residents can acquire specific long-term residency rights after five years supporting themselves in an EU country.
‘Very pleasing to see Senator Imbert take up our cause’
France Visa Free founder Steven Jolly said: “It is very pleasing to see Senator Imbert take up our cause.
“While this is not the 180-day visa waiver to reciprocate what the UK offers the French, it is a move in the right direction.
“It shows that our voice has been heard.
"Supporting British second-home owners will have a massive impact and shows that the French can help put right a defect in the Brexit agreement which has restricted our ability to visit our homes.”
The campaign has now obtained supportive responses from several other politicians, including MP for Manche Bernard Sorre, who has lodged an official written question to the Foreign Affairs Ministry proposing a new deal on mobility with the UK which he suggests could include some or all of the ideas of the campaign.
He calls the 90-day rule “penalising for property owners who participate in the local economy, take part in associations and restore old buildings”.
Updated: Your questions answered on France’s new form for homeowners
What are moves to change 90-day visitor rule in France for Britons?