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Can I return to UK after French visa then come back for short stay?

We look at whether being in France on a long-stay visa affects the 90-day visa-free allowance

We look at the rules on combining a French long-stay visa with the standard 90-day visa-free allowance Pic: Paul Maguire / Shutterstock

Reader Question: I read your article ‘Can we use the 90-day rule to extend stay after French visa runs out?’ but want to check that if I left France at the end of my visa, could I later return, e.g. if there was an emergency at the property, or could I only stay on after the end of my visa?

British citizens who do not hold a French long-stay visa may stay in the country for up to 90 days in any rolling 180-day period. 

This rule is common to the EU Schengen area and is best understood looking back from today’s date. 

For example, if you had already spent 75 days in Schengen countries in the five months leading up to today, you would only be allowed to spend a further 15 in the bloc until the previous days began to move outside of the last 180 days.

You can work out how many visa-free days you have left in Schengen using an online calculator.

Read more: The EU's 90/180-day rule: How does it work?

If you wish to stay beyond your 90-day allowance, a visa can allow a stay of between four and up to 12 months in France. 

Six months is the usual maximum for ‘temporary’ long-stay visas suitable for those not planning to actually move to France on a settled basis.

The 90-day allowance runs in parallel with the visa system and is completely separate from it.

Once a person has a French visa, their 90-day limit is suspended for the duration of their permitted stay, ie. days in France on the visa are not counted for purposes of this 90-day rule.

The Direction générale de la Police nationale has therefore previously told The Connexion that: “On the expiry of a long-stay visa [a British citizen] can carry out a short stay of 90 days over any 180 day period.” 

On that occasion we were asking about staying on after the visa expired without returning to the UK, however the same would apply to your situation: it is possible to leave France and then return for a short stay, respecting the 90/80 limit, because the expiry of your visa will have set your 90/180-day rolling allocation moving again.

In other words, as far as the Schengen area rules are concerned, you have not been in the area for 90 days in the last 180 days, as the days on the visa do not count. 

Likewise, it is possible to visit France for a stay of less than 90 days and then begin a long-stay visa, either by remaining in the country after the visa start date or by going back to the UK and then returning to France once the visa validity period has begun.

Having said this, in the case of someone who spent a full three months in France under the 90/180-day rule before the visa started and the visa was only for four months, they  would want to take care with the calculation of how long you can return for with any new visit if this follows straight on. This is because two of the earlier ‘non-visa’ months still fall into the 90/180 rule at the point of expiry of the visa period.

Related articles 

How do French long-stay visas work with the 90-day allowance?

Are there Schengen rule exemptions for help care for elderly relatives

Campaign group disappointed by French response to 90/180 rule issue

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