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France travel: Can spouses of EU citizens stay beyond 90 days?

Non-EU citizens without visas or residency permits can normally only be in the Schengen Area countries like France for 90 days in every 180

Since Brexit, British citizens without visas or residency permits have only been allowed to stay in Schengen Area countries like France for 90 days in every 180 Pic: A Lot Of People / Shutterstock

Reader Question: My husband has an Irish passport but I only have a British passport. Can we move to our second home in France without requiring a visa under his EU national status?

In general, third-country (non-EU/EEA/Swiss) citizens of nationalities not subject to a requirement for short-term Schengen visas are free to come to France without visa formalities but are subject to the rule of staying no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.

This applies to the whole Schengen area so it would not be possible under the rules to stay in France for 85 days, for example, and then take a two-week trip to Italy. 

Beyond these 90 days, the non-EU spouses of EU nationals can stay on without a visa, but need to apply for a residency card in order to be able to spend prolonged periods of time in France (note that the formalities are different if coming to stay with a French partner, as opposed to one of another EU nationality).

These rules do not apply to EU nationals, who can normally spend as long as they want in any other member state. 

The spouses and children of EU nationals are subject to different rules due to being the family members of an EU citizen.

Official EU website europa.eu states that EU nationals “have the right to travel together with your core family members (non-EU spouse, children, dependent parents or dependent grandparents) to an EU country other than the one you are a national of. 

“If you have moved to another EU country they can also join you there.

“These rules also apply to your non-EU registered partner if the country they are travelling to considers registered partnerships as equivalent to marriage.”

It adds that non-EU nationals staying for more than “three months in your spouse’s host country [a state from which they do not have a passport] have to apply for a residence card and report [their] presence to the relevant authorities.

“You must apply for a residence document with the authorities of your host EU country within three months of arriving.”

So, non-EU nationals spending more than three months with their EU national spouse in France will have to apply for a carte de séjour at their local prefecture before the three months elapse. This card is free and will say: “family member of a EU/EEA/Swiss citizen.”

The card will last either five years or for the duration of the planned stay and it allows you to work. However if you plan to come to France and work immediately, you should apply for a visa before coming rather than coming under Schengen visitor rules. 

If you hold a card or cards for five years or more, you may then apply for a carte de séjour Directive 2004/38/CE - Séjour permanent - Toutes activités professionnelles. This gives much the same rights as an EU national.

It will be easier to obtain a carte de séjour as the spouse of an EU passport holder than for most other non-EU arrivals.

Are there any financial requirements? 

If your EU national spouse is working in France, you will not need to meet any conditions regarding your financial situation. 

If they are a pensioner, you can stay without having to meet any conditions as long as they have sufficient income to support themselves and have health insurance covering all the family members in the country with them.

Read more: What is the minimum income requirement for a French long-stay visa?

What if your marriage ends? 

If a couple in this situation get divorced before the non-EU partner has been in the country for five years and obtained permanent residency status they may stay under their carte de séjour if they have been living there for at least a year and had been married for at least three years.

If the couple have minor children they may also stay so that both partners can see them, as long as this is approved by a court. 

If your spouse dies, you may stay in the country as long as you had already been living there for at least a year, under certain conditions (depending on whether you or your spouse was working or retired).

Related articles

Why is there a 90-day visit rule for France? Is it France's decision?

Can the 90-day stay limit in France be extended for medical reasons?

Second-home owners: Can I alternate two months in France and UK?

Resident or second-home owner in France?
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