Automatic visa for easy second-home visits passed by French parliament

Law will help tens of thousands of Britons to spend longer in France as they could before Brexit

Senator Berthet put forward the amendment which led to the second homes law
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A new immigration law which includes giving UK non-residents who own a second home in France the right to an ‘automatic’ visa to come to France for stays of more than 90 days has been voted through definitively by the French parliament.

Article 1er K will add new wording to France’s main legal code on borders and immigration.

It says: “The long-stay visa is issued automatically to British citizens owning a second home in France. They are therefore exempt from having to make an application for a long-stay visa.

“The conditions for how this will be applied will be clarified by a decree in the Conseil d’Etat.”

The measure will help the tens of thousands of UK second-home owners who have faced restrictions to their shared lives between France and the UK since Brexit.

It will not be subject to any further scrutiny by parliament, however the whole immigration law must pass through a final vetting by France's constitutional council in the coming weeks before publication in Le Journal Officiel.

Read more: What happens now for law to ease second-home visits to France?

Since Brexit British visitors to France, including second home-owners, have been subject to the basic Schengen rule restricting stays in the area to no more than 90 days in any rolling 180-day period.

Many Britons typically came for up to half the year before Brexit.

It is possible to apply for a ‘temporary’ visa, but many people who have tried this have told us they could not face the bureaucracy again. A new application is needed for each visit.

Senator Martine Berthet (Savoie, Les Républicains), who proposed the amendment, first said that she would reflect on an amendment to help when we interviewed her in June.

We contacted her as she had been among lawmakers who had been supportive of France Visa Free, a Facebook group seeking easier visiting rights for Britons which had now turned its attention to possibilities presented by the immigration bill.

We shared with her its ideas for amendments, such as a special five-year ‘homeowner’ visa for all nationalities or a rule allowing Britons to come for up to six months without a visa as is possible under UK immigration law for French people visiting the UK.

She proposed her ‘automatic visa’ – which was adopted by the Senate – telling colleagues that the ‘temporary’ visa process is “long and rendered complicated by numerous technical issues (malfunctioning of the TLSContact website, few available appointments etc”.

Read more: ‘We must help ease 90/180 days rule for owners of French second homes’

She said many Britons participate actively in their local economies and her plan was justified by the “unique links that unite our two countries”.

Her idea, or a version of it proposed by MP Alexandre Holroyd (French abroad, Renaissance), then won strong support from many MPs after significant letter-writing from Britons including France Visa Free members and Connexion readers. We provided a template letter with suggested wording.

Read more: Why are Americans not part of second-home easy visit plan in France?

France Visa Free founder Steven Jolly said the vote last night “shows that France is willing to address the adverse effects of Brexit”.

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement included measures helping Britons who were living full-time in France before Brexit, but not those who regularly spend part of their lives in France as they have a home here.

“After two years of campaigning it is a great achievement to see that France is close to lawfully granting long-stay visas automatically to those British citizens with a secondary residence in France,” Mr Jolly said.

He added: "This is a huge step in the right direction for the campaign, and a recognition that those with a home in France should be allowed to continue living in their homes in just the same way that they did before Brexit without having to make France their primary residence.”

The group will continue to campaign for further flexibility including for non-property owners, he said.

Ms Berthet has supported Britons’ visiting rights since at least spring 2022, when she wrote to the Foreign Affairs Ministry about the 90/180 days restriction.

In September 2023 she then wrote to the Interior Ministry proposing a ‘special status’ and referring to King Charles III’s recent state visit as evidence of the valued relationship between the UK and France.

Many of the 1,000+ contributors to a survey we organised to assist Ms Berthet in her deliberations said they had considered selling up as a result of the 90/180 days rule.

They also spoke of their love for the French towns and villages where they have homes, said that they spend on average several thousand euros a month while they are there and most would come for longer if not restricted by post-Brexit rules.

French statistics body Insee has previously estimated that there are 86,000 homes in France owned by UK residents.

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