Britons with French second homes ‘should get automatic long-stay visa’

A senator is proposing this as an amendment to an immigration bill which is due to be debated next week

A debate on the immigration bill will begin on November 6 in the French Senate
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Britons who own second homes in France should obtain a long-stay visa right in France without having to apply for it, a French senator is proposing.

Senator Martine Berthet (Savoie) has submitted this as an amendment to an immigration bill that is set to be debated by the Senate from Monday November 6.

She also recently wrote to the interior minister, suggesting a ‘special status’ for British second-home owners, saying that the bill presented an opportunity to advance this.

Ms Berthet is particularly referring to British second-home owners as the visiting rules changed for this group due to Brexit and many had bought their homes before this (86,000 homes are owned by British residents according to the latest state statistics from Insee).

Read more: Senator waits to hear over plea for second-home Britons

Ms Berthet previously told The Connexion that she was considering what amendment could help ease the problems they face.

Part of immigration bill debate

The immigration bill was held up over the summer, having previously been expected to be debated this spring.

Ms Berthet’s amendment, which would insert a new line into the main French immigration code, deliberately leaves the practical details to be clarified in a further decree.

However, a member of her office team said that the aim is that British second-home owners could travel to France without formalities for stays longer than 90-in-180 days (a limit that is applied to non-EU visitors without visas) for example by simply presenting proof of home ownership at the border.

He said Ms Berthet had considered backing another amendment which proposes adding home ownership as a specific reason for the award of an ordinary long-stay visa (as opposed to the homeowners applying as ‘visitors’ as they can now). However, she felt that it was unclear that this would ease the problems they face.

The main difficulty reported by second-home owners has been the heavy long-stay visa formalities that have to be repeated every year if people want to continue pre-Brexit habits of extended stays – in some cases of up to half of every year in France.

Second-home owners in France part of 'local economy'

Many homeowners referred to this in a survey Connexion launched to help Ms Berthet, which has had over 1,300 responses. Many respondents said the 90/180-day rule had made them consider selling up.

In an explanatory note to her amendment, she calls the visa process “long and rendered more complicated by many unpredictable technical issues, such as malfunctions of the TLSContact website [which must be used to book an appointment to bring in supporting documents], few available appointments, etc”.

She adds that while the issue is linked to the decision of a majority of Britons to vote for Brexit, “it remains the case that many of their fellow citizens actively participate in the dynamism of the local economy in our territories and are subject to taxe foncière tax like any resident”. [Editor’s note: they also remain subject to taxe d’habitation, in some areas including an extra surtax on top].

“Thus, in view of the unique links that unite our two countries and the importance of this community for the French economy, this amendment wishes, by way of a derogation, to lighten the formalities for entering our territory.”

Senator Corinne Imbert (Charente-Maritime) has also submitted an amendment to the bill to help second-home owners, in this case proposing a special visa allowing all non-EU foreign second-home owners to come and go for up to six-months a year in a five-year period.

These amendments could still be struck out at the last minute if problems concerning financing or compatibility with the rest of the bill are raised.

Senator Berthet’s office is hopeful that her amendment will not fall at these hurdles and will go through to the debate.

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