French immigration bill: What happens now to second-home visits plan?

As the bill moves forward for examination by a ‘mixed commission’ it is possible the ‘automatic visa’ proposal will remain

There is still hope of a law change making second-home visits easier
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The future of France’s immigration bill has once again been thrown into uncertainty – but this does not necessarily mean that a proposal to help non-resident second-home owners visit their homes more easily has gone for good.

In an unexpected turn of events, a ‘motion of rejection’ was voted through yesterday (December 11) by a handful of votes, which left several possible avenues open for the next steps.

The ‘mixed commission’ option, chosen by the government, will give another chance to the second-home owner plans.

Read more: Immigration law rejected in France: is this the end of it?

Why is the bill important to second-home owners?

The interior minister submitted the bill about immigration and border control matters to the Senate at the start of this year, starting off its twisting and turning journey through parliament.

Shortly afterwards Facebook campaign group France Visa Free, which seeks easier visiting rights for non-resident second-home owners (in particular Britons), saw the opportunity for lobbying with regard to the new bill.

The Connexion also got involved with interviews and articles regarding this as many of our readers are concerned.

The idea was to ask senators to consider putting in an amendment that could help.

The issue relates to the 90/180 days rule – which applies to Britons post-Brexit.

This means that non-resident, non-EU foreign people owning homes in France cannot come for more than 90 days in a row, maximum, without a complex ‘temporary’ visa procedure each time.

Tens of thousands of Britons who bought French homes before Brexit are especially affected, since, as EU citizens, they could formerly freely spend up to six months at a time at their properties without formalities.

Two senators told The Connexion they would put in amendments and did so.

Martine Berthet (Les Républicains, Savoie) proposed an ‘automatic visa’ for British second-home owners, while Corinne Imbert (Les Républicains, Charente-Maritime) proposed a special visa for all foreign second-home owners, that would have to be applied for but which would last five years before needing to be renewed.

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

After debate in the Senate, Ms Berthet’s ‘automatic visa’ proposal was adopted and inserted into the bill, as article 1er K.

This was removed from the bill when it arrived at the Assemblée nationale and a committee of MPs, the laws commission, vetted the bill before the full MPs’ debate.

The commission agreed, by a small show of hands, to accept an amendment calling for it to be struck out.

Several MPs, led by Alexandre Holroyd (French abroad, Renaissance) had proposed another amendment keeping article 1er K but slightly altering it. Notably, their amendment said the homeowners should have bought their property before Brexit.

Then, prior to the full house debate by the MPs, which started on Monday December 11, 20 MP amendments were submitted to the bill calling to either put back Ms Berthet’s text or the version by Mr Holroyd.

Read more: Flurry of new MP bids to ease second-home visits to France

So what happens now?

A mixed group of MPs and senators is set to get together to try to agree on a version of the text.

The starting point would be the ‘Senate’ version including Ms Berthet’s amendment offering an automatic visa right to British second-home owners, without them having to apply for it.

It may be hoped, in which case, that the article will remain in the bill as arguably, this issue of non-resident second-home owners is not one of the top bones of contention between the different political parties in parliament.

Fate of the second-home owners idea depends on government

An assistant for Ms Berthet said that if a text including the proposal comes back for debate by the Senate then it seems unlikely it will change its position and reject an article it has adopted previously.

However, in the first instance the mixed commission of seven MPs and seven senators will discuss a new version of the immigration bill.

He said: “In a mixed commission it comes down to a negotiation between MPs and senators and they are free to modify whatever they like. But they still need to come to an agreement, which will not be easy to do.”

He added: “We had been in touch with some of our LR colleagues in the Assemblée nationale to raise their awareness of the issue, and we had spoken to some of our Renaissance colleagues as well. We were happy to see the idea had given rise to a lot of amendments in the assembly.

“Many took up our proposal, or some others took up an idea from Renaissance that was similar but drafted differently with a cut-off date.”

He said the large number of identical amendments was partly a reflection of the culture in the Assemblée nationale, where MPs often like to put in their ‘own’ amendment, rather than signing someone else’s, even if identical. In this case, identical amendments are debated at the same time.

However, he said they had been surprised to see so many MPs (135) signing in support of the amendments.

“I think they must have had a lot of contact from British people concerned and that is always quite effective, to help them understand the problem. And as there was already a text proposed that they could take as a basis, that also helped.”

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