Biometric border checks: what questions will be asked to enter France?

Queries can already be made by border guards, but digitalisation of border makes it more likely

Border checks at Charles de Gaulle airport
Non-EU travellers coming into the EU will still need to pass in front of a passport official's booth
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Reader Question: Do I need to answer any questions when I enter France after the EES is implemented? The last few times I have visited, I have not been asked anything.

EU border officials are already in theory able to ask a number of questions about your travel plans when you pass into the Schengen area, however they rarely do so. 

This is particularly the case for tourists from countries such as the UK, US and Canada, i.e those with 'strong' passports and visa-free access for up to 90 days in the EU.

The rollout of new border security policies, namely the Entry/Exit System (EES) and Etias, means that questions are now more likely to be asked at border entry points. 

This is because at many border crossings – such as larger airports – it is expected that the questions will be asked by the automated systems when biometric data is collected at digital kiosks. 

Read more: Channel ferries: how will biometric passport controls work?

Border guards will also still be able to ask questions at border control booths as travellers still have to physically pass an official before entering the EU.

What questions might be asked? 

The questions grevolve around the duration, funding, and purpose of your trip. 

These may include: 

  • What is the reason for your trip to the EU? 

  • Where will you be staying? 

  • Do you have sufficient funds to support yourself throughout your stay?

  • Do you have a return ticket or sufficient funds to buy one?

It is also possible that questions will be asked on entry to France about medical cover for your medical and hospital expenses as well as medical repatriation costs and expenses in the event of death.

This latter question is not listed in the Schengen borders code as one that should be systematically asked on entry to the area, but it is listed by French sources as required by non-EU travellers to France. Note that for Britons and EU citizens, a European Health Insurance Card covers many elements of the healthcare requirements, but it is recommended that additional travel insurance is also taken out.

In most cases, the answer to the questions should be relatively straightforward – the majority of people will be travelling for pleasure/tourism, and probably have a return ticket and will be making use of 'visa waiver' travel in the Schengen area of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.

Read more: How does EU's 90/180-day rule work when visiting France?

In addition, many people will be staying in a hotel, Airbnb, or at a second home. 

If staying at somebody else’s home, an attestation d’accueil is in theory needed from the person who lives in France (either renting or owning the property). This is a document which the French resident can obtain from their local mairie and forward to the visitor. 

In practice, however, this is almost never asked for when people visit France from countries with visa-free short-stay access, such as the UK, US and Australia. As a precaution, however, it has been suggested you consider carrying an invitation from your host, though this is also rarely asked for.

Read more: Is an attestation d'accueil still needed for people visiting France?

It is not yet known exactlly how the questions will be asked at digital terminals, and if any supporting documents which as return tickets or travel insurance documents etc. will need to be scanned in at this point.

In theory, they can be asked for, including, for example (regarding accommodation) an invitation from your host or a hotel booking, or (regarding purpose of trip) an invitation to attend a conference, or a certificate of enrolment on a course if the nature of the trip relates to business or study.

However, as transport sector operators are keen that EES should not cause great increases in queuing times, we would presume that this will not be the case.

It may be that you simply have to ‘tick’ yes to answer the questions or select from a multiple choice list, with the border official having the option to ask you for further proof when you pass in front of their booth. However, nothing has yet been confirmed by the French authorities or EU.