Can I stay in France via the 90/180 day rule if visa has expired?

Some nationalities require a visa to re-enter France even as a tourist

A person handing over their passport at a French airport
Be wary of engaging in any professional activity if using your 90/180 day visiting allocation
Published Last updated

Reader Question: My one-year visa will expire soon. Must I leave France or can I use the 90/180 day rule to remain in the country? I will only need a few more days to tie up loose ends. 

The answer to this depends on both the visa you hold, and your country of origin. 

Generally, you should leave France on or before the expiry of your visa. 

Indeed, some visa applications require you to have proof of a return ticket (or sworn promise that you will leave France) that is dated before the expiration of your visa. 

You do not need to wait 90 days to return to the Schengen zone as time spent in France on a visa (irregardless of what it is) does not count towards the 90/180-days allowance. 

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

However, whether you can use this allocation depends on whether you have visa-free access to the zone for short tourist trips. 

If you are from a country that requires a visa to visit France (or the EU) then you must apply for a new visa, even if you only wish to enter France for a few days. 

Citizens from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, and many others have visa-free access for short tourist trips, also known as a visa waiver.

Can I stay in France if my visa expires?

There is some debate whether you can stay on for a short while after the expiration of your visa. 

In 2022, the Direction générale de la police nationale, the national body for the police including border guards, told The Connexion that it was possible to use time from your 90/180 day allowance to remain in France after the expiry of a six-month visa.

This is because legally-speaking time in France on a visa is seen as separate to time under a visa waiver. 

Read more: Can we use the 90-day rule to extend stay after French visa runs out?

However, we note that advice from the French Embassy in Canberra for applicants for a working holiday visa (a one-year visa for young people) states “...if you want to stay in the Schengen space (for up to 90 days) at the expiry of your visa, you will have to leave France and the Schengen space and re-enter the Schengen as a tourist for (up to) 90 days within a six-month period.”

Doing so will allow for you to have your passport stamped at the border to make it clear you are starting to use your visa-free 90 days within the bloc as opposed to overstaying your original visa period, thus avoiding any confusion or need for explanations.

Read more: Visas for France 2024: is there an option for young workers?

If in doubt, then, it may be advisable to leave the Schengen area for a day or two (such as by visiting the UK) before returning to France, assuming you have visa-free access.

Be wary, however, about ‘tying up loose ends’ as you will at that point be in France strictly as a tourist and should not, with a few exceptions, be engaging in work-related activities.