‘We must help ease 90/180 rule for owners of French second-homes’

Senator from Savoie calls for your feedback on why more flexibility would benefit France

French Senator Martine Berthet of Les Républi­cains told The Connexion that any legal change would have more chance of success if restricted to Britons

Another senator has joined calls for more flexibility for foreign second-home owners to visit France – but she believes the idea has more chance of success if restricted to Britons.

This is because many bought properties before 2016, believing they could visit for up to six months at a time without a visa, but Brexit changed this.

Other non-EU nationals knew the visiting restrictions at the time of purchase.

Read more: More French senators and MPs back plan for second-home owner visas

Forthcoming Immigration Law could include amendment

Martine Berthet (right-wing Les Républi­cains) told The Connexion she is sympathetic to complaints about loss of flexibility now owners are subject to the ordinary EU rule of visiting for no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.

She is in favour of using an amendment to the forthcoming French Immigration Law, as proposed by Charente-Maritime senator Corinne Imbert, after we shared ideas from the France Visa Free campaign group with her.

Ms Imbert has backed the solution of a special five-year visa for all nationality second-home owners, allowing visits of up to six months per calendar year.

Read more: Give second home owners in France a special visa, says senator

However, Ms Berthet thinks focusing on ‘Brexit consequences’ and Britons might be more effective.

Focus on Britons and impact of Brexit

“A lot of Britons are penalised by the 90/180-day rule, even though they did not vote for Brexit,” Ms Berthet said.

“So, I believe we could correct some of the effects and that it may be more understood if we have an amendment for them, rather than widening the scope too much.

“At the moment, the tendency is for parties to be talking about restric­ting immigration, so I fear widening it might be counterproductive.”

She said she will consult with the bill’s rapporteur (senator in charge of the bill) and other colleagues in the Senate’s laws and foreign affairs commissions about the most viable approach.

France governs own immigration laws

The Immi­gra­tion Law was due to be debated this spring but was delayed. It is now likely to be deferred again to the autumn due to the volume of bills to be debated, Ms Berthet said.

It already includes a proposal for new residency cards for under-pressure work sectors.

France can do this as it governs its own immigration rules.

Campaign group proposes several solutions

Apart from a five-year visa, the France Visa Free group has also argued for a ‘visa waiver’ for all Britons for six months, equivalent to the rights EU citizens have now when visiting the UK. Senator Berthet raised this disparity in a letter to the French government last year but said she doubted that such a waiver, just for France, would happen.

Many Britons report that having to apply for a temporary long-stay visa for every visit longer than 90 days is an expensive and complex process, involving an appointment with French consulate contractors TLS-Contact and taking paperwork to one of its three UK offices.

Many have spoken of difficulties in simply obtaining an appointment slot.

If wider-ranging solutions prove unattainable, a simplified renewal would help.

Senator requests information from second-home owners

Mrs Berthet said “we must do something to simplify things” and “we must do something to make their [British second-home owners’] residency conditions more flexible”.

She said she often sees British cars and knows there are many second-home owners in her area (Savoie).

The winter season runs from mid-December to April in many resorts favoured by Britons, such as Méribel, Les Arcs, Courchevel or Val d’Isère.

The resorts also often welcome summer visitors from mid-June to mid-September, she said – “so, a good seven months of the year”.

Ms Berthet agreed it can only be positive for France if second-home owners spend more time in the country – they pay their property taxes and support local firms but do not rely on French healthcare or benefits.

She said it would be useful if readers provide feedback, such as how much money they estimate they spend in France per month when here, how much longer they would spend a year if the 90-day issue was eased, and how they contribute to the life of the French communes where their homes are.

We have created a Google form to help people provide such feedback, either with their names or anonymously, which will be passed on to the senator:

Anyone wanting to write to French MPs or senators can find their contact details, including emails, here:

Find my French senator

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