Can we spend half the year at our holiday home in France under Brexit rules?
PUBLISHED: 12:50 29 January 2021 | UPDATED: 12:23 30 April 2021
Second home owners who want to spend more than three months at a time at their French properties will now need to apply for long-stay visas
Now that the UK is a non-EU country, British tourists can spend no more than 90 days in any 180-day period inside the Schengen Zone (which includes France) visa-free. To work this out, consider the dates you plan to spend in France. No 180-day period, no matter when the start date and how many trips you make, can include more than 90 days in the Schengen area without a visa. A number of short-stay calculators have sprung up online to help you calculate this.
The allowance is equivalent to 180 days (six months) a year visa-free, the same for EU citizens visiting the UK. However, the latter are permitted to spend their 180 days however they choose, including all in one go, whereas Brits can spend no more than three months at a time in France. This restriction applies even if you have an EU spouse.
It is possible to stay longer than three months at a time in France, but you will need to apply for a long-stay visa. Outstaying your welcome without one could result in deportation, a fine, an entry ban or difficulty acquiring a visa in the future.
A campaign group called 180 Days in France has drafted a standard letter that second home owners can send to their relevant French MP (deputé) calling for a better solution.
Failing a new pan-EU agreement, the group is appealing for a bilateral agreement between France and the UK making it quick and easy for owners of second homes to get visas allowing them to stay in France for up to six months at a time.
The standard letter says: “Given that the owners of these homes are already known to the French authorities through payment of the taxe d’habitation and taxe foncière, is it possible to award second homeowners a visa for a period of between four to six months so long as local residency rules are respected?”
In the meantime, Britons wishing to spend longer than three months at a time in France must go through the existing long-stay visa application process.
The cost is €99 per adult and the process should take about three weeks, involving a trip to an official visa centre in London, Manchester or Edinburgh. Here you will need to show that your passport is valid at least three months beyond the visa expiry date and prove you can financially support yourself during your visit, have somewhere to stay and have adequate health insurance. The visa can then be sent in the post or you can collect it.
There are two relevant long-stay visas for visitors: the VLS-T and the VLS-TS.
The visa de long séjour temporaire or VLS-T Visiteur is for people who want to stay for between three and six months. This is most relevant for second homeowners who want an extended stay at their French holiday home, in which case they should choose the Visiteur (visitor) category and promise not to engage in any work during their stay. It is not renewable in France so you must leave when it runs out. Note that, if you stay in France for less than six months on this visa, after 90 days back in the UK, you should be able to return to France (or another Schengen country) for the rest of your annual 180-day quota. For example, if you use the long-stay visa to spend 120 days (about four months) in France, then after returning to the UK for 90 days, you should be able to return to France for another 60 days.
The visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour or VLS-TS is for people who want to stay for up to a year. Equivalent to a residency permit, this is most relevant for people who intend to move to France permanently.
For more information see our article on How to apply for a visa to stay in France for longer than three months at a time