Can we spend half the year at our holiday home in France under Brexit rules?

You need a visa to visit France for more than three months at a time (c) RolfSt Getty Images

You need a visa to visit France for more than three months at a time (c) RolfSt Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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 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.

Outstaying your welcome could result in deportation, a fine, an entry ban or difficulty acquiring a visa in the future.

The new restrictions have dismayed French property owners Anthony and Janine Marfleet. The Kent couple usually spend May to October at their home in Var, pumping thousands of euros a year into the French economy via taxes, service charges, utilities and living expenses. They have written to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von de Leyen as well as the French president and their local mayor, calling upon them to reconsider the “inequitable” restriction.

“We have a considerable investment in France and whilst we will continue to pay the cost of ownership, France will lose out financially if we are restricted to just 90 days in 180 days due to the new rules,” they wrote. “Surely this is Europe cutting off its ear to spite its face – much like Vincent van Gogh!”

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Meanwhile, 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 easier 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 as a tourist will need to apply for a long-stay visa.

At the time of writing, you cannot lodge an application due to Covid restrictions. However, in normal times, the cost is thought to be around €99 per adult and the process should take about three weeks, involving a trip to the French consular office 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 tourists. The visa de long séjour temporaire (visiteur) or VLS-T Visiteur is for people who want to stay for between three and six months. It is not renewable in France so you must leave when it runs out. The visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour (visiteur) or VLS-TS Visiteur is for people who want to stay for up to a year. This is renewable at a prefecture in France, although this may then raise questions concerning your residency, which then has tax implications.

For more information and to apply visit france-visas.gouv.fr.