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What Impact Does Brexit Have On British Second Homeowners In France?

For decades, France has held a strong allure for British people. Many have purchased a property in their own piece of paradise, either as a holiday home or permanent abode. Indeed, as of 2020, it is estimated that around 200,000 Brits own a holiday home in France. For now, British nationals have been entirely free to live and work in France for as long as they choose by exercising their EU treaty rights of free movement. But as we are no longer a member state of the EU, and the transitional arrangement which has maintained the status quo ends on 1st January 2021, many French holiday homeowners are desperate to understand how Brexit will impact them. In this article, we will discuss what we know so far about how Brits with French holiday homes will be affected from an immigration standpoint.

As a British national, will I Need a Visa to visit France from 1st January 2021?

This depends on how long you plan to visit France for – a short stay of 90 days or less, or a long stay of more than 90 days.

Visiting your holiday home for a short-stay

If you plan to visit for 90 days or less, you will be able to travel without first applying for a visa. This applies to all countries which are in the Schengen area, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Regulation (EU) No 610/2013 states that third-country nationals intending to stay in the Schengen area can do so for "90 days in any 180-day period…the date of entry shall be considered as the first day of stay on the territory of the Member States and the date of exit shall be considered as the last day of stay on the territory of the Member States".

In theory, this means that you could visit your French holiday home for 180 days in a 360 day period – i.e. six months in one year. The Schengen rules explain that the 180-day period keeps rolling; "Therefore, anytime you wish to enter the Schengen, you just have to count backward the last 180 days, and see if you have been present in the Schengen for more than 90 days throughout that period". If you are unsure, there is a Schengen calculator available online which allows you to add every trip you have had to the Schengen area (it requires all entry and exit dates, durations, and last day of stay) to work out if you are over or under the allowance. Remember also, you will be permitted to travel between any of the Schengen countries. Hence if you plan to visit neighbouring European countries, you can do so, but the total time spent in these countries will count towards your 90-day allowance.

The UK Home Office recommends that you carry the following with you when entering a Schengen country such as France:

  • a return or onward ticket
  • proof you have enough money for your stay

You may also need to use separate lanes from EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens when queueing.

Visiting your holiday home for a long-stay

If you need to spend longer in France than the Schengen scheme will allow, then you will need to consider applying for a "visa long séjour visiteur". This will allow you to stay in France for over 90 days but only up to one year. In order to apply for this visa, you will need to show that you have suitable accommodation, travel insurance, and sufficient funds for your stay. Under this visa, you will be restricted from working. You will need to apply for and receive your visa before you travel to France as this cannot be acquired at the border.

Alternatively, if you plan to move to France on a permanent basis, as long as you arrive before the end of 2020, you have until the end of June 2021 to apply for permanent residency (rather like the EU Settlement Scheme in the UK). This will also mean you will need to register with the French health system and file your taxes in France.

Will I Still be Able to Access Healthcare in France While Visiting my Holiday Home?

British nationals will no longer be able to use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) system from 1st January 2021. If you are a full-time resident in France, then you will be able to register to use the health system, however, this is not free. As the Home Office website explains, healthcare costs in France are covered by both the state and through patient contributions (co-payments); "You may have to pay upfront for some treatment. The French national insurance fund, Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie (CPAM), will then repay you for part of the costs later. At the moment, UK nationals usually access the French healthcare system in one of these ways:

  • making French social security contributions through their employer or as a self-employed person
  • registering a UK-issued S1 form with the local CPAM office”.

If you are not a permanent resident, you will need to carry comprehensive medical insurance to cover your time in France.

Final words

The amount of time that Brits can spend in France and their ability to access free healthcare are just two of the changes which be experienced from 1st January 2021. For example, we will no longer be a party to the EU pet passport scheme, meaning that there will be a long process to take pets to holiday homes. You will also not be able to work or study without applying for a visa to do so. Much is still to be worked out, however, due to the ongoing negotiations between the UK and EU. We will keep you posted as events unfold.

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