What Happens If I Overstay My Visa in France?
In our articles, we regularly talk about the importance of making sure that temporary migrants to the UK never allow themselves to be considered over stayers. It is essential that anyone who has a French visa or leave which is due to expire takes appropriate action, either by applying for a renewal/extension of their existing visa, a different visa type, indefinite leave to remain (permanent residency), or making arrangements to leave the country. In the context of COVID-19, there are some legitimate reasons for overstaying, as we have explored in recent articles. For example, if you have been unable to travel home due to illness or travel restrictions, it may be possible to request protection from enforcement by the Home Office for a limited amount of period, allowing you time to make the necessary plans. But what are the rules in other countries when it comes to overstaying? In this article, we will explain what happens if you overstay in France or another country in the Schengen region.
Overstaying rules apply even if you are visa-exempt
If you are planning to stay in one of the following countries for up to 90 days in any 180-day period:
Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for travellers to France or other Schengen countries to inadvertently overstay, simply by miscalculating the number of days spent in any 180-day period. The overstaying rules still apply, however, whether you are exempt from needing a visa or not.
Electronic immigration systems have now made it easier than ever for authorities to track who is in their country legally or illegally. Databases store details of when people arrive at the border in France and the details of their visa, hence at any one time, they know who is overstaying.
What happens if I overstay my visa in France
The answer to this question very much depends on why you have become an over stayer in France. If you have stayed past your expiry date for a reason outside your control, such as COVID-19, it may be possible to apply for a visa extension. Article 33, paragraph 1 of the EU Community Code on Visas states, “The period of validity and/or the duration of stay of an issued visa shall be extended where the competent authority of a Member State considers that a visa holder has provided proof of force majeure or humanitarian reasons preventing him from leaving the territory of the Member States before the expiry of the period of validity of or the duration of stay authorised by the visa. Such an extension shall be granted free of charge”. Paragraph 2 also states, “The period of validity and/or the duration of stay of an issued visa may be extended if the visa holder provides proof of serious personal reasons justifying the extension of the period of validity or the duration of stay. A fee of EUR 30 shall be charged for such an extension”.
Readers may be familiar with the concept of ‘force majeure’ in law, which allows parties to avoid liability or obligation if something happens outside their control. The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example of this. As such, if you have been affected by COVID-19, either due to illness or you have been unable to travel home due to travel restrictions, you will have a strong case for requesting a visa extension on the basis of the force majeure clause in the Community Code on Visas. This would also be the case if your travel plans were affected due to flight cancellations or bad weather. The good news is that the force majeure clause can be used no matter which Schengen country you are located in.
If you are in France past the expiry date of your visa or the time you are permitted to stay without a valid excuse, you may face a penalty. Penalties include fines, removal, and future entry bans, and in most cases, overstaying will lead to problems when re-entering the Schengen region in the future (including longer checks and possible refusal of entry). The penalty will depend on the circumstances and the length of overstay. As such, if you have overstayed by a matter of a few days, it is more likely that a fine will be levied. Long periods of overstaying may result in deportation.
What should I do if I have overstayed my visa in France?
If you are in the position of overstaying in France, we recommend speaking to an immigration lawyer who will listen to your circumstances and outline your best available options. It is advisable to take action as soon as possible as it is more likely that a penalty can be avoided or at least minimised the shorter the time since the visa or permission expired. Some in this situation may be tempted to avoid contacting the authorities while they remain in France, however, any period of overstay will still be stored electronically due to not exiting the border on time. It is also highly possible that the local police or other authorities may find anyone who is overstaying when carrying out routine identity checks.
It cannot be overstated how important it is to take action if you have overstayed your immigration permission in France or any other country in the Schengen region. Whether you have a valid reason which falls under force majeure or not, by seeking advice and taking affirmative action, you will put yourself in the strongest possible legal situation. Electronic systems now mean it is impossible to hide or ignore the authorities in the hope of going undetected. Honesty is always the best policy.