French Members of Parliament have passed an immigration law that could potentially exempt British second-home owners from post-Brexit visa rules.
On 19 December 2023, French lawmakers approved a highly contested bill that toughens immigration regulations. This came after it was rejected and returned to be re-drafted and revised.
One provision re-introduced in the new immigration bill is an article that grants automatic long-stay visas to British second-home owners.
“The long-stay visa is issued automatically to British citizens owning a second home in France. They are therefore exempt from having to make an application for a long-stay visa,” an article of France’s newly-passed immigration law states.
It further read: “The conditions for how this will be applied will be clarified by a decree in the Conseil d’Etat.”
The provision for United Kingdom (UK) citizens who own properties in France was stricken from the bill before it reached the National Constituent Assembly for the first time.
MPs argued that owning property in France is insufficient grounds to justify the exemption from visa requirements. It could also be seen as favoring a group of people due to their financial situation.
Other provisions in France’s new immigration legislation include, among others, imposing stricter benefits rules, especially for non-working foreigners, tougher conditions for family reunification, and restrictions on residency permit applications.
What it means for British homeowners in France
France’s newly-passed immigration bill is potentially great news for UK citizens who own properties in France.
British citizens bought properties in France before the UK decided to leave the European Union (EU) or Brexit.
However, after the UK left the EU, they could only stay in their French homes for less than 90 days or three months in any 180-day period.
They also could not visit other EU countries once they’ve already spent 90 days in their own French home. This is following the EU’s policies on visiting third-country nationals.
UK citizens must apply for a visa or residence permit to stay longer in their French residences or visit other countries in the Schengen Area.
On the other hand, UK travel rules allow all visitors from EU countries to visit for up to six months without a visa.
With France’s new immigration bill passed into law, British homeowners may not need to go through visa formalities. These prove to be lengthy, complicated, and tasking procedures.
What’s next after passing the bill?
The change, as outlined in the bill, would essentially return British second-home owners to pre-Brexit rules, explains The Local.
However, while the French parliament has passed the law, it still has several steps to go before becoming law.
First, it must be submitted to the constitutional council to ensure compliance with the French constitution.
It will then move on to the State Council to clarify how the exemption will be applied.
Either of these bodies could reject the motion, citing concerns about EU law or the French constitution.
Still, assuming everything goes as planned, the bill is expected to come into effect in 2024.
Possible complications for British property owners in France
France can set its own visa and residency permit rules, but changing the 90-day rule could influence other EU countries.
To amend an EU policy, such as the 90-day rule, all member states must vote to modify it.
It is also unclear how British citizens who own a second home in France would prove their exemption from visa regulations upon arriving at the border.
The French MPs also didn’t specify what documents would stand as proof of UK citizenship or property ownership in France.
The new law could also be particularly complicated with the introduction of the EU’s new border control Entry/Exit System in October 2024.
It could also be affected by the EU’s upcoming electronic travel permit, the European Travel and Information Authorization System (ETIAS). This is set to roll out in mid-2025.
UK and France ties
Due to the proximity of the two nations, the UK and France have a unique relationship.
British citizens own 86,000 properties in France, according to France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee).
A survey conducted by Connexion found that many of the 1,300 British homeowners spend approximately €3,000 per month in France.
British second-home owners in France have also expressed a desire to visit their French residence more frequently. Before Brexit, they typically spent half a year in France.
In December 2023, the UK government reversed its post-Brexit travel rules to allow students on French school trips to visit with their national ID cards.
Non-EU students crossing the UK-French border will not require visit visas but must still have their passports.
The decision came after the number of UK educational visits drastically decreased, affecting the economy.