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TRAVEL NEWS

Do post-Brexit travel rules apply to Brits living in France?

Travel for Brits is more complicated since Brexit, but are you exempt from the extra restrictions if you live in France? Whether you're visiting the UK or travelling within the EU, here are the rules that apply to you.

Do post-Brexit travel rules apply to Brits living in France?
If you're a resident of France, some travel rules are different for you. Photo by Sem van der Wal / ANP / AFP

Brits living in France were among the first to become aware of the new post-Brexit realities as they needed to get the carte de séjour residency card and take various other steps to secure their legal residency here.

But while having the carte de séjour exempts you from certain travel requirements, others still apply. 

Brits who have taken French citizenship or have the passport of another EU country such as Ireland can continue to travel as before, while non-residents of France (eg tourists, second-home owners and other visitors) can find details on their travel rules HERE.

For the rest, here’s a breakdown of whether the rules apply to you or not;

Passport validity – YES. Your UK passport of course remains a valid travel document, but it must have at least three months validity left in order to travel. Some transport operators were initially asking for six months validity, that seems to have been largely corrected now, but make sure to check before travelling.

Passport stamping – NO. Brits who are not resident in France, and don’t have a visa, will have their passports stamped on entry and exit of the EU.

Brits who are resident should always show their carte de séjour alongside their passport to avoid being stamped. There have been multiple reports of passports for carte de séjour holders being incorrectly stamped by French officials who appeared not to know the rules – this is what to do if this happens to you.

90 day rule – YES and NO. Non-EU citizens can spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa. Obviously the 90-day limit does not apply to time spent in France if you are a resident, which is why your passport does not need to be stamped.

The 90-day rule does, however, apply to all other EU or Schengen one countries, so once you leave France and head into, say, Belgium the clock starts ticking. In practice passport checks within the Schengen zone are quite rare, but you need to be aware of the limit if you spend a significant amount of time in EU/Schengen countries other than France.

When travelling within the Schengen zone, you should always take your passport and carte de séjour, just in case you are checked at the border.

Minimum cash requirement – NO. Non-EU nationals who are visiting France can be asked for a number of extra documents, including proof of accommodation and proof of having a certain amount of money for each day of their stay.

You will not be asked these questions if you are a resident in France, although you may be asked for proof of financial means when applying for a visa or residency card.

Registering British guests at the mairie – MAYBE. If you have guests coming to visit from the UK, you are technically required to go to your local mairie and obtain the form known as the attestation d’acceuil.

The form is for your guests to show at the border, there is no checking done on you as the host. In practice, border guards seem to rarely check this, and there is an alternative for your guests if they do not have the form.

Health insurance – NO. Non-EU nationals may be asked to prove they have sufficient health cover while staying in France, but if you are resident in France you are entitled to register in the French health system and get the carte vitale.

If you are travelling outside France, you will need the CEAM (Carte européenne d’assurance maladie) which will ensure healthcare costs are covered if you get sick or have an accident while travelling within the EU or Schengen zone.

These aren’t sent out automatically, you need to order one and they are only valid for two years. You can order the card or a replacement through your Ameli account, or by visiting your local CPAM offices.

Data roaming – NO. If you have a French-registered phone then you are covered by EU data roaming rules that prohibit excessive charges when travelling within the EU.

Once you’re outside the EU then it depends on the country you are travelling to, but your provider must warn you if you are running up excessive bills through roaming charges, so you will get a text message warning.

If your phone is still registered in the UK then take care with roaming charges, as many British operators are re-introducing them now that they are no longer constrained by the EU charges cap.

Pet passports – NO. If you live in France then your vet can issue you an EU Pet Passport for your cats, dogs and ferrets, which makes travel both within the EU and between France and the UK simple. You will not need the new Animal Health Certificate that is now mandatory for UK residents, but if your pet has an old UK-issued EU passport you will need to update it to a French one.

Food restrictions – YES. If you’re coming from the UK to France there is a long list of foods that you cannot bring with you, so gone are the days of bringing back some ‘proper’ bacon, Cheddar cheese or one of your mum’s home-made cakes after a trip to the UK.

If you’re going the other way, though, there are no such restrictions as the UK has delaying implementing its own checks, so you’re free to bring gifts of French sausage and smelly cheese to your friends and relatives in the UK.

Alcohol limits – YES. You can bring a few bottles of a choice French vintage to the UK with you, but the days of filling up the car with booze at the Calais warehouses are over since the introduction of new alcohol limits at the British end. As a French resident, you unfortunately don’t benefit from the duty-free prices either.

Extra queues – YES. This isn’t a rule per se, but an unfortunate consequence of all of the above, as numerous passengers have reported longer-than-usual queues at ports, stations and terminals this summer. Make sure you arrive in good time.

When entering France you will also need to join the ‘non EU’ passport queue, which is usually longer.

There is discussion in some countries of allowing permanent residents to use the EU passport queue, but it’s only an idea at this stage so unfortunately you remain stuck in the long queue with the tourists. 

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Why does secular France have Catholic holidays?

You might not have thought about it too much as you enjoyed an extra day off work, but it is perhaps unexpected that France - proudly secular since 1905 - has so many public holidays based around Catholic festivals.

Reader question: Why does secular France have Catholic holidays?

Reader question: Why does France have Catholic holidays like Ascension, Assumption and Toussaints? I thought it was supposed to be a secular republic?

The French Republic is very proud of its secular principles but yet as some readers observed, many public holidays are linked to Catholic celebrations, a reminder of its religious history.

Roughly half of the public holidays in France represent Catholic events: Easter, Ascension (May 26th), Assumption (August 15th), Pentecost (for some people), All Saints’ day (November 1st) and of course Christmas.

If you live in Alsace-Moselle (formerly Alsace-Lorraine) you get two extra holidays, both religious ones – Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) and St Stephen’s Day (December 26th) – more on why that is later.

France’s secular stance takes its roots in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 but was formally codified into law in 1905. 

France does not recognise, pay or subsidise any religion. So French local and national governments are not allowed to finance churches, mosques, synagogues or temples, and religious symbolism is not allowed in State buildings or for representatives of the State.

It is these rules that mean that, for example, French primary schools don’t perform nativity plays at Christmas and French female police officers are not permitted to wear the Muslim headscarf while on duty.

EXPLAINED What does France’s secularism really mean?

The flip side of this is that freedom of worship is also protected in the 1905 law, and everyone is allowed to practice whatever religion they choose in their private life.

The only exception to the secular rules are the three departments of Alsace-Moselle. When the 1905 law was passed the region was part of Germany and only became French again at the end of World War I. As part of the compromise agreed, today bishops, priests, rabbis and pastors have the status of civil servants and the state pays for the maintenance of religious buildings. Religious education in public schools is also preserved.

So all that seems to pretty strongly suggest that Catholic festivals should play no part in France’s holiday calendar and only the secular events – such as the Fête nationale on July 14th or VE Day on May 8th – should remain.

However, by the time secularism was formally codified into law in 1905 there was already a fairly fixed calendar of holidays and festivals – although this had already been slimmed down under the Napoleonic government in 1802 – and suddenly axing popular festivals was likely to go down pretty badly with the population at large.

Essentially then, this was a pragmatic compromise between tradition and secularism and over the years politicians have been understandably reluctant to tell the French they must lose their holidays.

But it’s noticeable that all the religious festivals in the calendar are Christian ones, and while this may reflect France’s history it’s not so representative of the current demographics, where an estimated 10 percent of the population either practice the Muslim faith or have a Muslim family background.

So could we see a scenario when we knock Ascension on the head but make Eid a public holiday?

It’s theoretically possible – in 2015 the French parliament voted through an amendment that would allow the départments of France’s Overseas Territories (Martinique, Gaudeloupe, Mayotte, Réunion and French Guiana) to switch a Catholic bank holiday for another religious celebration to suit different faiths in the local population.

However none of the overseas départements has yet made that move. 

A fresh amendment would be required to make the same move in mainland France, and there appears to be little political appetite for that at present.

What are France’s public holidays? 

  • January 1st: New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Monday, only a holiday in Alsace-Lorraine)
  • Easter Monday (movable date)
  • May 1st: May Day
  • May 8th: VE Day
  • May 26th: Ascension Day
  • Pentecost (movable date and no longer an official holiday)
  • July 14th – Bastille Day
  • August 15th – Assumption
  • November 1st – All Saints
  • November 11th – Armistice Day
  • December 25th – Christmas
  • December 26th – St Stephen’s Day (only a holiday in Alsace-Lorraine)
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