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TRAVEL NEWS

Reader question: Does the UK border strike affect ferries, trains and the Channel Tunnel?

Coverage of a planned strike by British border force staff has focused on expected chaos at airports - but what about other methods of travel from France to the UK?

Reader question: Does the UK border strike affect ferries, trains and the Channel Tunnel?
Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP

Question: The news coverage of the planned strike over Christmas by UK border staff is all focused on airports – but won’t it also affect people travelling by ferry, train or on the Channel Tunnel?

The planned strike by members of the Public and Commercial Services Union is heavily focused on airports, with predictions of queues of up to 10 hours at the border, and flight cancellations.

Other transport methods are less affected, although the port of Newhaven is likely to be impacted as well.

Here’s what the PCS strike notice says: “PCS members employed by the Home Office on passport control will take action at London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow airports on December 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st [December 27th is not included].

“Members will also strike at the port of Newhaven on the same dates.”

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about how strikes will affect France-UK travel this Christmas

This will affect arrivals on the ferry into the port of Newhaven – from where a ferry service runs to Dieppe in France.

Anyone who is booked on a Dieppe-Newhaven crossing around these dates should check with their operator for any changes.

According to the current strike notice, border force officials working at other British ports including Dover, Portsmouth and Plymouth will not take part in the strike action, nor will staff at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Folkestone.

British border officials also work in the French port of Calais and at the Eurostar terminal in Gare du Nord – they have so far not indicated that they will strike. However, anyone who is booked on the Eurostar should be aware that Eurostar’s UK security staff have filed a strike notice for over the Christmas period.

Christmas travel to France: What you need to know about strikes, services and prices

British border forces bosses had warned of a ‘nightmare’ at Channel ports, especially for trucker, in the run-up to the action, but the strike notice as filed on Wednesday concerns only airports and Newhaven ferry port.

However, the prospect of heavier-than-normal traffic as travellers find alternative routes to and from Europe could lead to further delays at ports and on tunnel services.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The government can stop these strikes tomorrow if it puts money on the table. 

“Like so many workers, our members are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. They are desperate. They are being told there is no money for them, while they watch ministers giving out government contracts worth billions of pounds to their mates.” 

As ever, things can change quickly with strike action, you can find all the latest in our strike section HERE.

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For members

PROPERTY

What restrictions are there on foreigners buying property in France?

Purchasing property in France as a foreigner has several extra hurdles - here's a look at some of the restrictions and other challenges you will want to be aware of beforehand.

What restrictions are there on foreigners buying property in France?

There are several things to consider before buying property in France. You may want to visit the area during different seasons to be sure that you enjoy it rain or shine, and you will want to consider how much you would end up paying in property taxes, as well as whether or not it will be a main residence or second home.

The law

Let’s start with the good news – there are no official rules in France against non French-citizens purchasing property, neither is there any requirement to be resident in the country in order to buy property – indeed foreign second-home owners make up a small but significant slice of the property market.

Revealed: Where in France do foreigners buy second homes

But in practice there are a number of challenges foreigners face when buying French property, especially if they need a mortgage.

Property sale process

Before making your decision, learn the steps to buying property in France and the expected timeline.

Roughly, there are five steps: making your offer, a cool-off period, signing a ‘Compromis de Vente‘, providing the notary (notaire) with your deposit, and signing the ‘Acte Authentique de Vente‘ (deed).

READ MORE: How long does it normally take in France to buy a property?

The French property purchase system is likely to be different to what you are used to – especially the role of the notaire.

Also Americans might be surprised to learn that in contrast to the US system of having a realtor who guides you through the entire process, in France – as in most of Europe – buyers are expected to do much work of the house-hunting work themselves.

Bureaucracy

There are a few extra steps added if you need a mortgage, but generally all foreign buyers should be prepared to have a valid ID (passport), as well as other documents including your marriage and/or divorce papers (to demonstrate your civil status).

At some point in the process, you will need to open a French bank account, even if that ends up just being for utilities after you’ve made the purchase. The earlier you can open a French bank account, the better.

You should know that purchasing property in France does not automatically give you residency rights. If you are not an EU citizen, then you will need a residency card or visa to spend extended time in France.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

Getting a mortgage

While there are no laws stopping foreigners from buying property in France for most people the biggest obstacle is getting a mortgage, as there are conditions that many foreigners cannot fulfil.

In France, the vast majority of loans are guaranteed by banks, and one bank’s offer to you may not be the same as another’s. You are free to contact several banks to find the best offer for your situation.

READ MORE: French property: How to get a mortgage in France

While there are alternative options besides banks, such as a ‘vendor loan’ (prêt vendeur) – where one sets up a credit contract directly with the seller of the property via a notary – this is much less common.

The biggest issue is that banks will require that foreigners prove that they will be able to legally remain in France for the entirety of the repayment period. As such, it can be very challenging those on short-term residency cards, to be accepted for a mortgage loan.

For the same reason, it is very difficult for non-residents to get a mortgage via a French bank.

Foreigners can also consider international options, or independent, specialised mortgage brokers, like those geared toward expats – however some have minimum income levels and minimum property purchase prices.

Another point to keep in mind is the fact that French banks also look favourably on ‘stable’ employment statuses, such as CDI (indefinite) work contracts, which, by their calculation, reduce risk of unemployment. It’s not impossible to get a mortgage if you are self-employed, but it’s harder.

Additionally, age can be a factor – lenders tend to be less likely to award mortgages to those nearing or above retirement age.

Americans – The situation is even more challenging for Americans in France, as banks can be reticent about working with Americans due to FATCA – which, according to the US dept of treasury, requires that “foreign financial institutions (FFIs) report to the IRS information about financial accounts held by US taxpayers, or by foreign entities in which U.S. taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest.”

This has forces French banks to collect and maintain more information about their American customers. If the banks fail to disclose information to the IRS, they risk exclusion from the US market as well as penalties.

In a survey about the effects of citizenship-based taxation on Americans in France, one respondent said: “Multiple banks have denied me a mortgage because I am American.

“We used the services of a mortgage broker and when we went in for the final presentation a few weeks ago, only one out of the many banks queried offered us a mortgage, and it wasn’t even a good offer.”

READ MORE: Divorce, stress and fines: How citizenship-based taxation affects Americans in France

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