For members


Reader question: Will France bring in a visa for second-home owners?

From petitions to parliamentary requests, second-home owners in France have long been pushing for the creation of a special visa to allow unlimited visits for those who own property here - but how likely is this?

Reader question: Will France bring in a visa for second-home owners?

Question: I hear that a French Senator is raising the possibility of a special visa for second-home owners – is this likely to become law?

Senator Corinne Imbert, of the centre-right Les Républicains party, has indeed submitted an amendment to the new Immigration Law, bringing in a new visa for second-home owners who live outside the EU, proposing a five-year visa that would allow visits of up to six months at a time.

However, this is a very long way from being a done deal – the first reading of the Immigration Bill has just been postponed until at least September, as it is judged too contentious to bring before parliament now, and it’s far from certain that it will pass the first stage of debate in the Assemblée nationale, the lower house of parliament.

Senators have the right to bring amendments to bills that pass before them, but even if Imbert can persuade her colleagues in the Senate to support it, the government has the final say on any bill.

EXPLAINED How does the French Senate work?

This is not the first time that a special visa for second-home owners has been proposed, so even if Imbert’s amendment fails – what is the likelihood of this eventually becoming law?

Visas v 90 days

At present, people are not citizens of an EU country and who own property in France have two choices; limit their visits to 90 days in every 180 or apply for a short-stay visitor visa.

EXPLAINED How does the 90-day rule work?

The visa allows unlimited stays (although people need to be aware that their tax status can change if they are out of their home country for a significant period of the year) but only lasts six months, so second-home owners need to reapply every year.

Many second-home owners have told us that the visa application process – especially dealing with TLS Contact centres – is time-consuming and stressful. 

Second-home visa

The limits on visits affect all non-EU second-home owners, but the campaign for a special visa has picked up since Brexit, as thousands of British second-home owners suddenly found themselves limited in how long their can visit their properties – there have been several petitions and campaigns to both French and EU authorities on this issue.

The exact proposals vary, but most suggestions are for a long-term visa – lasting around five years – that allows people who own property in France to come and go as they wish during that period.

Others are pushing for a change to the 90-day rule to allow visits of up to 180 days. The 90-day rule allows people to visit without a visa for a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period. This affects, for example, people who like to spend the winter in the UK and the summer in France, or vice versa, as once their 90-day limit is reached, they have to wait a while for it to build-up again.

The UK uses the 180 day rule – allowing visa free visits of up to 180 days per year, with no limits of how you arrange those days – and some people are calling for France to switch to this system. 

UK-France deal?

In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum, big issues like trade took centre stage, while citizens’ rights was focused on allowing Brits in the EU (and EU citizens in the UK) to stay in the place they called home.

Then came the Boris Johnson years (and the Liz Truss weeks) when relations between France and the UK sunk to a historic low and it seemed that agreement on anything was virtually impossible.

However, since Rishi Sunak took over as UK prime minister relations have improved – at a recent summit in France he and Emmanuel Macron announced a special provision for school trips to the UK that would lift some of the administrative burden – although exact details are still to be revealed.

So with this new, more positive relationship, is a deal likely for second-home owners?

EU rules

Ultimately, the problem is that the 90-day rule is an EU rule, not a French one – so anything that France does potentially affects other countries in the EU by setting a precedent. 

We spoke to former British ambassador to the UK, and current member of the House of Lords, Lord Peter Ricketts for some expert opinion.

He told us: “I think the Macron-Sunak summit was a start, yes, the beginning of a bit of an easing up.

“But it’s the start of the UK and France trying to find limited areas where they can make improvements that will aid people’s lives, without setting a precedent for the rest of the EU.

“I think the French are walking a bit of a tightrope because they are equally aware that in some areas what they do will set a precedent for other EU countries and they are being careful not to make concessions to the UK, effectively, in areas that could then involve other EU countries having to do the same thing.

He added: “I think school trips was chosen [for an announcement at the Macron-Sunak summit] because it is a sector that was hit particularly hard by Brexit, but also because it’s something that only really affects France and the UK.

“The market is not entirely, but very largely between the UK and France – coach parties going back and forth – so that’s an area in which France can do a deal without getting across other EU countries.”

A deal specifically for British second-home owners could also create a precedent for other non-EU nations such as the USA, Canada and Australia to request similar deals for their citizens. 

For more information on how the current system works, and how to get a visa, head to our second-homes section or visa page.

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For members


Americans in France: Estate planning, cider and a trick to speed up French admin

From France's apple delicacies to inheritance taxes and estate planning via handy admin shortcuts, here's our latest newsletter for Americans who either live in France, visit frequently or plan to move here some day.

Americans in France: Estate planning, cider and a trick to speed up French admin

Welcome to The Local’s “Americans in France” monthly newsletter for members, featuring all the news and practical information you need as an American resident, visitor or second-home owner in France. You can sign up to receive it directly to your inbox before we publish it online via the link below.

Dear Americans in France,

I hope this newsletter finds you well and enjoying the beginnings of autumn. Here in Paris, the leaves are already starting to fall and the weather is a bit more brisk. In my home growing up, homemade apple cider and apple pie marked the beginning of fall.

Since moving to France, I’ve fallen in love with fresh-baked tarte tatin and drinking my Breton cidre in a bowl, as tradition dictates. (Apologies to those in Normandy, I have to side with Brittany on this regional rivalry).

As this newsletter is intended to answer the specific questions and concerns of Americans in France, we leave active a survey that you can fill out to tell us which stories you would like to see prioritised. You can fill it out here.

Last month, Jeffrey Weihl in the Gard département asked us a question I hear often from Americans, particularly those who are retired: “How do I best do estate planning to protect my US and French assets from taxation?”

Specifically, Wiehl was wondering how to approach a US-based living trust. I spoke with several experts in tax and family law attorneys based in both France and the United States to figure out what Americans in France need to know about trusts.

The brief answer, according to US-based attorney, G. Warren Whitaker, is that “trusts have a negative reputation in France.” As such, they can lead to burdensome reporting requirements and high rates of taxation once distributed. Whitaker did have some advice for how to go about reporting and what to do if you have a trust set up in the US.

On a general level, estate planning for Americans residing in France can be more complicated than you might expect. Many people conflate inheritance law with inheritance tax, and this can lead to unfortunate surprises down the line.

As for other helpful tips for Americans in France, Mary Sankey, who lives in the Herault département, gave us some helpful advice for those who have just moved or are looking to move: “Begin the “dossier preparation” as early as possible, preferably before you even arrive in France. Get a French bank account as soon as possible. Assume EVERYTHING will take way longer than you expect – be patient.” 

Americans are often surprised by how slowly administrative processes can go in France, but I am happy to let you in on one of France’s best-kept secrets: the ‘attestation’. This document helped me out a lot when I was setting up a bank account and did not have a permanent address yet, and it might be handy for you as well.

As always, feel free to get in touch or leave a comment. You can reach me at [email protected]