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BREXIT

Reader question: How seriously does France enforce the 90-day rule?

Non-EU visitors to France - which since Brexit includes Brits - are restricted to stays of less than 90 days in every 180, unless they have a visa. But just how seriously does France enforce this rule?

Reader question: How seriously does France enforce the 90-day rule?
Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP

Question: I’ve read a lot about how the 90-day rule works for Brits since Brexit, but just how seriously does France enforce these rules? Is it worth taking the risk if you’re only a couple of days over?

The 90-day rule states that visitors who are not citizens of an EU country can only spend 90 days out of every 180 within the EU or Schengen zone. If they want to spend longer than that, they will need a visa.

Some non-EU citizens need a visa for a visit of any length, but Brits, Americans, Canadians, Australians and New-Zealanders all benefit from the 90 days of visa-free travel.

Find a full explanation on how the rules work  HERE.

The 90-day rule is an EU rule, with sanctions including fines, passport stamps and deportation for people who overstay their 90-day limit.

However, enforcement of the rule is left to each individual country, and there is some variation between countries on the sanctions they impose and how strict enforcement is.

READ ALSO Your questions answered on the 90-day rule

Here’s a look at the situation in France:

Refused entry

The latest data available via Eurostat shows that, in 2022, some 19,290 people were refused entry at a Schengen zone border due to having over-stayed their 90-day limit on a previous trip.

Just 170 of these were at the French border – Poland and Hungary between them accounted for the vast majority of refused entries. This refers to all non-EU nationalities. 

Fined or warned

However, this data refers to people who had already over-stayed and then tried to re-enter the EU/Schengen zone.

The more common scenario in France is that over-stays are spotted when people leave the country – passports are stamped on entry and exit and people who have been in the country for more than 90 days are often spotted by border guards as they leave.

Depending on the length of the over-stay, they can be fined, have their passports stamped as an over-stayer, or given a warning not to re-enter the country for at least the next 90 days. 

The Local has received numerous reports of people – mostly Britons – who were warned as they left the country that they were at or over their 90-day limit. 

We have also received information that some UK nationals were wrongly fined or warned because their passports had been stamped in error.

It seems likely that people who were warned took this seriously – the Eurostat data shows that only 195 British citizens were refused entry into European countries in 2022 because of the 90-day rule. Of these, just five were refused at the French border.

Eurostat does not have data on people fined or warned as they left the EU/Schengen zone. 

Changing attitudes

Pre-Brexit, France had earned itself a reputation for not being particularly strict on over-stayers, provided the over-stay wasn’t for very long and the person hadn’t been either working or claiming benefits while in France.

However, there have been numerous reports of border guards being more attentive to 90-day overstays since Brexit.

This can probably be accounted for by two things; volume of travel and type of visit.

Around 12million British visitors come to France each year, vastly out-numbering other non-EU visitors such as Americans, Canadians or Australians. Until Brexit, Britons were EU citizens so were not limited to 90 days, but now tighter enforcement procedures are in place for visitors from the UK.

The other difference is the type of visit. Typically people who are travelling a long way such as Americans or Australians pay fewer visits to France, but for a longer period. Therefore, an American tourist who had been doing a tour of Europe might end up over-staying their 90 days by a couple of days, but would then be leaving the country and would be unlikely to return that year (or ever) so French authorities saw it as less of a problem.

Brits, on the other hand, are more likely to do multiple short trips to France each year – and this is especially true for second-home owners who may pay several visits to their French property each year. 

For them overstaying is a more serious matter, since they will likely want to return to France. While outright re-entry bans of more than 90 days are rare – especially for people who have not been working illegally – having an overstay stamp in your passport is likely to cause delays and extra questions next time you want to cross a border. 

New technology 

One thing to be aware of is the EU’s new EES system, which introduces passport scans at the border for non-EU visitors and will automatically flag up overstayers.

While border guards will still have discretion over any penalties imposed, the new system will make it much easier to spot anyone over their 90-day limit.

The implementation of EES has been delayed several times but is currently scheduled for 2024, likely in the autumn or winter. 

READ ALSO What you need to know about the EU’s new EES and ETIAS systems

Member comments

  1. Lets not begin to talk about this
    How about French border guards asking for the following
    a return ticket
    evidence of enough money for the length of their stay
    proof of where they are staying

    the whole thing is a mess – either they have rules or they don’t
    this half and half thing just adds to the confusion

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For members

WORKING IN FRANCE

Do workers in France get paid for an extra day during leap years?

French workers are entitled to a lot of perks, but what about an extra day of payment during leap years?

Do workers in France get paid for an extra day during leap years?

This year is a leap year – or an année bissextile – meaning there are 366 days in the calendar instead of the usual 365.

Unfortunately, for most French workers, the extra day worked on February 29th will not translate to extra pay in their February pay packet.

In France, most employees (salariés) are paid on a monthly basis according to their yearly salary, as outlined in their work contract.

This means that your gross salary per month stays the same, regardless of the number of days in that month. 

In fact, this is the official policy of France’s ministry of labour.

In their page explaining ‘mensualisation’ (monthly payments), the ministry states that “in order to neutralise the consequences of the unequal distribution of days between the 12 months of the year, the French Labour Code provides for the payment each month of remuneration determined independently of the number of days in the month.”

Benefits such as unemployment benefits or family allowances are paid out on a monthly system too, which utilises the same principle of 12 equal payments throughout the year.

READ MORE: How to understand your French payslip

Any exceptions?

There are some people in France who may get a little extra during leap years. Full-time workers whose contracts specify payment by the hour will take home a little extra in February during a leap year versus a normal year, as they worked 29 days instead of 28.

Likewise freelance staff or contractors who are paid a day rate would get get extra.

There are, however, plenty of other perks to being a worker in France, including the 35-hour work week, subsidised travel expenses, at least 25 days of annual leave and restaurant meal vouchers.

READ MORE: 12 reasons to love working in France

Workers covered by the 35-hour week (which is by no means all employees in France, there are a lot of exceptions) can qualify for ‘RTT days’ which can almost double the standard annual holiday entitlement of 25 days.

Plus, French employees have the legal ‘right to disconnect’.

While it’s perfectly legal for your boss to phone or email you outside of working hours, you cannot be disciplined if you wait until working hours to respond to them.

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