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What France´s - `non´ - means for British second home buyers

The French council has slapped down the bill allowing UK citizens to stay up to six months visa - free.

The Sunday Times

Britons who own property in France have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions in recent weeks. In late December the French parliament passed an immigration bill allowing Britons to stay in France for six months without requiring a visa, a decision greeted with jubilation by many in the UK. Their joy was short-lived, however. That decision was overturned this week by France’s Constitutional Council.

“When I heard the news on Thursday evening, obviously my initial feeling was one of huge disappointment,” says Christopher David from Cardiff, who owns a property in Angoulême, southwest France. “I was 50-50 on which way the decision would go, but we were heartened by the efforts of the French senator Martine Berthet who tabled the amendment in parliament, and optimism had been growing.”


David is a semi-retired businessman who bought his French home in 2011. At that time there was free movement between the UK and France, allowing him and his partner, Jane, to come and go at will. Since Brexit they can spend only 90 days in every 180 in France unless they apply annually for a visa. The EU-wide 90 days rule is complicated by how it is calculated. If you stay 90 days continuously you cannot re-enter the area until another 90 days have passed.

“I was not particularly surprised by the news,” says Graham Downie from the French property specialist Leggett Immobilier. “Many people thought it was a done deal and it never was. But it’s important to note that it was not thrown out because of the merits of this one rule but because of many issues within the proposed legislation, and I think it will come up again in the future.”


That’s a view echoed by Jason Porter from the specialist financial adviser Blevins Franks, who points out that the visa amendment was a small part of a massive immigration bill and failed on a technical constitutional point, not because the court objected specifically to the visa amendment.

“It’s also important to note that the aim of the rule change was never to give Britons total freedom to come and go at will, which would go against all other visas that France offers and probably have faced challenges later on anyway,” he says. “For example, France insists that anyone moving there can show that they have medical insurance and a minimum income level, something this bill did not include. Instead, the aim of the amendment was to allow British homeowners the freedom to choose how they use the 180 days they have in each year freely, without being restricted to just 90 days at a time.” 

David acknowledges that this latest court decision is a setback but insists that all is not lost. “Senator Berthet has said she will retable the amendment as part of a smaller immigration bill. My lifestyle in France is so much better than in the UK, and my advice to anyone considering buying in France is, if you are happy travelling under the current 90 in 180 days rule, or going through the onerous visa application process, go ahead, but beware of the pitfalls and hope for good news in the future.”

The property portal Kyero reported a 582 per cent increase in interest in French property from potential British buyers in the three weeks after the December announcement, a sign, they say, of the “pent-up demand”. The estate agency Athena Advisers noted a “buzz in the market”, with buoyant interest especially at higher price points. Yet, like many property agencies, it is clearly frustrated by the vicissitudes of the French rule makers.

“When was the last time we had good news for British owners of French homes?” asks Lloyd Hughes from Athena Advisers. “Second homes aren’t just houses, they are lifelines for local businesses, and owners contribute year-round.”

Porter sounds a final word of warning: “One of the EU’s basic tenets is to treat all people equally, something France would be ignoring were it to allow visa-free travel only to UK passport holders. Getting this visa amendment enshrined in law could take a very long time and include several challenges to the European courts.”

Calculating the 90 days in 180 days rule, the 180 days are a rolling period in which you count backwards from each day in the Schengen area. This short-stay calculator set up by the European Commission can help,

Investment Synergy - This is a EU issue, not just limited to France or Spain, and has always been thus, albeit - maybe used and abused pre Brexit - post Brexit has bought a slight variation .... ?!



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