Reader question: What happens if I over-stay my 90-day limit in France?

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Question: I see reports in the media that Spanish police will start rounding up and deporting Brits who have stayed longer than 90 days, could that happen in France too? I know several British second home owners who are sure that French authorities will do nothing?

Well first we should point out that Spanish authorities have denied the reports in UK tabloids that they intend to start immediate deportations.

However for any non-EU citizen in an EU country, over-staying is an immigration offence.

What is the rule?

Non-EU nationals, including Brits, can stay for 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without needing a visa or a residency permit. You can find a full breakdown of the rules HERE, but broadly you can stay for up to 90 days in every 180 – this can be in the form of one long stay or several short stays.

The limit is for time spent within the EU, so you cannot simply move to a different EU country, you need to leave the Bloc altogether and go to a non-EU country.

This doesn’t apply to Brits who have their permanent home in France – although they do need to apply for a residency card – find out how HERE.

READ ALSO Why some Brits will have to leave the EU on March 31st

Are there any extensions because of the Covid situation?

The EU has issued some general advice on this, encouraging member states to grant visa extensions where necessary and to waive sanctions on people who have overstayed due to travel restrictions.

As ever though, decisions on border issues remain with national governments within the EU and in France travel is for the moment possible, so there are no extensions. You may be able to challenge a penalty if you can prove that you were sick with Covid when your 90 days expired and therefore couldn’t travel.

What are the penalties for people who do over-stay?

If you spend more than 90 days in the EU or Schengen zone without a visa or residency permit then you are officially an over-stayer. And unlike the pre-EU days when passport control consisted of a man in a booth with a rubber stamp, scanning of all passports on entry/exit of the EU makes it pretty easy to spot over-stayers.

The EU lists a range of possible penalties although in practice some countries are stricter than others. In previous years France has gained the reputation of not being too fussy about exact leave dates – provided it is within a few weeks and provided the person has not been working or claiming benefits.

There’s no guarantee that will be the case for everyone though, or that France won’t decide in the future to take a harder line if there is widespread flouting of the rule among second-home owners. Over-staying can also make a future trip difficult (see below) which is a big factor for second-home owners.

Anyone who over-stays can be subject to the following penalties;

Deportation – if you are found to have over-stayed, countries are within their rights to either imprison you and deport you, or give you a certain number of days to leave. In practice, deportation is rare for people who aren’t working or claiming benefits, they are more likely to be advised of the situation and told to leave as soon as possible

Fines – fines can be levied in addition to other penalties and vary according to country

Entry ban – countries can impose a complete ban on re-entry, usually for three years although it can be longer. A complete ban is usually only put in place for people who have over-stayed for a significant amount of time

Difficulties returning to the Schengen area – even if you avoid all of the above penalties, the over-stay alert on your passport will make it more difficult for you to return to the EU, and this applies to any EU or Schengen zone country, not just the one you over-stayed in. People who have this alert on their passport are likely to face extended checks at the border and may even be turned back. You will also likely encounter difficulties if you later apply for a visa or residency 

People who simply stay in an EU country without securing residency become undocumented immigrants and will not be able to access healthcare or social security provisions. If caught, they face deportation.

How will they catch me?

Police in France have the right to stop anyone and require them to show official ID – for foreigners a passport. These random stops are now more common as police enforce lockdown and curfew rules, while travel between EU countries is also stricter with checks at the border due to the health rules.

But even if you avoid contact with any authorities while you are here, your passport is checked as you enter and leave the EU, making it pretty easy to spot who has been here longer than 90 days – and potentially causing problems on your next trip.

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