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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

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For members


Reader question: Who was Roland Garros and what is his connection to French tennis?

You might know it as the French Open, but in France it is simply 'le Roland Garros' tennis tournament - but who was Roland Garros?

Reader question: Who was Roland Garros and what is his connection to French tennis?

Question: I’ve noticed that the French always refer to the French Open tennis tournament as simply ‘Roland Garros’, after the name of the venue in Paris. But who was Roland?

The tennis tournament is named after the venue it is played at – Stade Roland Garros at Porte d’Auteuil in the west of Paris, close to Bois de Boulogne.

But Garros himself is best known as an aviator, not a tennis player.

Hear the team from The Local talk about Garros – and France’s sporting calendar this summer – in the latest episode of the Talking France podcast. Download here or listen on the link below

In fact, he doesn’t seem to have had much interest in tennis – during his life he played football, was a keen cyclist and played rugby for Stade Français (which still exists and is now a professional rugby club in Paris) but there’s no record that he played tennis regularly or even enjoyed watching it.

He’s best known as a pilot, one of the small group of daredevils who took up the new sport of aviation.

In 1913, at the age of 25 he became the first person to fly across the Mediterranean, which made him very famous in Paris. When World War I broke out he joined up as a pilot and took part in many missions before being shot down and killed in 1918.

Roland Garros (4th from right, in civilian clothes) pictured in Tunisia after his record-breaking 1913 flight. Photo by STAFF / AFP

Fast-forward 10 years to 1928 and the sports venue that now bears his name was nearing completion.

The Stade français multi sports club, which owned it, was run by a man named Emile Lesueur who had been a close friend of Garros, and it was him who pushed to have the stadium named after Roland Garros.

Often in history ‘close friends’ is used as a euphemism for lover, but there is no other suggestion that either man was gay, so it seems that they were just friends, and Lesueur wanted to honour the man whose life had been snuffed out by war.

By 1928 Garros still had some name recognition in France as a famous pilot and war hero, so it wouldn’t have been a totally left-field choice for the new building, albeit with no tennis connection. 

As the official Stade Roland Garros site puts it: “Yes, Roland Garros had tenuous links with tennis. But few stadiums in the world bear the name of a man who has shown so much willpower, intelligence and courage. Cardinal values for those who aim for the supreme title at the Porte d’Auteuil venue.”