The Daily Telegraph

France visa boost for British homeowners ‘punished by Brexit’

- By Ruby Hinchliffe and Henry Samuel in Paris

FRANCE’S 90-day visa rule could be relaxed for British citizens who own a home there after French politician­s said they had been “punished by Brexit”.

The senate, France’s second chamber, has voted through an amendment to the country’s new immigratio­n law giving British second homeowners the automatic right to a long-stay visa.

Since Brexit, all British nationals – including those with a home in France – have only been able to stay 90 days out of every 180 without a visa. If they want to stay any longer, Britons have to apply for a temporary long-stay visa of up to six months.

Martine Berthet, a French senator representi­ng the Savoie area in the Alps, tabled a change to these rules after receiving complaints from British second homeowners in her region. She said: “The Britons I have spoken to say that the current system is long-winded, difficult and full of pitfalls.”

The senator also argued that keeping British citizens from contributi­ng to France’s economy would just add to an already-rising number of vacant properties in tourist areas.

She added: “Ties are warming between France and the UK following the royal visit – and don’t forget, King Charles reserved his only official speech for the French Senate. The British are privileged partners of France. History has shown this to be the case.”

The amendment still needs to be debated next month in the National Assembly before it is passed in the Bill. But she said even if it fails to get through the this time: “This is at the very least an important first step.”

Emmanuel Macron’s government, which does not command an absolute majority in parliament, has said it will not back the amendment. It argues that legislatio­n already makes it possible for British second homeowners to stay longer than 90 days out of 180. However, wait times for visas have increased since Brexit.

Nicole Gallop Mildon, a partner at law firm Russell Cooke, said France’s visa centres are simply “overwhelme­d”. She added: “Before Brexit, they didn’t deal with Brits at scale. Now, they do and they are basically crumbling under the weight.”

One way the exemption could work would be to require British citizens with second homes in France to carry proof of property ownership when they travel. Britons would then only need to provide these documents once for the long-term visa requiremen­t to be waived.

Philippe Bas, of Les Républicai­ns, said last week: “Generally speaking the [British second homeowners] didn’t have anything to do with Brexit, but Brexit has punished them. They must be able to come to France and make the most of their second homes and spend their money.”

Macron has already given thousands of local authoritie­s powers to apply council tax surcharges of up to 60 per cent to second homes, the owners of which include 86,000 British nationals. At the same time, for homeowners who live in their property, Macron has scrapped council tax altogether.

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