France currently has strict controls in place on travel to and from the UK, banning almost all journeys.
However the rules for Brits who live in another EU or Schengen zone country and need to transit through France in order to get home have been causing confusion, and some Brits resident in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy reporting being barred from entering France on their way home from festive breaks in the UK.
Following urgent enquiries from The Local, the French government confirmed that the rule remains in place banning transit travel by road, rail and sea – only air travel is allowed.
However it added that there would be a “period of tolerance” to allow people to return to their homes in the EU.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry told The Local: “A large number of British nationals residing in an EU country have travelled in good faith to the UK for the festive season and are experiencing difficulties in reaching their country of residence.
“Faced with this situation, instructions of tolerance have been sent to police officers at the borders with the United Kingdom, in order to allow these nationals to transit through France to reach their residence in a country of the European Union, after this Christmas and New Year period.”
It was not clear how long the period of tolerance will last for, but people who have their home in the EU are advised to have with them travel tickets showing that their date of entry to the UK is prior to December 31st 2021.
Eurotunnel, which operates the Channel Tunnel suggested that Brits would only be allowed home to transit France to other EU countries if they first travelled to the UK on or before December 28th. This cut off date hasn’t been confirmed by the French government however.
Passengers travelling from the UK, with residency in other EU countries under the Withdrawal Agreement, can again transit through France to return home. Subject to their journey to UK being completed before 28 Dec 2021.
This comes into force immediately. pic.twitter.com/ntFHK4MRlO
— Eurotunnel Le Shuttle (@LeShuttle) December 30, 2021
The strict rules for travel between France and the UK, however, remain in place.
People can only enter France from the UK if they meet one of the criteria for essential travel – find the full list HERE. There are also restrictions on who can leave France to go to the UK – full list HERE.
Among the groups allowed entry to France from the UK are;
- French citizens, their partners and children
- EU citizens who have their permanent residence in France or another EU country (including Brits who have dual nationality with an EU country)
- Non-EU citizens who have their permanent residence in France
- Non-EU citizens who are transiting through France by air, and are spending less than 24 hours in France
The rules amount to a de-facto ban on travel by Eurotunnel, Eurostar or ferry for any Brits who live in an EU or Schengen zone country other than France.
However the rule stipulating that transfers could only be made by air had not been well understood or publicised, leading to many British residents of countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy travelling to see family in the UK over Christmas, believing that their residency status would allow them to return through France.
Outside of the period of tolerance, the rules remain in place for all travel between France and the UK until further notice.