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According to https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/schengen/reintroduction-border-control_en, France's temporarily reintroduced border controls due to 'Persistent terrorist threat' should have expired on October 31st.

But another article http://en.rfi.fr/france/20171012-france-prolongs-schengen-area-border-controls-anti-terror-fight says the controls are being extended until April, which does not seem to be possible according to the maximum period of 2 years that the Schengen agreement permits. Now am I confused. Are border controls currently in effect or not?

Background: I am planning a train trip and I would prefer avoid border checks/customs so I don't miss my connecting train if I get stopped. What can I expect crossing the french border by train from Luxembourg to Switzerland? Should I go through Germany (slightly longer trip) instead?

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    I took a train from brussles to paris three weeks ago, customs agents were onboard, shortly before we reach paris they woke me up (they picked up random people, 5 of us, but because it was random we all were arabs!!!) and asked me to identify my luggage, then opened them and checked them, once the train stopped at paris they just closed my luggage before they even finish and left. So, I do not think they will delay you since it's not a real border control, just random checks onboard trains as far as i experienced myself. – Nean Der Thal Nov 13 '17 at 1:36
  • I suppose you're right that a delay is unlikely. I'm still curious about the general issue and the conflicting information that I found above. – Whiss1990 Nov 13 '17 at 1:52
  • I sometimes go shopping in France (their supermarkets are really nice) but I never see border controls. That's by car though and I can't prove absence, so I'll leave answering for someone else. – Belle-Sophie Nov 13 '17 at 5:56
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    @NeanDerThal What you experienced is common for non-whites. My luggage is always frisked after Cannes while going to Nice, and unluckily I happen to be the only coloured person in the carriage and the only one whose luggage is frisked. So I stopped taking the train and have started flying in to Nice. – DumbCoder Nov 13 '17 at 9:10
  • Are you connecting in Basel or are you taking a through-train? – Relaxed Nov 13 '17 at 15:39
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I haven't crossed the border last week so I can't answer that part of the question directly but I can provide some details on what to expect.

Importantly, it's not like France ever completely gave up random checks or actually reintroduced full-scale systematic border checks. They have mostly been scaled up and down, locally going far beyond what a strict interpretation of the Schengen Borders code would seem to allow, even without formal notification of any kind.

In practice, trains tend to be watched a little more closely than road crossings but it's a long time I haven't seen any visible form of enforcement at the Luxembourg border. Last time I saw some halfway systematic check (everybody had to show ID, no visa/status check) was in Geneva in December 2015. I have not seen any police presence at all when I crossed that border (multiple times) in 2016 and 2017 (and back then the temporary reintroduction notification was definitely in place!)

When checks were in place, they generally take the form of customs or police officers getting on the train at the last station in a foreign country and performing verifications while the train is on the move (seen most recently on the Thalys between Paris and Brussels). You should not expect airport-style checks (à la Eurostar) or being forced to step out.

One exception to this are the train stations in Geneva and Basel, which both have a special platform for trains from France ending there. In that case, everybody gets out of the train and through a border facility not unlike an airport passport check. This can generate queues and delays. As far as I know, these are not generally in use but they haven't been dismantled since Switzerland joined the Schengen area. Through trains calling at Geneva or Basel en route to somewhere else in Switzerland stop in the Swiss part of the station and do not suffer from this inconvenience.

Note that French police in particular has a broad latitude to check ID in many circumstances, not only at the border itself. The details are complicated but it's not uncommon and the official stance seems to be that as long as it's not more than 12 hours in the same spot, it's not systematic and therefore OK from a Schengen point of view.

In summary, I wouldn't put much weight on this “temporary reintroduction” notification either way. And unless you absolutely want to avoid border checks at all costs, there is no reason to be worried about checks having an effect on your train connections. Some kind of check is however always a possibility, Schengen notwithstanding.

  • Thank you, I'll make a note to avoid stops at Geneva or Basel. I've so far taken the regional train from Luxembourg to Nancy; no officers got on the train and there were no checks, although there were a bunch of police waiting at the station. So it is indeed looking like systematic checks are not in place, but random checks are. I'm not in the 'avoid at all costs' camp, but I do feel rather anxious about being asked intrusive questions in a foreign language or someone going through my personal stuff. – Whiss1990 Nov 13 '17 at 21:13
  • @Whiss1990 I see. FWIW, the controls I have witnessed or experienced where document checks (including, in one case, checking a friend's residence permit), with little or no questioning. Note that French law basically allows police to perform ID checks at a border station at any time and gives them a large latitude to check ID in other places, irrespective of any “temporary“ reintroduction of border controls. It's been that way for years. I will add something about that in the answer. – Relaxed Nov 13 '17 at 22:37
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The EU commission is often lazy about updating their website, so given that the article was written on 12 October, most likely the border controls are still in effect.

That said, in my experience they have always been the exception in practice (unlike in Switzerland, where border checks are common on entry) - I have been only checked entering France twice by bus.

I now called the border police (PAF) who only said there can be checks at the border or anywhere in the country, and that you should always carry travel documentation on you.

Based on that, the answer is most likely yes, there can be checks, but usually not.

  • How do your experiences in September 2016 and July 2017 address the question of whether controls were extended past the end of October 2017? – phoog Nov 13 '17 at 14:37
  • @phoog Didn't read carefully enough. I'll edit – Crazydre Nov 13 '17 at 14:40
  • There should not be any real border controls in Switzerland, but I've heard of border controls dressed up as 'customs' (i.e. the officers identify as customs, but instead of asking to see your luggage, they just ask for IDs). They may or may not be breaching the Schengen agreement with this. jonworth.eu/… – Whiss1990 Nov 13 '17 at 21:23
  • @Whiss1990 "There should not be any real border controls in Switzerland" I know, but as I live there, I can testify they don't give a toss (with long-distance buses) - they check much more frequently than France ever did even during the migrant crisis. And it's just like an ordinary border check really: they come onboard the bus, collect passports/IDs for scanning, check for necessary visas/entry stamps, overstays and alerts/bans. The only difference is that checks are selective and without stamps. I figure half of the FlixBuses are stopped at St-Louis, and roughly a third at Kreuzlingen – Crazydre Nov 14 '17 at 14:47

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