So the island of Faisans is in France/Spain. Yes, both.

For six months of the year, from February 1st to 31st July, it's under Spanish rule - and for the following six months - it's under French control.

So my question - do you need a Spanish visa during the 'Spanish time' and a French visa during the 'French time', in order to visit it, or given they sorta share the island, would either work?

(Yes I realise they're both Schengen countries, but it is also possible for one to get a visa for a particular country. Yes I realise it's probably not guarded and nobody cares, but I'm interested in trivial laws like this and the long-term effects they might have.)

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    You could ask a similar question for sailing on Lake Constance. Germany and Austria think it's a condominium, Switzerland thinks there's a border somewhere in the lake. That dispute isn't settled so there could be WAR while you are enjoying your ice cream in the warm summer sun.
    – Janka
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 3:00
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    Which raises the next question: If you stay in the island while it changes countries, have you entered illegally in the new one?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 9:10
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    @SJuan76 It would appear that in this case the country would have illegally entered you!
    – M.Herzkamp
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 13:39
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    @M.Herzkamp Don't tell that joke to Putin, the guy gets ideas all the time. Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 13:47
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    While I see the interest in this weird case, AFAIK in you have either Spanish or French visa, you are allowed to visit the other country too. EU and all that. Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 15:30

5 Answers 5


Multiple sources (English Wikipedia, French Wikipedia, Official site of Hendaye) all claim that the island cannot be visited. You could try to get a job in the maintenance department of Irun, which is in charge of the island, and hope to get assigned to cut the grass there. That would require a Spanish work permit.

  • Since the grass is cut by Spain, will trespassing be enforced by Spain as well? In that case I can imagine a Spanish visa would be preferable (although since it's Schengen, in practice nobody will care).
    – Mast
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 16:32
  • Visits are rare, but (see my answer) they do take place.
    – Martin
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 12:47
  • @Mast generally, we don't condone answers or comments that encourage or suggest breaking the law.
    – Nzall
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 12:58
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    @Nzall I didn't condone anything, I asked who would enforce. Is my comment crossing a line I'm not aware of? Do you have a relevant meta I could read to inform myself?
    – Mast
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 13:38
  • @Mast I interpreted your comment as "if you intend to trespass, a Spanish visa would be preferable". Is that a correct interpretation?
    – Nzall
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 14:01

According to a New York Times article published in 2012, "you are not allowed to visit Pheasant Island", regardless of which or how many visas you have.

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    The BBC story implies you can only visit it on historical open days.
    – Darren
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 8:56
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    If no one can visit, then a bench seen on the photo is literally most pointless bench in Europe.
    – Mołot
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 13:47
  • there's a plaqued monolyth and two benches, and you can land in the little bech. just kayak to it. there's also a yearly dance festival happening on it where people go by barque, fiestas de Behobia.
    – CptEric
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 14:28
  • That may have been true in 2012, but (see my answer) there are occasional visits these days.
    – Martin
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 9:05
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    There are tons of parks that are usually closed to the public, it's not a bizarre idea at all.
    – ajd
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 15:51

As both Spain and France are in the Schengen zone and (almost) all visas for tourists cover both countries, you will be covered by the same visa for the island which ever country is in power.

Working on the island however... you will need to find out which country deals with the visa for that.

  • I think this is the correct answer. Whether local authorities allow you to actually enter the island, and when, is all contingent on a valid Visa. Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 11:50

Since the only permitted visits to the island are organised trips, you would need a visa for the country where your trip to the island began, which would also be a visa for the country administering the country at that time.

For example, as part of the French 2017 European Heritage Days programme, Hendaye commune organised a visit to Pheasant Island / L'île des Faisans on Sunday 17th September, which falls within the period of the governance of France.

At the time of writing, the 2018 dates for European Heritage Days in France have been announced (15th and 16th of September), but I cannot yet find a programme of activities. One non-official website has illustrated its page about the event with a photo of Pheasant Island which may indicate that there will be another visit this year.

Should the event go ahead, you could contact the organiser of this event to ask what the visa requirements are, but I would expect them to be a local official who (1) may not speak English well (2) has no specialist knowledge of the legal effects of condominiums on visa status. The visits appear to be aimed primarily at local people with an interest in the history of their town.


To enter in Spain or France, one needs the proper authorization. But the question has much to do with the "idealized" world where there are "(virtual) walls" in boundaries, and custom and immigration control at every entry point, and exactly at boundary point.

This is false. There are several kinds of boundaries, and often not very defined. The most known it is the territorial/geographic boundary. This could be no so well fixed. As example, Between Switzerland and France, and between Switzerland and Germany, some boundaries are "in the middle" of a rivers, and these dynamically changes according how much water flow in such rivers. Or from time to time Switzerland and Italy ratify new boundary lines: the official boundary is on drainage divide, but according glacier melting, this change other time.

The case in this question is similar: the territorial boundary change over time.

Custom have own boundaries. Sometime some villages are outside own country custom zone. This happens mainly on remote villages/islands. But there are also free-trade zone (mainly on commercial entry points). Not so relevant in this case (but if you put some alcohol or trade merchandise on the island, it would be interesting to see how the custom expect that you pay/not pay import taxes.

For this question, the relevant boundary is about "immigration"/police boundary. This boundary is not very well defined, and it is linked with local traditions (which were ratified by countries). This is often given for enclaves and river navigation on boundary waters, but also access to some paths and pastures for specific local communities.

I see no difference as you were hiking between France and Spain on Pyrenees: it is your duty to go to custom office and police on the first village you encounter, if you need to (entry stamps, taxes). The same, in this island: you eventually need to report to relative authorities. Being on the island, is like crossing a bridge (on boundaries) or following a road which get you to police/immigration office: you doesn't need a visa: when you got in the office, you can ask information and check if you can enter. In the contrary case, you should leave the country from the same route. Note: that zone is no-way a "nobody zone". You are not allowed to stay there. You can be forced to go to immigration office or to return back.

[If you want to camp in such island, or in any boundary zone, just notifying the local police station [in this case, of both countries] will really help you, so that you will not have the police control during night (they will already know if you are a "legal immigrant").]

  • This does not answer the question asked, which was not a generalized one, but about a specific island.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 19:01
  • @CGCampbell: Hmm, the generalized answer answers also for specific case (and I put several specific references). As far I know, there is no country that has specific regulation for every path traversing boundary, for every shared river, etc.As I wrote, it is frequent to have territories which change "nationality" regularly over time. Such island is not a special/seldom case. In any case this answer was meant to complement other answers. Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 8:20

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