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I am a British citizen, resident in the UK. I have a small property in France that I run as a holiday let. I’m trying to understand how I can enter France to visit my property after the transition period ends on 31 December (absent any other deal).

If I’m just travelling for a holiday, I understand I can enter as a tourist without any visa (albeit after having obtained an ETA?).

But if I’m travelling to conduct some maintenance on the property, or other administration related to the lettings business, what permission will I need and how do I go about obtaining it?

To complicate matters: my spouse is a Dutch citizen and, at least under French tax law, the lettings business is treated as our joint marital income. Are we therefore exercising EU free movement rights when travelling to France?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Nov 4 '20 at 9:03
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As a UK citizen then when the UK and EU transition agreement ends after 31st December 2020 then you will still be entitled to enter the Schengen area without a visa for short stays under the visa waiver program.

Short stays means that you can enter and remain any many times as you wish as long as you don't exceed being in the area for more than 90 days in an 180-day period (a rolling window), have a valid passport with > 3 months remaining etc.

This does not explicitly state what purposes you may or may not enter for (so it is not only for tourism purposes for example), so generally speaking you are allowed to do many things such as tourism, business purposes, visit friends & family, attend events, get medical treatment, etc. Maintenance of your own property should therefore not be an issue. So almost anything except Study, live long-term or work (Work meaning taking up a position in a Schengen country).

As such, then the citizenship of your partner does not really alter anything as long as you are just visiting because you already have the privilege to travel to the EU without a visa. It gives you other advantages if you want to move & live or study in the EU, or stay longer, or join your partner who is living there etc. but that is not the scope of your question.

When the EU introduces the ETIAS online travel authorisation program in 2022 then as a UK citizen you will have to apply through this website in order to obtain your Visa-Waiver approval. This will cost approx. 7 Euros and will have to be done in advance of travelling, but otherwise nothing else much is expected to change (details are still lacking, so please keep an eye on this. As noted in the comments, it is unclear if this fee might be waived for you or not.).

Being a EU family member will also not alter this. You would still need to obtain this approval before travelling. Unless you are joining your EU spouse in the EU to live, work, study etc.

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  • (+1) Work is not limited to taking up employment, self-employment would count as well for example. I am pretty sure it would be fine in practice but it's not completely obvious that what the OP describes is necessarily covered. – Relaxed Nov 2 '20 at 14:48
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    The last couple of paragraphs are inaccurate. Legally speaking, freedom of movement does apply to short-term stays. EU citizens rights are even stronger in that case. The benefit of the spouse's EU citizenship is that it makes the work question moot. The ETIAS fee will also be waived and the OP will not need to answer the question about prior removal or return decisions or worry about overstays (cf. the ETIAS regulation). – Relaxed Nov 2 '20 at 14:51
  • Do Schengen Annex II (visa waiver) citizens have to have a departure flight booked before arrival? – CSM Nov 2 '20 at 20:49
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    I see what led you astray. That's basically the same mistake you made in the last paragraph, freedom of movement is not limited to long-term residence, that's completely wrong, cf. article 5 and 6 of Directive 2004/38/EC. As expected, the ETIAS directive defers to the directive in numerous places and certainly does not require residence in an EU country to waive the fee. That's why you couldn't find any reference. – Relaxed Nov 3 '20 at 6:51
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    Note that this is already the way this works for Schengen visas (or, until December, the EEA Family Permit): all fees are waived and questions going beyond establishing a person's right of free movement need not be answered. It would be odd that visa-exempt members of an EU citizen's family would have to pay more that those who need a visa. – Relaxed Nov 3 '20 at 6:52
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my spouse is a Dutch citizen and, at least under French tax law, the lettings business is treated as our joint marital income. Are we therefore exercising EU free movement rights when travelling to France?

No. If you travel to France with your Dutch spouse, you will be exercising EU free movement rights because you are traveling to France with your Dutch spouse. The fact that you have joint rental income from a property in France does not matter.

I’m pretty sure there’s some nuances to it. A non-EU person isn’t entitled to simply enter an EU country when presenting at a border with their EU spouse.

Actually, they can. They also need a passport and in some cases (not including citizens of the UK) a visa that must be granted without charge on the basis of a simplified and accelerated application. But even if they lack those documents, the directive requires then to be given the chance to prove by other means that they are entitled to the right of free movement.

Firstly, AIUI, free movement rights only apply in “host” countries—ie those other than the EU citizen’s “home” country (ie they might apply to us in France, but would not apply in the Netherlands).

This is the general rule, but would not normally apply since your Dutch spouse has been living with you elsewhere in the EU (the UK), you can actually make use of free movement rights in the Netherlands, too. This would be true even though the UK has left the EU, since it was part of the EU while the two of you were living there together. (However, you mentioned in a comment that your spouse is also a citizen of the UK, which is the exception to the exception, meaning that you would indeed be subject to Dutch national law should you want to move to the Netherlands.)

Secondly, they are only engaged if the EU citizen is exercising their free movement rights, for example by working (or seeking work) in the host country.

This is a common misconception. As Relaxed has noted in the comments, the free movement directive outlines a right of entry, a right of residence for up to three months, and a right of residence for more than three months. Only in the last case can a country require you to show that you are working, studying, or in possession of sufficient resources.

Thirdly, non-EU family members require documentation that I do not have.

What documents? The only document required by an Annex II family member of an EU citizen is a passport, which I suspect you have.

Fourth, with that documentation the non-EU family member should be entitled to travel whether together with the EU citizen or separately. So presumably, if this applies to us, I should obtain some form of documentation from France that recognises my status?

Unfortunately that's not how it works. If you actually establish residence in France together, you can get a carte de séjour, a residence card, which would allow you to travel in and out of France independently, but if you do not do that then your independent travel to France will be as an Annex II visitor.

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  • Thanks. As mentioned in the comments above, I had thought free movement rights were only engaged when the EU citizen was working (or seeking work) in a host EU state, hence why I mentioned this point. Relaxed already set me straight on that! But +1 for drawing it out here too. – eggyal Nov 3 '20 at 8:19
  • @eggyal I was expanding the answer when you left that comment. Since comments are liable to be deleted or moved to chat I wanted to put it in a proper answer. – phoog Nov 3 '20 at 8:40
  • Great, this expanded answer is brilliant! A couple of questions: “in some cases (not including citizens of the UK) a visa”—I assume the UK position remains visa-free after the transition period ends? “since your Dutch wife has been living with you elsewhere in the EU (the UK)”—I should probably have mentioned, but he actually holds dual Dutch/British citizenship and has done so throughout his residence in the UK, so EU free movement rights were not engaged. – eggyal Nov 3 '20 at 8:47
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    @eggyal I've edited to address the second point. I'm not sure exactly what you mean about the "UK position" but the rule for free movement visas is that one is required if the third-country family member is traveling with a passport that would require a visitor visa for a normal short visit. (It's defined in those terms because the UK and Ireland have difference visa policies from the other countries.) So for Schengen countries, Annex II family members don't need one. The UK is going to be on Annex II unless the diplomacy goes spectacularly downhill. – phoog Nov 3 '20 at 9:01

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