Confused About the EU’s 90/180 Day Rule? Here’s How it Works

Confused About the EU’s 90/180 Day Rule? Here’s How it Works

British second-home owners in France after Brexit are now bound by the rules of non-EU citizens. This means that you can only visit France for up to 90 days within any 180 day period. But how is this 90-day rule calculated and what impact does this have on your travels to France?

How does the 90-day rule work?

The 90/180-day rule applies to the whole Schengen area, not just France. That means the total number of days that you spend within any of the 26 Schengen zone countries (including Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland). The count starts from the day you enter the Schengen area to the day you leave.

So, for example, if you flew from the UK to France (entering the Schengen area), spent 5 days in France, then drove into Spain for a further 5 days before returning to the UK (leaving the Schengen zone), you would have spent a total of 10 days in Schengen zone.

If you flew from the UK to France (entering the Schengen area), spent 5 days in France before returning to the UK (leaving the Schengen zone) for 5 days, and then flew to Spain for a further 5 days, you would still have spent a total of 10 days in Schengen zone.

It’s the total number of days spent within the Schengen area that is taken into account.

Calculating the 180 days

Where it gets slightly more complicated is the EU definition of ’90 days within any 180-day period’. Here, it’s best to think of the 180 days as a moveable timeframe rather than a fixed 180-day period. The 180 days are counted backwards from the date of arrival or departure from the Schengen area.

Each time you enter or leave Schengen area, a new 180-day period would be calculated from that date. You do not need to concern yourself about dates of previous arrivals and departures, only the total number of days spent within the zone during that particular 180-day period.

If you arrived in France from the UK on March 15th, it would be the 180 days before March 15th that would be taken into account. If you had already spent the whole months of November, December, and January in France (totalling 90 days) and hoped to return on March 15th, you would be refused entry.

Planning your trip to France

If you are planning multiple trips to France, it can quickly get confusing! Using this short stay calculator can help. Enter the dates of entry and exit, and it will calculate the total number of days (and remaining days) within a 180 day period. The ‘control’ option allows you to calculate the length of previous stays or your current stay. The ‘planning’ option lets you set the date you plan to return to the Schengen area and will inform you of how many days you have left to use.

Remember that travel restrictions and Covid regulations are currently in place. See our article on Travel Between France and the UK in 2021 for the latest details.

What are the penalties for overstaying?

For Brits or other non-EU travellers who overstay the 90 days, the penalty is typically a fine and an order to leave the country within 30 days. If you failed to leave the country after that order expires, the penalties would be far more severe.

For frequent travellers and second-home owners, the biggest consequence of this is receiving an ‘over-stay’ flag on your passport. Not only can this make it more difficult to re-enter France in the future, it could affect your chances of receiving a visa in any other country you choose to visit. If you ever chose to apply for a long-stay visa or seek residency in France, this over-stay flag would almost certainly make your application more difficult and could be grounds for refusal.

Throughout 2021, we’ve heard reports of Brits who have overstayed their 90 days (by even just two days) and have received a €198 fine as well as an over-stay stamp in their passport. It appears that border controls in France and elsewhere in the Schengen zone are strictly monitoring Brits entering and leaving the zone. Our advice is to make sure you fully understand the 90-day rule, always stay within the limits (do not assume that overstaying by one or two days will be overlooked – it won’t!), and make sure that your passport is correctly stamped whenever you enter or leave the zone.

Staying in France for more than 90 days?

If you plan to stay in France for more than 90 days in a 180 day period, or spend over 90 consecutive days in France, you will need to apply for a long-stay visa or visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur. This allows you to stay up to one year, but not to work or study. Visa applications are considered on an individual basis, and you must prove that you have sufficient funds and healthcare coverage for the duration of your stay. If you are not sure what kind of visa you need, our complete guide to French visas is the best place to start.

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FrenchEntrée's Digital Editor, Zoë is also a freelance journalist who has written for the Telegraph, HuffPost, and CNN, and a guidebook updater for the Rough Guide to France and Rough Guide to Dordogne & Lot. She lives in the French countryside just outside of Nantes.

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  •  Paul Harwood
    2022-01-04 11:45:54
    Paul Harwood
    Hi Zoe, As I understand it, someone with dual UK and Irish (Republic) passports and having a wife with a UK passport only, is not affected by the 90/180 rule by virtue of one being an EU citizen. This applies when both travel to the EU but would not enable the wife to travel alone to the EU. Can you verify this information for the benefit of those readers who might be in the situation as described. Many thanks.


    • Zoë Smith
      2022-01-06 13:21:46
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Paul, If you travel using your Irish (EU) passport you will not be subject to the 90/180 day rule as you are an EU citizen. Be aware though that this won't be the case if you use your UK passport - it will be stamped and subject to the 180 day rule as you will be opting to enter the EU as a UK citizen. Unfortunately, if your wife is travelling with a UK passport, she would be subject to the 90/180 day rule. If she wanted to accompany you for longer, she would need to apply for the relevant visa. Hope this helps clarify things!


      •  Pamela
        2022-01-22 10:52:06
        I did not imply that the spouse had an automatic right to stay in the country based on being married if they should stay more than 30 days....I do understand and do know that should they stay more than 90 days then apply for residency before the 90 days run out.That is a different subject to that of the 90/180 rule, yes the wife's passport will always be stamped when she travels with her husband or indeed when she travels alone....I repeat again that while traveling with her husband she is not subject to the 90/180 rule. If they enter Spain and stay for 89 days and return to the Uk, she has not overstayed the 90 days...They can then go straight back to Spain again if she wished with her husband as long as she does not overstay 90days..If you want to go to Your Europe website which has all the Eu information you will ever need you find the correct info on there. As i sad before it is not about the rights of the non EU citizen it is about the rights of the EU citizen and their right to have his wife travel with him.


      •  Pamela
        2022-01-18 01:41:04
        His wife would not be subject to the 90/180 day rule as long as she was travelling with her Eu husband, the only time that she would need to apply for a vis is if they stayed in Spain longer than 90 days.. As long as they do not over stay the 90days they can leave and keep returning as many times as they wish .


        • Zoë Smith
          2022-01-19 15:12:21
          Zoë Smith
          Pamela, I'm afraid that is incorrect. Unless you have applied for a spousal visa/residency permit for that country, you are not automatically given a right to stay longer than the 90 days based on being married. In the case of seeking residency, you may enter that country with your spouse and then apply for residency (a right not afforded non-married foreign citizens who must apply for a visa first in their home country). However, for travel purposes, while she would not need a visa, her passport will be stamped and she will be subject to the 90/180 day rule. Remember a "right to EU citizenship" is not the same as "EU citizenship". She has a right to EU residency and citizenship through marriage, but if she has not applied for either of these things, is resident in the UK and only has a UK passport, she is still legally counted as a UK citizen and UK resident regardless of being married and therefore will be treated as such when she travels. I hope this helps clarify things. Best of luck to all of you in your travels.