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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  • Richard Halkes
    2022-02-01 04:01:29
    Richard Halkes
    I have just read your article on the 90/180 day rule for non EU citizens. I have been told by the EU commission that as a UK citizen married to a EU citizen as not to hinder her freedom of movement when I travel with her I am exempt of the 90/180 rule. On checking with the French Consulate they don’t agree and the rule applies, who is right and who is wrong? If it’s right what documents are needed at the border? Hope you can help Richard


    • Zoë Smith
      2022-02-02 09:31:59
      Zoë Smith
      Hi Richard,

      This is a tricky rule and the truth is that both are right. I'll try and explain as best I can!

      Firstly, yes, as an EU citizen, your spouse has the right to have you accompany her when she travels to the EU. So, if you were to show up with your marriage certificate and passports, in theory, they can't refuse you entry.

      However, France is also correct, and here's why. If your wife was to spend more than 90 out of every 180 days in France (i.e. more than six months in a year), she should by law be resident in France - this means she should be paying French taxes/register for a social security number, etc. The reality is that because she is an EU citizen, nobody is checking this, but it is a bit of a grey area. Due to this, if you were to try and enter France and overstay your 90-day visa because you are travelling with your wife, France would have the right to question why your wife is not a resident, and that technically, neither of you have the right to unlimited stays within France without becoming resident.

      Under EU law, if you were to travel to France with your wife (an EU citizen) without a visa and having already overstayed your 90 days, and you state that you are both looking to become resident in France and plan to apply for your Carte de Séjour within the required three months (you can read about the process here:, they would not be able to refuse you entry. However, it doesn't seem like this is what you intend to do.

      What about if you were to just show up for a holiday in France having already overstayed your visa? While you are within your rights (or rather your wife's rights) to do this, in practice you may have difficulties. I think it would likely depend on who you spoke to at immigration and whether they had reason to believe you were both intending to overstay in France or not. Not every border guard will know the ins and outs of EU and French immigration laws, and you don't want to find yourself in a situation of being refused entry.

      Here's the link to the France visas site so you can see for yourself: I ran a simulation based on your information and it states that you need a visa for a stay of over 90 days even if visiting with your EU spouse.

      If I was in your position I would apply for this visa. Spouse visas are free of charge and they are fast-tracked - it will give you the peace of mind that you can visit France as many times as you like without facing issues at border control.

      If you don't decide to apply for a visa, I would at least make sure that you have all the necessary proof with you that you are not looking to overstay in France - return flights, etc, plus your marriage certificate.

      I hope this helps, and I'm sorry that there isn't a simpler answer. Best of luck with your travels and do let us know how you get on!