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Post Brexit Blues - Article on visas and equivalence by Michael Julien for Fair Observer - 04.04.21

Whilst our negotiators struggle to reach a sensible agreement with the EU on financial services, which are clearly critical for both the EU and the UK, some more mundane issues are ignored: such as the failure of the EU to recognise “equivalence” in the movement of people between the UK and the EU and from the EU to the UK.


As readers of our "News" reports will have seen, there is at least common sense in the mutual recognition of the European Health Insurance Card which enables our respective citizens to travel between the EU and the UK (and vice versa) free of concerns about health insurance for the time being but my experience is that the details are little known.

Unfortunately, however, there is no equivalence in the treatment of UK citizens who have second homes in the EU (or need to visit the EU for family or other reasons as I do) where we are only allowed to stay for 90 days out of 180 days without a visa. On the other hand EU citizens can visit the UK and stay for six months with no visa required.

In addition, the process for UK citizens seeking a residence permit in the EU is vastly different to the process for EU citizens wanting to settle in the UK where there is a very efficient online system for applications by the five million EU citizens who want to seek “settled status” in the UK but for many UK citizens in the EU the systems are bureaucratic and cumbersome.

For example, if UK citizens want to apply for permanent residence in the EU they have to do so in any one of the 27 states remaining in the EU where very few of the systems are online and even differ between parts of individual countries such as France where applications have to be submitted to the Préfectures in each of the regions where UK citizens live.


The situation gets even more complex when a UK citizen has to apply for a visa for longer than allowed by the Schengen area rules of 90 days within each of 180 days. In the case of France, the preliminary application has to be created on the France-Visas website and then submitted to one of three centres in the UK of a company called TLS who require attendance in person at one of the centres to deliver original documents and to undergo creation of biometric records for submission to the French Consulate.

It should be noted that the three TLS centres are located in London, Edinburgh and Manchester and so, without an online facility for any supporting documents, it makes it virtually impossible for the majority of UK citizens to apply for a visa from anywhere else in the UK. It is even more impossible if any applicant lacks some of the required documents and is required to return home to fetch them as happened in my case due to the fact that the list on the TLS website was incomplete.

As if all of the above was not enough, my application for a visa to stay in France for an additional 3 to 6 months has met with a rejection by the French Consulate for the bizarre reason that I am married to an “EU national” (who is actually Norwegian and not an EU national) and so I have now been told belatedly that I must submit my application for a “Temporary Long Stay Visitor Visa” (called a “VLS-T Visiteur”) on arrival to the Préfecture in the region where I have my second home on the West coast of France.

However, there was no warning of that requirement on the France-Visas website at any time and no guidance as to the procedure to be followed. Furthermore, the Préfecture in my region is known to be already overloaded with applications for full time residence permits and may not have the capacity or the knowledge to deal with any similar cases. It is also highly doubtful that the documents and biometric records will be transferred by the French Consulate to the relevant Préfecture.

Given my experience of the above and the paucity of the TLS centres, the lack of adequate information on their website and that of France-Visas and no facility for uploading documents, I believe that the UK government needs to urgently act to negotiate changes in the Schengen area rules to make them equivalent to those applicable in the UK. Such changes in the Schengen rules would be the most effective and simplest way to implement changes as it would immediately allow all second home owners and their visitors to come and go freely without hindrance.

Given my experience of the above and the paucity of the TLS centres, the lack of adequate information on their website and that of France-Visas and no facility for uploading documents, I believe that the UK government needs to urgently act to negotiate changes in the Schengen area rules to make them equivalent to those applicable in the UK. Such changes in the Schengen rules would be the most effective and simplest way to implement changes as it would immediately allow all second home owners and their visitors to come and go freely without hindrance.


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