What happens if you overstay your Fench visa

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Internet forums are peppered with people asking (usually anonymously) about the consequences of overstaying their French visa.

Here at French Connections HCB, we thought we’d explain why it matters and what to do about it.

The bottom line is that the French take visa overstay very seriously. Are there any circumstances in which you can stay in France without a visa? The short answer is no. France simply does not permit visitors to remain in the country beyond the expiry date of their visa.

Some people believe that if their passport is not stamped, they have passed through border control unnoticed. Of course, that’s simply not true. French immigration officials know exactly who is in France and for how long. Every time you enter or leave a French border, your movements are electronically tracked on a database. 

The consequence of overstaying depends on what type of visa you have and whether you have a valid reason for not leaving the territory on time.

Depending on the severity of your case, you could face a fine, or a black mark against your name when you next try to enter France (or indeed any of the Schengen countries). You could even be refused entry.

In cases where you have knowingly overstayed your visa for a long period, you risk being deported – and it goes without saying that any future visa application would probably be refused. 

If you work in France on an expired work visa, the penalties are even more severe. They can include both a fine and time in prison.

Here at French Connections HCB, an important part of our role as administration specialists is to keep you informed of the rules – but we always prefer to offer solutions.

Our advice if you have already overstayed your visa is to deal with the situation as soon as possible. In many cases, the best thing you can do is to leave immediately.

If there is an insurmountable reason that you cannot leave, such as being in hospital, you should contact your local prefecture as a matter of urgency. While visas are only issued by consular authorities, the prefecture can, in exceptional circumstances, issue a visa extension. This would include a close family emergency or ‘force majeure’ (‘act of God’ such as a hurricane or tornado). Proof in the form of valid supporting documents must always be shown.

While you wait to hear if your extension has been successful, you will officially be in a waiting period. This is useful because it means you can prove that you are still living in France legally if you are challenged.

So far, we have only discussed visas. What people don’t always realise is that the same conditions apply if you are visiting under the 90 day rule where no visa is required.

In the majority of cases, an overstay is due to a miscalculation of the 90 days. It’s all too easy to do because not everybody is aware that travel days also count as one of those precious 90 days.  It’s worth remembering that if you arrive in France at one minute to midnight, that counts as a whole day of your 90/180 allocation.  Similarly, if you leave at one minute after midnight on your 90th day, you have entered your 91st day and have technically overstayed your visa-free welcome. 

To make things easier, we have a free 90/180 calculator on our website. All you need to do is put in the precise dates you entered and left France in the past 180 days and the calculator will tell you how many days you have left.  You can also use it to plan in advance, which means you’ll be much less likely to overstay by accident.

Our friendly team at French Connections HCB can help with anything to do with your visa, no matter how complex. So if you are worried about an overstay, we invite you to book a 30 minute video consultation with visa specialist, Richard Hammond to discuss your particular situation. The consultation costs 90 euros, but that amount is fully deductible from the first service you book with us.

Meanwhile, take a moment to check your visa expiry date or jump onto our 90/180 calculator to make sure you’re in the clear!

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