Schengen and 90/180 day access restriction for UK, second-home owners.

The Schengen Area is comprised of 26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders.

epa05138635 A view of a Schengen sign in the village of Schengen, Luxembourg, 01 February 2016. The town symbolizes the free movement of people and goods in 25 European countries under the Schengen Agreement signed in 1985 and 1990. EPA/JULIEN WARNAND

The access restrictions likely to be introduced as a result of the UK leaving the European Union will make it difficult for many second-home owners to maximise their use of the property. With a restriction of 90 days within any rolling 180-day period, including, of course, any other travel into the Schengen area for pleasure or business, this rule will be difficult to manage.

The restriction is unusual. In almost every other country in the world, access is granted by proving to an immigration official that the traveller can support themselves while in the country. There is a maximum stay of (usually) three or six months, after which the traveller must depart. However, there are not exclusionary periods; a visitor to the UK, Canada or the US, for example, is entitled to return the following day and if able to persuade the immigration officer of their self-sufficiency, will be granted another three or six months.

There is no exclusionary period.

The 90/180-day issue is, presumably linked to the EU regulations of freedom of movement. The entitlement for EU citizens is to go to another member state for whatever reason they wish. However, after 90 days, if they are not employed, studying or otherwise self-supporting, there is a requirement to leave. While this has been ignored by many states, including the UK, the requirement to leave a host country is only logical if there is some sort of exclusionary period before returning. This regulation has, I am assuming, transferred into the restrictions of entry to the Schengen region.

It is worth noting here that Schengen is an agreement between a number of countries, some are members of the EU and some are not. Not all EU members are signatories to the agreement, and it is not an EU directive.

The Schengen countries
The Schengen countries

It is a lowest-common-denominator entry protocol; each country, however, already offers their own portfolio of specific visas covering educational, commercial, long-stay and other explicit purposes.

I believe that the development of a new visa type is an administrative exercise, and not a legislative one. It is simply the determination by a host country that a specific category of visitor, whose purpose is not covered by the general admission convention, should be encouraged to travel to their territory.

The development of a specific visa for second-home owners is a logical move.

Such a visa could be offered for a period of time, one to three years, for multiple entries of stays that are wholly covered by external medical insurance. It would be available to property owners and their immediate families, and allow access to the property. It would carry no entitlement to work, no state support and would simply be designed to allow the significant economic activity that this category of visitor engenders.

I believe that it is in the interest of France, Spain, Portugal and other countries with a substantial investment by second-home owners to give this proposal significant thought. The prospect of these people selling their properties and moving to another more welcoming jurisdiction, even the US, Mexico, Costa Rica and Bulgaria offer simpler access, and the loss of many billions of economic activity and the resulting jobs should be a disturbing prospect.

What next?

The process of having a new visa designed is opaque. However, if there is sufficient lobbying to our local Mairies, who have a vested interest in keeping the second-home owners’ in their communities, there may be a path to the correct department. Similarly, I will send this piece to various French diplomatic posts, and to the English language French media. We can but make a noise and suggest options.

There may well be other solutions to the 90/180-day issue, but as yet I have seen none. A specific visa would work for everyone involved, and as it is an individual country issue, and not an EU one, it could happen quickly. We will see.