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Reader question: Can Brits stay more than 90 days in the EU if they have a spouse with an EU passport?

As British nationals get to grips with the 90-day rule that now governs all trips to EU and Schengen countries, readers are asking if having a European spouse makes any difference to the limit?

Reader question: Can Brits stay more than 90 days in the EU if they have a spouse with an EU passport?
Is having an EU spouse useful for more than love and companionship? Photo: AFP

Question: I have an Irish passport but my wife has a British one. I am therefore able to visit France for more than 90 days out of every 180, but can she do the same as my wife?

This question is one of several The Local has received on a similar theme as British nationals face life under the EU’s 90-day rule.

90-day rule

This rule applies to all non EU-nationals travelling into the EU or Schengen zone for whatever reason – holiday, family visits or visit to second homes.

It has therefore long applied to visitors from American, Canada, Australia etc but since January 1st 2021 has also applied to Brits.

If you intend to do paid work while in the EU, you will probably need a visa even if you stay less than 90 days and there are some countries whose nationals need an entry visa even for a stay of less than 90 days – find the full list here. The overseas territories of France and the Netherlands have extra restrictions in place.

The rule says that people who are not resident can only spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU. So in total over the course of a year you can spend 180 days, but not all in one block.

This Schengen calculator allows you to calculate your visits and make sure you don’t overstay.

It’s important to point out that the 90-day limit is for the whole Schengen area, so for example if you have already spent 89 days in Spain you cannot then go for a long weekend in Berlin.

People who want to stay longer than that have to get a visa – either a visitor visa if they simply want to make a prolonged visit or a long-stay visa for people who intend to make their home in an EU country.

But what about people who are the spouses of EU citizens?

Having an EU spouse is useful in a number of ways to do with immigration (plus if you pick a good one they might put the bins out) but unfortunately not when it comes to the 90-day rule.

The EU’s immigration guidelines state that non-EU passport holders can join their EU spouse in a European country for three months, but after that must apply for a residency card (if they intend to stay) or a visa.

The good news is that applying for both residency or a visa can be simpler if you are applying as the spouse of an EU passport holder.

For visas the system varies between countries but generally you won’t need proof of financial means if your spouse is working, while for pensioners the income and health cover requirements are generally more relaxed. 

Member comments

  1. As always the Local has provided a useful overview. However, when to comes
    to visas the devil is in the detail. The article would be *really* useful
    if links were included to application processes.

    People who want to stay longer than 90 days in 180 have to get a visa – either a visitor visa or a long-stay visa. This article was sourced in
    France but is referenced by The Local in Spain. I am still looking for
    details of how to obtain a visitor visa – clearly a Spanish matter as
    the EU extension visa does not seem appropriate.

    Can anyone assist with clarification of what visa is needed to stay
    in Spain for 180 days en bloc – and how to obtain such? Information
    is needed by September for those UK nationals who habitually spend
    their winters in Spain over the five colder months of the year.

  2. The french government’s website guide to visas explains very clearly how to stay longer than 90 days, if required. And, for those with 2nd homes who want to spend more time in the summer (more than 90 days in a stretch) a ‘short long-stay’ visa is possible. Interestingly, Crete, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania have chosen to stay out of the 90 days in 180 day rule. Visa application to french consulate appears pretty straightforward. It’s a nuisance, and I wish we didn’t have to do it, but not as bleak as the press make it out to be.

    1. The article does not give nearly enough detail on this matter of 6-month stays for Brits with an EU spouse. These will normally be people with 2nd homes. I understand that the Brit has to go to the prefecture within 3 months of arrival and then apply for a “Carte de Séjour de membre de la famille d’un Européen”. But do the prefectures make a difference between (a) people wanting a CdeS because they wish to become permanent residents; and (b) people wanting a CdS in order to say for 6 months? As I say above, most 2nd home-owners will be in category (b). I’ve looked on the website of the prefecture du Var but all I see are references to applications for a VLS-TS, and this is for permanent residents. We would like to stay for 6 months but do not want to be mistaken for permanent residents. Hopefully ‘The Local’ will clarify this point for all of us.

  3. In the article there is a mention of a possible need to apply for a ‘residency card’. What is this?
    I am particularly interested in the situation in Italy.
    I have seen it written that a Carta d’Identità is NOT proof of residency and in that case would not be the aforementioned ‘residency card’.
    In fact, what would be proof of residence in Italy? I understand that it is such residency that means that the 90/180 rule does not apply.
    I find this very confusing! There isn’t more than one meaning of the term ‘residency’, is there?

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Can I save money in Switzerland by buying products on foreign websites?

With the cost of living soaring due to inflation, many consumers in Switzerland are looking for ways to save money. Could buying goods abroad through foreign websites be a good solution?

Reader question: Can I save money in Switzerland by buying products on foreign websites?

With the Swiss franc still stronger than the euro, ordering your products online from European distributors could indeed be cheaper than paying Swiss prices.

A recent report by the RTS public broadcaster, found that even some Swiss products are cheaper when purchased abroad — for instance, capsules for Nespresso coffee machines cost less on the company’s German site than they do in Switzerland.

This applies to a variety of products, ranging from food and beverages to clothing.

In fact, shopping on foreign platforms became a lot easier for the Swiss in January 2022, when ‘geoblocking’ — the practice that restricts access to Internet content based on the user’s geographical location — was banned in Switzerland.

This means Swiss customers are no longer denied the possibility of buying on foreign shopping platforms.

However, there are things to consider before you go on a shopping spree “abroad”, such as additional charges.

While something may appear to be a really great deal in comparison to Swiss prices, keep in mind that the purchase may be subject to customs duties.

According to the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (BAZG) “the customs duties are generally calculated according to the gross weight (including packaging), and are often less than 1 franc per kilo. Particularly alcoholic beverages, tobacco goods, foodstuffs, textiles and jewellery items are subject to higher customs duties”.

In other words, before you order something that you think is a really good deal, find out if any additional charges will be due; depending on the amount, the final cost may not make it worthwhile for you to purchase abroad.

The good news is that, as BAZG points out, goods ordered from “countries with which Switzerland has concluded a free trade agreement or from developing countries can usually be imported duty-free or at reduced rates”.

You can find out more information about which countries are included, here.

But you could face other problems as well.

As the RTS reported, while ordering items abroad is easy, having them delivered to Switzerland may not be.

As a test, the RTS team tried to order common products, such an Ikea piece of furniture, a vacuum cleaner, and brand-name sneakers — all of which are more affordable abroad — but discovered that “it was impossible to get these objects delivered to Switzerland”.

That’s because on some shopping platforms a customer can’t change the destination country — it is embedded on the site and blocked.

At some of these  merchants, “the customer is even directly redirected to the Swiss site if an address in Switzerland is indicated”, RTS said. This means you will end up paying Swiss prices.

Sophie Michaud Gigon, general secretary of the consumer protection association FRC, told RTS that some foreign sites have not yet adapted to the law prohibitng geoblocking.

And there is something else too that you should pay attention to online.

Say you prefer to avoid foreign sites and shop in Switzerland instead. This could be a problem as well.

Under the Swiss law, it is possible to obtain a domain name ending in .ch, even though these companies are  located abroad. This has proven to be misleading to many Switzerland-based customers.

That’s why many clients who believe they are ordering from a supplier in Switzerland are actually buying from a foreign company — a fact that they only discover when they have to pay customs duty.

The only way to avoid this trap, according to FRC, is to call the number on the company’s website and ask where they are located.

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