Can Brits transit through France to Switzerland?

Trucks crossing into France from the UK
What are the rules for transiting through France? Photo: FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP
France has in place strict rules that ban most types of travel from the UK - but what about people who need to pass through France in order to get to another country?

It was reported on Thursday that UK nationals are banned from travelling through France – even if they live in another EU country and need to get home.

However, the situation seems to be slightly more complicated than that.

Since December 18th France has had in place strict rules on travel both to and from the UK, with only those who fit the criteria for essential travel allowed.

READ MORE: Everything that changes in Switzerland in January 2022

You can find the full list of essential reasons HERE, but it bars all tourism, family visits and visits from second-home owners.

UK nationals who live in France are allowed to return home.

Also allowed are “EU nationals who have their main home in France or . . . in transit through France to their main home in an EU country”.

Since Brexit, this of course no longer includes Brits who live in EU countries and Schengen countries such as Switzerland. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

However also allowed to travel are “UK nationals who benefit from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement” (ie those who lived in an EU country prior to December 31st 2020) with no mention made of having to be permanent residents in France.

The rules also allow for “travellers in transit for less than 24 hours in an international zone”.

So it seems that Brits could transit through France.

However, there appears to be an important caveat – how you travel.

The transit clause ends with “in an international zone” – which refers to airports – passengers on transit flights do not leave the international zone of the airport and therefore in immigration terms do not enter a country.

EXPLAINED: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

The British Embassy in France states that: “UK nationals may only transit France if travelling by air”.

The rules in full state: “Whatever your nationality, you are authorised to transit through France, in the international zone of an airport (connection between 2 flights) for a maximum of 24 hours

UPDATE: What are the Covid rules for transiting through Switzerland?

“If you are a national of the European Union, you are authorised to return to your main residence in France or in another European Union country. Your spouse (married, civil partner, cohabiting partner) and children are allowed to travel with you, regardless of their nationality. You must be able to show proof of your main residence at the border.”

So it seems that Brits can travel through France – but only by air.

This must also be a transit flight – ie two flights booked together so that you stay within the international zone at the airport.

There has been no change to the rules since December 18th, but reporting on Thursday appears to be sparked by a tweet from Eurotunnel saying that Brits cannot transit by road – which would therefore apply to all Eurotunnel’s passengers.

The Local has requested urgent clarification from the French government on the rules for transit, and the situation for Brits living in the EU who had travelled to the UK by car, and now apparently face being stranded or having to abandon their car in order to get home. 

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