British visitors to France and Spain may be asked to show proof of their accommodation, including an official certificate obtained in advance if they are staying with friends or family, once Covid travel restrictions are lifted.
Since Brexit, anyone in France hosting non-EU nationals is expected to complete an attestation d’accueil (accommodation certificate) form and submit it for approval to their town hall, a process that can take up to a month.
Once stamped, the form, which costs €30 (£26) and requires supporting documents such as proof of address, income and right of residence, must then be forwarded to the guest so they can show it at the border, where officials are entitled to ask for it.
Second homeowners and holidaymakers staying in hotels or rented accommodation will not need the certificate, but may equally be asked to provide evidence of where they will be staying in France, such as a utility bill or confirmation of their booking.
In Spain, residents hosting non-EU friends or family are expected to apply to the national police, with similar supporting documentation, for a carta de invitación (letter of invitation) costing €74.
It is not clear to what extent the requirements, which are consistent with Schengen zone border regulations for some third-country nationals, will be enforced for British travellers.
Some French immigration lawyers have suggested a simple letter of invitation, rather than an official attestation, may be sufficient for UK nationals visiting friends and family since formal certificates are in theory only required for travellers from countries needing a Schengen visa.
However, accounts of mistreatment of EU citizens in the UK suggest the chance of tougher border checks in the future cannot be excluded and the British government has advised travellers, including those staying with friends or family, to err on the side of caution.
“British nationals visiting France should be prepared to show proof of accommodation at the border such as a hotel booking confirmation or an attestation d’accueil certificate, if staying with a host,” a government spokesperson said.
They added that travellers should check Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advice for details of Covid-related requirements and restrictions, and noted that the FCDO currently advised against all but essential travel to France.
Border control officers are also entitled to ask non-EU visitors to show they have a return ticket or evidence of the funds to buy one, as well as proof that they can cover the costs of their stay and have adequate health insurance.
The spokesperson said the British government was currently “seeking urgent clarity” from the French government on exactly what the healthcare insurance requirements were for British tourists staying in private accommodation.
“All British nationals should continue to ensure they have a valid EHIC or GHIC (global health insurance card) and obtain travel insurance that meets all their needs when travelling to the EU,” the spokesperson added.
Only one attestation d’accueil is required per family, but groups of friends will need one each, according to the campaign group Rift. Some travellers, including people coming to France because of serious illness or the death of a relative, are exempt.