France publishes initial relaxation in UK travel restrictions

The day after the announcement that France would look to relax its strict travel restrictions for the UK, the first alteration of the rules was announced.

France publishes initial relaxation in UK travel restrictions
Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Although travel between France and the UK is still only allowed for essential reasons, the list of accepted reasons was on Thursday evening expanded to include work trips.

A work trip that cannot be postponed will now be allowed, with an attestation from the employer stating that the trip is essential. The new rule covers travel both to and from France, and takes effect immediately.

Also added to the list of allowed reasons for travel is people passing through France on their way to their home in another EU country. Previously this had only been allowed for EU citizens, leaving Brits who live in another EU country unable to travel through France to get home. 

The change was welcomed by Alexandre Holroyd, the MP responsible for French citizens living in northern Europe, including the UK, saying it was “a first step in easing travel restrictions, which I continue to advocate”.

Those travelling for work will still need a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours, plus all the existing paperwork. Hauliers have always been exempt from the ban. Elite athletes are also permitted to travel for tournaments with the agreement of the French sports ministry.

Although a welcome relaxation of the rules, this will come as a disappointment to the many people who still cannot travel, including those travelling for family visits or compassionate reasons, tourists and second-home owners.

The UK is now the subject of the strictest French rules after African countries including South Africa and Lesotho were removed from the ‘scarlet list’ which was created at the beginning of December over fears of the Omnicron variant.

Travel between France and the UK is only allowed for people who meet the criteria for motif impérieux (vital reasons) – these include citizens returning to their country of origin or country of residence and – now – essential work travel. Find the full list of reasons HERE.

Those who do meet the criteria for travel face a mountain of paperwork and with all travellers – including the fully vaccinated – have to show a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours to enter France.

READ ALSO The 9 essential pieces of paperwork for France-UK travel

The rules also require those leaving France for the UK to for the vital reasons criteria.

The rules were put in place in December when the UK began to see spiralling numbers of cases of the Omicron variant of Covid, but since then France has seen its own record case numbers and the Omicron variant has become dominant, leading many to complain that there is no longer any justification for such strict rules.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the government was ready to relax the restrictions “soon” but stopped short of promising complete end to the de facto travel ban , speaking only of widening the categories for essential travel.

READ ALSO When will France lift travel restrictions on UK?

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Reader question: Can I use a Lateral Flow Test for travel to France?

With strict testing requirements in place for entry to France, many readers have asked if the UK Lateral Flow Tests can be used for travel purposes. The answer - it depends.

Reader question: Can I use a Lateral Flow Test for travel to France?
Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP

Question: I’m travelling from the UK to France and I know I need to show a negative test taken within 24 hours of my departure time – but my question is whether I can use a Lateral Flow Test for this or whether it needs to be a PCR test?

PCR tests are always accepted for travel, but since results are needed within 24 hours for UK arrivals, many PCR providers are not able to provide results in time for travel.

The French travel website states that the test for entry can be ‘either a PCR or antigen test’.

So this seems pretty straightforward. However, the UK has different types of Lateral Flow Tests on offer, and not all of them meet the French travel standards, which is why this question doesn’t have a simple answer.

READ ALSO When will France lift its 24-hour test requirement for travel?

Firstly the UK government is clear – NHS Lateral Flow Tests cannot be used for travel purposes, so you face paying for your test and unlike France, there is no limit set by the government on how much test providers can charge.

The French requirement for tests is that you need a test certificate showing your name, date of birth, type and date of test and of course, the result. QR codes are helpful but not essential as long as the certificate has the necessary information. 

This certificate can be presented either on paper, in a digital format or scanned into the French TousAntiCovid app.

UK Lateral Flow Tests come in different forms and not all of them give the required certificate.

If you’re using a home test kit that does not provide a certificate then you cannot simply take the little plastic results strip to the travel terminal with you (for some reason staff aren’t keen on handling something that contains the results of your nasal swab) and a photo of it is not accepted either.

If you book a test described as a travel test or one that includes a ‘Fit to Fly’ certificate that will give you the paperwork you need.

Likewise if you go to a testing centre in an airport or travel hub that offers on-the-spot results for travel you will get the certificate that you need.

In between this is a bit of a grey area as some firms offer tests that you take at home under video supervision – the French requirement is not concerned with the circumstances in which you take the test, but only with having the correct certificate type so in this case you will have to check with the provider to ensure that you get the paperwork you need in order to travel.

You can read full details of the rules for travel between France and the UK HERE.

Bear in mind that once you are in France you will need a vaccine pass to enter many everyday venues – full details HERE.