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Can my limited company meet its suppliers in Paris while I’m a tourist?

Contractor’s Question: What are the covid-19 entry processes and visa requirements for UK nationals wanting to travel to Paris, France, for a one-week stay, or a two-week stay if things go to plan!?

My plan is for my partner and I to enjoy a few days as tourists seeing the sights in the French capial, but when my partner returns to the UK after a week, I intend to meet some Paris-based suppliers to my UK-registered limited company who I’ve never met before, despite them supplying my business for a decade. The meeting will cue up charges for a later date but not result in me (or them) carrying out any billable work during my trip.

What sort of visa do I need to do this holiday-cum-meeting trip? Or can I just hope across the channel like a tourist always used to be able to, given the time spent is way below the 183-day rule?

Expert’s Answer: Firstly, concerning the covid-19 entry restrictions for a UK person who wants to enter France, the UK is currently on the French ‘Amber’ list.

The entry requirements are different depending on whether you are fully vaccinated or not.

All is not lost, especially if you’re a UK tech consultant

However, perhaps all is not lost for Brits in certain sectors, including technology. Indeed, in France, and specific to France, certain categories of person and activity CAN work in France without a work visa.

These categories are dictated by a time threshold, however. Firstly:

Much more complicated without jabs

You do not state your vaccine status but unvaccinated (or not fully vaccinated) arrivals in France from countries on the French amber list – like the UK — will only be permitted to travel for essential reasons.

So if you are not fully vaccinated, you will need to have an ‘essential reason’ to travel from France to a country on France’s amber list. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated will also need to present a three-fold set of documents — outlined in a bullet-point section on the UK government’s website here.

In addition, be aware that travellers who are not fully vaccinated will need to self-isolate for SEVEN days after arrival in France, then take another PCR test following this period of self-isolation.

No essential reason to enter France? You’ll need to be fully vaccinated

However, travellers who are fully vaccinated do not need an essential reason to travel to France and do not need to self-isolate on arrival.

Since July 18th, fully vaccinated travellers no longer need to present evidence of a negative test result before travel either. Fully vaccinated travellers will need to present the following documents:

  • a completed ‘sworn statement’ (déclaration sur l’honneur) form self-certifying they are not suffering from symptoms associated with coronavirus and have not been in contact with confirmed cases in the preceding fortnight. This can be found on the French government’s website.
  • proof of vaccination status

When tourism and business go together

Secondly, you ask about visas. The relevant rules for you are that you may travel to France for up to 90 days in any 180 period for tourism and business meetings, but you may not work. If you plan to undertake paid work, you must apply for a work visa.

From what you describe, these will be business meetings and not paid work so that means you can safely go to Paris without a work visa. But be careful not to overstay the limits.

In short, if you are planning trips to France for tourism or business meetings then you can do so with a minimum of formalities.

The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS)

However, be careful if you have to postpone your trip because things will change after 2023.

In particular, although British citizens do not need a visa to visit Europe, they will need an ETIAS visa waiver from 2023.

Note: The European Union has postponed the launch of the ETIAS to November 2023.

This ‘European Travel Information and Authorisation System’ is being introduced to register visitors from visa-exempt non-EU nations. The EU Commission has confirmed that British tourists will need to apply for ETIAS to enter Europe from the UK.

Fortunately, ETIAS is easier to obtain than a visa, as the registration process is fully online without requiring you to visit an embassy or consulate. But like all other ETIAS applicants, British passport holders will pay a small fee to cover the system’s running costs.

I hope this answers your questions. Bon voyage!

The expert was Kevin Austin, managing director of contracting overseas advisory Access Financial.