Update on French Government Closure of Borders for Travel to Non-European Countries

March 19, 2021

On January 29, the French government announced the closure of its borders to all travel to non-European countries, except when compelling circumstances exist. Attestation forms released by the French government include the accepted “compelling reasons” for travel. You can access the attestations at https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/Actualites/L-actu-du-Ministere/Attestation-de-deplacement-et-de-voyage#from

Note: For French purposes, the European Area includes all EU members as well as Andorra, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Martino, Switzerland, and the Vatican.  Different rules may apply for French overseas territories and departments.

The application and enforcement of these rules rest with the French government. The United States Embassy plays no role in deciding who is exempt from the border closure.

On March 11, the French government lifted travel restrictions for U.K., Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore. The United States is not included among the excepted countries. Travel to the U.S. is only permitted for a compelling reason health, family, or professional (which can’t be postponed) reason.  A fourth option is to return to the traveler’s country or residence or country or origin but there is no guarantee such a traveler will be allowed back into France without a compelling reason. Under this reason, U.S. citizens and legal residents of the United States may return to the United States.  However, France may refuse to allow them to back into France if they cannot show a compelling reason when they try to return.

France has identified their approved compelling reasons for departing France as

  • Personal or family reasons:
  • Death of family member (grandparents, parents, children, siblings);
  • Visit to a family member (grandparents, parents, children, siblings) with a life threatening condition;
  • Travel in France to exercise court-ordered custody rights;
  • Summons by a judicial or administrative authority;
  • Inability to remain in the country due to legal or economic reasons, such as an expiring residence permit or loss of job, etc.;
  • Participation in a university exchange program
  • Medical reasons:
  • Vital medical emergency (for the person as well as an accompanying person if their presence is indispensable);
  • Compelling professional reasons:
  • Missions that are essential to the pursuit of an economic activity, requiring an on-site presence that would be impossible to postpone or for which postponement would incur  demonstrable disproportionate consequences.  This includes transport professionals;
  • Healthcare or research professional contributing to the fight against COVID-19 or participating in cooperative work of major interest in healthcare;
  • Certain government related trips that cannot be postponed;
  • High level professional athletes participating in events validated by the Ministry of Sport; and
  • France-UK trans-border workers.

All travelers, including children, must have a signed attestation form, available in French here and in English here. You must indicate the reason for travel.

Under the fourth reason, U.S. citizens and legal residents of the United States may return to the United States.  However, France may refuse to allow them to back into France if they cannot show a compelling reason when they try to return. Additional information on what constitutes compelling reasons can be found in French at the end of the attestation.

Travelers to the United States are reminded that as of January 26, all air travelers to the United States age 2 and above, including U.S. citizens, must show proof of a negative COVID-19 viral or antigen test performed within three days before boarding their flights, or evidence of having contracted and recovered from COVID-19 within the 90 days before boarding their light.  More information on this requirement can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.  Travelers who are not U.S. citizens, U.S. Legal Permanent Residents (green card holders), or their spouses of minor children, are reminded that a U.S. Presidential Proclamation currently restricts most travel to the United States.  In addition to an ESTA or visa, most such travelers will also need a National Interest Exception to the travel order.  Please see the visas portion of our website for more information.

For travel to France, different rules apply depending on whether the travel originates from within the “European area” or from other non-excludedcountries, including the United States, and whether the traveler is a citizen of a European country or not.  For travelers from the United States, as well as travelers present within the last 30 days in any non-excluded country outside the European area, all travelers must fit into one of the following categories:

  • Third-country (non-French or EU) nationals with a valid French or European or long stay visa with either their main residence in France or in transit through France to their main residence in another EU country.  These travelers must either show that they departed on their foreign trip before January 31 or had a compelling reason for their trip;
  • Third-country nationals with a  Third-country nationals holding a long-stay visa issued for family reunification or family reunification of refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and stateless persons;
  • Health professionals or foreign researchers contributing to the fight against Covid-19 or recruited as an associate trainee;
  • Holders of a long stay “Talent Passport” visa;
  • Students coming to France for the second academic semester as part of a program of a higher education institution, or researchers coming to France at the invitation of a research laboratory, for research activities requiring a physical presence.
  • Workers in the ground, sea, and air transportation industries or transport service providers.  This includes drivers of any vehicle transporting goods for use in the territory as well as those who are only in transit, or travelling as a passenger to position themselves at their base of departure or for training purposes;
  • Foreign nationals working in a diplomatic or consular mission, or an international organization having its headquarters or an office in France, as well as the spouse and children, or a foreign national of a third country residing in France for compelling professional reasons under official orders issued by their country; and
  • Third-country nationals in transit of less than 24 hours who will not leave the international transit zone.

In addition, French citizens, their spouses (married, PACS, and common-law partners) and their minor children normally residing in France, may return if they began their trip before January 31 or meet one of the limited list of compelling reasons that can be found on the attestation form for such travelers. As of March 11, there are also exceptions for French citizens, spouses, and children with one partner living outside the Schengen zone for professional reasons, as well as for separated couples with children attending school in France while their families live abroad. Please refer to the French Ministry of Interior website for more information.

All qualifying travelers must also show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test performed within 72 hours before boarding the flight and fill out a form that they have no COVID symptoms and acknowledging they are required to self-isolate for seven days upon arrival in France followed by another PCR test at the end of the self-isolation period.  The COVID testing requirements do not apply to children under age 11; the self-isolation period and other requirements do apply.

Different rules and forms apply for travelers arriving from within the European area or the United Kingdom and can be found on the Ministry of Interior webpage.