What Is The Schengen Zone And How Do Schengen Area Visas Work?

January 27, 2012 by  
Advice, Air, Car, Train

hamburg airport terminal

Visas aren’t the most interesting subject to read about though they happen to be the most discussed topic on this blog. Much of the confusion that fuels the questions behind that forum revolves around the continent where 50.7% of all people (477 million) [PDF] travel per year – Europe. The Schengen Agreement and Area are both visa topics you should brush up on if you’re headed to Europe for more than 3 months in any given 12 month period so you don’t unwittingly break any rules.

That Europe, by the way isn’t just the European Union (EU) and in fact isn’t all of the EU anyway, here’s what you need to know.

copenhagen bicyclesWhere Is The Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area currently consists of 26 countries in Europe including Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, and Greece. You can see the full list of current members here. Some notable exceptions are England and Ireland (both EU but not Schengen). Several countries you might not expect also part of the Schengen Area include Estonia, Latvia, and Malta. Bulgaria and Romania are likely to join the Schengen club later this year.

So Why Should You Care About This Funny Sounding Area?

Because in terms of travel and visas, Schengen member states are essentially the same country. Across the Schengen Area, those of you from countries who do not require visas (including the United States, South Korea, Australia, Canada, and Brazil) are permitted to stay 90 days out of every 180. That means the entire Schengen Area, not just the Schengen member country you’re visiting.

This is where most people get confused – you can only stay within the entire Schengen Area for 90 days out of every 180. So, if you spend 1 month in Germany, then fly to France for a month, go visit your friends back in Turkey (not Schengen) for 2 weeks, then head to Spain for 6 weeks you’ll officially be overstaying your Schengen welcome. Want to spend two months in Austria then hop a train to Slovenia for 2 months? Well, that’s a no-no too.

These rules are, of course, the general ones and apply to most people but not all. For instance, New Zealand citizens have visa-free travel for 90 days out of every 180 in each individual Schengen nation. (A rare exception.) Check with the appropriate embassy for the specifics given your circumstances – don’t just take my word for it as visas can be complex and laws change quickly.

Only 3 Months In 26 Countries? The Reasoning Behind The Ridiculousness

Yes, these are the same folks who came up with the bright idea of a single currency without a framework to support it but actually the Schengen rules are very convenient – especially for Schengen residents. Citizens of member states can travel and live in the others without visas. Plus border crossings are more efficient without constant passport checks. (Checks are optional for each country at their discretion so always bring your travel documents when crossing any border.)

houses in portugal

Most people take vacations and trips much shorter than 3 months and the Schengen Agreement while driving up visa costs (for those who need them) has steadily increased tourism to Europe. The Schengen Area isn’t going anywhere but rather, will continue to grow.

valancia streetsHow Can You Stay Longer Than 3 Months In The Schengen Zone?

Residents of most countries will need to fill out a long-stay visa application at the embassy of the specific country they’ll be arriving in first (e.g. Sweden). Generally, long-stay visas must be applied for from outside the Schengen Area.

Long-stay visas are only allowed for up to one year. Afterward, from your point of entry into the Schengen, you’ll be free to visit the members states within that time. The Schengen rules don’t allow you to travel for more than a year within the Area so if you really fall in love with a country and want to stay longer than 12 months, you’ll need to file for a residence permit with that specific country.

What Happens If You Overstay?

That’s a question I’ve covered in depth before but to sum it up for short overstays upon leaving the Schengen Area you may face a fine. For longer overstays a ban for a number of years is possible. An overstay of even 1 day (remember it is 90 days not 3 months out of every 180 days) can hit your pocketbook and cause you problems so don’t risk it if you don’t have to. Finally, if you are behind the Schengen borders and simply couldn’t pull yourself away on time, you’ll likely find it easier avoiding being caught at passport control if you leave from countries that aren’t as culturally diligent about timekeeping. (*cough* Greece, Spain *cough*)

The more punctual peoples of Europe (Germans are notorious for catching short over-stayers) could cause you problems but in the end it all depends on the person you come across at passport control. The only way to not have any problems is to know and follow the rules.

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  1. Dave Brett says:

    Its lucky being in the Eu I can live, travel, study and work as long as I want. Really amazing and extremely lucky to have so much at my finger tips, Just wish others could see it that way compared to the hassle allot of others have such as US citizens for example with all the visa hassle. can just hop on a Eurostar to paris in 45 minutes from London any time i want to. Gotta love europe and being European,

    The economist just covered this last week, I took a picture of the article and there is an audio clip bout it, should check it out it was rather good.

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  2. Let’s see. That means if they get up to 30 countries in the Schengen group,those of us who want to visit all of Europe would essentially get to spend 3.333 days in each country. Seems to me that the Schengen Agreement would tend to water down the revenues that each country would be able to realize from tourism, even if the overall tourism numbers increase.

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    • Anil P. says:

      Very true for many of the countries in the Schengen, with the exception of many eastern border states. I was surprised to learn that Poland, once worried about Schengen rules diminishing their tourism, is now making seeing 4% more annually. Mostly due to Russians, who seem to file for Schengen visas through Poland as a majority.

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  3. Colleen says:

    Hello Anil,

    Do they start you Schengen time in immigration when they stamp your passport or does it start when the plan touches down? I’m walking the Camino and am trying to make the most of 90 days. If I fly in and can get there just after midnight (to France) then my Day 1 can count for the most. What determines the exact time of when a person’s Scengen time begins?

    Hope I made myself clear. If not, feel free to email.

    Love your site. It’s been a tremendous resource. = ) Thanks.

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    • Anil P. says:

      Hi Colleen,

      You’re technically not in a country until you pass immigration (a fictitious example you may have seen in the movie, The Terminal http://amzn.to/OeEF0b). So, your Schengen time begins on the date of your first entry stamp into the zone. It’s counted by days, not hours so aside from arriving a little after midnight, there’s little you can do to squeeze in an extra day.

      Hope this helps, if not let me know!

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  4. Patricia Capuyan says:

    hi my name is Patricia and im here in Naples,Italy… im planning to overstayed here with my husband maybe like 1 more month but im really scared and i dont know what will be the fine….maybe you can help us by giving us advice where we can go to apply for extensionof my stay…THANK YOU

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    • Keith says:

      Hi Patricia

      Not sure about Italy but here in Greece, the place to begin your enquiries would be the Aliens’ Office at the local Police (a bit scary I know but I met some really nice and interesting people around Eastern Europe doing that) Headquarters. Mind, everywhere you ask, you will probably get different advice! The only advice that counts is that of the Passport Office who checks you when you leave. In Italy, the guy there gave me a wink and said, “You’re an Aussie, don’t worry!” But I didn’t take the chance and went to Turkey before my 90 days in 6 months were up to start a new 90 day period and they let me back in to the Schengen Zone OK. I have since had a legal opinion on a European Court ruling that 6 months periods can run consecutively and that you are OK provided you don’t overstay 90 days in any 6 month period. But even that court ruling is debatable and as I said, the only ruling that counts is the one Passport Officer at the checkout is up to date with. I guess the best advice is not to overstay, unless you know what you are doing or don’t want to come back for some period like 5 years!

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    • Anil Polat says:

      I wouldn’t plan for an overstay because of the potential ban for several years – try to extend your visa legally if possible and contact your embassy website for more advice.

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  5. Jeff says:

    Are you 100% certain it is each 180 days NOT six months? It might sound semantic but I have read both in different places and the difference would be about 3 days which could affect plans if you hope to return to Schengen 90 days later…

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  6. Larissa says:

    This is the clearest, most concise explanation of the Schengen Agreement restrictions that I’ve found. Thanks for helping to unravel a particularly Byzantine law (which ironically does not apply to Turkey!)

    We’re currently in Europe on our RTW and have decided we’ll try to limit ourselves to about 85 days to allow for those quirks of layovers, etc. that you describe. We also want to leave ourselves a few days’ cushion in case a long flight from, say Africa to South America, routes us through a Schengen country.

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    • Ian says:

      Hi, I know this is also anecdotal, but thought I’d share:

      I lived in Holland and traveled around for about 6 years, coming and going to and from Canada at least 30 times in total, leaving from various points and entering as well.

      (for a long time I believed as long as you left every 6 months you could return and begin anew),,, ignorance is bliss.

      Finally I did get caught leaving and was banned for 3 years. However I was not aware of this ban until I was caught again leaving after returning and then leaving for the 2nd time!!!

      They were only aware of my ban after being pulled aside and checked on the computer. the number of stamps in my passport is what raised the eyebrows. I was not given a fine, but told in a vague way not to return until the ban was up.

      Although my gut tells me if I had a new passport with no stamps in it, I could probably get in without a problem.

      However I feel I’ve pressed my luck as far as it will go (which seems pretty far!) so I’m happy to simply wait til my time is up and go legit from now on.

      In summary:
      3/10 they dont even look just find a page and stamp,
      3/10 they look but say nothing and stamp it,
      3/10 they ask you one or two questions,
      1/10 they grill you and pull you aside if you have too many stamps, or stayed too long.

      nothing at all like the grilling you get going into Canada, the US or UK.
      As ridiculous as the Shengen system is, it’s still better then getting grilled at every single border.

      Bottom line
      don’t let fear ruin your trip.
      Do it legit when possible, but if not its always better to beg forgiveness then ask permission.

      Only 485 days, and I’ll be back again!

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    • Anil P. says:

      Thank you, I appreciate that and love the irony of your second sentence! Cushion time is a great idea as you never know when delays might pop up – one of the common themes and joys of travel – the unexpected :) Enjoy your time in Europe and beyond!

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  7. Keith Oehme says:

    I arrived in Greece on April 17 and at the end of my forst 6 months, October 16, I will have stayed in the Schengen Zone (having been to Schengen Holland and non Schengen Baltic countries) exactly 90 days. I am booked to fly home to Australia on Day 87 but I would like to go another 90 days just in Greece, starting with Day 1 on Oct 17. Is this going to work or do I have to leave for up to 90 days as some people are telling me?

    Also, I will return to the Schengen Zone, Italy (then Greece) on October 4, Day 78. From what I have read, a new 6 months will start from that date and if I am able to stay, it will only be for another 78 days beyond the original 90 day date of October 16.

    Complicated isn’t it!

    Are any of these scenarios possible for me?

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    • Anil P. says:

      It’s 90 days out of every 180, unless you get a longer term visa.

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      • Keith Oehme says:

        So arriving back in Italy (then Greece) on Schengen Day 78 and Day 171 of the first 6 month period, a second 18o day period allowing another stay of up to 90 days would start, noting that I will have only stayed 90 days in the first continuing 6 month period on day 184.

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        • Keith Oehme says:

          I will have accumulated 90 days only on the last day of 6 months in Greece. Do I still have to leave Greece (the Schengen Area) for 90 days (as I am told repeatedly) or does another 6 month period and 90 days start again straightaway?

          As it happens, provided I leave on day 78 of the second 6 months, at no stage will I have stayed more than 90 days in a 6 month period!

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          • Anil P. says:

            You’ll have to leave to ‘restart’ the Schengen visa and there are many quick trip options for that. Though I’d recommend calling the Greek embassy to see if there are any other options that would allow you to stay considering your timetable.

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            • Keith Oehme says:

              “You’ll have to leave to ‘restart’ the Schengen visa.” When do you suggest I leave the Schengen Zone?

              I have already left and am currently in Montenegro and due to return to Italy and then Greece on October 4 which will be my 78th day in the Schengen Zone! Will that ‘restart’ the Schengen Visa?

              October 16 will be the last day of my first 6 months in the Schengen Zone! If I leave that day and return on October 17, will that ‘restart’ the Schengen Visa?

              I have email queries into Embassies and Ministries everywhere including my own with no response from any of them so far!

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              • Anil P. says:

                I got confused but you just have to count back 180 days from the present to see if you’re close to overstaying. I thought you were asking if you could be in the Schengen and extend your 90 days on a tourist visa.

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                • Keith Oehme says:

                  I will have accumulated exactly 90 days on the last day of my six months, October 16, in the Schengen Area: Greece. I want to know if I can start accumulating another 90 days immediately in the following 6 months starting October 17 or do I have to leave the Schengen area for some period – how long – before I can come back and start again?

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                  • Anil P. says:

                    From my understanding you’d have to leave for another 90 days.

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                    • Keith Oehme says:

                      What happened was, on advice from the local police – they deal with ‘aliens’ here in Greece – on my 87th Schengen day and just before the end of 6 calendar months, I travelled to Turkey for a few days and was allowed to return a few days after the 6 calendar months. The Greek passport control officer perused my passport for some minutes but finally stamped me in. I also obtained legal advice that states to the effect that provided one doesn’t exceed 90 days in six calendar months, one can start another 90 days as soon as the first 6 months has expired. I understood that was the case so probably should have just stayed in Greece: but I got to see some of Turkey!

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  8. Debra says:

    When does the 90 day clock start and stop? I plan to arrive in Italy jan 15 (I would think that this is day 1) and depart apr 15, but technically apr 15 would be day 91….do I have to depart for home “legally” on apr 14? Appreciate the information?

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    • Kimberly Anderson Aulis says:

      Debra. as anil stated, 91 days is technically the same as 191 days overstay–it’s like a little bit pregnant. It just depends on what and where you are attempting to pass through, a country that is notoriously strict(germany) or less detail oriented by culture (spain). Logically, it would stand to reason that when you are in line at the airport with a ticket in hand, you can attempt to make a reasonable explanation-but you never know as a hardliner is going to be hardline all the time that it was your responsibility to know and plan accordingly-Remember the time difference also, so if you leave late enough from wherever your destination is and you arrive past midnight on that day in Italy, you will be stamped the actual date of arrival. Remember you can also go to a country outside of the Schengen for a few days if that is feasible for a side trip that is NOT Schengen (UK, Morroco, etc) and you can then those particular days do not count towards your 90 day Schengen stay (you will need to have the evidence of your trip, which may be your pp stamp if given)to make your argument IF you are questioned leaving.

      Where are you flying from and transiting through en route? As anil has stated at length on this site, this is problematic for some transiting countries also, which have stricter enforcement and little tolerance to exceptions.

      you are making a lot of potential work for yourself to avoid a risk for only one day potentially

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      • Debra says:

        Not a problem…I have not purchased my airfare yet…so can certainly leave on the 14th of April. I agree….not worth rocking the boat for 1 day. Thanks for the information/input.

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    • Anil P. says:

      The “clock” is from entry stamp to exit stamp.

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  9. k says:

    i would definitely recommend you also get this in writing. I don’t believe, based on my own recent experience, entering in France and then attempting to extend a visa in Spain, that you are going to find this is true. What great news it would be, and given the widespread misunderstanding of what the rules actually are that I encountered, you might luck out and get someone who thinks like this and stamps you,but you will need a BIG four leaf clover! Good luck

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  10. Maggie says:

    This information is SO good to know and it’s much easier to understand when you explain it than trying to sort it out on official websites. Thank you!

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  11. Kaleb says:

    Thank you for your article. Very informative. My wife and I are wanting to go to Spain for 9-10 months to get our certification to teach English then get a job for the school year. We have received conflicting advice about how to maneuver the visa situation.

    Our choices are: try to find a course to take in Spain so we can apply for a year-long student visa (which might be too late to process since we want to leave September 1st)

    OR

    risk the consequences of overstaying by 6-7 months. Naturally the concerns are high. What do you think the fine would be for us? It might be better to stomach the extra dollars if it prevents all this visa headache. We are US citizens, plus it comforts me somewhat to hear that Spain is often lax in these matters. Anything else to suggest?

    Also, do you really have to go the Spanish consulate in person to apply for a visa? The nearest one to me is two states and an expensive flight away. That seems ridiculous to demand that. Isn’t there an option for a phone interview or something?

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    • Anil P. says:

      Don’t overstay if you don’t have to is what I would suggest. I don’t know what the exact fine is but it may come with a lengthy ban which might sting more if the money isn’t a concern. I’m not sure what the exact visa procedure is, but many countries (including the United States) have cumbersome visa procedures. The best place to call is the Spanish embassy closest to you and if that doesn’t work, contact the US embassy in Madrid. You can also contact the schools you’ll be applying to; they might be able to help. Best of luck.

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  12. Dani says:

    Hello! I have an interesting situation I was thinking about might be able to enlighten me on. I recently traveled around the Schengen area for 90 days from March to June. However, now I have a contract to be an aupair in France and school documents, which are being sent to the US. We (the French family) and I are doing everything legal in terms of the long term student visa (valid for 1 year), and I emailed the embassy to make sure I would be able to enter in August, which would technically only be 2 months since my last stay in the schengen area. This is the response I got:

    The rules goes as follow:
    – as an American citizen, you are allowed to stay up to 90 days in France and 90 days in another Schengen state out of a 6-month period;
    – the 6-month period starts on the first day you enter the Schengen area (April 3rd, 2011 in your case), and is reset every 180 days.

    You can apply for a long stay visa as an au pair with a departing date in August. Please make sure to bring all the necessary paperwork, that you will find listed on our website: http://www.consulfrance-chicago.org/spip.php?article677.”

    The first time I actually visited Europe was April 2 2009, for 5 days. I just sent the consualte another email with the information of the last 4 years just to be sure (I have dated and detailed every country and every visit in a list format for them to make it easier).

    I am still nervous due to the conflicting information I see everywhere, and feel like I’m going to have a panic attack! The host family and I have planned me to leave on August 15th, but I keep putting off buying a ticket due to fear, and my visa application appointment is in 5 days at the embassy in Chicago…where they are going to want to see a plane ticket! Does getting this year long work/student visa supercede my previous stay in Schengen area? Like does it make it ok to enter again? Thanks for any advice, I’m really hoping for some definite enlightenment here. :/

    xx Dani

    (0)
    • Anil P. says:

      I would take the consulate’s advice and get it in writing plus notarized. They are the source you should follow. Write them again to confirm you can reenter France, though it looks like the student visa supersedes the tourist one you used on the prior visit this year.

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  13. This is great info — I’m considering a stint in Italy for a few months later this year. Hopefully the Italians take after the Greeks as well… :)

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  14. Joel says:

    Greece may not be diligent about checking, but I have read a number of horror stories. When they DO check, they will enforce stringently.

    To your point, follow the rules and you won’t have any issues.

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    • Anil P. says:

      Exactly – you never want to be at the whim of border control if you can help it. Not the best way to say goodbye after a nice European trip!

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  15. Eric says:

    Hello Anil,

    I’m hoping you still frequently update this site. My situation is as follows. I am a U.S. citizen, work in the field of architecture and have always been interested in Europe. On my last visit, I met someone and want to give things a shot. She lives in Switzerland. I work for an architecture firm which would allow me to work remotely, so I could have income while living there, and also a place to stay. I was there for 29 days on this last trip, so it is my understanding that I have 61 days left for this 180 day period. If things work out well, obviously I would want to stay longer. Is it possible to apply for a resident permit while I am staying there? What are other possibilities for me to try? I understand that the UK is not in the Schengen Countries, so within the 61 days I could possibly stay there for 3 months and back to Switz, but this is not really what I am looking to do. I know there is a tunnel and trains between UK and France, do they check and stamp passports there like if you fly?

    Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing a reply.

    -Eric

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  16. Ellie says:

    Hello,

    I had read about 20 forums and spoken to a handful of people about the Schengen area and still feeling unsure about it all.

    My situation is a bit more different than i have read anywhere else. Hopefully you can help me :)

    I am an Australian and hold a UK Anstery Visa which allows me to work there legally for 5 years.

    I will be arriving into the UK and working for 5 months in Scotland.
    I then travel to France, Spain, Portugal, Italy (37 Days) (Schengen Area)
    Croatia (10 Days) (Non Schengen Area)
    Greece (10 Days) (Schengen Area)
    Turkey (25 Days) (Non Schengen Area)
    Hungary, Germany, Czech Republic, Berlin, Amsterdam (35 Days) (Schengen Area)

    Total of 82 Days in the Schengen Area.
    Question 1: This would be allowed correct?
    Question 2: If I did happen overstayed my 90 days in the Schengen Area (just for a precaution) would I be able to return back to the UK as I hold a 5 Year working visa or would I be send back to Aus?

    I look forward to hearing from you hopefully with some answers!!

    Thank you

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  17. Miki says:

    I knew Canadian guy who was backpacking Europe straight for a year.Upon leaving from France,French didnt like it,they just took a long breath,told him:”Dont do this again”
    -,no consequences for him.
    I guess he was lucky

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  18. I really wish I had figured all this out before my big Euro trip! Thanks for the info now though.

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  19. Dom Z says:

    I have a question like most, and I know this topic has been beat to death, but here goes!

    I am an American Citizen who is here in Europe traveling around. With this 90/180 day rule in the Schengen area.
    Here is my question: During the time I was in Europe “Schengen Area” I went to turkey for almost two weeks.
    Do I still have those two weeks to still spend here in the Schengen area because I have not been : in the Schengen area for a total of 90 days…. aka 14 of those days I was in turkey, a non Schengen Country.

    So do I still have 14 more days here in The Schengen area or ?

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    • Anil Polat says:

      No worries, it can be confusing under a number of circumstances, I’ll do my best to help. Simple answer to your question: yes :)

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      • Dom Z says:

        nice !! thanks guys you too Keith !

        Looks like I get to party on for 14 more days :) and then who knows extra time in the UK ( extra 90 days_?) or I heard also that Denmark requires no VISA either. Americans stay an additional 30 days there VISA free!

        Score

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      • Keith Oehme says:

        Yes. As long as you don’t overstay a total of 90 days in the Schengen area in a six calendar month period as I understand it.

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  20. Veronica says:

    I would like to point out that “England” is not the United Kingdom. When you refer to “England and Ireland” I think you mean “the United Kingdom and Ireland”, because Scotland and Wales are part of the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom as a whole is not in Schengen.

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    • Anil P. says:

      You’re correct the UK is not part of the Schengen, although I decided against changing the line, since both sentences are accurate. Thanks for pointing it out though if any one has any questions.

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  21. Dave Brett says:

    Sorry sounded like I was tooting my own horn just then, I just wish more Europeans saw it that way this blog really helps to understand the hassle of tourists coming for longer stay trips, its something the EU keeps to them selfs but its important to make it as easy as possible or more and more people will seek to go to alternative destinations. But good for Turkey! I hope they get a boost from it, got a better currency and visiting regulations, seems more tourist friendly to me.

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    • Anil P. says:

      It’s understandable and as an EU citizen I think you’ve got a great advantage and opportunity in terms of the Schengen Area. Even a broad change like 180 days out of every 365 in the Schengen would be a nice step as you could spend a little under a week in each country if you went through every one. (Not that hardly anyone would.)

      I guess when things are going well, there’s little incentive to improve them; plus getting member states to agree on much isn’t easy :)

      I just looked for the Economist article and couldn’t find it but will keep an eye out with a Google Alert ;)

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  22. Sherry Ott says:

    This has been a big pain in the ass for me lately – and it was made more confusing when I actually tried to do the right thing and call the Spainish embassy in NYC about it. I am traveling in Europe for over 3 months this spring – but I’m finishing in Spain – so I called them to see what my options were for getting a special visa to stay longer since my 3 months will run out while I’m doing the Camino deSantiago trail in Spain. The guy insisted that I didn’t need to do a thing. He tried to tell me that I would have 3 months in Spain – not 3 months in the Schengen Zone. So even the people working at the embassies of those countries don’t even have their story straight.

    Regarding the long stay visas – does it have to be in the first country that you visit? For me that is Malta. Or should I keep pursuing the Spain embassy to get an extension since that’s my last country. Any advice is appreciated!

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    • Anil P. says:

      I’m surprised they would get it wrong! Like you say, I think even the Europeans are confused about it as there is the EU, EEC, Schengen, it’s hard to keep up!

      Here’s a link confirming Spain’s Schengen rules for US citizens:

      http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1024.html#entry_requirements

      As for the long-stay visa, it is recommended that you apply to the country you will spend the most number of days in within the Schengen. (The Swiss and Finns – to a lesser extent the Germans – have a very straightforward application procedures if it happens to be in any of those countries. Keep in mind it may take up to 6 weeks.) Good luck!

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  23. Vicky says:

    Great article — I too have read a lot about this. Quick question – you mentioned that you can apply for a “long stay visa” – any idea how often this visa is approved?

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  24. The Schengen rules forced my wife and I out of Europe early the last time we visited. 90 days out of 180 is insane, but such is life.

    Even in Thailand, land border crossings only give you a 15 day extension on your visa.

    I wonder how long it will take to the world to understand that digital nomads are a large and growing group that actually bring in money to a region.

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  25. Nate Yomadic says:

    Great article. A lot of travellers don’t know about these regulations. I believe it is a deterrence to travellers spending more time in European nations.

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    • Anil P. says:

      I think so and I would imagine it has had an effect on business travel as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a nice bump in visa revenues from that alone.

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  26. 2 stories to support your choice of spain :D and one question

    I personally know two americans who over stayed, both left through spain, first one had a transit in Germany (don’t ask why) and thats where he got caught. The other one with a direct flight (120 days in europe) didn’t have any problems

    Now my question is, as an Egyptian, I need to pre-apply for a visa at a specific embassy, lets say Spain, do I have to land in and leave through Spain? coz some people told me that and if so it could alter alot of plans… Hope you have an answer

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    • Anil P. says:

      I’ve noticed and heard German passport control carefully scrutinizing passport stamps on each entry and exit, but not surprising from a people who are particular about details :)

      To your question, the short answer is no – it doesn’t matter where you exit the Schengen as a general rule, but your first point of entry does. Now, that could easily vary as an Egyptian citizen as Egypt may have other agreements with various Schengen countries. The absolute best way to be sure is to call the Spanish embassy since they will be issuing your Schengen visa.

      Hope that helps!

      btw, sounds like some fun plans coming up :)

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  27. Erik H. says:

    I’m currently in the Schengen Area on a student visa. Do you know if I have to leave as soon as that expires? Or do I get 90 days out of the next 180 to do some traveling?

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    • Anil P. says:

      It depends on where you are from (i.e. citizenship) and where you are residing on your student visa. Call the embassy that issues the documentation, they’ll know for sure.

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  28. fe says:

    .My fiancee and i were leaving together in the US for 6 years but he came back home in netherland when his mom got sick (his a dutch citizen)He asked me to come and visit him and we are going to get married here in netherlands ..but it dont happened coz his divorced papers he requested from america (he was divorced there)didnt arrived yet.while waiting for those papers our marriage plan is pending .he told me not to live after 3 months of stayin coz he said were going to get married anyway ..and now im still here for almost a year and worried if i go back to america to visit my son i cannot comeback here in netherlands because of my overstaying.. my question is if we ever get married am i be able to visit my son in the US and comeback in neterlands ..Are they gonna question my overstay ?

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    • Anil P. says:

      Talk to an immigration lawyer as soon as possible. There may now be complications but that way you can find the best path to resolving them. Good luck!

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  29. Jun says:

    Informative. Terrific read to the end. I’ve been to Schengen once for two weeks. Instead of hopping from one country to another, I chose to stay only in one – France. And took in everything I could for the limited time I had. From Paris, we drove north to Brittany and Normandy. Then all the way south to Sete in the Mediterranean.

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    • Anil P. says:

      A beautiful country that’s well worth exploring beyond just Paris. Glad you found this post informative and wish you more continued travels in Europe and beyond :)

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  30. fe says:

    thnx for the past reply! ur awesome my fiancee said thats what his planning to do anyway so ..im hoping soon..its hard to be living in a foreign country with no proper documentation.. thnx again

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  31. Nomadic Matt says:

    The Finns and the Dutch are also really difficult about this too. The Greeks didn’t even look at my passport when they stamped me out.

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    • Anil P. says:

      I’ve too had a few of the southern countries not look at my passport either, it’s always a bit strange when they do that!

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      • k says:

        when you say “southern countries” which are you referring to? I am in Spain and wondering if a direct exit from Malaga to US without any stops is likely to get noticed. when i entered it was via a paris connecting flight and in malaga, the official didn’t even want to look at my documents when i tried to give them to him. do you know anything about leaving spain and particularly malaga or what a fine or process would be if one did overstay?

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        • Anil P. says:

          Mostly the Mediterranean countries; it’s impossible to be specific as its anecdotal though you’ve probably got a good shot from Spain. As for penalties, etc. it depends on your overstay, the circumstances behind it, length of time, and your nationality.

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          • k says:

            thanks. i realize it’s anecdotal! nationality would be US citizen, considering 30 day if extension isn’t granted (as no one seems interested in helping me stay here to spend money). I am decompressing from some medical issues for which the time and practitioner here are having a very positive impact. Mostly, I JUST LOVE Spain and want to see more of it and continue learning spanish for my ministry in US but haven’t been able to do much of that until now when health got improved (have international medical insurance and am paying for all services). not sure whether that would be a positive or negative factor in explaining! I have also been trying to apply for a visa extension but just keep getting sent from one place to another to another and the time is running out even though i started well in advance

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            • Anil P. says:

              There is a chance you could face a find and ban but the latter is very unlikely. I suspect a fine isn’t very likely either with an exit from Spain but I would recommend pushing the visa extension as much as you can to be certain. Try calling the US embassy in Spain and see if they can help you get the process going or at least some better contacts. Good luck!

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  32. Barbara says:

    Well, while I think the Shengen rules are a pain, my husband is so happy that I can’t keep changing our plans and stay more than 90 days in Europe. Already I’ve stretched out a two week trip to two months … I’ll be at 90 days in no time!

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  33. Julia says:

    And Turkey have now adopted the same rules for many European nationals (including us Brits) visiting Turkey. You would not believe the confusion it’s caused – 90 days out of 180. None of the Brits we speak to can get their head round it and seems so logical to us so we have to very patient when explaining it. Not easy. ;)
    Julia

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    • Anil P. says:

      It does seem straight forward but really confused many people. I wonder if it would be the same if it were worded 6 months out of every year but not more than 3 consecutive months :P

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  34. One thing which has confused me and others is that I have thought the ruling to be a *total* maximum of 90 days, and not a *consecutive* maximum of 90 days (within a 180-day period).

    Would the following scenario pass? Arrive in a Schengen country and spend the first 50 consecutive days in Schengen, followed by 10 days in Turkey (non-Schengen), 10 days back in Schengen (total of 60 in Schengen), followed by 10 days in the U.K. (non-Schengen), and to wrap things off with a final 30 days in Schengen for a total of 90 days. I would think that this would be okay.

    For Canadians like myself on long-term travel, there is a wiki for visa requirements at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_requirements_for_Canadian_citizens

    Just found your post, Anil – thanks for the information!

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    • Bp. O. says:

      http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_4361.html

      I think it is clearly non-consecutive. And also because I cannot imagine officers adding up various stays and counting: they simply check the issue date and add three months. Plus, if you leave a Schengen country without an exit stamp, which is likely to be the case, how should you (or an immigration officer) know how long (for how many days) you had already stayed in the Schengen zone before? You scenario like “Arrive in a Schengen country and spend the first 50 consecutive days in Schengen, followed by 10 days in Turkey (non-Schengen), 10 days back in Schengen (total of 60 in Schengen)” could fail here: without an exit visa after 50 days, how should anyone know you had spent 1, 5. or 50 days in a Schengen zone beforehand when you re-entered from Turkey? They will lose count :)

      And I doubt there would be anyone stamping you out on the way out.

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      • Anil P. says:

        You don’t need to imagine it, I’ve seen it several times, as recently as two weeks ago when a German immigration officer went through all of my entry stamps and counted the days in Hamburg. Diligence varies as I mentioned above, but some countries (like Germany) tend to go out of their way to count.

        Also, when you leave a Schengen country to somewhere outside of the zone, you will receive an exit stamp.

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    • Anil P. says:

      Hi Henry, your scenario would work and shouldn’t cause any problems. Just be careful not to end up with 91 days inadvertently. I’ve gotten stories from a number of people who’ve accidentally overstayed that way due to timezones, layovers, etc.

      Planning a trip soon?

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      • Thanks for your reply, Anil.

        I’m presently on a travel-year which includes the RTW-portion beginning in a couple of months’ time. I’m planning to stay in Europe for 3 months, or rather, exactly the number of days which Schengen will allow a Canadian to stay. I’m hoping short hops to Scotland, Turkey, and Switzerland will help “save” a few days here and there.

        Thanks again!

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  35. treadlightly says:

    Excellent article and good breakdown.

    As a US citizen, I lived and traveled inside the almighty Schengen zone for almost 5 years, but then realized that the cost of living and any travel adventures actually tended to be less expensive–and more wild and crazy and memorable–as I headed east, volunteering and house sitting in Bulgaria, Turkey, north Cyprus… and I write all about how I did this on my travel blog. [EDIT]

    After my experiences, I say don’t let the Schengen Zone overtake your travel dreams. I know that it’s human nature to always want what you can’t have, and even in the case of Schengen Zone it definitely seems to apply! But if you just take a look at what else is out there, you may never want to return…

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