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The Schengen Area, a collection of 25 European countries which maintain open borders with each other, makes traveling between those nations a straightforward matter. Though since I’ve written my primer, What Is The Schengen Zone And How Do Schengen Area Visas Work?, many of you, especially those close to the 90 day limit, have been sending me questions.

A lot of those questions tended to repeat, so I collected the answers to the most frequent Schengen inquiries I received, in case you’ve been wondering the same things. Though it’s worth mentioning if you plan to stay in Europe for more than 2 months, I’d recommend a quick look in case you’re not asking these Schengen questions (yet).

1. How Long Can I Stay In The Schengen Area?

6 month calendar

The Schengen Area, sometimes called the Schengen Zone, allows those with visa-waivers and standard travel visas (if required of your nationality) to stay 90 days out of every 180; collectively in the Schengen member states. This is where most people unnecessarily complicate things – you get 90 days in every 180 total in the entire Schengen area (for example: 45 days in France, 10 in Iceland, 35 in Slovakia). If you’re already in the Schengen, count back 90 days on a calendar, then 89 days forward (today counts as number 90) – there’s your 180 days. Now, count the number of days you are or will be in any country that’s part of the Schengen area, making sure it’s 90 or less.

2. Is The European Union The Same Thing As The Schengen Area?

tower bridge london england

Although it’s easy to confuse the two, it’s important to note that the European Union (EU) and Schengen Area countries don’t completely overlap. For example, the United Kingdom and Ireland are both EU nations but not a part of the Schengen Area. Norway and Iceland are the opposite, they signed the Schengen Agreement in 2001 however are not members of the EU. And there are European Union states outside of Europe altogether, like, French Guiana (in South America) which is not part of the Schengen Area.

ukraine boryspil airport cafe3. What If I’m A Dual Schengen Area Member And Some-Other-Country Citizen?

Strangely, many of your who are dual citizens of one country inside the Schengen Area and one from outside of the group, aren’t using your Schengen-member passports upon entry into the zone. One of the rules of traveling with two passports is to (almost) always use your home country passport when going there.

And, if it so happens that country is a part of the Schengen Area and you want to travel to a member state, use that passport for entry. However if you haven’t done that – so as not to hurt the standing of your non-Schengen passport within the Area – you can leave for a few days and re-enter with your Schengen member passport.

4. What Happens If I Overstay My Schengen Area Visa?

window bars

Well, like overstaying any travel visa, it depends; primarily on three things: your nationality (and corresponding visa), length of overstay, and what you did while you were there (e.g. find employment or learning onamonapia Italian). Generally speaking a modest overstay of a few days in the Schengen Area, while carrying fines and a possible ban, aren’t especially likely to invite either. Member states tend to vary in their strictness and it’s like playing the delinquent lottery with every passport control officer.

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5. Can I Overstay Just A Little Bit – I’m Having Fun!

chorizo granada spain

I know drinking wine in the morning, smoking legal marijuana for lunch, then eating socialist pasta with Per Gessle at dinner is addictive – plus a sleepy Greek passport control officer is unlikely to bother counting your 94 days in Europe while his economy collapses around him…so should you overstay? No. One more time. Don’t. Why take the risk of being banned for 2-5 years for a few extra days of eating paella? Ok, I get it – Spanish food could convince me to break international laws as well – but you’ve got good alternatives. Save your criminal activities for more ambitious goals, like opening a casino in the middle of nowhere.

smogen sweden harbor6. How Can I Legally Extend My Stay In The Schengen Area?

You’ll want to focus on one country within the Schengen Area to file for a visa extension as the rules vary. There is some information from the experts in my live chat about Spain on extending your stay in that country and Nomadic Matt suggests that Sweden, France, and Italy have the easiest procedures. Call around to a few embassies to see what makes sense for you – before you leave for the Schengen Area. Also, keep in mind I’m not talking about work permits or residency visas. Extended travel visas nearly always prohibit you from working inside a given country.

7. I’m On A Student Visa In The Schengen Area, Can I Stay 90 Days (As A Tourist) Once That Expires?

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Another “it depends” and even when trying to provide a general answer I couldn’t because the rules vary widely. (Denmark for example lets you stay 14 days beyond your student visa but other require you to leave the Schengen Area prior to the visa expiration.) Most visa applications and documents found on embassy websites online will have the details of what you can and can’t do after your student (or other) visa expires. The best way to find out with certainty is to contact the embassy of the country who issued your visa.

With so many broad Schengen Area rules divided up into specific national details it’s easy to get a bit lost in trying to figure it all out. When in doubt though the best place to turn prior to your travels are the embassies of the Schengen countries you’ll be entering and exiting. If you’re already in the Schengen, call your nearest local embassy.

These are the 7 questions I’ve heard most; which ones have you come across in your Schengen searches and what advice would you have to those entering the zone?

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