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Those of you who travel frequently in and out of Europe have likely had the same confounded expression many European immigration officials do when trying to figure out how many days you legally have left in the Schengen Area. It would seem Europeans also realized the confusion caused by vague wording of the previous rules because the European Commission (EC) decided in October 2013 to simplify the calculation.

This change might give you more (or less) days in Europe than you initially thought but in any case makes it much easier to ensure you don’t overstay.

schengen areaKnow The Schengen Before You Travel To Europe

Simply put, if you’re going anywhere in Europe for more than a few weeks during a given calendar year, familiarize yourself with the Schengen Area.

One of the great things for most European Union (EU) citizens – plus a few others like Norway and Switzerland who aren’t EU but are Schengen – is the agreement eliminates borders between the 26 member countries. For incoming tourists from 41 other countries who can enter visa free however, it means you have 90 days within 180 days in the entire Schengen.

Counting Using The Simplified Rules

So, you enter France for 45 days, that means you’ve got 45 total days left to travel around Spain, Finland, Denmark, [whatever random Schengen country]. Seems easy enough until you realize the 180 window could slide depending on how you counted it. (Here was one way I wrote about in 2012 to give an example.)

To clarify, the 180 days begins on the date (stamped in your passport) you first entered a Schengen country. That is day 1 (not day 0). From there, count out 180 days (a free online tool like dateandtime makes it quick) – now you know the window in which you have 90 days in the Schengen Area.

Remember, it’s not 3 months in every 6, although approximately accurate, you need to count the days. For example, if you entered the Schengen Area on February 15th, 2014 your 180 days would end on August 14th, 2014; regardless of how many days less than 90 you were actually there.

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schengen calculatorEC Calculate Your Hectic Travel Schedule

Although it looks like it was designed in a 1998 high school web design class, the EC’s official Schengen Calculator is actually useful, especially if you have a number of entries and exits in a short span.

  • Use The Right Format – Inputting dates properly can be quite maddening because this tool is about as flexible as concrete. For clarity September 05, 2014 should be entered 050914. If you attempt to use a forward slash, full year, or logic, you’ll get cryptic popups shaking your laptop screen won’t resolve.

It’s worth noting that the 90 out of every 180 day Schengen rule also applies to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania independently. Since they aren’t Schengen members, any time you spend in those countries doesn’t add up against days in any other country.

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Have The Embassy Check Your Math

Remember that the EC Schengen Calculator is only a tool to give you an idea on the number of days you’ve spent in the Schengen Area, it’s not legally worth squat. Use Embassy World to find contact information for the relevant office to confirm how many days are allotted for your nationality. You don’t want to overstay a tourist visa as doing so can result in fines or bans and if you’re a dual citizen be sure not to mix up your passports. Finally, all of the above pertains to only those of you who have visa-free or 90 days out of 180 travel rights – everyone else, the details are in your visa lines.

Have any Schengen calculation questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments below.