Sunday, February 15, 2009

Schengen Treaty and Overstaying Visas

UPDATED 2013: Europe is an amazing place. Millions of people travel to Europe each year, whether it be on business, curiosity, adventure, rebellion or leisure; we all make it there at one point in our lives.

However, there are a few rules I have come across as a solo backpacker that just plain piss me off. I have found many threads on the internet showing that many people are also concerned about some of these laws as travelers.

The Shengen Treaty (Please click for more detailed info).
Now, being an American citizen, I am rather lucky because I get a free waiver visa throughout basically any country in Europe. I also have the right to stay legally as a tourist for 90 days (3 months) in any country in Europe. UNLESS, you happen to be some countries named Austria, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Norway,Slovenia, Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Malta, Potugal and Sweden.

Here is what the Shengen Treaty states:
-You must apply for a "Schengen Visa," if you are not specific countries (not including EU citizens, Americans, Australians or Canadians).
-You may stay 90 days on a tourist visa in an 180 period. This means that out of 180 days, you can only be there 90 unconsequative days.
-You DO NOT get 90 days in each of those countries.
-Those countries are borderless, and once you enter any one of those countries, you have 90 days in all the combined countries.
-Therefore, if you spend 1 month in Italy, 3 weeks in Spain, 1 month in Germany, and 2 weeks in have suddenly overstayed your tourist visa and are able to become fined 300-1200 euro.
What. The. Hell.

A majority of these countries do not stamp you. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they do not.

I am aware of the Schengan Treaty, but my father, who is a huge traveler, laughed at me and said if he was ever stopped and was questioned for the treaty, he would be very confused. Many people do not know about it...

Anyway, the truth of the matter is you could be anywhere in Europe. You could have traveled by car and no one stamped your passport. It is actually hard to track your journey through Europe.

If you do happen to overstay, here is how to escape:

-Do not travel to a country outside the schengen zone in Europe once you have overstayed (England, Turkey, Balkins, Ireland, etc.). They may catch you there and either fine you or deport you.
-Fly/take a boat back to your home country or another destination through a schengen zone country. They won't deport you if you are already leaving, and it is easier to talk your way out of a fine if you are on your way out rather than them catching you already in.

If you have overstayed... 
-Chill and take a deep breath. If you have overstayed by one day or 8 months, the fine could still be the same depending on the officer. However, it will not go past 1200 euro. There are many people who are living in Schengen zone countries without residence visas. I would research at your own will for those situations. You can search on Working illegally, however, is another issue.

For more information on how to get a visa and work in Europe, please visit my 'How To Work In Europe' section. You can apply for long-term visas if you know you will stay extra time. I suggest it, but if you wanna rough it, it is totally possible and hundreds have and are doing it right now!


Kaeli said...

all this talk about visas...i dont even have a passport!

You. Me. Everyone In between. said...

haha!! You should get one, dear! Now you need one even if you wanna take a day trip to our neighbors up North

BongsRips&BlogHits said...

have you done it yourself???...
im currently traveling europe for 6 months...but it wasnt until i got here that i heard about the 90 day rule!...
i thought it was 90 days per at the moment i feel like im fucked!!...although im thinkin of just doin my trip as planned and say screw the "law"...tho it might bite me in the ass later...

MursBlanc said...

okay. you seem to have a lot of info.
I have been in Europe for 2 1/2 years. just on my tourist visa.. obviously I'm in trouble.

My question is- do you have any tips for me? Should I Deal with it when I leave- or do I turn myself in?

Also I've been advised to leave through France.

any help you can give me... PLEASE help!!

Also- I want to come back.. in 3 months. Are there any safe ways to get back in.. say if I've been banned via boat.. etc?

Katie Bird said...

I have a question to which you may or may not know the answer. I am a US citizen who has overstayed the 90 visa in Italy. If I go back to the US (the way you suggest here), do I REALLY have to wait 90 days before I return to the Schengen region? Is this rule really enforced? Can they tell how long I have been home/ do they really check for that?

C. R. Matheny said...


I'm a U.S. citizen who made an honest but potentially-costly mistake. I entered the Schengen Area on April 23rd, left for about six weeks to the U.S and UK on May 15th (22 days in Schengen so far), then entered from the Schengen area again on June 29th and plan to leave out of Berlin on September 26th (an additional 90 days). That's 112 Schengen days of the past 180, which is definitely an overstay. I didn't do this intentionally; I thought the same stupid thing a lot of Americans who don't do research before traveling think, that "the clock will reset when I leave and re-enter." Not so, it's 90 NON-CONSECUTIVE DAYS WITHIN THE PAST 180 DAYS. I'm clearly in violation.

Important point: I have just enough money to get home, NOT ENOUGH FOR A FINE ON THE WAY OUT, not even on a credit card, they're all maxed out (long story).

I know the consequences range (with cruel randomness, I read) from nothing at all to a fine of 1200 euros and a re-entry ban of one year to life. I've read about people in Germany being thrown in jail (this sounds far-fetched to me) and about passports having "ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT" scrawled on every page in red marker by an angry immigration official, who makes a "BAN THIS PERSON FOR LIFE" note on your SIS record. On the other hand, I've read about French and Spanish officials stamping passports and waving people through without even looking up from their desks. I know, I know -- it all depends on the agent you get, the mood they're in, how suspicious you look, etc., and I'm not asking for a fortune teller reading. Just some advice on which of these options makes the most sense to you.

The options I can afford right now are:
1) Fly out of Tegel to NYC as planned
---- Risks as outlined above.

2) Change flights by flying from Tegel to London and from London to NYC.
Pro --- The advantage would be that EU --> UK flights tend to get less scrutiny, is that the case and would it work to my advantage?
Con --- My main concern here is that supposedly the UK officials can and will send people back to Germany for a Schengen overstay, from which I'd be deported at my eventual expense to the U.S. Is that a significant enough risk to nix this option?

3) Change flights by flying from Prague or Warsaw to NYC.
Pro --- I've heard Polish and Czech officials are lax and that I'd have good odds of getting out.
Con --- ...maybe not, maybe a waste of money and not much better odds than leaving from Berlin?

4) ...any other options you can think of that won't involve crazy schemes like taking a boat to Albania? :)

My main goal here is to be able to re-enter Europe legally and reliably, as I have a lot of personal and business connections over here that are very important to me. Even if I make it out without a fine, is it possible or likely that I'll be denied entrance on revisiting in, say, a few months' time? Or a year? Even after going through all of this worry?

One last question: any advice for talking to the customs official to explain my situation? I've heard they can be pitiless, especially in Germany. I do know a bit of German, so that could be helpful. But any advice on how to present myself and my situation would be appreciated.

Thanks a lot for reading my sob story. Best wishes,

-Carlos the American

pelen said...

Guys here is an idea. Go to the u.k( you get 6 months) . Then arrange a bus / coach journey to France from Dover to Calais ( using sea France ) .They is no passport control at all when you enter France and retun to the u.k in the same way before your 6 month ends. uk border agency inspects your passport when you return( at Calais ) if uk border agency asks you tell them , you left the uk for a day one will know when you leave the uk and enter France . If you still wish to go the schengen area you plan another trip.