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Do Not Overstay Your Travel Visa

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The World is Big, No Need to Overstay Travel Visas

I receive a great multitude of questions from readers on Travel Help who have overstayed/ will soon overstay/ plan to overstay their travel visas, and they want to know how they can subvert the penalties for doing so. I try to help them out — I give advice to the best of my knowledge and experience, though I know deep down that the only answer is:

Don’t overstay your visa.

I cannot figure it out. Tons of travelers from wealthy countries are overstaying their tourists visas doing tourists activities — not working or having any other such economic motivation to back up the act — especially, or so it seems, Americans in Western Europe. Many do not seem to be working, less are going to school, and a few even try to tell me that they have no place else to go.

To which I can only reply:

“You obviously have a lot of money if you have spent the past year drinking beer and living in hostels in Europe, there is an entire world for you to go to.”

Don’t overstay your visa.

Don't overstay your visa

Don't overstay your visa

It seems simple: the world is big, I can find few reasons to ever overstay a visa. My only advice can be: when your time expires in one country, go to another. It is usually printed clearly in your passport the date that you enter a country and the date that you need to leave.

But many travelers seem to ignore these dates. Instead, they write to me: “Oh no, what should I do? I overstayed my Schengen visa by a year and now I want to go home to visit my family and then return to overstay again. How can I exit the country and come back without getting in trouble?”

I have no friggin’ idea.

It is my impression that it is not an inalienable right for any person to be allowed to enter and stay in a foreign country indefinitely, it is a privilege. Much to the dismay of my own idealism, the world is divided by lines into zones, sectors, and territories. The tribal boundaries are still drawn — as they always have been. In some places, at some points in time, if you ventured into the wrong territory you would be killed. This was the consequence for disobeying the rule of the border. Today, more often than not, you will not be killed for this, but you can be fined or banned from a territory for breaking the rule of the border. This is the consequence.

I cannot say if it is worth it or not.

I have no problem with people who break the rules. I like to break rules, too, but there are not always definite ways to subvert the consequences of doing so:

If you overstay a travel visa you could be fined or banned from reentering the country. This is just the way that it is. I do not want to be fined or banned from anywhere in the world, so I don’t overstay my visas.

The Dreaded Schengen Visa

In 10 years of knocking about the world I have never found the need to overstay a visa. Not once, ever. Perhaps I have never fallen in so blindly in love with a place that it washed away my good senses of border propriety; perhaps I just never lost my inertia. I figure that when it is time to go, it is time to go. Leaving one country just means that I get to enter another.

I do not usually mope with dread when my allotted days remaining in a certain country begin ticking down to zero. If I want to stay longer, I figure out a way to to it, or I just return at another time.

So I find myself perplexed when an American in Europe whines about having nowhere else in the world to go for the mere three months that it would take to be able to return legally. Most people in the world cannot go to Europe at all, I must say it is a privilege to be allowed in — not a right. Though many people seem to act as if it is their inalieanable right to stay there for as long as they want, to stay illegally in another country.

It is my impression that there is an entire world outside of Western Europe, and I can think of three dozen more interesting, cheaper, and exciting places in the world to overstay a visa in. But the questions keep piling up from travelers who have overstayed their visas in Europe, as if it were the only navigateable place on planet earth to travel in.

It is my impression that their is an entire world for the traveler out there beyond Europe. Really, there is. $40 dorm beds and $100 train fares are not the rule of planet earth.

Morocco is just over the waters: a country which grants Americans 90 day visas upon arrival. 90 out of 180 days is the exact amount of time that a traveler with a US passport would need to be outside of the Schengen Zone to receive a fresh stamp upon return.

The same goes for Turkey . . . or England, Ireland, non-Shengen Eastern Europe.

But the questions for Travel Help keep piling up:

How do I stay in Western Europe longer?

Everyday a new traveler writes to me saying that they have overstayed their Schengen visa and are wondering how they can not get in any trouble.

I give the best advice I can give:

“Don’t exit the region through Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Greece, or any Scandinavian country. Leave from Italy or France. Make sure your flight does not have a connection in any of the countries I just advised not exiting from as the last country in the Schengen zone your flight stops down in will be where you go through exit formalities.”

Yes, the Schengen visa is ridiculous. The Schengen zone of Europe comprises around 25 countries, and when you enter one you are often able to enter them all without going through any border formalities. The problem with this is that you are given only 90 days within a 180 day period to travel through these 25 countries.

This is not even four days per country.

But not abiding by these shortsighted restrictions — overstaying this visa — could have future consequences. More and more travelers are being processed, fined and/ or banned from the Western Europe for overstaying their Schengen visa. It is my impression that the odds are still in your favor — if you have a class A passport — for not landing in trouble, but these odds are rapidly dwindling.

Within a couple of years, I predict that that not even a wealthy looking American passport holders will be able to overstay their Schengen visa without consequence.

It took a while for this region to straighten out the new immigration policy as they shifted from country to region based borders, but now it seems as if they have drawn the strings closed on the bag and have gotten everything in order. The Schengen visa was once a joke amongst travelers, as almost anyone could overstay it without fear of consequence, but now I must report that overstayers are being busted with greater regularity.

Don’t overstay your visa.

Imagine trying to enter a country and being denied because you overstayed a visa twenty years before in some long gone forsaken land that you can barely remember. With ever increasing electronic monitoring of travelers around the world this may soon be a possibility.

No country likes foreigners overstaying their visas, and many have policies to keep citizens of countries with reputations for overstaying out. It is difficult for most of the people in the world to travel because countries fear that if they let them in they will not leave.

It is my impression that it may soon become very likely for travelers to become electronically marked for overstaying visas, and this electronic record could very well follow them from place to place, country to country all around the world.

Don’t overstay your visa.

We live in a world where international borders and boundaries are concurrently becoming more transparent AND more opaque. The more people traveling, the easier it is to get from point A to point B, the tougher the immigration restrictions will be when you get there. This is perhaps the great Catch-22 of world travel, we live on a planet whose cultures are coming together and separating apart concurrently. Many travelers could find themselves stuck in the middle.

Don’t overstay your visa.

Do you have a Schengen visa question?

If so, then take a look at our Schengen visa community forum. It’s a community just for people who have questions or concerns related to Europe’s Schengen immigration zone.
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Filed under: Europe, Visas

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3054 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Cincinnati, Ohio, USAMap