Questions, advice, and information about Europe’s Schengen visa
I have been asked hundreds — if not thousands — of questions about the Schengen visa of Europe over the years and have heard testimonies from tons of travelers who have overstayed this visa, are planning to overstay, are trying to marry a European, and are, in general, having difficulties with the immigration of the Schengen zone.
On this page, I will collect many common questions as well as my responses.
Background of the Schengen zone and visa
In 1995 the Schengen Treaty was signed in Luxembourg, and travel in Europe has not been the same since. The Schengen agreement sought to drop internal borders between the member states which spread across the whole of western Europe, and is still growing eastward to this day. This means that there would no longer be border checkpoints nor immigration inspections between the countries included in this agreement.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? What traveler likes border crossings?
The catch is that non-EU visitors to the region are now only given 90 days within a 180 day period to travel through the 25 countries of the Schengen immigration zone. This is a little over 3 days per country. Although this is a multiple entry visa, once these 90 days are used up, the traveler must leave the entire region for at least thee months before returning.
In a region where travelers were once given at least 90 day entry stamps per country with the option of doing easy visa runs, they now get 90 days for an entire continent with no option for quick and easy renewal nor extensions. This has caused many problems for travelers in Europe and I intend to highlight some of them below.
Who needs what type of visa to visit the Schengen zone?
If you have a question about the Schengen visa, feel free to ask it through the comment form below.
Frequently asked questions about the Schengen visa
What is the punishment for overstaying a Schengen visa?
Hello Again Wade, I had emailed you before regarding us, we are a family of four overstaying our time in Italy. We arrived in September 2010, and are planning on leaving in the summer to return to the US. We are taking your advice and will be sure to fly out of Italy direct to NYC and will not stop in a Schengen zone country. We are also making sure that for any future travels we follow the protocol that we should have followed this time – 90 days in and 90 days out. Of course this is assuming we get out unscathed. I do have a few questions. Would it benefit us at all to leave some time in late September and hope for a sleep customs official who may not be aware of the year stamp on our passport. Or is that stupid of me to think? My thought was Sept – July would be obvious – but Sept to late Sept (different years) by get passed. Or is it just best to get out as soon as possible? We really do not want to leave for a number of reasons until the summer at the earliest – but at the same time we don’t want to make matters worse. Would it benefit us at all to contact our Embassy before we leave or will that just ensure we get caught on the way out and get a mandatory ban. Finally, my questions have to do with the fines. If we do get caught on an overstay – I know there are fines. Are they tiered – so the longer you stay the more you pay? Is there a cap? Do you know how much fines generally are – i.e. 1000 Euros or 10,000 Euros? I suppose if you don’t have the money to pay you are placed in jail – correct? I worry about this because we are travelling with two younger children and that worries me about what would happen to them. Anyway, we are just trying to plan our escape – now that we have gotten ourselves into this mess – and make things right so we can continue to travel and follow the rules in the future. Any advice you can give me would be very helpful!
Typically, the penalties for a one day overstay are the same for 10 years — there are no tiered penalties contingent upon the amount of time you overstayed. In this way, the Schengen overstay policy is a little silly and backwards, and I have no idea what the incentive is to exit the region ASAP after an overstay. Currently, an overstay in an overstay no matter how long. Though keep in mind that this can change at any time.
I would also not bet on fooling the immigration officials by leaving a year after your entry and hoping they just don’t notice the year marked out on your entrance stamp. These people look at passport stamps ALL DAY long — this is one of the only things they do, in fact. So I would not hope to fool them: it they are so careless as to not notice a year overstay they are probably careless enough to not care about an overstay of any length.
Currently, I still receive many reports from people who have freely exited the Schengen zone from Italy who have overstayed their visas, so I would say that the chances of them taking action on you are, relatively speaking, slim.
In regards to having to pay a fine if you are caught overstaying, the only countries that have been reported doing this are Switzerland and Greece. I have not yet heard of someone being fined in any other Schengen country.
To answer your question about what the immigration officials could do for you if you are punished for the overstay, all I can say is don’t worry too much. They won’t put you in jail. The worst you can expect is to be taken into a small little room, given a form to fill out, getting a lecture, and having photocopies of your passports taking. There is very little chance that you will even miss your flight.
In all, I have to say do not worry too much about the overstay. Consulting probability, the chance of being punished for the overstay when exiting the region from Italy is not very high, and the chances of being forced to pay a high fine is near zero, and as far as being taken to jail — well, don’t even consider it. It is my impression is that you and your family will just have your details tossed into the SIS — the Schengen immigration computer system — and receive a three year ban. But keep your head up, Italy still likes tourists spending money in their country 😉
Can you return to the Schengen Zone with a different passport and get another tourist visa before being out of the region for 90 days?
Hi Wade, I hope you are not tired, responding to thousand of enquiries!!! I have a question too, please. My girl friend has US and Israel Passports. She came to France ( via Swiss) and stayed for 88 days with her US passport and left Israel with same. She is planning to come back in 3 weeks using Isreali Passport for another 89 days (or more if possible). Is there any risk in doing that?. As no where in the visa regulation talk about the people with dual citizen ship/altering the passport to enter europe, we are confused about the legal side. please advice. Thanks and best regards, Johnson
Your girlfriend should be fine to reenter Europe on her Israeli passport. This would technically be an overstay, but there are some grey areas as far as if people with passports from two different countries can be detected. It does not seem to me — if there is no prior immigration problem on her record — that she will be flagged upon reentry.
Though I would recommend a different port of entry — Switzerland and Germany are by far the strictest — but I think she should be fine to reenter. Just tell her not to show the US passport. As of now, it is a little unclear as to when information is entered into the SIS (the Schengen immigration computer system) on travelers. Most evidence points to the fact that info is generally only entered upon an immigration violation, although I have received circumstantial evidence of people being tracked without having previously overstayed their visa. If she had previously overstayed her visa, I would say that there could be a good chance of her being caught and denied entry, but as she exited clean her previous time in Europe, it is my opinion that, although technically against the rules, she should not have any problems if she uses her Israeli passport.
As she is coming from the country of the passport issuer (Israel) no suspicion as to missing exit and entry stamps should be raised (i.e. if she exited Europe on her US passport and then entered into a third country with it and then tried to return to Europe from this country with her Israeli passport there would not be stamps from the previous country in it. This sometimes raises suspicion with immigration and causes them to demand the presentation of the other passport). So, ultimately, anything CAN happen, she CAN be denied entry, but I would say that the chances of this are pretty low. To raise the probability of success tell her to try to enter through France or Italy — or anywhere else that is not Switzerland or Germany.
How can a Schengen visa be extended?
howdy wade -another australian schengen question…we have 4 months planned in europe,3 of which are to send our 12 year old to school in finland.I don’t know how to extend the visa to allow us to travel for the first month before school starts and I have been told we will be fined on leaving to come back to australia.Any tips!!??!
It is my understanding that there is currently no viable way to extend a tourist visa to the 25 country Schengen zone. If you would like to stay in the region for your specified amount of time — 4 months — they there is little other option than to overstay your visa, which could lead to a fine or a 3 year ban to this part of Europe.
Keep in mind that the immigration policies of the Schengen zone are currently (Feb. 2011) very inconsistently enforced, with some countries in the zone punishing visa violations with an iron fist (Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands) while others don’t seem to regard visa overstays in the least (Italy). This inconsistency creates a very precarious landscape for the traveler looking to stay in this part of Europe for over 90 days in a 180 day period. It is my advice to not overstay this visa, even though many travelers seem to get away with doing so. In point, unless exiting the region from Germany or Switzerland — where being caught is almost definite — you can not predict if you will be busted or not for the overstay. The penalty for overstaying for even a single day is big — a 3 year ban is typical — and, in my opinion, it is not worth the risk.
It is my advice to visit England, Ireland, or another country outside of the Schengen zone for a month before your daughter begins school in Finland.
How Can I stay in Europe longer? Can I extend my visa or do a visa run?
I’m an american citizen and I overstayed my permit to stay in Italy for a month already. I want to know if can ask for an extension or I just can go back to USA and come back in Italy to get a new permit to stay?
Nope. The Schengen tourist visa cannot be extended. Visa runs to nearby countries are also non-applicable as you need to be outside of the region for at least 90 days out of the 180 days since your first entry to be given a new visa. As you have already used up your 90 days (and more) you will need to be outside of the Schengen zone for at least 90 days before being legally readmitted.
Keep in mind that I say legally readmitted, as many immigration officials in the region seem to not really care too much about upholding their own laws and occasionally allow travelers to reenter the Schengen region without being out for the specified amount of time. Keep in mind that you can get busted for this at another time in another country, so even if you do get back in this is no guarantee that it will not come back to bite you. As I write this (March 2011), Italy is one of the more lax countries of the region — though can still bust you if they deem fit. Whatever you do, do not try to exit from Germany, Switzerland, or the Netherlands.
Can I return to the Schengen zone after an unpunished overstay?
I overstayed in the Schengen 3 years- I have one stamp on my passport coming into Amsterdam- and one stamp flying out of Iceland. I was questioned but I wasn’t punished. I received a normal stamp on my passport and was told that what I had done would have gotten me banned or fined somewhere else. They took a copy of my passport and told me not to come back in the area for 90 days. I asked them if I was in trouble and what would happen now. They said nothing- I go home. My questions is this… On my passport I’ve got 2 stamps obivously showing I have overstayed. I have been gone for 90 days as of today and I want to go back in 2 months time. Should I get a new passport to hide the stamps? Since I wasn’t banned or punished (as far as I know) I won’t be flagged in the system. Or should i just leave it? I want to know if it’s possible and likely for me to get punished for overstaying when I try and come back.
Anything is possible in immigration in terms of the reasons why you can be denied. But, on the grounds of receiving hundreds of testimonies from travelers who have overstayed their Schengen visas each year, it is not my impression that the “lost passport” trick works as well as you think it should. I it is my impression that the Schengen authorities are relying much more on what pops up on their computer screens when you attempted to enter rather than what is in your passport. I would be more concerned that they logged you in as an overstayer without your knowledge and your details are in the SIS — you mentioned they took a copy of your passport.
Dutch immigration has a reputation for being very inconsistent and seemingly disorganized in terms of dealing with visa overstayers. Many travelers find that they are told one thing (it is OK to travel, you are not in the system) just to find out that it is not true. Take what the immigration inspectors from the Netherlands tell you worth a grain of salt.
In terms of advice, now that you will have been out of the Schengen region for five months, I say just return as you normally would and avoid passing through German or Swiss immigration. Also, it would be wise to avoid overstaying again.
When I am traveling in the schengen zone (even by plane) will each country be checking my passport?
No, think of the Schengen countries like the states of the USA in regards to immigration. On internal flights there should be no immigration checks. The airlines will check your passport, but this should just be for identification purposes. Though keep in mind that there may be rare exceptions to this rule — this whole Schengen thing is a nightmare of inconsistencies.
Is the UK part of the Schengen Zone, can I go to England on a Schengen visa?
Hello,am michael by name, i have been living in Germany with Schengen Visa,can i travel to England with my Schengen visa with out apply for England Visa
No, the UK is NOT a part of the Schengen zone and requires a separate visa to enter.
Can I return to the Schengen Zone multiple times on the same visa, even if my return flight is after the 90 day total?
Here is my problem, I am a Canadian citizen (so I can stay 90 days in the schengen area) and I have already, in the past few months, stayed for 28 days in the schengen area. Recently I have booked another flight for another 63 days in a schengen area country (total = 91 days). My first question is will they be able to tell, when my passport is stamped, that I will be overstaying or will they only be able to tell that I’ve overstayed when I leave? And if they are able to tell could I simply tell them that I plan on leaving to a non-schengen country for a few days (namely the UK) and therefore not be overstaying (I really am planning on going to the UK, by the way)?
It is my impression that you are free to reenter the Schegen Zone. But, as you have previously pointed out, you will be on your visa from your previous 28 day stay. While it is true that if you did stay for another 63 days you would be over the marker by a single day and have technically overstayed, I would not worry about this too much in terms of boarding your flight and making it through entry immigration. Though keep in mind that you could face problems when trying to leave — avoid a flight path that exits from Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands — so try to plan that jaunt to the UK in the middle of your travels in Europe. Doing this will bring your Schengen total down to within legal limits.
How to remove a ban after being caught overstaying?
Dear Wade, I have already mentioned. But it was confirmed I am on a banned schengen zone list, what are the steps in order to get off that list ? It was processed in the netherlands, which I assume will be impossible and I will probably loose my job due to the extensive travel requirements associated with. Any help and or information would be so greatly appreciated. Thank you !
We have received reports of people trying all methods possible to get off the Schengen banned list — from calling an nagging to suing. To my knowledge none of them have worked very well. The only thing that it seems as if you can do is wait three years and hope. A truly sorry state of affairs, but the administration of the Schengen zone takes a hard line towards visa overstayers, and does not seem to offer ways to remove a ban.
Although, it seems to be a crap shoot as to what happens if you show up in the Schengen region after being banned. Some travelers report being let in, others report being denied, while some say that they were let in once, twice, three times, and then deported on the forth attempt.
My advice is to wait three years — this seems to be enough time to get your record out of the system. Keep in mind that not even the immigration authorities themselves in the Schengen zone seem to know how to really get your name out of the SIS, and their advice can only be taken for what it is worth — and from the experience of many who have gone before you this is not that much.
More on the Schengen area and visa
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