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Where Not to Exit Europe if Overstayed Visa

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Overstayed visa, caught when leaving Zurich by air — “when I try to go back to France or Italy in a few months (I have no intention of returning to Swiss)? Will the Swiss put my name on some list and I be barred from entry, with no legal hearing or notice?

It makes sense that you were busted on the second leg of your flight, as this would be the portion that would “check you out” of the region. It is just unfortunate that your flight path went from Italy through Zurich on the way back to the USA.

As you have already found out, Switzerland and Germany are two of the most strict countries in the Schengen region about penalizing travelers who overstay their visa.

Though I do fear that the entire region will be just as vigilant in a matter of a few years. It seems as if a “fortress Schengen” is being put up, and I can see the strict countries pressuring the non strict ones to tighten up their border controls very soon. It is my feelings that un-penalized visa overstays in Europe, regardless of your country of origin, will soon be a thing of the past. We can only hope that they Schengen authorities will soon give travelers the option of obtaining a tourist visa that is for a longer duration than 90 out of 180 days.

To answer your question, I have been given reports that once you overstay — especially in Zurich — your information is entered into the computer databases and it will make it much more difficult for you to obtain visas in the future. I have had letters come in from people who overstayed and then could not later get a visa to reenter.

But, on the bright side, the only information that I have received about travelers being denied visas after overstaying had to do with trying to get student visas, and not those who just showed up as tourists. I have not yet received a confirmed story of a traveler being denied at the border requesting a tourist visa after an overstay.

Though keep in mind that just because I have not heard of this does not mean that it doesn’t happen. It probably does happen sometimes. I can only provide you with the information that I have.

The information that travelers receive subsequent to getting caught overstaying their visas is often very vague — like in your situation — and they do not know if they are banned from the Schengen region, and, if so, for how long.

I read the slip of paper that they gave you:

Based on the established facts and your statement, the appropriate authorities may consider the imposition of a measure to prevent your entry. For the purposes of a legal hearing, you will be given the opportunity to comment on a possible imposition of a refusal of entry.

What the f’ck does this mean? I interpret it as follows:

“You may or may not be denied entry to Europe based upon the mood and disposition of the particular immigration official in the particular country that you happen to try reentry in.”

I do know that many people are readmitted to Europe without hassle on tourist visas after overstaying. Many just pay a fine when they leave and they are free to reenter three months later, though it is not my impression that they were given that vague slip of paper from the immigration when leaving. I only know of one circumstance when a Mexican traveler was given a ban that expressively stated how long the ban would be for.

For everybody else it seems to be a wishy washy endeavor.

One thing that you could do is call the Swiss consulate in the USA and ask them what is going on. Check to find out if they can tell you where you stand — if you are banned, and, if so, for how long.

Or you can just show up to Europe. This is probably the only way to really find out if you are banned. It is my impression that you stand a good chance of being readmitted without any problem. Just make sure you are out of the region for at least 90 days. Many travelers who are caught overstaying are allowed back.

The language of the document that the Swiss gave you seems pretty vague. It does not directly state that you are banned, and it gives no duration of time that you need to be outside of the region before being allowed to return.

It is my impression that you may very well be taken into the little infamous interrogation box when trying to pass through immigration the next time you return to Europe. There is a good chance that the Swiss entered your data into the Schengen Information System.

All that I recommend is that you have an air tight plan for traveling when you reenter. Have an itinerary (it doesn’t have to be your real one) printed out that has the names and the addresses of the hotels/ hostels that you “plan” to stay at. I would also recommend that you have at least your first night of accommodation booked ahead of time and carry a printed receipt with you. I would also recommend that you bring a bank statement with you that proves that you have enough money to last your stay, as well as a couple credit cards.

Also choose your entrance country appropriately, and check out the flight path you will be traveling on. As you know, you may go through immigration in the country where you enter the Schengen region, rather than the one of your final destination. So be careful if you have to transfer flights in the Schengen.

As of now, February 14, 2010, Italy and France both seem pretty lenient as far as immigration goes for Westerners. Though this could all change overnight.

This is a difficult question, as there are so many inconsistent variables at play. Please let us know what happens, as many travelers ask questions similar to yours and I want to give them the best information possible.

More information
Schengen Visa on Travel Help
Visa questions on the community forum

Walk Slow,

Wade

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Original question about being allowed back in Europe after being caught overstaying in Switzerland

I stayed in France and Italy for more than 180 days, I flew out of Rome via Zurich, back to the USA. On the way through Zurich, the passport control took me aside, said I had stayed too long in Shengen and handed me a piece of paper with a two sentence statement written in about 20 languages, “Based on the established facts and your statement, the appropriate authorities may consider the imposition of a measure to prevent your entry. For the purposes of a legal hearing, you will be given the opportunity to comment on a possible imposition of a refusal of entry.” I refused to sign it, but they did put my passport number on it and gave me a copy and I assume it is filed somewhere. The officer then asked me to fax my explanation to him within seven days. I did fax a medical explanation, but I have not heard anything back, not even acknowledging receipt of fax.. So, what does this mean for me, when I try to go back to France or Italy in a few months (I have no intention of returning to Swiss)? Will the Swiss put my name on some list and I be barred from entry, with no legal hearing or notice?

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, Italy, Schengen Visas, Switzerland, Travel Help, 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 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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