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Do Not Overstay Your Travel Visa

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 — [...]

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.
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 88 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 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s writing on this blog (please help):

Wade Shepard is currently in: Rochester, New York

24 comments… add one

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  • anonymous August 26, 2009, 3:59 pm

    I have to agree and disagree with you. You are correct that all travel is a luxury not a right. And there is nothing worse than a whiny traveler. Talk about self-absorption. So, abide by those visa restrictions and stop complaining. On the other hand, Europe is the creme de la creme. No other place on earth offers such an amazing concentration of wealth, culture, architecture, and natural beauty as Europe. I’ve been to most of the continents and nowhere else has inspired me near as much as europe. So, I can sympathize with those who regret the 90 day limit on the tourist visa.

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    • Berlin March 12, 2014, 6:06 pm

      Amen.

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  • Caitlin August 26, 2009, 6:45 pm

    hahhahhahaha.

    funny. you make me laugh.

    yeah, I don’t really get how someone can call themselves a “traveler” and never go beyond Europe.

    Also, I don’t understand how people just assume they are entitled to be wherever they want, just because they come from a developed country.

    In Guatemala, almost everyone I know follows the rules. Or that is, goes through the loophole in the rules: stay in guatemala for 90 days, go to Mexico for 3 days, go back to guatemala for 90 days, go to Mexico for 3 days… repeat as many times necessary.

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  • Andy HoboTraveler.com August 27, 2009, 12:40 am

    I agree with Wade, do not overstay your visa. I do not care if the country says you can, do not do it, they want to get fees or extract fee and many times bribes.

    Bottom line is this, the normal person is caught up in the terrible twos, they stay emotionally midget and enjoy disobeying the rules. Wade, for sure sit back and enjoy the soap opera, it is never ending.

    The ability to make call audibles at the line of scrimmage is not possible, they have never been on time, they are not self employed, they show up for work because the boss demands it or they get fired.

    Money does solve all problems and let them pay, somebody has to make these countries rich.

    It is about the unwanted and wanted, expats are unwanted or wanted because they cannot harmonize with the world.

    I over-stayed in Thailand and paid 500 Baht for one day, the plane ticket was worth the risk. I have only missed one plane, it was in Niger, Africa and I had food poisoning and the plane left 1/2 hour early.

    You truly are never going to change these people, but I appreciate the post, I have said the same a many times.

    As a traveler, if you cannot save money, if you fight with your parents, if you are late for work, if you get angry at authority. You need to go to Europe where they truly just want you to drink beer and behave stupid.

    Thanks Wade,
    I subscribed and feedburner is still delivering, please do NOT change…
    Andy

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  • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com August 30, 2009, 11:44 am

    I agree with you completely Andy,

    The average person — regardless of national origin — does seem to be caught up in the terrible twos. It is interesting to me how people expect the world to bend and provide for them. It is even more interesting to observe how bitter they become when it doesn’t and how it is the world’s fault why they can’t get what they want. Many people who send me mail about how they want to overstay their visa in Europe are looking for a quick expedient to subverting the rules rather than putting in the effort to play it straight. Many seem bitter that they are not allowed to stay in a foreign country for as long as they want to,they seem bitter that there are rules and they cannot do whatever they want — that the world does not provide for them everything that they want. They are stuck in the terrible twos.

    This entry began much harsher and critical than it ended up being. I am glad that you added this point, Andy, as it is precisely the one that I wanted to make though could not find the backing of substance to print. I deleted a lot from this entry to side step a charge of being critical of other people and big mouthing, though this is exactly what I felt compelled to do.

    I suppose I could still learn a few lessons in writing tersely . . . my hate mail index is still surprisingly low haha.

    Someday . . . someday.

    Walk Slow,

    Wade

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  • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com August 30, 2009, 11:50 am

    Hello Caitlin,

    Yes, many countries have easy re-visa regulations — visa runs to a nearby country are made easy. But I fear that that this is becoming more difficult to do on a global scale. Now in Europe you have to be out of the region for 90 out of 180 days, Thailand has also imposed strict measures on their formally easy visa run strategies, and India has closed many of their consulates to travelers from foreign countries — they say you need to apply for a visa in your country of origin.

    There seems to be a global move against the backpacker, as many countries are making their visa policies stricter against long term travelers and expats. The hatches are being battened down, the war against the backpacker has begun.

    I predict that within the next decade a great amount of countries are going to impose X amount of days out for X amount of days in re-visa policies. The quick visa run to the border is soon to be a thing of the past.

    Low density, high income tourism will become the rule of global travel.

    Thanks for this comment.

    I will send you an email soon.

    Walk Slow,

    Wade

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  • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com August 30, 2009, 11:56 am

    Hello Anonymous,

    Yes, I am glad that we agree on something! Haha, yes, many travelers are really drawn to Europe and love it as you do. I cannot say that I am one of them though — I like Europe, I enjoy traveling there, and I love the challenges that it provides (to be able to travel cheaply in expensive countries) but it just does not “get” me.

    East Asia “gets” me.

    North Africa “gets” me.

    The Middle East “gets” me.

    South America “gets” me.

    But this does not say that I discredit anyone whom Europe really “gets.” This is good, you seem to really love that land, and I must say that there is a lot there for someone to feel the glorious tinge of the Wanderlust over.

    I just feel this more sharply in other lands.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Walk Slow,

    Wade

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  • Ahmad September 4, 2009, 1:22 pm

    Hi Wade,

    After i read few lines of your post, i started to look around is it vagabondjourney.com! is it Wade writing haha 😀
    I’m just used to read your posts, encouraging people to travel and so on.
    well, it’s pretty sad that someone can’t travel freely, instead, they limit your life.. that person from that country can not enter that country, and that one can just stay 90 days.. etc, i know it’s different in real world but still sad.
    I’ve been always dreaming about traveling to many places in the world, with no intention to overstay at all.. even so, it’s not possible coz, I’ll need a visa to every single country and i have to apply from my home country, but lets say I’m crazy enough to do so, I’ll need a fortune in my bank account; coz they ask for a sufficient funds to cover my intended stay.
    i just wish i could go backpacking with out limitation,legally with out overstaying. but unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. anyways, at least I’m able to travel one country every year if I’m lucky enough to save money.. it’s better than nothing

    best wishes from Egypt,
    Ahmad

    PS: my visa got refused 2 weeks ago I’ve been planning to visit Finland, but for some reason they didn’t believe me i guess 😀

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  • Rrichard September 10, 2009, 3:54 am

    the French Consulate General in London

    As from June the 1st 2009, nationals from Mauritius, Seychelles, Barbados, Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Christopher and Nevis are exempted from visa for stays up to 90 days in the Schengen States and the european territories of France. Visas are no more issued except if the destination of the travel is situated in a oversea territory of France or if the purpose of the travel in France is to have a paid activity.
    source : https://www.alovize.com/vize/Fransa-vizesi

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  • Josh January 12, 2010, 8:15 pm

    Dude,

    You are such judgmental a prick. You can not fathom why everyone might overstay a visa. S*** happens. People like you encourage hate.

    Your a d***,

    Josh

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 12, 2010, 9:27 pm

      I am unsure how warning travelers to not overstay their visas encouraging hate? I am pretty sure that I did not say that anybody should hate a visa overstayer or to do them any harm. I also do not believe that I claimed to understand why every person may overstay their visa. I assure you, I would not want to.

      I think I struck a chord. It is my impression that you think that I am criticizing you. It is funny how criticism or someone stating their opinion is confused as being an insult.

      Its not.

      Have fun,

      Wade

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  • Chad January 21, 2010, 7:56 am

    I have been reading vagabond journey visa overstay forums other related sites and articles etc for a week now. I have read more than a hundred comments from various travelers concerning non-eu citizens but have only read a handful of entries that would be considered “worst-case” scenarios (i.e fined several hundred euros). I have yet to hear of a substantiated case of being fined and banned.

    Not that it hasn’t happened. I think I have read only 2 or three entries which included a fine(switzerland)? Does any one know of any cases within the last year or two where a non-eu citizen got fined and banned? Just fined?

    Thanks guys, Chad

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 21, 2010, 6:00 pm

      Chad,

      My initial position that I took the Schengen visa was that most non-EU westerners were not often punished for overstaying. The first entry that I wrote about it was at Overstaying Visa in Europe.

      This entry opened up an entire floodgate of mail about overstaying the Schengen visa, including at least 10 cases of people who wrote to me saying that they, themselves, were fined for overstaying. The highest fine was 200 Euro a day, handed out to a Venezuelan. Most fines were significantly less. Most involved were exiting the region from Switzerland or Germany.

      One American girl wrote and said that she was temporarily jailed and then formally deported from the Czech Republic for overstaying her work visa. I think she was banned from re-entering for 5 years.

      One Canadian girl who overstayed her visa in Italy but was fined while leaving another Schengen country (Switzerland maybe?) just wrote to say that her recent application for a student visa to return to Italy was denied because of her previous overstay. She is currently challenging it.

      On a couple occasions travelers have written to say that they were busted not in the Schengen zone for their overstay but in the UK. They were returned to the country they overstayed in.

      I have no idea how many pages I have published on this site about overstaying the Schengen visas, but many of them are indexed on this page, Schengen Visa.

      Though it is still my impression that most Westerners who have overstayed their Schengen visas are not receiving a fine or any immediate punishment, many are.

      Hope this helps,

      Wade

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    • Revelo January 26, 2011, 1:03 am

      Greece has been cracking down hard on overstays for years. The warnings are in all the major guidebooks: Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, etc. Do NOT exit from Greece if you have been Schengen for more than 90 days or otherwise have violated the rules. The fines are either €500 or €1000, I forget which, OR you are banned from Europe for 5 years if you can’t pay, and maybe things are even worse now.

      The United States is still the worst place to overstay. Americans don’t realize how nasty our immigration officials can be. It’s the old story of a bureaucracy run amok. Back when jobs were more plentiful, immigration tended to attract power and control freaks. The nice people all transferred to some other government job to get away from the hostile environment, so what is left now is a really nasty group of people. Anyone who dares to criticize them get smacked down with references to 9/11 and other terrorist threats. Doesn’t matter how much damage this is doing to the US tourist industry.

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      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 26, 2011, 11:00 am

        True about Greece. True about US immigration too, up to a point:

        The USA still allows way more legal immigration per year than ALL of Europe combined.

        Though right on about how archaic US tourist immigration policy is damaging the economy — there is an entire world out there for people to visit, if one country makes it difficult then people will just go somewhere else.

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  • Caro January 26, 2010, 3:37 pm

    Hi Wade, I have been in Europe since November 9th. I just recently started volunteering at a high school in Austria. Do you know if it is possible to apply for a residence permit prior to exceeding three months, or does that have to be done with in the first month? Thank you for any information you may have.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 30, 2010, 12:51 am

      I am not sure exactly about Austria’s rules on offering residency permits, but many European countries decree that the application needs to be filed outside of the country. Though I would check into it and find out what happens. Visa rules, in many cases, are vastly more pliable than they seem. Let us know how you make out!

      Thanks,

      Wade

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  • Andrew October 27, 2010, 12:53 pm

    You mentioned that people might be better off if they “leave from the Czech Republic, as they have an additional visa policy that extends beyond the Schengen.” Is this still true as of the end of 2010/beginning of 2011? Do you know where I can find more detailed info about this?

    Thanks!

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com October 28, 2010, 7:14 pm

      This is only for a select list of countries that have special visa agreements with the Czech Republic. The USA, Canada, Australia is not on this list.

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  • Jayson January 6, 2011, 8:34 pm

    Americans should all go BACK HOME!!!

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 6, 2011, 9:51 pm

      This is a truly idiotic thing to say, especially from an Englishman.

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  • Silly American Missionary April 17, 2013, 8:20 am

    Andrew, random question. What’s the penalty for overstaying a Kenyan Visa. I’m on a missions trip and they seem to think 3 days is no big deal. I’m not sure it’s a great idea since we are heading back to kenya for a flight next month and will need a new visa. Immigration office website is down and the number is disconnected. Any help?

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    • VagabondJourney April 17, 2013, 8:25 am

      “No big deal,” those are the famous last words of advice that many people busted for overstaying their visas often receive. It seems as if you know what the best course of action is, otherwise you probably would never have found this page. It’s hardly ever worth overstaying a visa anywhere, especially for such a short amount of days.

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