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Don’t Lose Your Passport Because you Overstayed Your Visa

Just don’t do it.

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Question: Should I lose my passport to avoid being penalized for overstaying a visa?


Hello Dee,

I have met people who swear that intentionally losing their passport in an attempt to hide the fact that they overstayed their visa in Europe worked. But I am now very unsure if this had any impact on why they did not get busted for violating the terms of their Schengen visa, as back then many overstayers were not getting any penalty — so it is difficult to say if the premature passport renewal had any role in them being able to skirt away free. It seems to be a different world for the long term traveler in Europe, and droves of foreigners are getting busted for overstaying.

This is what I know:

  1. I have received mail from people who have been banned from Europe for overstaying their visa who attempted to return early with a new passport just to be denied entry. It seems as if more than a passport number is logged into the Schengen Information System (the computer database that keeps track of visitors to Europe amongst other things).
  2. I have received reports that once you overstay your Schengen visa you are automatically put into a database of illegal aliens, and I am sure that more than just a passport number is filed here — plus they will be waiting (albeit very passively) for you to cross out of the region so that they have  record of entrance and exit.
  3. Intentionally losing your passport to avoid an overstay penalty is one of the oldest tricks in the traveler’s book — and it may have worked in the old days where all records where kept in paper and borders in Europe were not as tight — but this is the digital world now, and it is my impression that getting a new passport to avoid a penalty for overstaying your visa would not do you any good. Also, MANY Americans are trying this scheme to stay in Europe longer, and I am sure that the US consulates are keen to it. Your passport is, technically, not your property but that of the US government, and I would not recommend screwing with these guys. From the amount of mail that I get alone from Americans claiming to loose their passport after overstaying a Schengen visa, I am sure that the folks working in the consulates have seen it all before.

US Passport - Don't lose it

In point, I do not recommend intentionally losing a passport to avoid being penalized for overstaying a Schengen visa. If you lost it naturally — in a true accident — it may provide some smokescreen when exiting the region, but, honestly, I doubt that it would help more than it could harm.

As for your other question, if you have employers who are willing to sponsor you I would NOT leave the region until I had my work permit and residency papers in 100%, complete, and finalized order. Take a trip to another Schengen country if you want to go on vacation, stay away from England, tell your friends to come and visit you in Denmark or somewhere.

I hope this helps. Be aware that most of the early advice that I gave on this site about overstaying Schengen visas was taken from when I was working in hostels in the east of the region some years ago. What was happening “on the ground” then seems to be different than what is going on now: the region seems to have gotten tighter. I truly believe that exiting the Schengen region with a fresh passport — not the one you entered with — is only going to spark suspicion at the exit gates, and this, especially since you have been working illegally, would do you no good at all.

The Schengen zone is now a fortress, I only recommend playing it straight from here on out.

Hope this helps. Let us know what happens.

Walk Slow,


Original question about loosing passport to hid visa entry dates

Hi, I am currently living in the Netherlands as an au pair and am beginning to start the process to maintain a working visa. I have a family to sponser me so it shouldn’t be a problem. However, I have already booked a flight to visit my friend in the UK and I realize now that I may not have a visa before that time. Is it safe to leave the Netherlands as I may not have a visa secured or should I cancel my flight or should I, as I read in an earlier post, go to the US Embassy and say that I ‘lost’ my visa and use a temporary one for travel to the (non Schengen) UK? THANKS!!


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Filed under: Europe, Netherlands, Schengen Visas, Travel Documents, Travel Help, Visas

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3716 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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12 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

  • Veronica October 13, 2010, 4:34 am


    I’m curious. I’m American and overstayed in Europe.. same o’l story. My question: I will be getting married to a Dutch man and will be applying for all the right visas etc. Will the fact that I overstayed get me denied? I know that I have to leave this area and wait a few months for the results but I’m just curious if you have heard anything about overstaying effecting getting residence permits regarding marriage.

    also- as I’m still here and leaving asap- Is it possible to leave this area- say..to Ireland or morocco without trouble?

    In other words- I know I’m in for trouble.. I just want to try and lessen the blow and make it possible to come back THE RIGHT WAY.

    I just can’t seem to find the right people to ask – it’s so confusing these websites with all the rules. I want to know what is coming.. and my options.

    THank you in advance….


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    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com October 13, 2010, 8:05 am

      It is my impression that no advice could really be good advice here. But I would say that you should get married right away, have all the paperwork in hand, and go to the immigration office and try to procure a temporary residence permit.

      The rules on this seem a little different for each country in the Schengen Zone, but leaving may get you a ban of three years — which seems as if it could mess up your plans a little. You are in Europe now, and I would try to get everything in order now, before leaving.

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  • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com October 13, 2010, 8:08 pm

    Hey Wade, I’ve been reading your posts regarding overstaying schengen visas and your advice about NOT trying the “I lost my passport” trick. This information about the SIS is new to me and pretty scary. OK, so in any case, here is my question: I am in a similar situation to other people who have considered this option. I am in the Czech Republic with an expired tourist visa. However, I got hired as an English teacher, got AAAALL my paperwork necessary for acquiring a business license, got an apartment, the whole shebang. I just need to get a work visa now to get legal. Problem is, when I went to the czech embassy in Budapest to apply for my long term visa, they wouldn’t even LOOK at my papers because of my expired Schengen visa. I understand that the “lost passport” trick might not help when leaving the EU and going back to the US, but do you think it could work for the czech embassy? Because if I CAN get my long term visa I’m good to travel to and from the Schengen Zone and US during the duration of said visa. But I don’t know if getting a new passport with no stamps/fresh stamps would convince the embassy to process my longterm visa. Any thoughts?

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com October 13, 2010, 8:16 pm


      This is a tricky situation. If you did intentionally lose your passport it seems to me as if they should be able to just run your passport through their system and get all of the necessary information on you anyway. Don’t hold me to this, as I have receive reports from people who were nailed by the SIS with a new passport, but I have never quite had anybody yet tell me the results of what you are thinking of doing.

      Even if you got a new passport, you still need to answer questions about when you entered the region. I suppose you could lie — you would probably have to lie to the US and Czech consulates and need some heady documentation to back you up — but it seems to me as if your name, birthday, nationality, place of birth, lots of things that you can not change by getting a new passport will still be in the system.

      i suppose it is all up for debate if every foreigner is immediately scanned into the SIS when entering the region. I have only had one definite report of this being so. But who knows?

      Your scheme could work I suppose, but, man, so many people seem to be trying this (at least with the US consulate when getting a new passport) that it may backfire.

      But if you want to go ahead with it, I would love to hear the results.



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  • Veronica October 14, 2010, 3:03 am

    Hey Wade,

    If I tried to fix everything while I’m here- wouldn’t that essentially be turning myself in?

    Ive heard and read that you have to be in your own country to apply for visa’s… is that incorrect?

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com October 29, 2010, 10:24 am

      How to you intend to not turn yourself in? The proof is right there for any immigration official to see when you leave the country. It is my impression that you may as well try to sort out your marriage and immigration issues while you are in Europe first — especially if you want to get married. Different European countries have different statutes for marriage residency permits, and I would suggest inquiring directly with Dutch authorities to find out what the Netherlands.

      Link Reply
      • filmil August 31, 2011, 12:18 am

        I have written it elsewhere and I will write it again until it’s widely understood.

        Do NOT go to the Dutch immigration authorities looking for help in these situations. Their job is NOT to help you, their job is to enforce Dutch immigration laws. You may not like their conclusions and you will receive sub-par advice, simply because they are not there to help you.

        Talk to an immigration attorney to understand what you need to do. This situation is very common in the Netherlands, and there are several ways people usually go about the problem.

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  • Philip October 19, 2010, 10:11 am

    Thanks for your interest in my inquiry Wade. I decided to take your advice and not pursue what could be a potentially risky route, and actually went to the US Embassy here in Prague to explain my dilemna. I received some interesting information from the woman I spoke with, and maybe you have heard of some people who have done this.

    Apparently if I apply for a short-term visa at a czech embassy OUTSIDE the Schengen Zone, than I have a chance. The short-term visa only takes a week to process, and while it is only good for another 90 days, that gives me plenty of time to get my finances more in order and apply for the long term visa. The main concern I have, which I will be looking into, is whether or not getting the short-term visa will allow me re-entry into the Schengen Zone after I have overstayed my tourist visa. The woman at the US Embassy also told me that the Czech Republic is pretty lenient about foreigners overstaying their tourist visas when they eventually do leave the Schengen Zone, so you may want to pass that on to other travelers who find themselves in a similar position. For Americans, Australians, and Canadians, I think as long as we don’t overstay by an inordinate amount of time, it’s probably OK. I hate to bring up a potential racism card, but I think here in the Czech Republic the immigration authorities are more so looking for Arabic and Ukranian illegals.

    I’ll keep you posted on this whole process. I’m considering Croatia for my one week “vacation”, so hopefully it all works out!

    Thanks again for your advice, I’m taking it as I try to walk slow, not run fast 😛


    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabondjourney.com October 29, 2010, 10:35 am

      I am glad to hear that there could be a way to work things out. Please remember that embassy and consolate employees often don’t know shit about true immigration policy — even for the countries they preside over — so I would check and recheck any information that you receive.

      If it is possible to get a temporary visa to the Czech Republic from outside the region even after overstaying a visa, this would be great news. I would check on its validity though for other Schengen countries, as I tend to doubt that it would be valid for any country except for the Czech Republic (as they are with the special CR visa agreement countries).

      Glad to hear that things may work out for you though. Read German consolate gives bad information for more on travelers who have been mislead by immigration authorities.

      Always remember that when it comes to immigration there is official policy, enforced policy, and the various interpretations of policy. Please let me know how applying for the Czech visa goes.



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  • Reesha August 23, 2018, 5:18 am

    Hello, I have a question… i have overstayed in France and i am mauritian… we do not need visa for shenghen areas up to 3 months. So yes i ve overstayed in france and returned to my homecountry by a connecting flight in germany. And also i was stopped at the passport control in germany and signed a paper mentionning that i an aware that i have overstayed in the shenghen zone. Now i need to travel to UK to visit a friend, is there any probability that i will be refused at the border?
    Thank you

    Link Reply
    • Wade Shepard August 24, 2018, 2:24 pm

      Yes, it’s possible. UK isn’t Schengen but they do help with enforcement and I believe have access to Schengen immigration databases. However, I’m not sure what the situation is with this post-Brexit. Let us know what happens.

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