A Guide To Working With The Schengen Visa Nightmare

For those travellers unaware the Schengen Visa equates to allowing an individual to stay 90 days in every 180 or 3.4 days in each of the 26 countries involved.  Those countries are 22 in Europe Union plus a few hangers on including Switzerland, Norway Iceland and Lichtenstein.

The Exceptions to the Rule

Marry a European - the French are said to be great lovers .

Own property in Europe - Greece is having a fire sale.

Study - Spain apparently is good for this.

Be self-employed or have a job lined up - selling sarongs on the beach in Portugal doesn't count. 

The Schengen area includes all countries in the European Union, with the exception of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Count the Days

For the tornado tourist it might be the perfect scenario, but it is a nightmare for the snail traveler.  From the minute you dip your toes into any one of the countries, the days begin adding up. They don't have to be consecutive, so you can jump in and out.  You do get cute little arrow stamps in your passport showing that you are either in or out, to ease the calculation of days for those that failed mathematics.

Citizens of many countries are allowed visas on arrival, but there is a streak of the restrictive nasty factor for some people, say from Africa or Asia, who have to run the pre-approval gauntlet.

How To Get Around The Visa Restrictions

The alternative to prolonging a stay in Europe is to organize your trip so that you spend 90 days wallowing in say France, Spain or Portugal, then run off to any other country such as the UK, Moldova, Croatia, Ireland, the Ukraine or some of the Balkan areas.  Most of these countries will allow you a 60-90 day stay.  Which is why, it is a "jump in and jump out" scenario.  Then once your 90-day exile period is up, go back in again, as the day clock is reset.

For The Intrepid Traveller

For those that have a daredevil approach who are not averse to a fine, deportation or a night in the immigration cells, some of the Schengen countries are more vigilant about counting days than others.  The strict "no excuse allowed" for overstay countries are: Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Poland and the Scandinavian countries.

The countries that have a more laissez-faire approach are: France, Italy, Greece or Spain.  Though it does depend on the Immigration officer you encounter when leaving and whether he had sex with his wife the night before or not.  According to traveler's scuttlebutt, Spain is the easiest to slip out of, if you have outstayed your welcome and don't wish to be branded with an "illegal immigrant" stamp on your forehead, let alone your passport.

Long Stay Visas

To make it even more confusing, there is no uniform long-stay visa (12 months) for the Schengen area.  Each country plays by its own rules in this area, so it is best to check on the visa websites for each country.  Have plenty of time up your sleeve, lots of colored pencils to fill in forms and be prepared to show off your bank account or that monstrous income you get for doing nothing.  You will also need a convincing reason for wanting to stay longer.

France, Italy and Sweden fall under this umbrella, with Spain and Portugal's long term visas aimed at affluent retirees.  With a long-term visa you need to have the visa applicable to the "base" country, but you can move freely around within the Schengen zone during the length of the visa.

No Excuses Accepted

Taking the travel gossip with a grain of salt, do you really want the heart attack experience of trying to sneak out with your overstay undetected? Overstaying a few days is totally different to overstaying a few months. Not being able to count the days on your fingers and toes is not considered a valid excuse.

Gail Palethorpe, a self proclaimed Australian gypsy, is a freelance writer, photographer and eternal traveller. Check out her website Gail Palethorpe Photography and her Shutterstock profile.