Update Jul 27, 2012: Did some final research and, to summarize the basics:
- Upon initial entry into the Schengen Zone, both your 90 day and your 180 day clocks start, and
- You are then allowed to continue your travels within the Schengen Zone for up to 90 days (inclusive of entry and exit), consecutive or cumulative, until your 180 day period is up.
So what happens when your 180 days are up? This is where it gets a bit confusing.
Say your initial entry into the Schengen zone is Jan 1. Most websites, including official immigration and visa sites, state that a new 180 day countdown will start immediately after the first one ends, on day 181 (Jun 30), allowing visitors to assume they can simply reenter the Schengen zone on that day.
However, according to some officials (in the links provided below), apparently you can’t. Apparently the 180 day deadline is simply a use-by date for the 90 days, not a record-clearing invitation for reentry. Apparently, there needs to be a 90 day “rest period” where you are not in the Schengen zone.
This means, if:
Jan 1 – You arrive in the Schengen zone and stay for a consecutive 90 days
Mar 31 (90th day) – You exit the Schengen zone
Jun 29 (180th day) – Your 180 days are up
Jun 30 (181st day) – You’re cleared for reentry for another 90 days
Dec 26 (180th day) – Your 180 days are up
Jan 1 – You arrive in the Schengen zone and stay for 30 days
Jan 30 – You exit the Schengen zone
Apr 1 – Reenter the Schengen zone with 60 days left in both your 90 and your 180 days
Jun 29 – Your 90 days and 180 days are up. You exit the Schengen zone.
Jun 30 – You’re NOT cleared for reentry.
Not until you’re away from the Schengen zone for 90 consecutive days, otherwise your stay will be a cheated 150 day stay (first time 60 + new 90). There is no ‘chaining’ of Schengen periods allowed and you’ll have to wait another 90 days from the last day of your Schengen visit before reentering:
Sep 27 – You’re cleared for reentry for another 90 days in a new 180 day period.
Unfortunately, through their unintentional vagueness or their incomplete information, even official websites are contradicting each other. This is clear from the page long arguments on Lonely Planet from those trying to genuinely offer help and quoting various official sources that offer varying advice and definitive answers.
Does the EU have some clear and distinct webpage on this that myself and thousands of others have failed to stumble upon? Could they please get one?
In the meantime, in the absence of such a page, below are the sites and threads that I found most helpful and efficient. But please please please do your own research as it applies to you and your citizenship and your situation. It could save you a fine. And/or deportation. And/or denial of ever coming back…
- Actual Schengen Fact Sheet by the US Department of Consular Affairs with wording that does insinuate the requirement to remain outside the zone before reentering: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_4361.html
- Official Danish page explaining how to calculate the 90/180 day rule. Gives an example of staying out for 2 months after the 180 days are up and then being able to return to restart the clock on both the 90 and 180 days. http://www.nyidanmark.dk/en-us/coming_to_dk/visa/how_long.htm
- One of the more informative personal-posts I’ve read regarding this, at least until I got to the forums (next). Has basic explanation as well as some info on visas and staying longer. http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/how-to-legally-stay-in-europe-for-more-than-90-days/
- Ah, Thorn Tree forum. I usually skim these non-thoroughly because many posts are the complete equivalent of unhelpful, featuring information such as, “I had a friend and he never got caught overstaying.” This is helpful to no one except maybe those willing to risk overstaying. This is clearly not my objective, and many people like myself simply want to be able to travel and not find themselves fined and/or getting deported and/or denied reentry during (or at the end of) their travels. But these two are short and are essentially parts 1 and 2, which I am posting backwards due to relevancy.
Schengen Zone Rules: Update: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1842168&tstart=0
Schengen Zone Redux: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1840116
Update Jul 3, 2012: Every story out there is just another experience so the only thing I want to add on is the whole issue of “overstaying” and how it works with dual citizenship (one EU, one not). I entered Schengen on my Canadian passport and stayed a consecutive 80-some days, leaving Italy en route to Poland where I would enter as a Polish citizen. The highway was border-check free. I did not receive an exit stamp. This was picked up on in Warsaw when I was leaving for Israel by airport officials who then asked if I had a Polish passport and whether it was current. As I do, and it is, the fact that according to my Canadian passport I had “overstayed” by 52 days was ignored. Again though, this is just my experience and someone else going through the same thing might (unfortunately) have different results.
So just had a bit of a freak out panic attack.
Fun fact: Poland is part of the Schengen area which means that it is included in my stay of 90 days meaning that unless I can get, first: my certificate of Polish citizenship and then: my Polish passport before May 15 I have to come back to Canada, or possibly the UK but that just sounds complicated and expensive.
So I’m kinda stressing out. And I don’t know…I’ll feel like a failure if I come back: who doesn’t do their research? Who doesn’t know this stuff? How did I not know about Poland being in the Schengen area? I mean sure, it’s in the Union, but part of the fancy shmancy Schengen zone? And why did I think I was going to be ‘safe’ by being in Poland? If I enter on my Canadian passport then I’m a Canadian not a Polish citizen and I’m essentially screwed.
So then I started researching more and it turns out that a lot of people ‘accidentally’ find out about Schengen zone rules – how is this happening? Why are we not more aware of this stuff? Why isn’t this more heavily marketed? Heck, why isn’t the information just more readily available?
I realize that the onus is on us, the travellers, but there’s so many intelligent people I’ve talked to that have no clue what the deal with the Schengen zone visa is that I’m thinking information is getting lost along the way somewhere.
Can we please get the Schengen zone EU peeps to step it up a notch?