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Dark blue: Schengen Area (EU)
Violet: Schengen Area (non-EU)
Light green: Set to implement later
Dark green: EU member states outside Schengen
The Schengen countries form what’s called the Schengen Area.
The name “Schengen” originates from a small town in Luxembourg where in June 1985, five European Union countries signed an agreement to end internal border checkpoints and controls. This treaty led to the creation of the Schengen Area on March 26th, 1995.
More countries have joined the treaty over the past years. At present, there are 26 Schengen countries, all in Europe.
Under the Schengen agreement, transiting from one country to another within the Schengen area is done without border controls. In fact, the Schengen visa makes it possible to visit all the countries in the Schengen area and to cross internal borders without further formalities.
Once you’ve entered one of Schengen countries, you can travel to another one as if there was no border. Your passport won’t be checked whether you are a road, rail or air passenger. But every country still has the right to implement security controls if necessary.
Be careful because the European Union and the Schengen area are two different zones. The list below will enable you to see the difference and check that the countries where you are planning to stay are all in the Schengen area.
Both the United Kingdom and Ireland don’t belong to the Schengen Area.
Moreover, other countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus are obliged to eventually join the Schengen Area at some point in the future.
And if you travel to Andorra, border controls remain whether you enter from Spain or France.
When you first cross any external border of the Schengen area, present your passport for an entry stamp. Once you do that the immigration official decides if you qualify for entry into the Schengen area.
Be sure to ask the official to stamp your passport since you are responsible for proving you have legally entered the Schengen area.
When moving from one member country to another, you don’t need to show your passport until you exit the Schengen area, which must be no more than 90 days after your initial entry.
The Schengen visa allows you to a total stay of up to 90 days within a period of 6 months for tourist purposes. If you get a multiple entry Schengen visa, you may leave and return any number of times within the 180-day period, but the combined stay within the region must not total more than 90 days.
What does this mean? It means that you have to leave the Schengen country you are in after a total of 90 days in the Schengen Area.
The 180-day period starts on the day of the first entry into the Schengen zone (the day you physically arrive in the zone and not the day the validity of the visa starts). In that 6-month period, you can only stay in the Schengen zone for a maximum of 90 days, irrespective of whether you have a new Schengen visa issued by the same or a different Schengen country that is valid beyond this 6-month period.
Once you’ve spent 6 months out of this area, you are eligible to enter it again. If your tourist visa is granted you can again spend a maximum of 90 days in the Schengen zone.
Both the entrance and the exit can be done from different Schengen nations.
As soon as you arrive to a Schengen country, the immigration official stamps your passport regardless of whether you need a visa to enter the Schengen Area or not. This stamp serves to the purpose of controlling your date of entrance. It is checked at the time you leave the Schengen Area, when your passport gets stamped again.
It is not possible to extend the 90-day stay limit, nor the Schengen visa. However, the visa has a few loopholes that you could risk attempting.
If you stay longer than 90 days, you are subject to a fine and deportation. You could even go to jail. So it is generally recommended not going against the Law to avoid having an “illegal immigrant” stamp on your passport.