Last Updated: 9/13/21 | September 13th, 2021
When I planned my step to Sweden a few years ago, I tried to figure out how to get past the 90-day limit placed on vacationer visas in the Schengen Area. This is a problem encountered by thousands of travelers annually and a question that frequently (especially this time of year) pops up in my inbox.
“How can I stay in Europe for a lot more than 90 days?”
It’s a basic question with a very complicated answer.
I always knew it was complicated, but until I started researching how to stay there longer, I never knew just how complicated.
Fortunately, in the process of this research, I came to learn there are a few ways to stay in Europe longer than 90 days; they just aren’t well known.
This post will show you the options for staying in Europe over 90 days as well as give you ideas on how to step to Europe. but first a few things:
It’s crucial to note that Europe isn’t just one place — there are varying visa policies throughout the continent. When people talk about the “90-day limit,” they’re talking about restrictions on the Schengen Area, which is the visa policy that governs 26 countries in Europe. It includes all of the European Union — except Ireland — as well as a few non-EU countries.
Note: While I call it the “Schengen Visa,” it’s not an actual visa you necessarily need to apply for. depending on your residency status and country of citizenship, you may need to apply in development for a Schengen Visa, however, those with an American passport do not need to apply in advance.
Table of Contents
What is the Schengen Visa?
Part 1: staying or moving to Europe the easy Way
Part 2: staying in the Schengen area past 90 Days
Can You extend Your Schengen Visa/Stamp?
Getting a working holiday Visa
Getting a Long-Term-Stay Visa
Further Europe travel planning Articles
What is the Schengen visa?
The Schengen visa is a 90-day vacationer visa for Schengen Area countries, which are:
Additionally, there are several microstates that are de facto members of the Schengen Area. These are Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City.
These Schengen countries have a border-free visa agreement that lets residents step throughout the area without needing to show their passport whenever they cross a border. Essentially, it’s as if they’re one country, and you can step as freely as you want.
Citizens of lots of countries are allowed to enter the Schengen area without having to get a visa beforehand. Your passport simply gets stamped upon your arrival and departure from Europe. You’re allowed to enter and leave from any country you want — they don’t have to be the same.
Here is a map of the countries with visa waivers that can enter the Schengen without requiring a visa in advance.
Most visitors (including Americans) are allowed to spend 90 days in the Schengen area in every 180-day period. The easiest way to think of it is that you can check out for 3 months and then you have to leave for 3 months before you can return.
However, you can also bounce back and forth between Schengen and non-Schengen countries — you just need to keep track of all your dates of entry/exit.
When I check out Europe, I fly in and out of different countries all the time. Your first entry in the 180-day period is when your 90-day counter starts. these days don’t need to be consecutive — the total is cumulative. once day 181 hits, the count resets itself.
For example, if I come to the Schengen area in January and stay for 60 days and then come back in June for 10 days, that counts as 70 days in 180 days. only days you are in the zone during the period count. If you go on January 1st and stay 90 straight days, you have to leave and technically can’t come back until July 1st.
However, not all travelers are allowed such freedom.
Citizens from lots of countries need to apply for a Schengen visa ahead of time. You’ll be required to fill out paperwork beforehand and fly in and out of the country for which your visa is issued.
Even then, you still might not be approved a visa. Spoiler alert: citizens from African and Asian countries get screwed.
So, with that being said, how DO you stay in Europe longer? how do you get around that rule? let me break it down for you.
Part 1: staying or moving to Europe the easy Way
With so lots of visa rules, it’s easy to stay in Europe beyond 90 days as a vacationer — you just need to mix up the countries you visit. The united kingdom has its own policies that allow you to stay 180 days in a calendar year.
Most non-Schengen countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, Croatia, Ireland, and some Balkan countries allow you to stay for up to 60 or 90 days. Albania even lets American’s stay up to a year!
So, all you need to do to stay in Europe longer than 3 months is spend 90 days in the Schengen area and then check out the UK, go to the Balkans, hang out in Ukraine, drink white wine in Moldova, and have a pint in Ireland. If you align your schedule right, you can easily be out of the Schengen area for 90 days and then head back into the Schengen area with a brand new Schengen visa.
Years ago, to get around this limit, I spent three months in Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and England as I waited for my clock to reset. After that, I headed back into the Shengen area for Oktoberfest.
If you want to travel the continent for a long time without having to go through the various visa processes described below, vary your travel by checking out non-Schengen countries. There’s plenty of countries to choose from while you wait for your Schengen Visa clock to reset. This is the easy, easy way of doing things.
—-> need a lot more ideas for Europe? check out my destination guide and get thorough information on what to see and do and how to save money.
Part 2: staying in the Schengen area past 90 Days
But what if you do want to stay longer in the Schengen Area? What if the six months you want to be in Europe is all in Schengen area countries? What if you want to live and work in Europe?
After all, the Schengen area spans 26 countries and checking out so lots of destinations in 90 days can be a little rushed (you would have an average of just 3.5 days per country).
If you want to stay longer to travel, live, learn a language, or fall in love, then the “move around” option suggested above isn’t going to work for you. You need something else.
Luckily, there are a few ways to do this — and I can’t anxiety enough the value of the word “few.” because staying a lot more than 90 days in the Schengen area isn’t easy.
First, let’s understand the rule:
The Schengen law states that you can’t stay in the area for a lot more than 90 days. If you do, you’re subject to a fine and possibly deportation and being banned from re-entering the Schengen Area. how that policy is enforced, though, varies greatly from one country to another. Overstaying by a day might not be the end of the world, however, some countries do not mess around with visitors overstaying.
For example, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, and Scandinavian countries are all very strict about entry and exit rules. If you overstay your vacationer visit, there’s a good chance they’ll pull you aside. two Australians I know were detained leaving Switzerland due to overstaying their visa by two weeks. They were allowed to opt for just a warning, but they missed their flights and had to book new flights.
I know of someone who overstayed by six months, tried to leave from Amsterdam, and now has an “illegal immigrant” stamp on her passport. In buy to enter Europe again, she need to apply for a visa at an embassy and be preapproved:
I made the mistake of attempting to leave from the Netherlands after overstaying a Schengen visa and was caught. I overstayed by about a month, and they hand-drew some sort of insignia in my passport to note my overstay. They told me I’d have to contact the IND and find out if I would be able to enter the Schengen states again.
Another blogger told me this happened to them too so don’t overstay your visa!
That being said, if you leave from Greece, France, Italy, or Spain you may be less likely to encounter an issue, supplied you (a) haven’t stayed over too long and (b) didn’t catch the immigration officer on a bad day.
When I left Greece, no one even looked at my passport. one of my pals met a person in France, fell in love, and made a decision not to leave. A year later, when she finally did, the French officials didn’t even look twice. another pal flew into France and didn’t even get an entry stamp. Spain is another place notorious for not caring and Americans who decide to overstay for months mention that as the easiest country to exit from.
Of course, I don’t think it’s wise to overstay. A day or two? likely not the end of the world. But, Matt, can I extend just extend my Schengen visa/stamp?
Unfortunately not. simply put, you cannot extend your vacationer visa or entry stamp. There’s a 90-day limit, and that’s that.
So what’s a vacationer to do?
1. get a working holiday Visa
Working holiday visas are easy to get and the best way to extend your stay — even if you don’t want to work. These visas are created for young travelers who want to work and travel abroad. Citizens of Australia, Canada, and new Zealand (and typically South Korea, Israel, Hong Kong, and Japan) are eligible for one- to two-year working holiday visas from a lot of of the Schengen countries.
There is no single “working holiday” program for the Schengen or EU so applicants need to apply for this visa from a certain country. Applicants need to also be younger than 30 (though, in some cases, like for Canadians working in Switzerland or Ireland, you can be as old as 35).
Additionally, you can get consecutive working holiday visas. An Australian reader of mine got a two-year Dutch working holiday visa and then got one from Norway to stay two a lot more years. While she and her partner (who also got one) did odd jobs in Holland for a bit, they mostly used it as a way to travel around the continent.
Note: This type of visa won’t allow you to work in any other country than the one that issued it.
For Americans, there are only two options for working holidays in Europe: Ireland (non-Schengen country) and Portugal (Schengen country). The Portuguese working holiday visa is for travelers aged 18-30 and lasts two years. The Irish one also lasts two years and is good for those aged 18-30, however, you need to have graduated within 12 months of applying (or be a student).
2. get a Long-Term-Stay Visa
Unfortunately, the majority of Schengen countries do not offer long-term-stay visas for tourists/visitors. normally speaking, if you want a long-stay visa, you’d have to apply for residency.
Schengen allows for a C- or D-class visa (the letter varies on the country), which is a momentary residence visa for up to one year. but the certain visa and requirements vary from country to country. Some countries are harder, some are easier, and others are nearly impossible despite being in the same visa treaty zone.
However, there are a few countries that do offer long-term visas that aren’t too hard to get:
France uses a long-term visitor visa for a period of up to one year. The application process takes up to one month. According to the French Embassy, “The ‘visitor’ visa (or visa ‘D’) allows you to enter France and stay for a lot more than three months. Long-stay visa holders will be allowed to reside in France for up to 12 months according to the validity of their visa and purpose of stay.”
To get this visa, you need to set up an appointment at the French consulate near you. You can’t walk in — you need to make an appointment.
At this appointment, you’ll need the following documents:
One application form submitted completely and signed
Three passport photos
Your original passport, which need to have been issued less than 10 years ago, be valid for three months after your return, and have at least two blank pages left
A letter certified by a notary public that promises you won’t engage in work
A letter of employment stating current occupation and earnings
Proof of income (you’ll need bank statements or copies of your investment portfolio)
Proof of medical insurance that includes evacuation insurance
Proof of accommodation in France. (The French consulate never returned my emails, so I was not sure how you could have this before you even get to France. One could use a friend’s address or, lacking that, rent a place (one where you can get a refund) for the purposes of the interview. It’s a little fuzzy.)
Note: You can’t apply for this visa a lot more than three months before your arrival date.
You can check out the French embassy web site for links to local embassies and consulates for a lot more information. This post also has some valuable information to get you started.
Sweden also uses a long-term stay vacationer visa for a maximum period of one year. The process is easy normally takes around two weeks to process when applied for in Sweden. Here’s a brief introduction of what you need:
Residence permit for visitor’s application form
Notarized copies of the pages of your passport that show your identity and the validity of your passport, as well as copies of all the other visas/stamps you have. Your passport also needs to be valid for 3 months after your stay.
A bank statement showing your means of supporting yourself for the duration of your stay (you need at least $52 USD per day for each day saved in your account)
A return airplane ticket
A letter from