The Schengen Area is comprised of 26 European countries which have abolished internal borders between them. The area has a common visa policy for international travelers. For US travelers (citizens and Green Card holders) this means that you can stay in the Schengen zone for up to 90 days within any 180 day period.

You do not have apply for a visa before you leave on vacation but make sure that your passport has been issued in the last 10 years and stays valid for at least 3 months after you plan to leave.

Your passport will receive a stamp upon entry into a v country and an exit stamp when you leave. You can stay for 90 consecutive days or enter and depart the zone several times in the 180 day period (the amount of time you stay is cumulative).

Is it possible to legally stay in the Schengen Area longer than 90 days?

The short answer is no, not as a traveler - that would be against the visa rules. But each country is governed by its own set of immigration rules, letting you apply for a variety of different visas such as study, work, freelance and others. In many cases you will need to apply before you leave the United States, proving sufficient income, acceptance to a school or a job. Sometimes you can apply for a visa that will let you stay in the Schengen Area for over 90 days once you arrive at your destination, but it's a good idea to have all the documents ready well ahead of time. Some of the visas take a month or longer to process, so don't leave it until the last minute.

What happens if you exceed the 90 day limit as a traveler? When you leave the zone, your entry stamp will be checked by the immigration officer. If you break the rules, you may be denied entry to the Schengen Area in the future.

The Countries

The list of European countries with a common visa policy is as follows. 22 are members of the European Union. Ireland and the United Kingdom are not part of the zone so if you want to stay in Europe past the 90 days, you can spend 90 days in a Schengen country, 90 days in a non- Schengen country, at which point the clock resets. Always be sure to have a return ticket back to the U.S. to show the immigration officer.

Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway, while not part of the EU, have joined. Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican are members by default since they don't have borders with the countries that surround them.

Here is the complete list: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Four EU member states (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania) will apply to be part of the Schengen Area in the future.

Practical Information

According to the rules of the agreement, hotels must register all foreign citizens, that’s why you will be asked to fill out a registration form when you check into your hotel in Europe.

Historical Background

The Schengen Agreement was signed on 14 June 1985 proposed the abolition of internal border controls and a common visa policy.

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