Understanding the 90/180 day rule as more countries are introducing stricter controls
It’s now over a year since the transition period for Brexit ended, and still one of the most confusing things for Brits is the 90/180-day rule, how to calculate your stay, who and where it applies to, and what happens if you stay longer than you’re allowed to, with many people, rather foolishly, choosing to ignore it. But this is something that isn’t going away.
The Schengen area represents a border-free zone between several European countries. In addition, these countries issue a uniform Schengen visa for foreign nationals. To control the comings and goings of millions of people who enter the Schengen area, the 90/180-day rule was established, which now applies to British nationals since the UK left the EU and became a third country.
What does it mean?
The 90/180-day rule states that any foreign national who enters the Schengen zone (any country within the area) can stay for up to 90 days within any 180 days. At first glance, it seems a very simple rule, but it’s often misunderstood, and many people overstay it, resulting in them facing penalties. This is why it’s important to know how exactly the 90/180-day rule works.
The Schengen Area 90/180-day rule explained:
There are two main components to this rule; the 90 days and the 180-day period, both represent different calculations as follows:
Staying for 90 days: means that as soon as you enter any country within the Schengen area, your 90-day clock starts. This counts for every country in the zone. For example, let’s say you spend 30 days in Germany, then 30 days in France, and 30 days in Austria; you’ve spent 90 days in the Schengen zone.
Your 90 days count stops the moment you leave the area. So, let’s say you spend 30 days in Germany, return to your country for a few days, and then spend another 30 days in France; that means you only spent 60 days in the Schengen zone, and you have 30 more days left.
Spending your 90 days within a 180-day period: The 90 days you are allowed to spend in the Schengen zone are eligible for a 180-day period. This period is commonly referred to as a “rolling timeframe” because it’s constantly moving, as each day you spend in Schengen advances your 180-day period.
This period is counted backwards from your most recent entry or exit dates. So, let’s say you enter the Schengen area on January 1st, 2023; you count backwards for 180 days from this date and calculate how many days you have spent in the Schengen area during these 180 days. If you’ve already spent 60 days, you have another 30 days left.
Does the 90/180-Day Rule Apply to All EU Countries?
The 90/180-day rule applies only to the European countries within the Schengen area, which include the following:
Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Common Mistakes During the 90/180-day Rule Calculation:
Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when calculating the 90/180-day period:
They don’t count all the Schengen countries. The 90/180 rule applies to all of the European countries which have signed the Schengen agreement, so it doesn’t matter if you spent your days spread out between countries; as long as those are Schengen member states, the time you spent in those countries is counted towards your 90 days.
They go over the 180-day limit. Your 90 days are available within a 180-day timeframe; if you go over your limit, then you’re in breach of the 90/180 rule.
They miscalculate the clock. If you enter the Schengen area a little before midnight, that is counted as your day one; if you leave a little before sunrise, that is your last day.
They count the 180 days as six months. Counting your 90 days or the 180-day period as three months and six months often results in mistakes. This is because some months are longer than others, so 180 days does not necessarily coincide with exactly six months. So, make sure you count your days correctly.
Calculating the 90/180 Day Period:
Knowing how the rule works, in theory, doesn’t mean that applying it in practice is any easier, so here are a few examples to make the calculations easier:
You enter the Schengen zone on January 1st, 2023, you spend 20 days in Greece and 10 days in France— in total 30 days.
On January 30th, you leave the Schengen zone.
You enter the Schengen zone again on April 1st and spend 30 days in Portugal. You leave Portugal on April 30th.
If you count back 180 days from April 30th (your most recent exit date), you have to include the time you spent in Schengen in January. So, by April 30th, you have spent 60 days in the Schengen area within a 180-day period.
The 180-day timeframe begins rolling on your first day of entry (in this case, on January 1st). So, on July 15th, you get another 16 days to spend in the Schengen Area because your 180-day period only extends back to January 16th.
You enter the Schengen zone on January 1st, 2023, and spend 30 days until January 30th, 2023.
Then, you spend the next couple of days outside the Schengen Area and re-enter from February 1st, 2023, until March 2nd, 2023.
You’ve now essentially spent 60 days in the Schengen Area regardless of staying in different Schengen countries.
You spend the next couple of months outside of the Schengen area.
You re-enter from May 1st, 2023, until May 31st, 2023. Here you are in breach of the 90/180-day rule, as you’ve spent 91 days in the Schengen area during the last 180 days.
If you enter the Schengen Zone on July 1st, then you can stay for another 30 days because, in the last 180 days, you have only been in the Schengen Zone for 60 days (in March and in May). The time you spent in Europe in January no longer counts because it is more than 180 days ago.
Who Needs to Follow the 90/180 Day Rule?
The following categories are subjected to the 90/180-day rule:
- All foreign nationals who are non-EU/EEA citizens but can enter visa-free in the Schengen area (US, Canadian, Australian citizens, etc.).
- All foreign nationals who possess a five-year valid multiple-entry Schengen visa.
- British nationals (because of Brexit, the United Kingdom is no longer in the EU; therefore, they must now follow the 90/180-day rule).
What if I Stay More than 90 Days?
If you stay more than 90 within a 180-day period, you’ve effectively breached the 90/180 rule, and you will can either be deported (they will deport you but you have to pay for it), fined (up to 10,000 euros), or banned from entering the Schengen zone for up to ten years.
The authorities of more and more EU countries are now implementing ways of tracking people’s stays and are starting to deport, fine and ban people from their country. They may not want to, but they governed by EU law so have no choice but to carry out the legislation.
How Do I Stay for More than 90 Days?
In any 180-day period, you cannot stay more than 90 days in the Schengen area. If you need to do so, you must apply for a national visa for the specific country where you want to visit for more than 90 days.
Do I Have to Use My 90 Days All at Once?
No, you can use your 90 days spread out as needed; as long as you remember, you can’t stay for more than 90 days within the most recent 180-day period.
I Own a Second Home in the EU. Am I Subject to This Rule?
If you are not registered as a resident in the EU country in which you have a second home, then you are subject to this rule also.
Can I Stay 90 Days in One Schengen member Country and Then 90 in Another?
No, the amount of 90 days applies to all Schengen countries in total, and not 90 days to each.
Is the 90/180 Day Rule Valid After ETIAS Is Launched?
Yes, once ETIAS is made effective, the 90/180-day rule is still valid for all citizens from countries eligible for ETIAS.
Does This Rule Apply to British Citizens?
Since the Brexit transition period ended on December 31st, 2021, British passport holders travelling to the EU, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland have been subject to the EU rules of entry and stay for third-country citizens – including the rule that permits non-EU citizens and residents to stay in the Schengen territory for a maximum of 90 days in any 180-days period.
Does Ireland Apply the 90/180 Days of Stay Rule for Britons?
Ireland does not participate in the Schengen Agreement and has no intentions of joining it; thus, it does not apply this rule to British citizens or other travellers.