Citizens of many countries, including the U.S., may visit the Schengen countries in Europe visa free for a period of up to 90 days in any six-month period, counted from the date of first entry into the Schengen region. 

A group of 26 European nations are party to the Schengen Agreement which eliminates border controls between them. Entry into one Schengen country allows the traveler to travel continuously between member countries for the allowed 90-day period. This means that any time spent in any Schengen country will count toward the allowed 90 days in six months. The Schengen countries are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. 

Frequent visitors to the Schengen region need to know: How are the 90 days in six months calculated? 

  • The traveler may stay in the Schengen countries for a maximum of 90 days, counted from the first date of entry into the Schengen area, and subsequently.
  • The date of arrival in a Schengen country and the date of departure are included in the 90-day count. 
  • As an example, if the traveler arrives in a Schengen country on January 1, he may be in the Schengen region for up to 90 days in the six-month period ending June 30. This is a relatively simple calculation if the person arrives on January 1 and stays in the Schengen region for 90 uninterrupted days. Following departure, he cannot return to the Schengen countries until July 1, when a new “90 days in six months” becomes available.
  • But what about the business visitor who needs to travel in and out of the Schengen countries on numerous occasions over the course of many months? How is the 90-day rule calculated? For example, what if the traveler first enters the Schengen area on January 1 and stays through January 30. He then returns on for a total of 60 more days in May and June. Does the individual now have the opportunity to start a new 90-day stay if he departs on June 30 and returns on July 3? The answer in this situation is yes. A traveler looks back to the first date of entry to the Schengen area and calculates the relevant six-month period going forward. Once that period of time has expired, the individual may start a new 90 days in a six-month period. 

Caution and conservative counting of days are important to avoid fines and/or removal from the Schengen region. Exceeding the allowable time in the Schengen area may result in refusal of entry and a ban from all Schengen countries for one year.

This article was co-authored with the support of Gertjan van Andel of Everaert Advocaten Immigration Lawyers in the Netherlands.