How long can a US citizen stay in Europe? Learn everything you need to know about the rules and regulations for the Schengen area of Europe and how long you can legally stay in Europe.
Can I Stay in Europe More Than 90 Days?
*This article will apply to travelers from the United States
Before we left for our last trip to Europe, we knew we wanted to be able to stay as long as we could. We had looked into the visa process for France and originally thought we would spend most of our time living there, but as we investigated further and encountered several roadblocks to obtaining year long visas on top of the costs, we decided to go a different route.
Visas are expensive and the process can take a long time. And when you have a large family like we do, the time and money can really add up. We knew we’d have to look into other options. I’ve since had hundreds of people contact me, asking about the Schengen 90 day rule and how they can make it work for them.
So, the short answer is that, yes, a US citizen can stay in Europe for more than 90 days, but not in the same place, and there is some math required if you want to stay. Grab your passport and a calendar and get ready to plan out your time in Europe.
A Short History of the Schengen Agreement
So what is Schengen anyway?
Enter the Schengen Agreement! This was an agreement made by the majority of European leaders to allow free border crossing between 26 nations*. As a U.S citizen you can stay up to 90 days in this Schengen Area. Not 3 months, but 90 days!
*Note: Croatia is now part of the Schengen Agreement!
Our family decided to move around Europe legally, exploring areas in and out of the Schengen.
It gets a little complicated because some countries in the European Union are part of the Schengen area and some are not. And some countries outside of the European Union are also part of the Schengen. Confused yet? No worries! Take a look at this map:
Does this make more sense now? No?
Here’s what you need to know:
- Schengen Countries (Blue & Light Blue Countries): 90 days
- United Kingdom: 6 months
- Ireland: 90 days
- Romania, Bulgaria (Green Countries): 90 days Note: Croatia is now part of the Schengen Agreement and falls under the rules of the blue countries.
- Ukraine: 90 days (Note: Don’t go to Ukraine right now!)
- Russia: Visa Required (Also, don’t go to Russia)
- Moldova: 90 days
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: 90 days
- Montenegro: 90 days
- Serbia: 90 days
- Kosovo: 90 days
- Albania: 1 year
- Macedonia: 90 days
- Cyprus: 90 days
That was a lot of information, but now if you want to visit any of these countries, you’ll know exactly how long you can stay before you get kicked out! The Schengen is no joke! I’ve heard of people being deported and not allowed back into Europe. It’s just not worth it.
And despite rumors that I’ve read online, you CANNOT be in the Schengen for 90 days, leave for a day and get your passport stamped and enter the Schengen the next day. Do not try this!
You can stay for 90 days out of 180 days. These do not have to be consecutive days. You can hop in and out of the Schengen every other day for 180 days and you will hit your 90 days. It is a revolving 90 days.
For example, if I arrive in Germany on July 1st and stay for 30 days, fly to Scotland for a few months, and then return to the Schengen in France on December 1st, those 30 days in July STILL count! But by January they won’t count! Are you still with me? This timeline may be helpful, or it might confuse you more!
Our Legal Extended Stay in Europe
Here’s a map of what we did last year to legally stay in Europe longer than 90 days. The numbers represent 1st stop, 2nd stop, etc.
Doesn’t that look fun!?!? (or crazy?) It takes a lot of moving around, but it is possible! Basically we were in the Schengen for almost 90 days, then in the UK for 60 days, Ireland for 60 days, then back to the Schengen for 90 days. We also could have gone to other countries outside the Schengen, which is our plan NEXT year along with some other Eastern European countries.
Another thing to note is that when you get a new passport, your Schengen allowance resets. So if you are in Europe for 90 days, fly home for one day and get a new passport, then fly back to Europe, your 90 days are then reset. Obviously this is not practical (especially with a big family), but it’s an available option.
Keeping Track of Your 90 Days
The best thing to do if you’re planning on an extended stay in Europe and would like to avoid overstaying your 90 day welcome is to download an app like Schengen Calculator or Schengen 90 to keep track of your trips. They are both free!
Ok, so did I help you or confuse you even more?
I’m constantly getting questions like, “How are you staying in Europe so long without Visas?” and “Can I stay in Europe longer than 90 days?” or “How long can you stay in Europe?” Or else I’m running into people who don’t even know about these laws and think they can come to Europe for more than 90 days.
I wanted to clarify these laws for anyone wanting to spend extended time in Europe. This advice is mainly for U.S. citizens, so you’ll have to check with you’re government if you’re from elsewhere.
Happy Trails! -Vanessa
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10 thoughts on “Can I Stay in Europe More Than 90 Days – How Long Can a US Citizen Stay in Europe”
The comment under the Shenton map is misleading. The UK has triggered Article 50, formally giving 2 years notice to leave the EU. We will still be a member of the EU until March 2019
Thanks for clarifying that Scott. I’ll edit the caption to include that information. Thank you!
Hey there, does this still apply to this date? thank you so much 🙂
Hi Annabelle, as far as I know, yes it does. I wrote this just after Brexit, but I’m 99% sure that the Schengen rules are staying the same despite the UK leaving the EU. I am looking into Croatia as it was supposed to join the Schengen at the end of 2018 (2 days ago), but I have not read or heard if that has happened yet. I’ll do some research and follow up. xo Vanessa
Thank you, this is really helpful, but am I missing something crucial. I travelled to Europe last year for 90 days then travelled to UK where I was refused entry due to my having stayed in Europe for 90 days. As I was unaware of the Schengen rules, I didnt question it, I just got on a lane back home. Was I wrongly refused?
Hi Lynn. Where are you from? Obviously, laws are different around the world, but if you are from the US then yes this is incorrect. You should not have been turned away from the UK if you’ve been in the EU for 90 days. Can I ask where you were entering into and where you’re from?
My husband is US citizen and I am Irish and we want to go to Europe for over the 90 days to spend our Winters with family, I thought we had to apply for a long term stay visa for him but judging from your article am I correct in saying that we can we spend 90 in Ireland a non schengen country and then a further 2 months in Greece or Portugal a schengen country and he will be there legally? (It was a little concerning reading about the lady who tried to enter the UK only to be refused…) I do not want to jeopardize his right to be there..
Yes, that is correct. You’ll be able to spend 90 days in Ireland and another 90 days in Europe! Sounds like an amazing trip.
hi, nice work assembling all this useful info.. you write above:
“Another thing to note is that when you get a new passport, your Schengen allowance resets. So if you are in Europe for 90 days, fly home for one day and get a new passport, then fly back to Europe, your 90 days are then reset.”
do you have a source for this? I’ve recently gotten a new passport and might be able to take advantage of this, but couldn’t find anything to back it up.. thanks!
I honestly don’t think you’ll find this in “writing” anywhere as it’s most likely something that governments don’t want promoted. I only know from my own experiences, but travel at your own risk and do what you feel most comfortable with.