The Schengen zone is a passport-free zone of European countries. The Schengen visa allows people who have this permit to travel freely and excludes them from border checks at internal Schengen borders. It is widely used for travelling in Europe.  However, it allows only 90 days of stay in the period of 6 months that it is allotted for. You cannot work or study with a Schengen visa. If you want to stay for longer or work or study in any of the Schengen countries then you must apply for a national visa of that particular country. To obtain a Schengen visa, you are required to present some documents to the embassy of the country you are visiting in the Schengen region.

People who can travel freely between Schengen areas are:

  • Citizen of Schengen countries
  • People who hold residence permits issued by Schengen country
  • EU/EEA citizens
  • Those who are not required to obtain a Schengen visa for travel for less than 90 days from non-EU-countries.
  • People from non-EU countries with a valid Schengen visa.

Schengen countries

All European countries are not part of the Schengen. List of the Schengen countries is as follows:

  • Austria
  • Estonia
  • Greece
  • Latvia
  • Netherlands
  • Slovakia
  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Hungary
  • Lithuania
  • Norway
  • Slovenia
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Ice land
  • Luxembourg
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Portugal
  • Sweden

Schengen Information System (SIS)

EU is committed to improve and enhance migration management as well as its capacity to detect those who may pose a security risk to EU. They can do this by the process of creating and updating a database that can be shared among the member states, therefore, it established the Schengen Information System (SIS).

Schengen information system commonly known as SIS is a database shared between 30 European countries. It is the most widely used information system for security and border management of Europe. It was established in the year 1994 after the internal borders were abolished in the Schengen area of the EU. It aims to help member states and Schengen associated countries fight cross-border crimes, stop irregular migration and put a stop to terrorism.

  1. EP Votes for Schengen Information System Upgrade

To enhance security, streamline the process and expand access to crucial cross-border information, three draft regulations have been approved and devised by the European Parliament. The new regulations included under the Schengen information system are as follows:

  • Improved alert system for unidentified and dangerous people who are wanted for serious crimes and terrorism, either in Europe or any other part of the world.
  • The new regulations are meant to contribute to the fight against cross-border crimes, irregular migration and most importantly terrorism.
  • It will be mandatory for Authorities of Schengen countries to share the details of the terrorist acts with all the members of EU states.
  • Alerts will be enforced on the return decisions on deporting a non-EU national who was illegally staying in an area other than his origin country.
  • Direct access will be granted to Europol for all the alert systems whereas European border or coast guard agency will have access to the alert system related only to their tasks.
  • New preventive alerts for children and vulnerable people at risk will also be introduced.
  1. European Council Approves Proposal for a Stronger EU-Lisa Agency

The information system will be made more interoperable to ensure that border guards get the right and reliable information so that they can perform their duties accurately and efficiently.

– Eu-Lisa Agency will upgrade existing systems:

  • SIS: SIS to support law enforcement, enable and enhance border control collaboration. It will serve as a tool to avoid identity fraud, explore terrorism and serious crime and will also compare fingerprints against existing visa information. It will provide information that is in complete conformity with the newest asylum legislation.
  • Visa information system: Its aim is to share visa information among member countries and to analyse and process data especially for identity and for the purpose of travel. It will enhance security by helping the guards to quickly verify the legal status of the visa holder and to identify the irregular individuals staying at the Schengen countries with false documents. It will fight against unlawful actions, such as people trying to cross the border with a fake identity.
  • EURODAC: Its role is to inspect the asylum application process cross borders within the EU zone with the help of fingerprint comparison. It also fastens the process of data communication.

– Future systems will be developed by Eu-Lisa Agency, such as:

    • Entry-Exit System: This is a new scheme by the European Union to register the entry and exit data of non-EU nationals crossing the borders of EU member states to strengthen and protect the external borders of the Schengen countries and the citizens of the country. It aims to improve and modernise the quality and efficiency of the external border controls to deal with the increased number of travellers without increasing the number of border guards. It will also help regulate irregular migration and facilitate the management of migration flow. It will inform the third country nationals of the authorised duration of the stay. It will also help fight identity fraud and the misuse of documents. It will register a facial image, personal information, such as first name, last name, date of birth, nationality, sex, type of travel documents, number of travel documents, code of the documents, and date of expiry and validity of the documents.
    • European travel information and authorisation: It is designed to keep a check on the visitors who are not from EU countries but they don’t need a visa to enter the Schengen countries. It involves a detailed security check before allowing anyone to enter the country and ensure that they are not a threat to the security of the country. It will keep a track of the necessary information regarding the visitors. Other than making travel secure for Schengen countries, ETIAS will ensure to reduce the duration of the procedure as well as application time. It will improve the management of the borders and assist in reducing crime.
    • Eu-Lisa Agency will provide the member states with greater ad-hoc technical and operational support to enhance border security.
  1. New rules on the reintroduction of Schengen internal border checks

The Schengen area is borderless, which allows individuals to travel freely, without going through the various controls when crossing borders between the member states. But member states have always retained the power to temporarily reinstate internal border controls under exceptional conditions that are mentioned in Schengen border code. Reinstatement of internal border control has rather become a rule since the last few years due to continuous threats to the security. But it has been noticed that the current clear border controls are not accurate and justified and thus, it has been decided to remove them and make the amendments in the border rules in the Schengen zone. 42 amendments have been proposed in this regards. Some of the important amendments proposed are:

  • Member states will be allowed to reintroduce the controls at its internal border for more than 6 months. Currently, countries can reinstate the controls up to six months.
  • Period of border extension will be limited to 1 year instead of 2 years.
  • The initial period of border check is extended from 2 months to 6 months.
  • Internal border reintroduction should be a last-resort measure because it affects the free movement of people.
  • It also proposed that a large number of third-country nationals crossing the border should not be seen as the threat.
  • Police checks should be intensified within the territory before considering border reintroduction.
  • To prevent the loss of life, robust and effective response in search and rescue operations required at sea.
  • Swift and effective return procedures with full fundamental rights under humane and dignified procedure should be followed.
  • Adequate infrastructure, accommodation and living conditions to all the asylum seekers should be ensured.
  1. Consequences of overstaying in the Schengen Area

Many times people extend their stay in another country because they are unaware of the exact duration or permission of their stay or they have wrong information.  But this unintentional mistake can cause you severe legal problems that may include the following issues:

  • An extensive fine can be imposed by the state where you overstayed.
  • You may be banned from entering the state for a certain period of time, mostly between 1 to 3 years, or forever. Generally, a lifelong ban will only be imposed if you are found to be involved in illegal activities.
  • If found staying illegally, you can be deported immediately along with a penalty for overstaying. Your deportation can happen within a few hours or days. If the two countries you are travelling between go easy on the rules and they are lenient with travellers then you may get lucky and no fine may be imposed.
  • You can face trial and taken into custody if found guilty for criminal activities or caught engaged in any paid activity.
  • Sometimes you may cross the period you were legally allowed to stay for and come back to your home country without facing any consequences. However, you will face an issue next time when you try to get a visa of EU and Schengen zone and when you try to enter Schengen countries because border guards and immigration officers are suspicious towards the people who have overstayed before.
  • You might not bear any consequences if you are dependent on a caretaker, if you are a minor or child or if you face an accident during your stay and hence had to overstay.
  • You should know that penalties will differ from state to state and will depend on the number of the days you overstayed and the country you are caught in.
  • Whether you overstayed on the Schengen visa or student visa, a penalty will be imposed.

Check here to check if you are aligible for applying for ETIAS visa.

How to avoid the consequences of overstaying:

If you want to avoid the above-mentioned complications during your stay, you must follow the below-mentioned rules:

  • The first day will be counted as day one even if it is just before midnight.
  • If you are from a visa-exempt country, you cannot extend your stay for more than 90 days.
  • You should know that visa validity and duration of stay are two different things. Visa validity means the period in which you can enter the state, whereas the duration of stay is a number of days for which you can stay. Both the dates are mentioned in the visa sticker that is fixed on the passport.

Things to be kept in mind:

  • You don’t need a visa to travel between Schengen countries but you need a valid passport.
  • If you are a resident of a non-EU country, you will need a stamp on your passport before entering any Schengen country. In case the stamp is missing on your passport at the time of departure, you will have to give proof of how long you stayed in the country.

This information about travelling to the Schengen countries and various related policies will sure help to make your travel hassle free.

See also: Education in Europe