Confused About the EU’s 90/180 Day Rule? Here’s How it Works

Confused About the EU’s 90/180 Day Rule? Here’s How it Works

American, Canadian, British, Australian, New Zealand, and citizens of many other non-EU citizens are able to visit and travel in France and the Schengen Zone without the need for a visa under the “90/180-day rule”. This means that you can only visit France (or any other Schengen area country) for up to 90 days within any 180-day period. But how is this 90-day rule calculated, and what impact does this have on your travels to France?

How does the 90-day rule work?

The 90/180-day rule applies to the whole Schengen area, not just France. That means the total number of days that you spend within any of the 26 Schengen zone countries (including Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland). The count starts from the day you enter the Schengen area to the day you leave.

So, for example, if you flew from the UK to France (entering the Schengen area), spent 5 days in France, then drove into Spain for a further 5 days before returning to the UK (leaving the Schengen zone), you would have spent a total of 10 days in Schengen zone.

If you flew from the UK to France (entering the Schengen area), spent 5 days in France before returning to the UK (leaving the Schengen zone) for 5 days, and then flew to Spain for a further 5 days, you would still have spent a total of 10 days in Schengen zone.

It’s the total number of days spent within the Schengen area that is taken into account.

Calculating the 180 days

Where it gets slightly more complicated is the EU definition of ’90 days within any 180-day period’. Here, it’s best to think of the 180 days as a moveable timeframe rather than a fixed 180-day period. The 180 days are counted backwards from the date of arrival or departure from the Schengen area.

Each time you enter or leave Schengen area, a new 180-day period would be calculated from that date. You do not need to concern yourself about dates of previous arrivals and departures, only the total number of days spent within the zone during that particular 180-day period.

If you arrived in France from the UK on March 15th, it would be the 180 days before March 15th that would be taken into account. If you had already spent the whole months of November, December, and January in France (totalling 90 days) and hoped to return on March 15th, you would be refused entry.

Planning your trip to France

If you are planning multiple trips to France, it can quickly get confusing! Using this short stay calculator can help. Enter the dates of entry and exit, and it will calculate the total number of days (and remaining days) within a 180 day period. The ‘control’ option allows you to calculate the length of previous stays or your current stay. The ‘planning’ option lets you set the date you plan to return to the Schengen area and will inform you of how many days you have left to use.

What are the penalties for overstaying?

For Brits or other non-EU travellers who overstay the 90 days, the penalty is typically a fine and an order to leave the country within 30 days. If you failed to leave the country after that order expires, the penalties would be far more severe.

For frequent travellers and second-home owners, the biggest consequence of this is receiving an ‘over-stay’ flag on your passport. Not only can this make it more difficult to re-enter France in the future, it could affect your chances of receiving a visa in any other country you choose to visit. If you ever chose to apply for a long-stay visa or seek residency in France, this over-stay flag would almost certainly make your application more difficult and could be grounds for refusal.

In recent years, we’ve heard reports of Brits who have overstayed their 90 days (by even just two days) and have received a €198 fine as well as an over-stay stamp in their passport; we’ve also heard of others who have passed through with nothing more than a warning. Our advice is to make sure you fully understand the 90-day rule, always stay within the limits (do not assume that overstaying by one or two days will be overlooked – it won’t!), and make sure that your passport is correctly stamped whenever you enter or leave the zone.

Staying in France for more than 90 days?

If you plan to stay in France for more than 90 days in a 180 day period, or spend over 90 consecutive days in France, you will need to apply for a long-stay visa or visa de long séjour temporaire visiteur. This allows you to stay up to one year, but not to work or study. Visa applications are considered on an individual basis, and you must prove that you have sufficient funds and healthcare coverage for the duration of your stay. If you are not sure what kind of visa you need, our complete guide to French visas is the best place to start.

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FrenchEntrée's Digital Editor, Zoë is also a freelance journalist who has written for the Telegraph, HuffPost, and CNN, and a guidebook updater for the Rough Guide to France and Rough Guide to Dordogne & Lot. She lives in the French countryside just outside of Nantes.

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