Our Schengen Debacle – A Tale from One of Our Readers

We are usually very aware of visa issues. But because we were spending only a month in each European country that we were visiting, including a non-EU country, we assumed visas would not be an issue. We ended up spending a total of 96 days in France, Sweden and Norway. Under Schengen visa rules, for US citizens, we were actually only allowed 90 days every 6 months. Without realizing that we would be further overstaying our visa, we accepted a house sitting job in Portugal, also a Schengen country. Just before leaving Norway we realized our mistake.

Having committed to our Portugal job, we decided to make our best effort to get there. Leaving Norway, the immigration officer noticed that we had overstayed by six days. The officer photocopied our passports and said it would be in our records, but because it was only 6 days it was probably not going to affect us. Little comfort, considering we were headed to Portugal for a month that very day. Luckily we were transiting though England, a non-Schengen country so no alarm bells went off there.

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Arriving in Lisbon that night was very stressful, knowing that it was a possibility that we would not be allowed in. Much to our relief the immigration officer there seemed oblivious. He stamped our passports and we were in.

But we knew that a month later when we were leaving Portugal, having now overstayed by 36 days, we might be in for a nasty surprise. Based on what I had read online, being caught overstaying has a number of possible consequences, all depending on the officer’s mood. Anything is possible from a slap on the wrist to a 1200 Euro per person fine to being banned from Schengen countries for a few years.  We had also been told that immigration officers tend to be more lenient to US overstayers and that Germany, not Portugal was the real stickler for Schengen rules.

We held our breath and hoped for the best. Exiting Portugal ended up being a breeze. We just waltzed out.  Phew!

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About Retire Early Lifestyle

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired three decades ago at the age of 38 and began traveling the world. As recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel, they have been interviewed about retirement issues by The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, The Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter, nationally syndicated radio talk shows and countless newspapers and TV shows nationally and worldwide. They wrote the popular books The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement (Your Simple Path to FIRE) and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.
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