We were contacted by a reader recently asking us to explain exactly how the 90 / 180 day rule works, so we decided to write an article about it for everyone’s benefit.
Who does it apply to?
The Schengen 90 / 180 rule applies to all non EU citizens who travel to the Schengen zone, of which Spain, and therefore Lanzarote, is a part.
EU citizens have freedom of movement within the union, so the rule does not apply to them, and they have a right to spend as long as they want in other EU countries, and to live and work in them, if they choose to do so.
Is this new?
No, it’s been the case for many years. The only thing that’s changed in recent years is that it now applies to UK citizens since that country left the European Union.
It’s also not unusual. Most countries around the world impose a limit on the amount of time visitors can spend there. For example, both The United States and Australia impose a 90 day limit on visitor stays.
How does the 90 / 180 rule work?
The rule is relatively simple – you can stay in the Schengen area for 90 days in any rolling 180 day period. It’s the word “rolling” that makes it complicated.
For example, if you enter Spain on January 1st and spend 90 days in the country until March 30th, you cannot return to Spain until at least the end of June, which is the point at which the rolling 180 days finishes.
This calculator will help you work it out, based on your planned stays: Schengen Calculator.
It’s important to remember that this applies across the Schengen zone, so if you have a two week holiday in France or Germany, that will count towards your 90 days in that period.
Should you worry?
For the vast majority of visitors, this isn’t an issue at all. They can spend several weeks here, a few times a year and not get close to the limit.
But some need to take care to make sure they stay within the limits. For example, those who previously chose to stay right through the winter, from October to February will no longer be able to do so. They will need to limit themselves to a three month stay, and then make sure they don’t re-enter the Schengen zone until their 90 days is “spent.”
How can you get around it?
There aren’t exceptions to the rule, so the only option is to apply to for a visa to become a resident of Spain. More information here: Visas for Lanzarote.
How is the 90 / 180 day rule policed?
It’s policed using passenger manifests, E Gates, and in some cases, passport stamps. A central computer records passengers arriving into and departing from Spain and other Schengen countries.
What happens if you overstay?
There have already been several cases of visitors to Spain getting into trouble for overstaying. The sanction most commonly used is to deny future entry to Spain for a period of years. .
What is the ETIAS scheme?
Sometime in 2024, the EU will launch the ETIAS scheme. This is simply a Schengen visa waiver, very much like the American ESTA. It won’t affect the 90 / 180 day rule, but non EU citizens travelling to the Schengen zone will need one to enter any country in the zone.
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