This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel.
If your business travels take you to Europe, there’s a good chance you’ll visit the ‘Schengen Area’: a network of 26 countries that share open borders, including popular destinations such as France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
This means you won’t go through passport control when moving between member countries: only when you first arrive in the Schengen Area, and when you depart for a country further afield, which makes flying between Schengen Area countries much like a domestic flight.
Here’s what you need to know about visiting the Schengen Area on your next business trip.
The Schengen Area: which countries are included?
Not all countries that belong to the European Union are part of the Schengen Area, while several countries outside the EU do take part – here’s the full list:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
For example, Switzerland is not an EU member country but does belong to the Schengen Area, so traveling between Switzerland and Italy – both Schengen Area countries – does not have passport control.
However, some EU member states like the United Kingdom and Ireland are not party to the Schengen Area, so taking a flight from Frankfurt to London would see you clear outbound passport control in Germany when you leave the Schengen Area, and separately, inbound UK passport control upon your arrival.
Three countries also share open borders with the Schengen Area but don’t technically belong, these being Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. So, if you’re travelling between, say, France and Monaco, you’d only know you’d crossed the border by looking on a map or spotting a sign by the road.
The Schengen Area: visiting with an Australian passport
Aussie travellers can spend up to 90 days in the Schengen Area within any 180-day period for business or leisure, measured from the day you enter the Schengen Area until the day you depart, with no visa required.
That counter applies across all Schengen Area countries, so if you’ve spent 60 days in Germany over the past 180 days, you can only spend a further 30 days in the Schengen Area visa-free, with any additional travel only possible when enough time has passed for that count to reset, or at least, for your tally to be reduced.
Realistically, unless you’re spending more than half your time in the Schengen Area throughout the year, that limitation shouldn’t be an issue: but if you are likely to reach that cap, you’ll need to apply for a Schengen Visa from the country you plan to spend the most time in.
When visiting the Schengen Area, you’ll only receive passport stamps when you enter and when you exit – not when you travel between Schengen Area countries.
For instance, if you arrive in Germany, continue you trip in Italy and Switzerland and then depart for London, you’ll receive an entry stamp in Germany and an exit stamp when leaving Switzerland, with no passport control between Germany and Italy or between Italy and Switzerland.