What the 'Schengen Area' means for your European business trip

What the 'Schengen Area' means for your European business trip

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.

Read: Skip those London passport queues with a UK Registered Traveller card

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.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

7 comments

  • ajd

    ajd

    16 Oct, 2018 10:04 am

    Worth noting that just because there's no passport control doesn't mean that you can just leave your passport in one country and pick it up again when you leave the EU, as you may be required to have it for ID for other purposes.

    Also, individual countries can suspend Schengen rules for certain reasons - for example, France currently imposes passport controls for all flights since the last spate of terrorist incidents.
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    16 Oct, 2018 02:57 pm

    Regarding additional passport checks: while I've found that can be the case, I've also found that even where it says online that country-specific border checks are taking place, they aren't always taking place at every border, or on every day.

    For example, I've previously visited France during the country's 'state of emergency' where these were apparently also implemented, but faced no border checks at all when flying in from Italy.

    Similarly, it's reported online that Germany is also currently implementing some border checks, but I faced none when flying from Frankfurt to Rome recently.

    You'll generally need your passport to be able to check-in for your flight (and later, your hotel) anyway, so in that respect, you certainly wouldn't leave it in one country while you visit another.

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  • Alex_upgrade

    alex_upgrade77

    16 Oct, 2018 04:59 pm

    Interesting article. As you've both alluded to, there are still ad-hoc checks made on intra-Schengen passenger traffic and this sometimes involves profiling as well at the arrival gate. I've lived in Europe for several years now and see it often but there is no obvious pattern. Nevertheless, travel intra-Schengen is still fairly seamless.
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    16 Oct, 2018 03:53 pm

    anyone who leaves their passport in another country is just asking for trouble

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  • Tony OBERON

    obi

    16 Oct, 2018 09:05 pm

    Some Shengen countries have separate arrengements with Australia over and above the standard 90 days in any six month period. Germany for example, offers Australian travellers an additional three months after the initial 3 months in Shengen. This year, I spent 4 months in Shengen on an Australian passport - all quite legally. I entered France June and spent one month travelling around France and Italy. Then I flew to London for a week and then to Berlin, where I spent 3 months - all quite legally. I got it in writing from the German embassy before I left Australia - in case I had any trouble. I flew out of Berlin in October and the immigration guy noted that I had spent a month in Europe, prior to my arrival in Berlin for three months. I was about to reach for my letter, but he just smiled and stamped my passport and said 'Gute Reise'. I believe there are a few other Euro countries that have these special agreements with Australia also - Austria, Spain, France and Denmark that I know of. But best to check with their respective embassies to be sure. The thing is, in my case, the embassy stressed that I had to fly out of Germany at the end to qualify. If I had flown out of another Shengen country, after these three months in Germany, I may have had an overstay problem.
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  • Ian Whillas

    Racala

    16 Oct, 2018 09:16 pm

    Hi Chris

    I have found that they are more interested in swiping your passport.. then stamping it.. and that applies to plane/train/ship.

    haven't have any problems re timing..etc

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  • AfricaTraveller

    AfricaTraveller

    15 Jul, 2019 02:09 am

    Same with me. I spent 6 months working in arctic Norway. I was counting the days carefully, because I didn't want trouble on departure. I had 3 trips back to Australia in that time as my brother was dying. I kept a detailed Excel spreadsheet of days in Schengen and days outside. In the end, it's exactly as Racala described.....all they wanted was to stamp the passport, no questions at all!!
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Guest

19 Jul, 2019 04:27 pm

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