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How does the Schengen zone affect travellers’ from Australia, New Zealand etc?
Since 1995, travellers have been enjoying an increasingly borderless Europe thanks to the Schengen Agreement. There are border controls when entering and exiting the Schengen area, but once entered people are allowed to travel between member countries without the inconvenience of
border checks. Currently, 25 countries form the Schengen zone: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden,
and Switzerland. The Schengen system was absorbed into EU law in 1999 within the Amsterdam Treaty. Despite this, the United Kingdom and Ireland are exempt from adopting the Schengen system. Although the Schengen area does not have internal borders, officials have the right to ask you to identify yourself by showing your passport or ID card. Be aware that driving licences, post, bank, or tax cards may not be accepted as identification. Countries can reinstate borders should they wish to, but this is unusual. Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, and USA passport holders without criminal records do not need to apply for a Schengen visa for visits of less than 90 days. Although a physical visa is not required, passport checks will be recording your movements in and out of the Schengen area. This has the same effect as if you had category C Schengen visa and a category C Schengen visa limits non-EU citizens to a maximum of 90 days over a 180- day period, from the date of entry into the Schengen area. You can come and go as you please during the 180-day period as long as you do not exceed 90 days within the Schengen area. Once the first 180-day period has elapsed, you can start again. Exceeding three months is treated as illegal residency and being caught could result in a fine, deportation, possibly a criminal record and registration as an offender on the Schengen Information System (SIS).
European Union citizens and citizens from Norway, Iceland and Switzerland can travel and stay in another EU country for up to three months without a visa, providing they have a valid passport. This includes: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. EU citizens have the right to reside in another EU country, however, if they intend to stay for three months or more they are obliged to register residency with that country, although failing to register does not remove the right to reside in the country. This legislation is of little consequence to EU citizens travelling around Europe unless they intend to reside permanently in another country.
Observant readers will have noted above that the UK and Ireland are not part of the Schengen area despite being in the EU. Australian, New Zealand, United States and Canadian tourists can visit the UK for up to six months visa free and be out of the Schengen area. You can also visit Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia and the Ukraine or maybe include a trip to Morocco. Remember to obtain the necessary visas to visit these countries and to get your passport stamped every time you enter or exit the Schengen area to ensure you can prove you have not outstayed your welcome.