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90/180 Days - The Schengen Confusion

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer when a non-EU citizen wants to travel to a Schengen country: When does the 180 day period start during which I can stay for 90 days? Subsequently, they will ask, am I in the country illegally? Have I overstayed my 90 days? And thus, the panic starts.

In this post, we will explain how the 90/180 day period is calculated and give you an example.

The calculation of the duration of stay with a Schengen visa (90/180) is indeed one of the most confusing and at the same time one of the most important topics in the area of immigration law in Europe and in the world.

When checking the duration of previous and planned stays, the so-called backward calculation has been applied since 2013 when Regulation (EU) No 610/2013 of 26 June 2013 was introduced on October 18th. This means that the past period of 180 days immediately before the date in question is taken into account, during which third-country nationals are allowed to stay in the Schengen area for up to 90 days. It is important that both the day of entry and the day of departure are included in the 90-day period.

It is important to keep in mind that this calculation method does not apply to nationals of Brazil, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Mauritius and the Seychelles. The European Union has concluded visa exemption agreements with these states. Due to the wording of these agreements, the old calculation method ("forward calculation", i.e. 90 days within 6 months, i.e. calculated forward in time from entry) continues to apply here.

There are many Schengen calculators made to assist with the calculation of the 90/180 day period. For example:

Here is an example on how to use such a calculator in accordance with the backward calculation rule implemented on October 18th 2013 (thus, it only applies to stays in the Schengen area after this date, the aforementioned old forward calculation rule applies for any previous travels).

A non-EU citizen is in Spain on March 3rd 2017 and wants to know if they are here legally. To assess the legality of their stay on that day, the period from 05/09/2016 to 03/03/2017 is reviewed. This is exactly the period of 180 calendar days, which ends on March 3rd 2017.

Now all days in this period are counted on which the foreigner stayed in the Schengen States, entered or left. If the number of such days does not exceed 90, then their stay on this day, March 3rd 2017, is legal. If the foreigner does not leave, then the legality of their stay is assessed again on the following day, again counting back 180 days. This is why the 180 period is also described as moving or flexible. This assessment is carried out for each day that the foreigner stays in the Schengen States.

Note that any time spent in a Schengen country on a residence permit will not be taken into account.

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