Travellers from a non-EU country arriving in the EU can only stay for a certain period of time without a visa.
Americans, Brits and Canadians are among those who can remain in the EU and Schengen zone for 90 days without needing a visa.
But what happens if you overstay the limit?
Here are the official rules for visiting the EU as a non-EU national and how to make sure your stay is legal.
Do Brits need a visa to visit the EU?
Since Brexit, British citizens must follow the same rules for staying in the EU as other non-EU nationals like Americans and Australians.
You can remain in the EU and the Schengen zone for 90 days in an 180-day period without requiring a visa or residency permit.
The 90 days can be spent during one single stay or in a series of short stays.
After the 90 days have passed, non-EU citizens need to leave the bloc (not just move to a different EU country) and wait for at least 90 days before returning.
What are the penalties for overstaying your 90 days in the EU?
Non-EU citizens who stay longer than 90 days in the EU or Schengen zone are officially overstaying their limit.
Since passports are scanned on entry and exit to the EU, overstaying is easily detected.
There are several possible penalties for non-EU nationals who do not leave the bloc after 90 days.
Overstaying 90 days in the EU can result in deportation
If you overstay 90 days in the EU, you risk deportation. Countries can legally imprison you, deport you, or give you a limited number of days to leave.
That said, deportation is rarely enforced for a visitor who isn’t attempting to work illegally or claim benefits. You will most likely be told you must leave as soon as possible.
Fines for staying over 90 days in the EU
Overstaying your limit in the EU also means risking a fine. This can be levied along with other penalties and the amount depends on the country.
In Italy, you might have to pay between €5,000 and €10,000. In Germany, a fine of up to €3,000 is possible while in Spain it can range from €500 to €10,000.
Returning to the EU after overstaying the 90-day limit
Countries are also within their rights to impose a ban on re-entry for those who have broken the 90-day limit.
This may be as short as a few months or as long as several years. It tends to be longer for those who overstay the legal period by a significant amount.
The penalties of deportation, fines and bans on re-entry are dependent on individual situations and may not be enforced immediately or at all.
However, even if you manage to avoid them, your passport will be tagged with an overstay alert making it more challenging for you to return to the EU.
If you try to enter again into any EU or Schengen area country you will probably face strict checks at border control and may even be refused entry.
Always check your passport exit stamp
Although it happens extremely rarely, if your passport is mistakenly not stamped upon exiting an EU country, you can also be penalised.
Last year, a British woman found that border control had omitted to stamp her passport as she left Spain. On trying to return to the country, she was denied entry.
“The guards initially stamped my passport to enter, then they noticed I had no exit stamp from that one-week visit in June, thereby classing me as an overstayer and subsequently marked the entry stamp with the letter F,” the 72-year-old told expat publication the Local.
She also reported that authorities refused to acknowledge flight bookings as proof of exit from Spain.
It is an extremely rare circumstance, but it’s worth double checking you have an exit stamp when leaving the EU.
How can you legally stay over 90 days in the EU?
Non-EU nationals who want to stay in the EU and Schengen zone for longer than 90 days need to apply for a visa.
It is important to remember that you must apply for the visa when you are in your home country. You cannot arrive in the EU and then apply for a visa as a way to extend your stay.