How to travel to the Schengen Area without visas

The Schengen is an area of European states that abolished border controls between them. The Schengen Area includes 27 countries.

Non-EU citizens usually need visas to enter the Schengen Area; however, a second passport or residency helps travel without it. Learn more about statuses suited for short-term and long-term trips to Europe.

Difference between the EU and the Schengen Area

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic coalition of 27 countries of Europe. They have a common market and foreign policy. EU governing institutions can influence the internal affairs of member countries.

The Schengen Area is a visa-free region which includes 27 countries.

Lists of the EU and Schengen member states differ. This fact must be considered when choosing the country of the second residency as some statuses, like Cyprus permanent residence or an Andorra residence permit, don’t provide the right to enter the Schengen Area without visas.

Visa-free travel to Europe for 90 days in half a year

  • Statuses: Citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, or St Lucia; Residence permit of Portugal, Greece, Spain, Austria, or Switzerland; Malta permanent residence

  • Period of visa-free stay in the Schengen Area: up to 90 days out of 180

A Caribbean passport equals a Schengen visa. Thus, a Caribbean citizen can enter the Schengen Area without a visa and spend there 90 days out of 180.

Cosmopolitans with residence permits in Portugal, Malta, Greece, Spain, Austria, or Switzerland also can spend up to 90 days out of 180 in other Schengen countries. The time spent in the country of residence doesn’t count in these 90 days.

The period of stay in the Schengen Area is calculated from the planned entry date by deducting 180 days to see how many days are still available.

Suppose an investor plans to go to Belgium and stay there until December 20th. From this date, count 180 days back: we get June 24th.

The investor has visited the Schengen Area twice since June 24th: they came to Italy for 14 days and to Germany for 30 days.

Therefore, the investor can spend 46 days in Belgium: 90 — 14 — 30 = 46. They can enter the country after November 5th.

Time spent in three European countries doesn’t count for the period of stay in the Schengen Area

Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania are in the EU but not in the Schengen Area. In practice, they apply the Schengen acquis, though border control exists between these countries and the Schengen member states.

In each of these four countries, 90 days of stay starts anew. The time spent there doesn’t count as the time spent in the Schengen Area. Therefore, one can stay in Italy for 90 days, then go to Romania for 90 days more, and vice versa.

Counting the days is a traveller’s duty. Border services don’t notify about the expiration of the stay in the Schengen Area.

Overstaying is sometimes left unnoticed because there is no border control between the Schengen countries. However, it’s better not to breach the time limits as the following issues might arise:

  • a fine of several hundred to several thousand euros;

  • deportation — depending on the country, a violator is imprisoned and forcibly transferred out of the country or given several hours or days to leave;

  • difficulties when entering the Schengen Area, for example, additional questions during passport control;

  • a ban on re-entry into the Schengen Area for three years or more.

Data on violators are stored in the Schengen Information System. All member countries have access to the system.

The period of stay in the Schengen Area can be extended by getting a long-term Schengen visa or requesting the extension on solid grounds.

Solid ground for an extension of stay without obtaining a D visa is falling ill, flight cancellations due to a pandemic and other factors that make it impossible to leave the country. Extending a short-term stay is quite tricky but possible.

A long-term national D visa is usually issued for work, study or family reasons. A visa holder can only stay for an extended period in the country that has given the visa. For other Schengen states, the rules stay the same: one can spend no more than 90 days out of 180.

Individual cost calculation of the Caribbean passport

Individual cost calculation of the Caribbean passport

Long-term trips and living in Europe

  • Statuses: Residence permits in Portugal, Greece, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland; Malta and Cyprus permanent residence; Malta citizenship

  • Period of visa-free stay in the Schengen Area: unlimited

A European residence permit allows the holder to live in the country that granted the permit. It is convenient if an investor often visits the same country, for example, to spend vacations or attend business meetings.

If a person gets a residence permit by investment, they don’t have to live in the country permanently. Thus, an investor must spend seven days a year in Portugal while not coming to Greece, Spain or Malta at all.

Living in the country for at least six months a year is a mandatory requirement for financially independent persons. Such a rule applies to residents of many countries, including Austria and Switzerland.

Banele, 34

Furniture factory owner

Travelling to Europe with a Portugal residence permit

Banele produced custom-made furniture. Supplies of fittings from Europe were delayed due to the closed borders, and Banele’s business was at risk.

We helped Banele and his family get Portugal residence permits in seven months. Thus, the businessman could come to Italy to meet suppliers without needing a visa for his trip. In the autumn of 2021, the family also visited Portugal, where they could stay unlimitedly without counting it as being in the Schengen Area.

Learn a case

Malta citizenship for exceptional services is obtained by naturalisation. First, an investor gets a residence permit, which allows the holder to stay in Malta for as long as they wish and travel within the Schengen Area without visas. The investor can apply for citizenship after one or three years of residency.

Malta is an EU member state, and Maltese citizens can stay for an unlimited time in other countries of the region.

Trips for up to three months don’t require additional permits. Some countries require to notify city administration or police about arrival: for that, a passport or ID card is needed.

If you stay in a hotel, you usually don’t have to notify the country’s authorities: hotels ask guests to fill out a designated form and inform responsible government bodies themselves.

Trips for longer than three months usually require registration in the country of stay. To register, one needs a passport or an ID card, health insurance, proof of enough money and accommodation, for example, a bank statement and a rental agreement.

Learn more about the rules of stay in the EU countries at official representative bodies.

Tigran, 56 years old

The director of a major French retailer’s branch

Malta citizenship for travelling visa-free and doing business in Europe

The investor from Armenia had a dream: to move to his house in France, do winegrowing and meet his old age there. Besides, he wanted to freely visit his children who lived and studied in the UK and the US.

We helped Tigran and his wife Yeva get Malta residence permits and then passports by naturalisation for exceptional services. The whole process took 13 months to complete.

Learn a case

An investor can get a residence permit and apply for citizenship by naturalisation a few years later. After getting a passport, they will be able to enjoy the same rights for staying in the Schengen Area as Maltese citizens do.

To obtain citizenship by naturalisation, one must live in the country for several years, learn the language and pass designated exams. Each country has its own citizenship rules and requirements.

Investors can get second passports in Portugal relatively quickly: one can apply for citizenship after five years of maintaining their residence permit. In comparison, one must live in Greece for seven years to qualify for citizenship, while Spain citizenship is granted to those who have lived in the country for ten years and given up their other passports.

The practical guide on how to travel the world without visas

Practical Guide

The practical guide on how to travel the world without visas

Material prepared by an expert

Frequently asked questions

  • Can I travel to the Schengen countries without a visa?

    Yes, if your country of citizenship has a visa-waiver agreement with the Schengen states. For example, Caribbean countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia have such agreements. Citizens of these Caribbean countries enter the Schengen Area without visas to spend up to 90 days out of 180.

    Caribbean countries also grant second citizenship by investment, making the freedom of travel available to third-country nationals.

    Another option is to be a resident of a Schengen country: a residence permit equals a visa for trips up to 90 days out of 180. Portugal, Malta, Greece, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland grant residence permits to investors and financially independent persons.

  • How long can I visit the Schengen Area without a visa?

    Short-term trips of up to 90 days out of 180 are available to Caribbean citizens and EU residents.

    If you have a residence permit in a Schengen country, you can spend as long as you wish in the country of residence. EU citizens spend an unlimited time in any country of the region.

  • Which European country does not require a Schengen visa?

    A Schengen visa is required only for entering 27 countries which are members of the Schengen Agreement. These don’t include Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, North Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK. You must get a national visa to travel to these countries if required.

  • What is the easiest country to get a Schengen visa for?

    Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are the easiest countries to get a Schengen visa as they usually approve about 97% of applications. Besides, their consulates aren’t as busy as the ones of popular travel destinations like France or Italy.

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Zlata Erlach
Zlata Erlach

Head of the Austrian office

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