Thinking about planning a big trip to Europe? Make sure you know the visa regulations before you go!
Traveling to Europe after graduation from high school or college can serve as a rite of passage for American youth. Taking a Gap Year before starting college or starting a career not only boosts self-confidence, it makes your resume stand out from the rest. CHI’s World Explorers program offers a perfect Gap Year opportunity which allows you to gain valuable international experience while living with a host family in over 25 countries around the world. European countries like Spain, France Italy and Germany are our top destinations. Many of our World Explorers decide to incorporate a backpacking trip after their homestay to take advantage of visiting other nearby countries since they are already in Europe.
Follow these tips to make sure you comply with the rules:
1) You don’t need a visa to travel to Europe, just your passport.
Americans do not need a visa to enter the European Union when traveling as a tourist. You simply present your passport upon arrival and you will have 90 days from the date the immigration officer stamps your passport.
2) Understand the Schengen Agreement.
There is a borderless agreement within the European Union called the Schengen Agreement. That means that Americans can visit ANY of the Schengen countries for a maximum of 90 days.
The following 26 countries are members of this agreement:
3) Know your limit.
Americans can stay inside the Schengen Area for 90 days out of every 180 days per year. That means you can stay 90 days in, 90 days out, 90 days in, 90 days out. There are penalties for overstaying the 90 day limit. The outcome is ultimately up to the immigration officer that stamps your passport as you exit. You may have to pay a fine, or in the worst case scenario, you may be banned from returning to Europe for several years.
4) Border hop.
In order to comply with this rule, there are ways for long-term travelers to comply with this rule without having to go all the way home in between your visits to the Schengen Area.
- The UK is not part of the Schengen Area and Americans can stay there for up to 6-months as a tourist.
- Eastern European countries like: Croatia, Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Romania, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are not part of the Schengen Agreement. You could head East for three months before returning to the Schengen Area.
Just make sure you leave the Schengen Area before your 90 day limit is up in order to avoid complications at the border.
5) Become a World Explorer.
CHI can help our World Explorers design the ultimate European Gap Year experience that will comply with the visa regulations. For example, you could do a 90-day program in France, a 90-day program in Croatia, a 90-day program in Italy and then a 90-day program in Ukraine to make up a full year of travel. Living with a host family is the ultimate way to get to know a culture from the inside out. Visit: https://www.chinet.org/world-explorers/ and start planning your dream trip to Europe!
World Explorer Katy Carlozzi in Barcelona, Spain, 2017.