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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Can Britons living in EU spend more than 90 days in another Schengen country?

The EU's '90 day rule' governs how long non-European citizens can spend in the bloc without needing a visa and, since Brexit, this has also included UK nationals. But does it still apply if you live in an EU country?

Reader question: Can Britons living in EU spend more than 90 days in another Schengen country?
Photo: AFP

Question: I’m British and I have residency in Italy, but my daughter and her family live in France. I like to spend a good part of the year with them in France, but since Brexit will the 90-day rule apply to me?

This is just one of many questions The Local has received on this topic – from British (and other non-EU) citizens who are permanent residents of an EU country, asking whether the 90-day rule applies to them.

Brits who were already living in an EU country before December 31st 2020 are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, which gives them the right to stay in the countries where they live under many of the same terms as they enjoyed when they were EU citizens.

However, there are several things that the Withdrawal Agreement doesn’t cover.

One of those is moving to a different EU country, which UK nationals will now require a visa for – full details on that HERE.

The other is how much time they can spend in other EU countries.

90-day rule

In this case non-EU residents of EU countries are covered by the 90-day rule, in the same way as visitors from the UK or the US are.  So in other words there is no different rule for those Britons who are resident in the EU.

You can read full details of how the 90-day rule works HERE but broadly, people covered by it can spend 90-days out of every 180 in an EU or Schengen zone country other than their own without the need for a visa.

The 90-day total applies to the whole EU/Schengen zone, so if you live in France you cannot spend 85 days in Germany and then go straight to the Netherlands for two weeks to enjoy the Eurovision Song Contest, as that would exceed your 90-day limit. 

The 90-day limit is also intended for visits only, so if you intend to do paid work while in another EU country then you may need a visa.

Enforcement

Several people have also quite rightly asked us how this could possibly be enforced, given that passports are not routinely checked when travelling within the Schengen zone?

For example, how could French authorities really enforce the 90-day rule on someone who has crossed over from Italy for a lengthy visit?

While it seems unlikely people would be caught they should be aware that while residents of EU countries won’t be subject to the same passport checks and stamping as people entering the Bloc, that doesn’t mean there are no passport checks.

Controls can still be carried out at Schengen borders if, for example, there is a security alert or border restrictions are tightened due to the pandemic.

You could also be asked to produce your passport while visiting an EU country at a police or security check.

One thing to consider is that if you are found to have spent too long in a country where you do not have residency status or a visa you can face some severe penalties.

You may be fined in the country where you are found to have breached the 90-day rule and even deported. Your passport could also be flagged as an over-stayer which can cause problems for future travel or residency/visa applications.

In a worst case scenario non-EU nationals who stay longer than 90-days without a residence permit or visa could end up with a re-entry ban to the Schengen area.

Member comments

  1. There are no borders so if you are driving within EU countries and are staying with friends or family how would the authorities know.

  2. If you were driving from France to Italy for example, with French plates, who is going to know if you are British. If you have a French ID card, you could show that if asked.

  3. Note that there are some work arounds for the 90/180 rule, at least for Australians and New Zealanders. In both these cases, there are bilateral agreements on visa waivers predating Schengen. For example, an Australian can spend 90 days in Germany (only Germany), then travel to a non Schengen country for a single day, then return to Germany for a new 90 day period (https://australien.diplo.de/au-en/service/01-visa/short-term-visa/2073662). This is entirely separate to the 90/180 requirement. I remember reading that a Kiwi managed to use these bilateral agreements to stay in Schengen countries for well over three years. However, seek confirmation from the relevant embassies before using these agreements- not unusual for the border officials to not have a clue

  4. I am a dual passport holder, US/British, and also have permanent residency in the Netherlands (with the ID) where I have lived for years. I like to spend chunks of time in Spain, and am very curious how things are going to work, if there will be any change in passport control within the Schengen Zone and how they would monitor the 90 day rule when passports are not checked. For example, since I am already living with Schengen, my passports will never be stamped on arrival in the Netherlands, and I assume when I land in Spain from another Schengen country there is no change? I am aware they may randomly check, especially for British passport holders, but could I not switch off sometime with my US passport or simply show my residency card from the Netherlands if asked? A bit confused how things are going to work in practice, if anyone knows if there are any changed to passport control within Schengen, that would be helpful to know.

  5. I got into a bit of trouble leaving Spain, a while back, as I was travelling on a NZ passport, but there had been no one to stamp it when I entered the EU (in France). It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.

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BREXIT

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

The UK Ambassador to Spain has given an update on the driving licence debacle, with nothing new to genuinely give hope to the thousands of in-limbo drivers whose increasing frustration has led one group to try and take matters into their own hands.

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

It’s been almost five months since UK driving licence holders residing in Spain were told they could no longer drive on Spanish roads. 

Since that fateful May 1st, an unnamed number of the approximately 400,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain, as well as hundreds if not thousands of Spaniards and foreign nationals who passed their driving test in the UK, have not been able to use their vehicles in Spain or even rent one. 

What adds insult to injury is that British tourists visiting Spain can rent a car without any issue. The fact that Spanish licence holders living in the UK can also continue to exchange their permits in the UK 21 months after Brexit came into force is equally hard to swallow.

READ MORE: ‘An avoidable nightmare’ – How UK licence holders in Spain are affected by driving debacle

The latest update from UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott on September 27th has done little to quell the anger and sense of helplessness felt by those caught in this bureaucratic rabbit hole.

“I wanted to talk to you personally about the driving licences negotiations, which I know are continuing to have a serious impact on many of you,” Elliott began by saying.

“As the government’s representative in Spain, I hear and understand your frustrations. I too am frustrated by the pace.

“We previously thought, we genuinely thought, that we’d have concluded negotiations by the summer. 

“Many of you have quite rightly mentioned that I expressed the hope to you that we’d have you back on the road by the end of July.

“Now the truth is it has taken much longer, as there have been unforeseen issues that we have been working very hard to resolve. 

“And I’m as disappointed as you are by the length of time that this is actually taking. 

“But, please, be assured that we are resolving those issues, one by one. There are only a couple of issues left, but they are complex.”

It has previously been suggested by the UK Embassy that Spain has asked for data provision to form part of the exchange agreement, and that British authorities were reluctant to share said information on British drivers’ records, including possible infractions. 

Whether this is still one of the causes of the holdups is unknown, given how opaque the Embassy is being in this regard. 

“We’re working on this every day, it remains a priority,” the UK Ambassador continued.

“There is a lot going on behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t feel like it to you. 

“I know too that you want a timescale and you want an update after every meeting.

“But I’m afraid I just can’t give you those things in this negotiation.” 

The ambassador’s words are unlikely to appease those who are still unable to drive. 

A few weeks ago, a Facebook group called “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue” was set up, which so far has more than 400 members. 

The group’s administrator, Pascal Siegmund, is looking to set up a meeting with the British Embassy and Spanish authorities to shed light on the impact that not being allowed to drive is having on the life of thousands of UK licence holders in Spain. 

Many of those affected are sharing their stories online, explaining how, due to administrative errors on the part of Spain’s DGT traffic authority, they were unable to process their licence exchange before the deadline. 

This contrasts with the little sympathy shown by UK licence holders who were able to exchange and other commentators, who accuse those in limbo of not having bothered to complete the process, arguing that it’s essentially their own fault.

READ ALSO: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault 

“Many of you also continue to ask why you can’t drive while the talks are continuing,” Elliott remarked.

“It is not in the gift of the UK government to reinstate the measures which previously allowed you to continue to drive whilst the negotiations were ongoing earlier in the year. 

“As we said previously, we did request the reinstatement of those measures several times, but this wasn’t granted.”

It’s worth noting that since the news broke on May 1st that UK licence holders residing in Spain for more than six months could no longer drive, no Spanish news outlet has covered the story again. 

Pressure from citizen groups such as the one recently set up and increased awareness about the issue in English-language news sites such as The Local Spain is perhaps the best chance in-limbo drivers have of their voices being heard and the driving licence debacle being finally fixed. 

“I’d say we’re genuinely still making progress,” UK Ambassador Elliott concluded, practically the same message as in previous updates.

“I get how frustrating it is to hear that, but we are making progress. We’re in discussions almost daily about outstanding issues. 

“And I remain very optimistic that we will reach an agreement and hope it will be soon. 

“But as I say, I can’t give you a definitive timetable. 

“And so, the advice that we have been giving all along, which is that you should consider taking the Spanish test if you do need to drive urgently, remains valid. Though we appreciate that’s hard.”

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