Some questions from readers prompted this quick post on the differences between the Schengen Zone and the European Community and of strategies for dealing with the 90 day rule.
First, Schengen is the name of a town in Luxembourg where a bunch of European countries got together to try to improve trade and settle border issues once and for all. The Countries to the Schengen Agreement are not the countries in the EU or European Union although almost all the EU is part of Schengen. Most notably the United Kingdom is not part of all of the Schengen protocols. The map above shows who joined what.
A list of countries in each group is at the end of this blog.
Strategies for Dealing with the 90 Day Visitation Rule
You cannot cruise all of Europe in ninety days. The rule needs to be ninety days in each country however it is not. If we were New Zealanders it would be but as we say the government of Canada screwed that up.
So what is a cruiser to do?
1. Go to a non Schengen country for 90 days of every six months. Try Gibraltar which despite old descriptions of decrepit dangerous docks has apparently undergone a transformation. Gibraltar is not a Schengen country so the 90 day clock stops for the time you are there. Tunisia is another popular destination, not part of Schengen. Although recent political events have people worried this concern is overblown and the marinas all have stout fences and guards with uzis or something. (I'm joking. Tunisia is perfectly safe or as safe as it ever was. Like downtown Chicago or the docks of Marseilles)
2. Put your boat up at a European marina and go home for three months. While Schengen only lets people stay for 90 days your boat can stay for 18 months. A lot of cruisers like El Miramar marina in Spain for its reasonable rates while they return to North America.
3. Apply for a 12 month Visa. This must be done at a consulate in your native country, for us Canada. Reports vary on how easy it is to get a visa and Foreign Affairs Canada reports that you must have a reason for the extended stay such as Attending School or Working Legally at a Job. Cruisers have neither excuse and vacation does not seem too pressing.
4. Overstay the 90 days. This will put you at the mercy of every two bit undereducated tin pot dictator bureaucrat you ever run into. Some people do this and live a fearful existence thereafter. If you overstay you can be fined and deported at any time, possibly to lose their right to ever return to any Schengen zone country.
I don't know about you but we will not submit to such arbitrary measures. The nice thing about the law is that it is a shield more than it is a sword. If you are within the rules then no civilized jurisdiction can invoke objective enforcement of rules to force bribes or undertake actions with which you do not agree.
So stay legal and sleep well.
In fact Schengen is not cruiser friendly. There are far too many Europeans and far too few North Americans cruising for them to care. North Americans are a non issue.
List of Schengen countries
Austria Belgium Czech Republic Denmark France
Estonia Finland France Germany
Greece Hungary Iceland Italy
Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta
Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal
Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden
List of EU Countries
Austria Belgium Bulgaria Cyprus
Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary