International Travel


Before You Go


Travel to European Countries in the Schengen Area

Entry into any of the 26 European countries in the Schengen area for short-term tourism, a business trip, or in transit to a non-Schengen destination, requires that your passport be valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure. Because many Schengen countries assume all travelers will stay the full three months allowed for visa-free visitors, we recommend that U.S. citizens:

  • Have at least six month’s validity remaining on your passport whenever you travel abroad.
  • Check the expiration date on your passport carefully before traveling to Europe.
  • Carry your passport with you at all times.

You can find passport validity requirements for your destination country, along with other important information, on our country information pages. If your passport does not meet the Schengen requirements, you may:

  • Be refused boarding by the airline at your point of origin or while transferring planes. 
  • Be denied entry when you arrive in the Schengen area, regardless of the duration of your stay. 

To ensure that your travel plans are not disrupted, plan ahead and renew your passport before traveling. Visit our passport section for more information on applying for a new passport or renewing an existing one. An immigration official will determine if you qualify for entry when you first cross any external border of the Schengen area and present your passport for entry. You may be denied entry if the officer determines you do not qualify for entry. Ensure your passport is stamped upon entry and exit.  

If you spend three months in the Schengen area during any six-month period, you must wait another three months, from the last date of departure from the Schengen area, before you can apply to enter the Schengen area again without a visa. If you do not meet these conditions, or if you plan to stay in the Schengen area longer than three months, contact the embassy of the country where you plan to spend the majority of your time to apply for a visa. 

Schengen area countries may reinstate temporary internal and external border control without advanced notice. U.S. citizens should carry their U.S. passport with them at all times when traveling to/from and within the Schengen area. For additional information on traveling to and within the Schengen area, see our FAQ below.


What is the Schengen Borders Agreement?

The Schengen Borders Agreement permits citizens from certain countries—including the U.S.--to travel freely to 26 European countries within the Schengen area (see list below) for up to three months for tourism or business.  


As a U.S. citizen, how long can I stay in the Schengen area without a visa?

With a valid U.S. passport, you can stay up to 90 days for tourism or business during any 180 day period. Do not overstay! You must wait an additional 90 days before applying to re-enter the Schengen area.

To stay longer than 90 days, you must have a visa. Apply for a visa through the embassy of the country where you will spend most of your time.


What do I need to enter the Schengen area?
  • A U.S. passport (with applicable visas, if needed), valid for at least 90 days beyond your intended date of departure from the Schengen area.
  • For passport validity requirements by country, see our country information pages
  • Justifiable purpose of travel.
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources for the visit.
  • Compliance with any other entry requirements for each country you will visit or transit. 



What do I need to do when traveling to Schengen countries?
  • Be sure immigration officials stamp your passport upon entering the Schengen area. This proves you have legally entered the Schengen area.
  • Ensure your passport is stamped when you exit the Schengen area.
  • You do not normally need to show your passport at internal border crossings while traveling within the Schengen area. However, you should carry your passport with you at all times.


  • Renew your passport before traveling to avoid travel disruption.
  • Ensure your passport is stamped upon entry and exit from the Schengen area.  
  • Carry your U.S. passport at all times, since countries may set up temporary border control points without advanced notice.  

Does the Schengen Borders Agreement apply to students, interns, or workers?
  • Check with the embassy of the country before you travel to determine if they require a visa for the type of activity you wish to pursue.
  • If you DO need a visa, wait until you receive it before traveling to any country in the Schengen area. 

How can the U.S. government help me if I am denied entry?
  • We can give you contact information of foreign embassies of the countries you wish to visit.
  • We can provide information regarding hiring an English-speaking foreign attorney overseas if you choose to do so.
  • Note: We cannot influence a foreign government’s decision whether to permit your entry, nor can we intervene in another country’s criminal or administrative procedures. 

What countries are members of the Schengen Borders Agreement?

Click on the country name for more information.

Additional Resources:

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