U.S. Travelers in Europe

Traveling in Europe

If you are planning to visit or travel through European countries, you should be familiar with the requirements of the Schengen Agreement.  The Schengen Agreement is a treaty creating Europe's Schengen Area, which encompasses 27 European countries, where internal border checks have largely been abolished for short-term tourism, business trips, or transit to non-Schengen destinations.  Because many Schengen countries assume that all entering travelers will stay for the full three months allowed for visa-free visitors, we recommend the following:


  • 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 – especially children’s passports, which are valid five years, not 10 years like those issued to U.S. citizens aged 16 and older.
  • Carry your passport when traveling to another country in the Schengen area.  Even if there is no border check at that time, officials may reinstate border controls without notice.

You can find passport validity requirements for your destination country, along with other important information, on our country 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. 
  • Denied entry when you arrive in the Schengen area, regardless of how long you will stay.

An immigration official will determine if you qualify for visa-free entry when you first cross any external border of the Schengen area and present your passport.  The officer may bar your entry if you do not qualify.

**Make sure you receive a stamp in your passport when you enter and exit the Schengen area.** Without a stamp from your first Schengen port of entry, you may have problems if you encounter local authorities while in the Schengen area or with immigration officials when you depart.  


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.
  • 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 or external border control without advanced notice.  U.S. citizens should carry their U.S. passport at all times when entering or leaving the Schengen area and when traveling between Schengen countries.  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 United States - 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.  Note: Border officials often assume you will stay the maximum 90 days, even if this is not your intention.
  • Sufficient passport validity for each country you will visit. 
  • Justifiable purpose of travel.
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources for the visit.
  • Compliance with other entry requirements for each country you will visit or transit. 

What do I need when traveling to Schengen countries?

  • Make sure your passport will have sufficient validity or renew it before traveling.
  • Be sure immigration officials stamp your passport upon entering the Schengen area and again when you exit.
  • Carry your passport with you when traveling to other countries in the Schengen area in case officials reinstate internal borders without 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 it requires 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 border officials do not let me enter?

  • We can give you the contact information of foreign embassies of the countries you wish to visit.
  • We can provide information about hiring an English-speaking foreign attorney overseas if you choose to do so.
  • Note: We cannot influence a foreign government’s decision about allowing you to enter, and we cannot 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

Last Updated: January 3, 2023