Schengen visa explained

I know there's a lot of confusion regarding the European Schengen visa -- what countries are included in Schengen? Does Schengen cover the entirety of the EU? How long can I stay in the EU/Schengen? Will I be able to legally work?

I've done my share of research on the matter, and sometimes the information can be confusing, so I'm here to explain:

I have a 90-day tourist visa in the Schengen Area of Europe. I am not technically allowed to work for money, and neither are you on tourist visa in Schengen, which is a collection of 26 countries in Europe (list below). As a US citizen, your passport automatically acts as your entrance visa to the EU, which means you don't have to apply for a visa to get your 90 days. You can legally stay in the zone for 90 days, then you must leave for 90 before you can return again. Now, you can split up your 90 days -- they don't have to be consecutive -- however, they must be within 180 days of your initial entry to Schengen. When you enter Schengen, you begin a 180-day period, and your 90 days must be within that period.

For example: I entered Schengen on December 1, 2014 and left on February 22nd, so I was in the zone for 84 days. Legally, I would be able to return on May 29th, NOT May 23rd (which would be 90 days after my exit) because 90 days from December 1st (when I first entered) would be February 28th. I hope that makes sense!

Now, you don't have to return to the US after your 90 days, you just have to go somewhere outside of Schengen. There are several countries in the EU that are not part of Schengen and you are allowed to hang out in one of those for 90 days until you can re-enter Schengen (those countries listed below). Or you can go to Africa or Asia or South America or wherever your heart desires, as long and it's outside Schengen.

I'm assuming you're reading this post because you're trying to find a way to (legally) stay longer than 90 days. Let me tell you, it's f@#$ing difficult. In a nutshell, you will most likely need to:

  1. Become a FULL-TIME student at a university. Part time doesn't cut it. Yes, you will need to provide proof that you are enrolled and have paid tuition. This will allow you to legally work (usually) 20 hours a week in most countries.
  2. Be hired by a company who will sponsor a work visa for you. This is rare because companies don't want to jump through hoops, pay fees, and go through the lengthy visa process to sponsor an American when they have EU citizens with the same skills. Basically, your skills and knowledge must benefit the company enough that they are willing to go through the process. However, I have heard of the occassional ESL school that prefers American English. Also, I've heard it's a bit easier in Germany to be hired as a US citizen.
  3. Marry a European. Even this is a pain though... it requires tons of paperwork, waiting months for approval, hefty fees, and having to return to US soil for a period of time.

(^Please message me with any amendments you may have if you know something is incorrect!)

There are several other obscure ways of doing it. I've heard of a freelance visa, but didn't look too far into it because there was something about proving you have $30,000 in savings and three professional clients who can provide proof of your services. I'm assuming if you have $30k in savings, this blog doesn't really apply to you. (If you know anything else about the freelance visa, send me a message!)

You can find further explanation of the Schengen visa at

^Map taken from

List of Schengen countries in the EU: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden

List of NON-Schengen countries in the EU: UK, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland

List of Schengen countries OUTSIDE the EU: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Lichtenstein