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How long can an american stay in europe without a visa?

How Long Can An American Stay In Europe Without A Visa?

Europe has something for every traveler. However, the most common question for excursionists from the States is, how long can an American stay in Europe without a Visa? You’re not alone.

Many US citizens travel to Europe long-term but tend to not stay in a single country to avoid going through the hassle of applying for a visa.

If you’re considering a lengthy trip or even contemplating living in Europe for a while, it’s crucial to understand the regulations.

This travel guide will explore how long an American can stay in Europe without a visa.

The Schengen Limitation

The Schengen Area is made up of 27 European countries and enables travel between its members without the need for a passport.

For Americans, this means you can stay in the Schengen Zone for up to 90 days within any 180-day period without a visa. Many nations follow the Agreement, permitting travelers to journey within the participating countries.

This includes popular destinations like France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Sounds simple, right? But there’s more to the story.

Schengen vs. Non-Schengen:

While the Area includes many European countries, several are not part of this Schengen agreement. Nations like the United Kingdom, Ireland, and several Balkan countries are not part of the Schengen Area.

Why does this matter? Because after your 90 days are up, you can hop over to a non-Schengen country for another 90 days, and by the time you’re done there, your clock will have reset. This means you can return to the Schengen Area for another 90 days!

Here are important things to remember:

  • Entry Requirements:
    Upon arrival, you might be requested to show evidence of adequate finances, a round-trip flight ticket, and travel insurance.
  • Eastern Europe:
    Certain countries, like the Czech Republic, have distinct visa-free travel arrangements. Always verify the specific entry prerequisites for each destination on your itinerary.
  • Western Europe:
    These nations are also part of the Schengen Area, facilitating the exploration of major cities and attractions.
  • Limited Exceptions:
    There are exemptions to the 90/180 rule, such as those about medical treatment or other special circumstances. It is crucial to refer to the US Department of State or the embassy of the country you intend to visit if you believe you may be eligible for an exception.
  • Resetting the Schengen Clock:
    It’s vital to grasp the idea of “resetting the Schengen clock.” After 90 days, if you exit a non-Schengen country, you become eligible to re-enter the Schengen Area for another 90 days.

This approach can be employed repeatedly, allowing for extended stays in Europe. While this strategy works well for many travelers, there may be better solutions. However, refrain from planning your entire itinerary just yet!

Thanks to these agreements, frequent trips to non-Schengen countries may not be necessary.

Bilateral Agreements – The Game Changer:

Now, here’s where it gets even more interesting. A few Schengen countries have special visa waiver agreements with the United States.

These agreements allow Americans to stay in the countries longer than the standard 90 days after their Schengen stay.

Countries like France, Spain, Italy, and several others offer this extended stay, ranging from 60 days to 3 months.

Here is the complete list of countries that have a bilateral agreement with the USA:

  • Belgium (stay up to 3 months visa-free)
  • Denmark (stay up to 3 months visa-free)
  • Italy (stay up to 3 months visa-free)
  • Hungary (stay up to 90 days visa-free)
  • Portugal (stay up to 60 days visa-free)
  • Spain (stay up to 90 days visa-free)
  • France (stay up to 90 days visa-free)
  • Latvia (stay up to 90 days in half a year visa-free)
  • The Netherlands (stay up to 90 days visa-free)

The question is whether you’re traveling over land or by air, and there’s a noticeable distinction between the two!

When you’re traveling by car, you can only go between countries that have bilateral agreements and share a border with each other.

After your regular visit, you can drive from the Netherlands to Portugal, staying the maximum allowed days in each country.

But please note that after you’ve used up your maximum Schengen time, you can’t reach Denmark and Hungary by land.

You need to cross a Schengen country without bilateral agreements to get to them, which puts you over the maximum 90 days out of 180 days in the Schengen.

The Grand Total:

How long can an American stay in Europe without a visa? If planned correctly and including non-Schengen countries, the answer is indefinite.

By strategically resetting your clock, you can keep the European adventure going for years on end.

By including non-Schengen countries like the United Kingdom and others, an American can stay in Europe for 1980 days or five years and five months.

Here’s how that would break down:

  • Schengen: 90 days
  • Bilateral Agreements: 780 days
  • Non-Schengen countries: 6 months (UK) + 1 year (Albania) + 9 other non-Schengen countries x 90 days each = 1080 days

Remember that, as Americans, we can repeat this process as often as we want.

It may also surprise you how feasible this is even by car due to the relatively short distances between all these European places.

If you’re only thinking about Schengen countries, your stay is restricted by the 90/180 rule and the bilateral agreements in place. But even then, with careful planning, you can extend your stay for years.

This is still much longer than anyone expects possible, and it’s all thanks to the older bilateral agreements still in force.

If a US citizen is embarking on a single, uninterrupted road trip in Europe, then we need to consider geographical limitations. Because not all countries with bilateral agreements border each other.

In this scenario, we sum up the maximum durations allowed in neighboring countries.

  • 90 days (Schengen area in general)
  • 90 days (Netherlands)
  • 90 days (Belgium)
  • 90 days (France split into two parts to enter Italy, then later Spain)
  • 90 days (Italy)
  • 90 days (Spain also can split time if the ferry route Spain-Italy is used)
  • 60 days (Portugal)

By traveling only by car and moving between countries with bilateral agreements, an American can stay for up to 600 days, or one year and eight months.

Travel Tips and Considerations

  • Travel Insurance:
    When visiting Europe, it is highly advisable to obtain travel insurance. This not only covers unexpected medical expenses. But also provides protection in the event of trip cancellations or delays.
  • Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA):
    Applying for an ESTA may be necessary for those intending to travel to countries outside the Schengen Area, such as San Marino. This electronic system, managed by the US Customs and Border Protection, is a prerequisite for entry.
  • Train Travel:
    Exploring multiple countries in Europe is easy through its extensive and efficient train network. Ensure you have your travel documents readily available when crossing borders by train.
  • Return Flight:
    Upon arrival in Europe, Customs and Border Protection might request evidence of a return flight ticket. Verify that your itinerary aligns with the visa-free travel requirements.
  • Travel Credits and Bank:
    To avoid any complications with credit or debit cards while abroad, inform your bank of your travel plans. Additionally, consider carrying a travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees.


The prospect of Americans staying in Europe for an extended period without a visa is indeed a reality. The dream of a long-term stay in Europe is more attainable for Americans than it may initially appear.

Whether you want to explore your roots or are eager to embrace life in Europe, the continent welcomes you with open arms and flexible timelines.

So, prepare your bags, plan your route, and start the adventure of a lifetime!

And if you’re looking for an affordable car in Europe, CarTurf is the optimal choice for vehicle acquisition. Travel at your own pace and with style with Carturf.

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