How long is the Schengen Visa valid for and what happens if I overstay?

If you need a short-stay visa to enter the Schengen area, you will soon realise that most of your questions will start with « How long … » From the moment you apply to the moment your visa is issued, including its validity period, the Schengen Visa process requires good planning, in great part due to the organisation process it entails.

Don’t panic ! We are here to help you master this process and follow the appropriate timeline.

When should I submit my Schengen visa application ?

Before submitting your Schengen visa application, you should take into account the time you will need to: obtain the visa application form, thoroughly complete it, gather and make copies of all the valid compulsory supporting documents, book an appointment with the consular services… 

Bear in mind that obtaining some of the supporting documents can take time and will require prior organisation. It can be the case for your roundtrip reservation certificate, your accommodation proof (especially if it is a declaration of hospitality signed by a relative) or other documents which might need to be translated by an officially certified translator…  
Your are strongly advised to submit your application 6 weeks prior to your scheduled date of departure. Since the implementation of the new Visa Code on February 2nd 2020 it is now possible to submit your Schengen visa application at the earliest 3 to 6 months before the scheduled date of your trip and 15 calendar days at the latest before your trip to the Schengen area.
Seafarers in the course of their duty can present their admission request 9 months before their entry in one of the Schengen area ports.

Understanding the validity period of a Schengen visa

 In the Schengen visa application process, some of the terms used or date calculations can be confusing, particularly for first time applicants. Here is what you need to know.

What is the difference between duration of stay and validity period of your visa

You mustn’t confuse these 2 indications mentioned on your Schengen visa sticker
The duration of your stay means the number of days during which you are authorized to stay in the Schengen area (in keeping with the time period during which your visa can be used). This duration can not exceed 90 days over a 180 days time laps.
The validity period of your visa indicates how long you can use your visa. The dates are mentioned on you visa sticker. They appear as follows:

  • From: the date starting which you are authorized to enter the Schengen area
  • Until: the date when you must leave the Schengen area.

Therefore these two dates define the period of time during which your visa is valid.

For example, if on a visa sticker it is written: 

  • From:     01-09-20 
  • Until :     21-09-20

Duration of your stay : 5 days

This means that the holder of the visa is authorized to stay 5 days in the Schengen area from September 1st 2020 to September 21st 2020. 
Please note : generally the validity period is calculated using the following formula : scheduled entry date (in this example September 1st 2020) + duration of the stay ( here 5 days, the date of entry is counted as the first day of the stay) + a 15 day “grace period”.
The “grace period” grants a little flexibility to the visa holders during their trip. This allows the visa holders to reschedule their travel dates, even in the short-term. 

 Validity period of the visa depending on the type of visa and the number of entries

A short-stay Schengen visa (type C) can be delivered for several types of entries. The validity period of your visa can depend on this criteria.

  • A single-entry visa (« 1 » on the visa sticker) authorizes the holder to enter the Schengen area once and for a certain period of time. Once they leave the Schengen area, the validity of the visa expires, even if the authorized period to stay in the area is not yet over.
  • A double-entry visa (« 2 » on the sticker) authorizes its holder to enter the Schengen area twice during the validity period of the visa. It is therefore possible to leave the Schengen area and enter it again during that time. After the second exit, the visa expires.
  • a multiple-entry visa (“MULT” on the sticker): this multiple-entry visa allows its holder to enter and exit the Schengen area an unlimited number of times. This authorization remains valid for a maximum of 90 days over a 180 day period. It is possible to obtain a type C MULT Schengen visa with a validity period of 6 months to 5 years maximum. This visa is mostly granted to those who have valid reasons for travelling often to the Schengen area, who have no negative precedent in their visa history, who have a healthy financial situation in their country of origin and who truly intend on leaving the Schengen territory before the expiration date of their visa. 

However the rule remains the same: no stay exceeding 90 days in the Schengen area over a 180 day period. 

What happens if I overstay my Schengen Visa?

The first thing to know is that now, with computerized visa checks in place across the Schengen Area, an overstayed visa never goes unnoticed. Immigration authorities have registered in their databases every person that enters and leaves, and if you overstay, even for just one day, it will be recorded. Authorities will also punish you whether your overstay beyond your Schengen Visa’s validity was intentional or unintentional. You could receive a fine, immediate deportation or even get banned from entering the Schengen Area for a period. It is also important to remember that the 90/180 day rule also applies to countries with a visa waiver agreement with the Schengen Area.

Consequences of overstaying in Schengen Zone

Each Schengen state applies different penalties for overstaying beyond your Schengen Visa’s validity, and the sanctions you will face will depend on the country you are caught in. For example, Germany is known to have the strictest immigration laws in the Schengen Area, while Greece applies heavy fines. In general, all of the member states will take action in one of the following ways.

Deportation

If you are caught staying illegally in Europe, and are not in the process of leaving of your own accord, you will face deportation. You may be deported immediately, or if caught flouting rules by taking paid work or engaging in criminality, you may be taken into custody and face a trial that could result in prison time or a fine. You will then be deported after serving your punishment. Deportation is almost always followed by further sanctions like a travel ban except in the most minor cases of overstaying your Schengen Visa’s validity.

Future travel bans for overstaying your Schengen Visa’s validity

If you face a fine or deportation, you are likely to be banned from traveling to the Schengen Area for a period of time. Even those who escape these sanctions could face a ban - while overstaying is also likely to affect your chances of getting a Schengen Visa in the future.

What fine could I face?

The most regular penalty for overstaying a Schengen Visa’s validity is a fine that will be applied by the member state where you are caught. These vary depending on each state - but will be more expensive the longer you overstay and lack mitigating circumstances.

Could I face a ban from entering the Schengen Area?

This sanction is most commonly applied to those overstaying their Schengen Visa’s validity and working or engaging in illegality. You can be banned for three years, or in some cases, even longer.

Are there ever no consequences to overstaying a Schengen Visa?

Minors or those requiring a caretaker may not face sanctions, or if you are incapacitated by an illness or injury. But in these cases, you are advised to apply for an extension.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Schengen Visa validity

I’ve accidentally overstayed my Schengen Visa - can I get an extension?

No. If you’ve overstayed your visa you should leave the Schengen Area immediately to avoid deportation.

I think I am in danger of overstaying - how much does it cost to extend my Schengen Visa?

The cost is the same as your initial visa - €80 for adults and €40 for minors.

How can I avoid overstaying my Schengen Visa’s validity?

Always check how many days you have left on your Schengen Visa’s validity and that you are complying with the 90/180 day rule.