Schengen Area's 90/180 rule - Here's How it Works

Schengen Area's 90/180 Rule - Here's How It Works

Confused About the Schengen Area's 90/180 rule? Here’s How it Works
Sep 29, 2022
Eu nationals can live and travel within the Schengen area freely without any restrictions. Although certain social security and tax requirements will be necessary, EU citizens do not require a visa. Non-EEA nationals can travel to the Schengen Area with a Schengen visa,  however, they cannot stay for longer than 90 days within a 180 period. Although this may seem straightforward and simple, there are complexities that non-EEA citizens should consider.

This article will highlight some of the key considerations for the Schengen area 90/180 rule.

What is the Schengen Zone?

The Schengen area is a border-free zone between several EU countries.  Although almost all EU countries are included within this zone, there are some exceptions that do not permit visa-free travel. Countries that do not currently belong to the Schengen area but are hoping to join include:  

  • Bulgaria 
  • Croatia 
  •  Cyprus 
  • Ireland 
  • Romania. 

Some other EEA states are already members of the Schengen area, these include:

  • Iceland 
  • Liechtenstein 
  • Norway  
  • Switzerland. 
Citizens who belong to countries within the Schengen zone may travel and spend as much time in those countries as desired.  For foreign nationals, a Schengen Visa is in place which they can apply for to travel within the Schengen zone for up to 90 days.  

What does the 90 180-day rule entail? 

The rule means that non -EEA nationals, including British citizens (post-Brexit) cannot spend more than 90 days within a 180-day period within the Schengen zone. If non-EEA nationals intend to spend more than 90 consecutive days in the Schengen zone on a Schengen visa, then applicants will be required to apply for a different visa type.  

The rule is however a little more complex, as there are limits to how the 90 days can be spent. Once non-EU citizens have spent their quota of 90 days, they may not return to the Schengen area for another 90 days. This means only a maximum period of 90 days within a 180-day period is possible. Third-country citizens are advised to count backwards from the 180-day period to ensure they successfully meet the 90 180-day rule. Non-EU citizens who plan to re-enter an EU country can calculate their exit date by using a calculator tool to double-check their time spent in the Schengen zone.

How do non-EEA citizens apply for a Schengen visa? 

A Schengen visa is required for a short trip lasting fewer than 90 days, which is part of the Schengen Area of European countries that have ended border controls. Permissible activities include:

  • Attending meetings. 
  • Visiting clients or trade fairs. 
  • Meeting or training at a business unit. 
  • Purchase and sale of products, business transactions and tenders. 
  • Attending an exhibition, conference, or seminar. 
  • Taking part in a cultural or sports event. 
  • Diplomatic visit (diplomats). 
  • Political visit. 

There are certain steps that need to be followed to successfully apply for a Schengen visa. Applicants must submit their application for a Schengen visa at the Consulate of the country that they intend to visit, or – if they intend to visit more than one Schengen State, the Consulate of the country of their primary destination (i.e. main purpose of stay or longest stay). The procedure to apply includes:  

  • Fill out the Business Schengen Visa Application form  
  • Correctly complete the business visa application on the correct website. The application form contains questions for basic information such as your name, date of birth, country of birth, passport number and nationality. Make sure to check the box that says “business” at the question regarding the purpose of your journey. You may be required to answer questions regarding your purpose of visit.   
  • Complete the file of documents  
  • The individual should ensure that all the relevant documents, application forms and fees are collected and correctly completed.   
  • Book an appointment  
  • Anyone who plans on entering the Schengen zone will be required to make an appointment for an interview at his/her local embassy or consulate. The appointment booking can be made via the embassy or online and should be done 6 months prior to leaving for the latest and 2 weeks for the earliest.    
On the day of the appointment  

  • Make sure to be at the interview on time. Any delays could lead to the cancellation of the interview.   
  • The process will involve the scanning of the applicant’s fingerprints if they have never obtained a Schengen visa previously.   
  • After the verification of the application, the application form information will be entered into the online system of the consulate or embassy, and they will receive a printed copy of your application. This process usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes.   
If you or your employees are intending to conduct business in only one country of the Schengen member states, then they will have to apply for a Schengen visa for Business at the embassy of that country in your or their home country. When visiting 2 or more countries when entering the Schengen zone for business purposes, then the individual should apply at the embassy of the country he/she plans to remain in the longest. 

Documents Required  

All individuals/groups who are not eligible for visa-free entry into the Schengen area are required to present the documents which include: 

  • A passport which is certified and valid. 
  • A completed visa application form. 
  • A recent picture which meets the requirements (it can’t be older than 6 months, must be clear etc.). 
  • The individual should have sufficient funds to cover Schengen visa travel insurance as well as the costs to cover the visa application fee. 
  • The individual must submit a letter of invitation (which should be provided by the host company). 
  • There should also be no objection certificate. 
  • A clear criminal record.  
  • Show proof that they have relevant accommodation for the duration of the stay.  
  • Proof of payment of the required visa application fee. 


The visa application process usually takes 7-15 working days to complete, however, it could be extended to 30 days or more due to delays. 


If you require you require advice about the 90/180 rule or any assistance with submitting a visa application for a Schengen visa, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Related Posts