What is the Schengen Area in Europe and how does it affect TESOL teachers?

If you have done any research into teaching English in Europe it is likely that you have read something about the Schengen Area that is made up of 26 countries with a combined population of over 400 million people. Set up in 1985, the Schengen Area has essentially removed all border controls between member countries allowing the free movement of people within the whole area. Prior to this, anyone wanting to travel between any country in the area would need to go through full passport checks at every border they wanted to cross. Now TESOL teachers are free to travel at will across the Schengen Area without any restrictions. Please note that the Schengen Area should not be confused with the European Union which is a separate institution.

How long can I stay in the Schengen Area?

Once you have entered any country that is a member of the Schengen Area you are free to move around the whole area for as long as your initial entry visa allows. The length of entry you are granted might vary depending on your nationality, however, a standard tourist visa is typically valid for 90 days from the day of entry. This 90 day period is for the time you actually spend in the Schengen Area, so if you leave the area to visit a non-member country the time you spend outside doesn't count towards your 90 days.

Once the 90 days is up, when can I re-enter the Schengen Zone?

Once again, this will depend on where you are from, however, teachers with an American passport are allowed to spend 90 days in the area within a 180 day period. Once the initial 180 day time frame has expired, you can re-enter the area for another 90 days within the following 180 day period. Unfortunately, you cannot simply cross a border to another country and then gain a new 90 day visa by crossing back again as you can in some other parts of the world. However, if you gain a longer-term visa at any time during your stay the issue of 90 days and 180 days etc., becomes irrelevant.

As these regulations are subject to change at any time and member countries could potentially leave or join the area, you should check the latest situation before leaving home if you think it could affect your plans. It is also worth noting that some nationalities cannot gain a standard tourist visa on arrival as they need to apply in advance from within their own country. Once again, we recommend that you check the current visa situation by visiting the embassy website of your chosen destination before making any final travel plans.