If you are planning to visit or travel through European countries, you should be familiar with the requirements of the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen Agreement is a treaty creating Europe’s Schengen Area, which encompasses 26 European countries, where internal border checks have largely been abolished for short-term tourism, a business trip, or transit to a non-Schengen destination. Because many Schengen countries assume that all travelers will stay for the full three months allowed for visa-free visitors, we recommend the following:
- Have at least six-month’s validity remaining on your passport whenever you travel abroad.
- Check the expiration date on your passport carefully before traveling to Europe – especially children’s passports, which are valid five years, not 10 years like those issued to U.S. citizens aged 16 and older.
- Carry your passport when traveling to another country in the Schengen area. Even if there is no border check at that time, officials may reinstate border controls without notice.
You can find passport validity requirements for your destination country, along with other important information, on our country pages. If your passport does not meet the Schengen requirements, you may be:
- Refused boarding by the airline at your point of origin or while transferring planes.
- Denied entry when you arrive in the Schengen area, regardless of how long you will stay.
An immigration official will determine if you qualify for entry when you first cross any external border of the Schengen area and present your passport. The officer may bar your entry if you do not qualify.
**Make sure you receive a stamp in your passport when you enter and exit the Schengen area.**
- Spend three months in the Schengen area during any six-month period, you must wait another three months from the last date of departure from the Schengen area before you can apply to enter the Schengen area again without a visa.
- Do not meet these conditions, or if you plan to stay in the Schengen area longer than three months, contact the embassy of the country where you plan to spend the majority of your time to apply for a visa.
Schengen area countries may reinstate temporary internal and external border control without advanced notice. U.S. citizens should carry their U.S. passport at all times when traveling to/from and within the Schengen area. For additional information on traveling to and within the Schengen area, see our FAQ and more information here.