The 90-day Limit

Aug 28, 2014 by

          Having to cancel my one-way ticket to Paris taught me that research is certainly required when embarking on a months-long European adventure. I wanted to be all go-with-the-flow about it, arrive in Paris and either stay there or proceed through Europe until my money runs out, but France is def not cool with that. Canadians in France have a 90-day limit. Before I booked my now cancelled flight, I knew I could be in France for no more than 90 days without a visa, but that’s where my research stopped and my flight scan began! Thus, I did not know the 90-day limit came with additional stipulations until I excitedly told a friend at work that I had bought a one-way.

          “You’re crazy! You can’t fly one way into Paris!” she shrieked.

          “Of course I can!” I said with a nonchalant wave of my hand.

          “No, you can’t. You have a Canadian passport,” she clarified.

          Oh, she meant literally. “I’m sorry, what?” I responded in confusion.

          “You’re not an EU citizen,” she reminded. (Yeah, thanks to Italy. #notstillbitteratall) “You have to have proof that you’re leaving.”

          I was on the phone with Toronto’s Consulate General of France within minutes. When I asked if I’d have a problem entering France with a one-way ticket while travelling with a Canadian passport, I was directed to the Consulate General of France in Washington, which directed me back to the Consulate General of France in Toronto. I gave up on the peeps that are paid to know this shit but don’t, and called Air Transat instead. I waited on hold for an hour and a half, but I got my answer.

          “We can sell you the one-way – ” the agent on the phone began.

          No shit, I thought. They had already done that.

          “ – but we’re not responsible if you’re refused entry into the country upon landing,” she continued.

          Oh, so they’ll fly me there, but I’m subject to questioning. Cool.

          “You have to know what to say when you arrive,” she said.

          “What do you mean?” I asked.

          “Well, why are you travelling one way? Are you visiting other countries, but you’re just not sure where else you want to go yet?” she questioned.

          “Yeah, exactly. I know I can’t be in France for more than 90 days without a visa, but I haven’t decided when – within the 90 days – I’m leaving or where I’m going from there,” I told her.

          “Then that’s what you have to tell immigration, but it’s up to them whether or not they believe you,” she warned. “If they think you seem like someone who might like France enough to stay, they aren’t going to let you in.”

          Dot, dot, dot . . .

          I’m not going to set up camp in France, but I know I’ll be too excited to be there to convince any immigration officer otherwise. I can see me now: “Bonjour, friend! . . . No, no, I’m not moving here. I’m just not sure when I’m leaving . . . Let me explain: I have this blog. It’s called The Happiness Experiment, and this is my dream trip, so – ”

          Back.

          To.

          Canada.

          “I’d like to refund my ticket, please,” I told the agent on the phone.

          In trying to figure out a way to make this trip happen without a definite return date, because I don’t want to be on a time constraint, I hit up Google to clarify how the 90-day limit works. I was determined to find a loophole, because what if I really liked Paris and wanted to stay longer than 90 days? There had to be a way, such as my oh-so-clever idea to leave France for a weekend to reset my 90-day count. In retrospect, if that were possible, I or anyone else could basically live in France by taking weekend getaways to neighbouring countries every few months. Clearly, I’m new.

          The 90-day limit applies to 26 European countries, known together as the Schengen zone: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. At first, I thought this was great! I thought this allowed Canadians up to 90 days in each of these countries without a visa. Ha! How naïve. More research revealed that the 90-day limit applies to all Schengen countries collectively. After 90 days, I have to leave the entire zone. Furthermore, the 90-day limit holds firm for any 180-day period. Having just gone to Italy for eight days at the beginning of August, my count is already down to 82. Depending on how lax both the last country I visit in the Schengen zone and the immigration officer I encounter upon exit are, overstaying my visit could have no consequence at all, get me detained, or result in me being marked an illegal immigrant. Knowing my travel/life history, I would so be that person who gets permanently locked out of Europe. Evidently, I need a rough itinerary.

 
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