How to Travel Europe, or Who is This Schengen Guy?

Overlooking the entrance to the ancient city of Pompeii

Overlooking the entrance to the ancient city of Pompeii

When Florence and I developed our Six Monther plan of living in a different country every six months, we listed all the countries in which we were interested in living.

The Ponte de Vecchio in Florence, Italy.

The Ponte de Vecchio in Florence, Italy.

We came up with a list of twenty countries, and we achieved a couple of general objectives. First, we would set foot on every continent. Second, we would be seeing much of the world before we are too old to be as active as we would like in our travels. (I am 63, Florence is 53.)

Our bucket list of countries includes a number of European Union member countries. As we researched the visa requirements for these EU countries, we came across a law unique for travelers to the EU called the Schengen Visa.

View of Vulcano from the Aeolian Island of Lipari

View from the Aeolian Island of Lipari

The Schengen Visa is an entry permit issued by an embassy or consulate of any member country.  To facilitate a more convenient immigration procedure, the Schengen states have abolished passport and immigration controls at their common borders.  This single visa is now all that is required to enter any member country.

Here is where it gets confusing, because there are twenty-six Schengen states and twenty-seven EU member countries (with Croatia slated to join in July, 2013). Two EU members are not Schengen, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Norway and Iceland are not part of the European Union, but are part of the Schengen area.
Note: Do not try to remember all of this because membership in both the EU and the Schengen Alliance keeps changing.

Horse sculpture near Agrigento, Sicily

Horse sculpture near Agrigento, Sicily

The point of this is that a tourist visa in the UK is good for 180 days, which works great for our Six Monther plan. However, Schengen Visas are valid for only 90 days. Also, we cannot use a strategy of leaving the EU for a few days on some side trip and then return to a Schengen country and start a new 90 day clock. The Schengen Visa only permits travel for 90 days within any 180 day period. Thus, after 90 days we would have to exit for at least 90 more days before a new 180 day clock would start.

The Dual Citizenship Option

Church in Taormina, Sicily

St. Rosalia Church below Tindiri, Sicily

This leads to our strategy of obtaining dual citizenship with Italy for which we are eligible due to Florence’s Sicilian roots. This is a detailed process with a number of bureaucratic hoops to jump through. It is precisely this bureaucratic process that may force us to revise our travel schedule as we await approval.

If you are considering international travel beyond a vacation getaway, you should investigate your eligibility for dual citizenship. There are many benefits. First, you gain access to the same set of opportunities in two different countries including voting rights, purchasing property, and access to education and social services.

Florence in Pisa

Florence in Pisa

You will also have two valid passports which, in some cases, will provide ease of travel and lower reciprocity fees for entry into foreign countries. In addition, once you obtain dual citizenship, it stays in your family. You can pass it along to your children, a gift for which they will no doubt thank you someday.

Dual citizenship eligibility can be obtained through birth right, marriage, and naturalization. If you know your parents’ or grandparents’ ethnic history, it may be to your benefit to investigate the citizenship laws of their country of origin. Who knows what doors it may open for you?

living in Mexico


23 comments on “How to Travel Europe, or Who is This Schengen Guy?

  1. Very interesting information. I knew about none of this until now. Thanks.

  2. Hi! As you embark on this very complicated and long journey of figuring out EU immigration laws, as a dual citizen myself I wanted to share with you some insight. First off a tiny clarification: when it comes to Bulgaria and Romania, they are EU member states since 2007 and are currently in the application process for joining the Schengen zone. That is very different from the process that Croatia is undergoing, which is for acceptance into the EU.

    To enter and stay long term in Bulgaria (that is over 90 days) you will need to apply for a “D” visa. I am providing you with a link that describes under what circumstances D visas can be issued. Take a close look at situations #’s 10 and 13. 🙂 I think that if you start out early with this process, you have pretty good chances of meeting your travel deadline. I hope that this has been helpful. Good luck and let me know how it all works out.


    • Mike Lince says:

      Gerry, bless you for the helpful updates, not just for myself, but for any readers as well. I deleted the outdated information. Clearly, my knowledge of travel in Europe is sorely limited, a situation I am looking forward to correcting soon. – Mike

      • Mike, you are most welcome. I am glad I can help. I am sure that once in Europe you will quickly learn how to navigate the ins and outs of travel within the member states. In any case, I will be happy to answer any questions that you might have in preparation for these trips, as I would hate for you to miss out on any of them due to immigration restrictions. At any rate, having a US passport allows you and your wife to enter and remain in ANYONE of the 27 member states for up to 30 days without any type of visa. 🙂

  3. jimhornnews says:

    with dual citizenship, foreign governments do not allow one to seek the assistance of the US in any dispute. You are subject to the law and its interpretations in the host country.

    • The U. S. government typically does not get involved in disputes whether or not you have dual citizenship, especially if an American is charged with breaking the law in another country. Tourists are always subject to the laws and legal systems of the countries they visit. Nonetheless, a consular official will typically visit you in jail if arrested. Further, Americans should not expect any embassy services in a country with whom the U. S. does not have formal diplomatic ties, i.e. – Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Bhutan, and Taiwan.

      U. S. Embassy services typically include assisting with replacing a lost passport, helping replace lost or stolen funds through your bank, helping locate essential medical services, helping with disaster evacuation, and notifying family in the event of a death. Details of consular services are available at

      Thank you, Jim, for bringing up these important travel issues.

  4. bluemoon6790 says:

    Hey Mike, very interesting post. I’ve been to a few countries in Europe, but I never stayed in any place long enough for the visa limitations to really hit me. Your Six Monther plan sounds awesome, though, best of luck with it!

  5. reocochran says:

    I think this contains very important references and information that I would not have even thought of! Great way to keep us informed and at least, forewarn those traveling soon that direction! Take care and so wonderful how patient you and Florence are, you go with the flow don’t you?

    • When I shared with Florence that you thought we are patient she did an LOL. I on the other hand am definitely the ‘go with the flow’ person. My Piscean philosophy is, “If you are not going with the flow, you are fighting against the current.” 🙂
      Thank you, as always, for your comments.

  6. Dubrovniklady says:

    Croatia will be part of the EU in July 2013 but not yet a part of the Schengen. They may still require a residency visa to stay here longer than 90 days, do check before you arrive. I have dual citizenship, American/Croatian and it took me 5 years to obtain for my Croatian citizenship came thru. I certainly hope Italy is easier than Croatia.

  7. pippabiker says:

    I am thankful for my EU passport, my Canadian citizenship, and my resident alien status in the USA. Oh, and right now I havelegal resident status in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Adventure beckons but paperwork bogs us down! Good luck with getting it all sorted. I have a feeling you will be living in Europe as per your plan!

  8. Kori says:

    This is a great post. It’s really amazing the different visa rules for each country. In some countries, like Bulgaria, I ended up having to have my host register me within a couple days at the local police station. It’s best to always check the visa needs of the country you plan to travel to.

  9. kori says:

    This is some great information for traveling to Europe. A friend of mine has dual citizenship with Germany and Bulgaria. I love your pictures!

    • Mike Lince says:

      We are in the process of applying for dual citizenship with Italy. We may have to go to Italy to get documents translated and wait through the bureaucratic process. Oh well. I guess that would not be so bad. 🙂
      Thank you for your comments, Kori.

  10. reocochran says:

    Thank you for reading my posts lately and pushing the “like” button and the very special message to me about my spreading smiles, or some such nonsense! I am very excited and waiting to hear your next installment and how it goes upon arrival in Scotland!

    • Mike Lince says:

      We arrive in Scotland on June 28. It has been difficult to write when we are not traveling. I have trashed several blog stories that have been below my expectations. Thank you for following. I will be writing again soon! – Mike 🙂

  11. reocochran says:

    Or are you starting in Italy and making your way around all of Europe? I have lost track of the first landing site! LOL, a little ditzy Robin for you!

  12. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyhow, just wanted to say excellent blog!

  13. […] to live.  We are in a race against time to obtain dual citizenship with Italy which will solve the Schengen Visa issue throughout most of the European […]

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