I spent nine out the last 12 months in Europe. 90 days in the Schengen area. Then 95 days out of the Schengen, in Belarus. Then 90 days in the Schengen. Words cannot describe how much I love Europe, in summer, in winter, anytime, always.
Owing only to my lack of resourcefulness at the time, I left the continent altogether after 270+ days. I didn’t want to leave, yet I couldn’t see the way forward, legally speaking anyway. My personal innovation in the important fields of cash flow + visas were at a standstill.
So. I’m now back in Australia half-planning my return to Europe later this year. I did some more research. I wrote to Embassies and Consulates. I read many forums on this very topic. Most were very helpful. Many were not so recent. But that’s ok, they helped too. I wanted to somehow add value to this body of information and hopefully help a few more people in the process. So the least I could do (for now) was offer the information I have found:
- Australia has in place bilateral visa agreements with approximately 17 countries (TBC) within Europe (listed below), predominantly formed after World War II, in the 1950’s and 60’s. These agreements differ from, and remain separate from the visa laws under the Schengen Agreement;
- In summary, these bilateral agreements generally allow visa-free travel for Australians for ‘a period of up to 3 months’ (now widely written and accepted as 90 days).
- In theory, these agreements mean that an Australian passport holder can legally move between the countries (listed below) continuously (potentially indefinitely) staying a maximum of 90 days in each.For the countries (especially Nordic countries) that limit the agreement to ’90 days in every 180 day period’ (akin to the Schengen ruling, but wholly separate), this means (in theory) that an Australian passport holder could spend 90 days in Norway, then 90 days in Germany, then 90 days in the Netherlands, (then return to Norway) OR, then 90 days in Spain, then 90 days in Italy.. and so on. By this time, the 180 day period clearly ‘refreshes’ in the Nordic areas, or indeed in any other the countries visited earlier on that enforce the 180 day period (again, wholly separate from the Schengen ruling).Again, in theory, these agreements allow for an unlimited time to be travelling amongst their respective countries, without the necessity to leave the Schengen area.If one spends time in the listed countries (on the premise of the bilateral agreements), then travels to a Schengen country that does not have a bilateral agreement with Australia, it stands to reason that the conditions of the Schengen Agreement commence at that point (the rule also being 90 days in a 180 day period, which is a ‘rolling’ calculation that counts backwards 180 days from today’s date).Ultimately, these bilateral agreements are visa treaties. Just as the Schengen Agreement is a visa treaty. They are interpreted separately. They carry legal weight. They possess their own powers and functions, which are only enforceable and honoured by the participating countries. Travelling under the terms of the bilateral agreements means precisely that. The Schengen rules are separate, and essentially ‘not applicable’ (I use that term judiciously) if the travel remains amongst countries Australia has bilateral agreements with. However, travelling to a country within the Schengen (without a bilateral agreement) then means that you will then be under the terms of the Schengen visa (unless you have another visa option based on age, study, work etc).
- As I understand (and will gradually confirm, as correspondence from the various Embassies arrives), most of the bilateral agreements follow the intended meaning of the arrangement with The Netherlands as follows…
This information was received from the Consulate-General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ministry of Affairs, Sydney Australia (emailed dated 21 April, 2015):
a). …”the Australia and Dutch government have made an agreement which states that Australian passport holders can stay in the Netherlands for an extra 90 days without the need for a visa, AFTER visiting other Schengen states. However, these 90 days are only vaild/applicable if the Netherlands is the last Schengen state to be visited.
b) This means that an Australian passport holder can stay in the Schengen zone for a time limit of between 1 and 90 days and after that can spend an additional 90 days in the Netherlands
An example of what is possible/allowed:
– An Australian passport holder flies to London and continues to Germany. He travels through Schengen (outside of the Netherlands) for the first 90 days. After this trip he can stay another 90 days in the Netherlands and fly out of the Schengen zone using a Netherlands airport or by boat from a Netherlands marine port.
An example of what is not possible/not allowed:
– An Australian passport holder flies to the Netherlands, travels from there through Schengen and then returns to the Netherlands. This person cannot stay an additional 90 days in the Netherlands.
To summarise; it is not possible to have a (connecting) flight into the Netherlands, from there travel to any of the Schengen states and subsequently stay an extra 90 days in the Netherlands. The first entry point and the first 90 days of stay in the Schengen zone have to be outside of the Netherlands if you want to make use of this special agreement….”
It should be noted that this explanation does not acknowledge that Australia has similar agreements with other countries within the Schengen. (Simply put, separate countries’ visa laws are not required to reference each other).
Given the technical nature of the content, I decided not to paraphrase, summarise or condense any of the information. However, the details and conditions of the agreements appear quite straight forward.
Maybe someone more diagrammatically-skilled can to do a picture diagram or flow chart to better explain it… I will give it a try!
I’m happy to forward on the email correspondence I have received. Yet I always recommend confirming the Embassies yourself, just to be sure that the information you act upon is current.
I will endeavour to keep this information updated. And of course please offer any ideas or comments on my interpretations. Passing forward my gratitude.
|Country||Agreement / Notes||Days||Confirmed via Consulate/Embassy
|Austria||1 April, 1956:||90||Yes (via Dutch Consular advice)|
|Belgium||25 August, 1951:
‘Two months.’ (60 days).
|60||Yes (via Dutch Consular advice)|
|France||1 August, 1999:
NB. The French-Australian agreement was made after the Schengen Agreement. Therefore, it is the only one I am aware of that makes reference to the Schengen convention. The agreement could be interpreted as such that entry to France after having spent 90 days in the Schengen is not permitted. However, it should be noted that the agreement does not ‘have to’ acknowledge other bilateral agreements held between other European countries and Australia. Therefore, remember to consider the wording and meaning of the Dutch agreement (above) in deciphering this one. (i.e. The 90 day bilateral agreements stand distinctly separate from the Schengen laws).
“…Citizens of Australia shall be allowed to enter metropolitan and overseas French departments, on presentation of a valid national diplomatic, official or ordinary passport, not bearing a visa, for stays of up to three months per period of six months. When they enter the European territory of the Republic of France after having stayed in the territory of one or several States party to the Convention on the Application of the Schengen Agreement, dated 19 June 1990, the three month period shall take effect from the date of crossing the external frontier delimiting the area of free movement constituted by those States…”
|Germany||1 January, 1953:
“There is a visa waiver agreement between Germany and Australia which allows Australians to spend up to three months in Germany, without reference to time spent in other Schengen area countries. Citizen from other countries needs to wait 90 days to be able to re-enter the Schengen states, but the agreement is a special agreement between Germany and Australia and is designed for Australians travelling through the Schengen states, who want to stay another 90 days in Germany. You just need to make sure that you leave the Schengen area before your first 90days are over. You need to leave the Schengen area to a non-Schengen Country such as England…then you are able again to enter Germany for another 90 days (but Germany ONLY and DEPARTURE from Germany!).”
(email from German Consulate in Australia 9/6/2015).
(via email 9/6/2015)
|Italy||1 August, 1951:
‘…three consecutive months… may re-enter Italy without a visa only after an absence of a period of one month…’
|90||Yes (via Dutch Consulate advice)|
|Luxembourg||5 October, 1951:
‘2 months’ (60 days)
|60||Yes (via Dutch Consulate advice)|
|Netherlands||1 April, 1951:
|Portugal||1 May, 1963:||90||Agreement no longer valid (via Dutch Consulate advice)|
|Spain||27 October, 1961:
|90||Agreement no longer valid (via Dutch consulate advice).|
|Denmark||1 May, 1952:
Similarly, this is the information received from the Danish Immigration Service in Australia via email (dated 21 April, 2015):
“….citizens of Australia, Canada, Chile, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the US can freely enter and stay in Denmark for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, regardless of whether they have stayed in another Schengen country prior to entry to Denmark. The 90 days are counted from the entry date into Denmark or any other Nordic country. If you have previously spent time in Denmark or another Nordic country within the previous 180 days, that time will be deducted from the 90-day maximum…”
|Finland||1 March, 1961:||90||Yes (via email January, 2017)|
|Iceland||1 May, 1969:
90 days (total for all Nordic countries).
NB. Excerpt from above link: Australian citizens possessing valid Australian passports who desire to enter Iceland as bona fide non-immigrants may enter Iceland without a visa. Those who wish to stay in Iceland for more than three months after their entry into one of the countries party to the Convention between Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway dated 12 July 1957, to which Iceland has acceded with effect from 1 January 1966, regarding the abolition of Passport Control at Inter-Nordic Boundaries, from a country not a party to the said Convention shall apply for a residence permit in Iceland.
|Norway||19 November, 1951:
90 days (total for all Nordic countries).
Based on the wording received from the Norwegian Royal Embassy in Australia via email (dated 23 April, 2015) :
“… please be advised that there is currently a separate bilateral agreement between Norway and Australia allowing stays for up to 90 days visa-free in Norway in addition to any days spent in a non-Nordic Schengen country. As a consequence Australian citizens will not be refused entry to Norway due to time spent in e.g. Spain. Whether or not non-Nordic countries such as Spain will disregard time spent in Nordic countries before entering Spain must be confirmed with the Spain immigration authorities… “
NB. This agreement actually makes reference to a visa-free period of ‘2 months’. I am investigating.
However, Norwegian Immigration confirmed (as above; April, 2015) that an agreement is in place for a 90 day period, regardless of time spent in non-Nordic Schengen countries prior to arriving in Norway.
|Sweden||11 November, 1951:
From email received from the Swedish Embassy in Australia via email (dated 24 April, 2015):
“Australians may use the bilateral agreement after the 90 visa free Schengen days has been used and must not have been spent in Sweden. You are then eligible for 3 months in Sweden visa free. Once you enter into Sweden the 3 month period will start and you cannot like the 90 Schengen days stop them from “ticking” away by leaving.” (from the Swedish Embassy, 24 April, 2015).
*Czech Republic, Greece, Switzerland: Agreements not yet found / directly confirmed. (NB. An email from the Dutch Consulate in January 2017 advised these country agreements are no longer in place).
Additional info and UPDATES:
The Schengen Area:
Schengen Short Stay Calculator:
December 2016 UPDATE:
The following invaluable information was provided by a kind reader of this site (December, 2016):
– The European Commission and The Council of the European Union have acknowledged that it is possible for third country nationals (eg: AUS/NZ) to stay in Europe for longer than 90 days as a result of the various visa waiver agreements.
“The Schengen Convention (Article 20(2)) currently allows for Member States to “extend” the authorised
stay of nationals of visa-free third countries (US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, etc.)
beyond 90 days on the basis of bilateral visa waiver agreements concluded in the past. This
leads to a situation where certain third-country nationals can stay for practically unlimited
periods in the Schengen area under short-stay visa waivers without applying for a residence
permit or any other authorisation. For instance, New Zealand citizens can remain 51 months
in the territory of the Schengen area (3 months Schengen visa-free stay plus 48 months on the
basis of 16 bilateral visa waiver agreements).”
The Council of the European Union is trying to introduce a “Touring Visa” to manage this situation. The proposed amendment appears to be still under consideration.
http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/relations/relations_other/npo/docs/latvia/2014/com20140163/com20140163_saeima_reply_en.pdf (Dated: 28.7.2014)
http://www.statewatch.org/news/2016/oct/eu-council-exit-entry-bilaterals-12114.en16.pdf (Dated 20 September 2016)
http://www.statewatch.org/news/2016/nov/eu-council-entry-exi-touring-visa-13397-16.pdf (Dated: 25 October 2016)
http://www.statewatch.org/news/2016/nov/eu-council-easo-ees.htm(This provides a brief explanation of the implications of the amendment.)
January, 2017 UPDATE:
The following is an extract from an email from the German Consulate in Australia (January, 2017). Importantly, this advice is somewhat contradictory to that previously provided by the same consular office. Essentially I believe it is very good news, and provides somewhat of a precedent for a more favourable interpretation of the bilateral agreement with Germany. Notwithstanding, I recommend seeking your own written advice to this effect, just to be sure!:
“According to the agreement Australian citizens may stay in Germany for 90 days
after every entrance. It does not matter if you will enter Germany via a third country
(e.g. Russia) or a Schengen country (e.g. France). Nevertheless you have to prove
that you did not stay longer than 90 days continuously during the exit check.
Therefore it is more easy to exit e.g. after 85 days Germany to London, re-enter
after 1 day and stay another max. 90 days. With the border crossing stamps
(receiving when leaving and arriving to/from UK) you may prove easily that you did
not extend your stay more than 90 days in Germany. Due to the fact that you won’t
be checked when leaving to a Schengen state it might be difficult to prove your
necessary absence (however this would be also possible with e.g. Hotel tickets/bills
Please be aware that this special regulation applies only for your stays in Germany.
Therefore it might happen that in another Schengen state you will be required to hold a visa after 90 days within any 180 days period.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen,
of the Federal Republic of Germany
February, 2017 UPDATE:
Good news! The following confirmation has arrived from AUSTRIA:
as an Australian passport holder you can stay in the Schengen Area for 90 days without a visa. The bilateral agreement between Austria and Australia allows you to spend an additional 90 days in Austria if you can prove that you have “left” the Schengen Area after the first 90 days and have not had any stay in other Schengen countries during the second 90 days.
Usually there is no border control on the internal borders between other Schengen countries and Austria, therefore it is hard to prove when you have “left” the Schengen Area and entered Austria on the bilateral agreement. If required by the authorities you will have to provide proof when and where you entered Austria.
Please note that some Schengen countries do not honour bilateral agreements between other Schengen countries and third countries, therefore another entry to a Schengen country (even for flight transit) might be considered an overstay.
Visa and Consular Office
Austrian Embassy Canberra
12 Talbot Street, Forrest A.C.T. 2603, Australia
(Post: P.O. Box 3375, Manuka A.C.T. 2603, Australia)
Office: +61-2-6295-1533 | Fax: +61-2-6239-6751
http://www.austria.org.au | email@example.com”
February, 2017 UPDATE:
More good news! Confirmation from Belgium received!
“Dear Mr Riley,
Referring to your email below I can inform you that an Australian
passport holder does not need a visa for a stay of up to 90 days in any
180 days period in the Schengen area.
The notion of “any”, implies the application of a “moving” 180-day
reference period, looking backwards at each day of the stay (be it at
the entry or at the day of an actual check), into the last 180-day
period, in order to verify if the 90 days/180-day requirement continues
to be fulfilled.
Please find the link to the calculator for your reference
In addition the Embassy can inform you that, according to the SPF
Foreign Affairs of Belgium, the actual bilateral agreement formally
confirmed through an exchange of Notes on 25 July 1951 between the two
countries, entitles Australian citizens to stay for two more months
without a visa in Belgium after 90 days spent in any other Schengen
country. When entering Belgium you will need to be able to prove you
have not stayed in the Schengen area for more than 90 days. At the end
of the 2 month period you will need to leave from Belgium and cannot
visit another Schengen country.
Countries belonging to the Schengen area are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark,
France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the
Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Estonia, Czech Republic,
Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and
I trust I have informed you sufficiently.
Embassy of Belgium
19 Arkana Street
Yarralumla ACT 2600
Tel+61 (0)2 6273 2501
Fax+61 (0)2 6273 3392
(Originally posted: 24/4/2015).