Border controls in Europe

New Zealanders should be aware that border controls have been eliminated among European countries that are full members of what is called the “Schengen area”. Once you enter one of these countries from outside the Schengen area, you can move to other countries inside the Schengen area without going through border controls. These countries are:

Austria Belgium Czech Republic
Denmark Estonia Finland
France Germany Greece
Hungary Iceland Italy
Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg
Malta The Netherlands Norway
Poland Portugal Slovakia
Slovenia Spain Sweden
Switzerland

Note that the following European countries are not part of the Schengen area:

  • in Western Europe: Ireland, United Kingdom
  • in Central/Eastern Europe: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine.

If you move between any of these countries, or from one of these countries into the Schengen area, you will therefore have to go through border controls.

The European mini-states (Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City) are not formally part of the Schengen area, but can be entered from the neighbouring Schengen area countries without going through border controls.

Visa-free access for New Zealand visitors to Europe

New Zealand passport holders are able to spend up to three months visa-free in most European countries, and up to six months visa-free in the United Kingdom. The only European countries that require New Zealand passport holders to have a visa for a stay of less than three months are Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.

Visa-free access for New Zealand passport holders intending to stay for more than 3 months in the Schengen area is complicated.

Schengen area countries permit most holders of passports from outside the Schengen area to stay visa-free in the Schengen area as a whole, regardless of the particular country or countries, for no more than 3 months out of a 6-month period. (This is sometimes expressed as 90 days out of a 180-day period.)

However, New Zealand has bilateral visa waiver agreements with many of the individual countries in the Schengen area. These visa waiver agreements allow New Zealanders to spend up to three months in the relevant country, without reference to time spent in other Schengen area countries. The European Commission has confirmed that these agreements continue to be valid. These agreements thus effectively override the Schengen area restriction (which would otherwise be imposed on New Zealand passport holders) of no more than 3 months out of a 6-month period in the Schengen area as a whole.

The countries with which New Zealand has bilateral visa waiver agreements are:

Austria Belgium Czech Republic
Denmark Finland France
Germany Greece Iceland
Italy Luxembourg The Netherlands
Norway Portugal Spain
Sweden Switzerland

You can, therefore, move visa-free among the above countries for periods of up to 3 months in each country. If, however, you move to other countries in the Schengen area, the restriction of no more than 3 months out of a 6-month period in the Schengen area as a whole applies. If you have already spent 3 months in one or more of the above countries, your presence in a Schengen area country with which New Zealand does not have a bilateral visa waiver agreement may be challenged by local police or other authorities. You may also be accused of being an overstayer when you leave the Schengen area, or when you enter another country outside the Schengen area.

These visa waiver agreements, and the overall Schengen area visa waiver, are not work visas or work permits.

Note: Hungary has special requirements. Even if New Zealanders have already spent up to 3 months in the Schengen area, they may enter Hungary and remain there for up to a further 90 days visa-free. But they must then leave the Schengen area from Hungary, and must not go to other Schengen countries during their stay in Hungary if they have already spent 3 months elsewhere in the Schengen area.

Despite confirmation from the European Commission that the visa waiver agreements continue to be valid, border and immigration officials in Schengen area countries are occasionally unaware of this and question New Zealanders’ rights to stay visa-free in the Schengen area for longer than 3 months. You should contact the embassy or consulate of the Schengen area countries you plan to visit to get the latest update on visa requirements if you plan to stay in the whole Schengen area for more than 3 months.

You are also advised to ensure that your passport is stamped on entry and exit at the external borders of the Schengen area. Officers at ports of entry may wave travellers through without stamping passports, but it is important to have evidence of the date of first entry into the Schengen area for any subsequent dealings with local police or other authorities. It is also advisable to retain some informal evidence of time spent in particular Schengen countries (eg, accommodation receipts, ATM slips).

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