The Truth About Schengen Information System (SIS)

The Schengen Information System (SIS) does not track tourist entrance and exit stamps, despite popular belief. Let me break it down.

The SIS was put into place to preserve security within the Schengen Zone (and now there is a more powerful SIS II). This means authorities such as police and border guards, can enter and consult alerts on certain categories of wanted or missing persons and objects.

Data Managed by SIS

The system is was founded on the definition of the following descriptions of people:

  • Requested for extradition
  • Undesirable in the territory of a participating State
  • Minor in age, mentally ill patients, and missing persons or those in need of protection
  • Requested by a judicial authority, such as witnesses, those summoned to appear for notification of judgement and absconders
  • Suspected of taking part in serious offences and those subject to other checks

The remainder of the database is populated with alerts relating to:

  • Lost, stolen, or misappropriated: firearms, identity documents (blank or containing personal identity information), motor vehicles, and misappropriated banknotes

What about tourists and overstaying visas?

If you are coming to Europe and not looking to commit a crime, the SIS is not something you have to worry about. You do, however, need to pay attention to when you entered Schengen and when you exit. As a tourist, you are allowed 90 days in Schengen zone twice a year (not back to back…it’s 90 days in an 180 period.)

The SIS does not record traveler’s entries and exits from the Schengen Zone. In fact, there is no centralized database tracking entries/exits for all the Schengen member states. Seems weird, right? The SIS is only focusing on illegal activities such as stated above.

Does anyone track my Schengen stamps?

Yes! Border control guards that are good at their jobs! While the SIS does not give off a large BEEP if you have overstayed, there are 11 of the most popular countries in Europe that might sound the alarm if you overstayed in their country. Those countries are Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Romania. They all have national databases which record traveler entries/exits…..

….although the data is still not shared between all these countries.

How to Escape a Schengen Overstay

Once you enter Schengen, you only get 1 stamp, and can travel freely without seeing another border guard. While it is illegal to overstay any visa, there are ways to slide by if you have made the mistake. If you have entered say Greece (who records entries/exits) and then leave from Italy; Italian border guards will not get a flag in their system, because you did not register in Italy – you entered in Greece. See where I am going?

You can still get caught, of course, by the border guard who is looking for your entrance stamp and wants to do the math.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and not accountable for your actions – just a person with an opinion stating the facts about Schengen law and imaginary situations. Overstaying a visa is illegal with strict consequences, and you should consider your actions at your own risk. If you are concerned about legal issues, please contact your embassy/consulate, or an immigration lawyer.

6 COMMENTS

  1. | 17th Jun 17

    Hi Lindsey
    Thank you for your quick response and yes we are residents of USA. I will look into returning from Spain but I guess that it would be better to drive there rather then fly? Or maybe a train would be the best choice? Thank you for all of your help
    Lisa

    • Lindsey | 18th Jun 17

      It wouldn’t matter if you flew there, because going to a schengen country from another schengen country is like going from Texas to Arizona. There are 0 border stops because it is treated as the same ‘border’. The most important thing to remember is do not pass into a non-schengen country while driving or flying (schengen > non-schengen > schengen). This is like going from Califonia > Mexico > Texas (there would be a border stop, and re-entering is where you have the issue if overstayed). You want to make sure when you leave Schengen, you are on a flight straight back to the U.S. Therefore, if they catch you leaving, you are already on your way out.

  2. Fahim | 16th Jun 17

    Hey Lyndsey hope u are doing good,
    I have write to u here before about overstaying a shengen visa by 1 month and when I was exiting from Spain I was luck on the border they don’t scun my shengen visa and no body stop me only stamp of exit date
    I have stay out of shengen almost now 7 months and I apply again for shengen visa and was lucky I get it
    My question is do you think I will have an interview or denied entry When i will be entering from paris France

    • Lindsey | 17th Jun 17

      Hi Fahim – Welcome back! I remember you, and happy to hear everything went well 😊. They have already approved your new visa, so I do not think you should have any issues returning. Usually they would deny you a new visa while it is in the processing stage. However, please be aware of the visa rules for your new visa. Do not attempt to overstay again, because you might not be as lucky the next time around. I would make sure to have your return ticket printed and ready to show the border guards if they question you. Best of luck!

  3. Lisa Skiffington | 15th Jun 17

    Hi Lindsey,
    My son has been in Italy for 3.8 years at a community for drug addiction. We did not acquire a visa as Italy frowns on outsiders taking up a spot in their health care communities, which is understandable. He has finished his program, doing fantastic, and has been accepted to a college in Firenze beginning in October. I am on my way to pick him up next week and was going to fly out of Italy and hope for the best. When he first came he flew through London, then into Bologna. Then remained in one place in Rimini for the almost 4 years. Just wondering if it would be better to fly out of Spain? Or take my chance with Italy? Also if they question us what would be the best thing to tell them? Thank you for your help.

    • Lindsey | 15th Jun 17

      Hey Lisa, thank you for stopping by and it is fantastic to hear about your son’s recovery. You didn’t mention your citizenship, but assuming you are North American, I would say they best place to fly out would be Spain in this case. I am assuming you realize that overstaying the tourist visa is very risky, and could hurt his future travel if caught. Knowing this, make sure he does not return and go to school on his tourist visa. If he tries to, they could potentially not let him back into the country because they will see he overstayed in Europe from before. If he is attending a college, they should offer student visas. If he is caught in the country on an expired visa, they could deport him. If they question him this time, there are unfortunately not many things to stay if someone has overstayed by almost 4 years. Either border control won’t say anything, or worst case – they could fine and ban him from re-entering Europe for a couple years. Although, I have heard cases where they don’t say anything on exit, but on re-entry they only give limited tourist visa stays (instead of 90 days, they give 30 days), or they could not let him re-enter.

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