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 was founded for 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! If you have a visa, you will probably enter through the Visa Information System (aka VIS), and border control guards that are good at their jobs will be on the lookout! 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.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Ashley | 12th Aug 17

    Hi Lindsey,
    I have a question regarding travel to France. I was in Paris from June 2nd-July 27th for a summer program, traveling just with my passport. I decided I wanted to stay in France and landed an au pair job. I returned back to the U.S. on July 28th and I have an appointment to get my visa on August 28th. But I realized I won’t have all the paperwork back in time for my visa appointment and I will also have to wait three weeks after the appointment to return back to France, which is complicated for a number of reasons.

    I know several au pairs who have gone to France in September, came back to the U.S. in December for a few weeks over the holidays and got their visas and then returned until December of the next year. This works because they were on their 90 day Schengen Tourist Visa, and the families just paid them their pocket money under the table, no problem. But because I was just there for 60 days and will only have been back for 30 days, my 90 days will technically be up at the end of September if I go back at the beginning of September. But I have read that if a fly through Italy or Spain I probably wouldn’t have a problem in December, and that many border control officers will only see that I entered in September and am leaving 90 days later. The thing I am most worried about is submitting my passport for my visa in December and having them add all the days up and figure out that I way overstayed my tourist visa. Can you give me any advice on this?

    Thanks,
    Ashley

    • Lindsey | 14th Aug 17

      Hey Ashley – Are you allowed to be in France while your visa is processing? Technically, you can be in Schengen for 35 more days until November 29th (That will make 180 day period, and since you already spent 55 days from June 2 – July 27th, this means you have 35 left to complete your 90/180)

      So no, you cannot stay in 100% in France or any other Schengen up until December. Schengen law = all countries you get only 90 days. Soo, you can only stay another 35 days until November 29th. Then you need to either stay 90 days out straight or re-enter on your au pair visa. The Schengen system works on a counter system – as in during a 180 days period, while you are IN Schengen (it counts) and when you leave Schengen (it pauses on that number, in your case, 35 days), until you come in again within that 180 day period. Make sense?

  2. Kristina | 10th Aug 17

    Hi again, Lindsey!
    Sorry ignore my previous comment — I think I figured it out with my University over there. I also just wanted to let you know that your blog is super helpful! It is a wealth of info when planning to live in Sweden for awhile.

    Thanks again! 🙂

    • Lindsey | 10th Aug 17

      Oh, great! What did they tell you just so I can be more helpful in the future? It is my notion you need to have the residence permit before you enter, is this what the university also said?

      • Kristin | 11th Aug 17

        Yes, and it’s a bit confusing because they seemed to have changed the process up a bit (including not being able to contact the embassies and consulates to ask for help/information regarding this issue). It turns out the migration agency notified the university that it was accepted, but the Swedish embassy in the U.S. could not offer any info on this or send a copy of the document stating that it had been approved–that is where the confusion came in! So basically an approved residence permit before leaving and an appointment to have biometrics taken after having arrived in Sweden are needed before entering the country, but the trouble is trying to find out whether or not the residence permit application was accepted before leaving!

        • Lindsey | 11th Aug 17

          I totally feel you! I live in Sweden, and they actually are really vague about everything – so I am not surprised in this situation. Usually, the resident permits can be granted in a couple weeks – a couple months. My suggestion is to get all your biometrics and applications done (I think the application is done online) and keep on them to make sure you get the information you need. Best of luck, lady!

  3. Kristin | 10th Aug 17

    Hi Lindsey,
    I’m so glad to have found your blog! I will be living in Sweden for a year and just have a question about the shengen visa. I did apply for a student residence permit and it was settled pretty quickly, but I never received any physical proof that it was approved. I do have an appointment for getting the actual visa once in Sweden. Being a U.S. citizen and not needing a visa to enter the country, I was wondering if I will be able to enter Sweden (since I’m staying over 90 days) without this proof that I’m allowed to get a visa once over there? Will my passport and university admission letter be sufficient at the time being?

    Thank you for your time!!

    • Lindsey | 10th Aug 17

      Hey Kristin! Välkommen till Sverige! 🇸🇪 What do you mean by your resident permit was “settled pretty quickly” but you don’t have physical proof it was approved? I do know that you need to have your residence permit before you enter Sweden. I suggest calling the closest Swedish consulate to you and ask what are the next steps in giving your biometrics and getting the permit into your passport.

  4. Muskan | 5th Aug 17

    I m so glad I found you. I have a question n i hope u can help me. I m a US citizen but i have overstayed in Denmark over 5 years now. in 2013 we came to Sweden n moved to Denmark, My husband had applied for political asylum in Denmark on 2013 n finally on June 20th of 2017 they have denied our case n asked us to leave. my son was born here in Denmark n i want to apply for his US passport, do u think it will be a problem to get his passport and do u think they will ask me why i have over stayed in Denmark? If i do get his passport do u think it will be a problem at the airport when i leave the county? Thank u.

    • Lindsey | 6th Aug 17

      Hey Muskan, thanks for writing in. This is indeed a very tricky situation and goes a bit beyond my knowledge of Schengen tourist visas. You should just go back to the U.S. and apply for your son’s passport there since you have no legal right to be in Denmark anymore, then this also means your son has no right to be there (since he technically only is allowed 3 months stay on a tourist visa in his U.S. passport). So really, you will be making your son overstay illegally as well if this situation is not fixed. Is the U.S. an option for you? If your husband is not a U.S. citizen, you can apply for a marriage visa so he will be allowed to come and live legally. I see this as a very serious matter by overstaying when the migration has denied your case. This can jeopardize if anyone gets sick and needs a doctor, you will not have access to healthcare if you are ‘underground.’ Also, if caught, you may be banned from all the European Union countries, so it is important to think about the future of the family. I really wish you the best of luck.

  5. | 24th Jul 17

    Hello, is Croatia part of Schengen or not? you mention that it is, but when i google it is not.
    thanks

    • Lindsey | 25th Jul 17

      Hello! Hmm, not sure where I mention this. Croatia is part of European Union, but not Schengen just yet. It is a candidate to become part of it!

  6. Mary | 24th Jul 17

    Dear Lindsay, 

    I’ve been traveling back and forth between USA and Germany for the past year July 29, 2016- July 24, 2017. I overstayed my 90 days on two occasions, the first I overstayed by 4 days (by accident, I counted the days wrong), the officials stopped me but didn’t fine me, they said I shouldn’t worried, that 4 days overstay was fine. I came in to Germany a month later and had no problems coming in, that time I overstayed by 35 days or so, and I didn’t have any problems. Then I came back into Germany two weeks later and also didn’t have any problems. But as I was leaving this last time back to USA through Switzerland (flew from there because it was cheaper), I was stopped by officials and this time I was fined 350F and the officer said I might be denied entry next time (I paid the fee in that very moment). My question is, from your knowledge what truth do you think is into that, do you think they’ll have record of my over stay and I will be banned from coming in? I have plans to come back in two weeks. And one important detail is that all my trips were made with a Latin American passport, but my next trip will be as a USA citizen, so my passport will have zero stamps. I’m a bit nervous that I will be denied entry, and furthermore I plan to apply for a student visa later this year,  but now I fear I might also be denied my visa later on. What are your thoughts, please? 

    Thank you! 

    Mary 

    • Lindsey | 24th Jul 17

      Hi Mary! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your interesting experience. There is a lot of truth to what the officer said. The fact that you were fined and payed money means that now they have record and proof of your overstay. This will follow you around for a bit. Coming in on a different passport (especially U.S) may help to slide by for sure, but do not overstay, because if they catch you and they are able to lookup if you have other passports, it could become a worse situation and lead to banning. I do know that applying for visas in the future might be more difficult, since I had a friend recently go through this for Sweden (they were from India). But you need to just stop for a moment and think about why you are coming back and forth so much on a tourist visa – as this is not typical tourist behaviour. Border guards can start to think a lot of things if they have records of you coming and going so often – illegal work, taking from their healthcare system, etc. If I were you, I’d look into long-term visas before making your next trip (like you mentioned a student or even a resident visa) that are available for you, and work on not overstaying anymore tourist visas that could potentially jeapordize your future processing of visas. Hope I could help a bit!

  7. Alien Vision | 20th Jul 17

    Hey Lindsey,
    I have put myself in the worst situation ever. I am an Indian citizen. I have been travelling to Europe with the Swiss visas since 2011. I do not work there, as its against the law, when i have a visitors visa. I’ve had 5 different visas untill now. The last one in 2015 was a 2 years multiple entry. So, I entered Switzerland in April 2016 & made an exit on 25th Jan 2017, from Switzerland. (My girlfriend is from France, so most of the time, I was in France).
    I got controlled over the immigration counter & they asked to pay the fine of 350 CHF. However, as i had not been working in europe, I cudnt pay it at that moment of time. Thought I would pay on my return. The border police were “ok” at that time. My two years visa expired on 15th June. So now, I applied for another visa, ironically from the swiss embassy. And…. yea, they said I am in the SIS!!!!!! So of course they refused my application. My girlfriend is France & all I want is to go see her. But with the SIS alert, its not easy anymore for me. I really want to pay this fine off, but is that gonna help me get outta the SIS??? Do i need to fix this with a Swiss lawyer? And…… if i apply for another country with a bussiness visa, u think that can work???
    Any kinda help from you is totally totally appreciated.
    Sammy.

    • Lindsey | 21st Jul 17

      Hey Sammy – Sorry to hear that, but we really appreciate you sharing your story since most people do not get to hear about the consequences. I suspect they put you in the SIS because you never paid the fine on the spot, which makes you an ‘outlaw’ in their eyes if you have an overdue fine. The SIS is for Schengen countries, so if you apply for a visitor’s visa in any of those countries, your name will be flagged and could end up in the same scenerio. You will need to consult with a Schengen lawyer about how to go about paying for this fine before you apply for any other visas, and what will happen to your future of travel within Europe once the fine is payed. From what I have heard, if you have a record of overstaying, especially in the SIS, the record will follow you around for a very long time.

  8. nasir | 14th Jul 17

    hi lindesy, this is very informative article thank’s.but i have some issues about visa to poland. i have permanent residence permit in belarus and i got first visit visa to poland in 2013. when i enter into poland then from poland i went to sweden i seek asylum there after convert to work permit and my work permit validity had finished beginning of 2017 . then i came back to belarus . now i am in belarus. by the way i had entry seal record from poland in old passport what i do not use now and i had exit seal record in my new passport from sweden. i want to know if apply now for polish visa again does this record will affect ? how long polish national immigration police keep entry/ exit record? almost four years passed i got the last visa from poland.

    • Lindsey | 14th Jul 17

      Hi Nasir – this seems like a more complex situation that extends beyond my knowledge. If you apply for a new Polish visa, they should have records in their system of when you last visited. Also, I believe they ask this question on the visa applications. I suggest calling the Polish embassy in Belarus to seek official information. I wish you luck!

  9. Kennedy | 6th Jul 17

    Hi Lindsey!

    Thanks so much for the information! I had a question for you. I’ll be staying in the Schengen area this fall on a Student Visa issued by Italy. I plan to fly into and out of the area via Spain. My Student Visa expires on the 17th of December but I have plans to travel until the 29th in the Schengen area.

    I understand that I’m allowed 90 days of travel time in the area due to the tourist waiver. Do I HAVE to leave the schengen area once my visa expires, then go back in to activate “tourist time”? It would really throw a wrench in my trip, not to mention be extremely expensive around christmastime.

    If it’s necessary that I exit and return to the schengen area, would it be ok to do this around a week before the visa expires? I would still be finishing up finals as a student in Italy, but from what I understand I’m allowed to study in the Schengen area as an US citizen(given that it’s under 90 days) using my tourist waiver.

    Thanks so much!

    • Lindsey | 8th Jul 17

      Hey Kennedy! So cool you get to study in Italy. You will absolutly love it. Also, I am happy to know you are seeking information and trying to understand your visa. This question is actually really tricky since there isn’t a lot of official info about it. However, I do believe that you are allowed additional tourist time after your visa expires. My advice is to contact your student abroad office and ask them the legal rules of your student visa.

  10. | 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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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