Staying in Schengen Zone: the 90/180-day rule explained

Staying in Schengen Zone: the 90/180-day rule explained
Reading time: 6 minutes
Published: 25th August 2022, 4:02pm
Updated: 5th September 2022, 3:13pm

When travelling to the Schengen area, there are some rules that a traveller needs to respect if they want to keep a lawful visit. One of the most important regulations is the 90/180-day limitation. Even though the rule is tricky to understand, it is not very difficult to calculate if your travel details accomplish all the Schengen rules.

Schengen zone - passport page.

Why does this affect Portugal?

Since 25 June 1991, Portugal and Spain are part of the Schengen Zone, together with other 25 countries. The agreement allows the free movement of EU citizens from tourism trips, to work and live in another EU country without special formalities. 

It is important to understand that the European Union and the Schengen Area are not the same thing and can occur when a country is part of one and not of the other. While the EU is a political union of 27 member states within the same economic equivalence and market, the Schengen Zone intends to cancel border controls within the zone of 26 associated countries.

The European Union embrace 27 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

The Schengen Area includes 26 countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Schengen 90/180-day rule explained

When travelling to the Schengen area the traveller needs to pay attention to the 90/180-day rule. This regulation co-exists alongside a set of conventions created to control the external borders and verify the legal status of those who enter the Schengen area for a short time that goes up to a maximum of 90 days, within a period of 180 days.

Zone of Schengen arrivals.
In other words, the 90/180-day rule sets that you can stay in any part of the Schengen Zone for a maximum time of 90 days. 

The clock starts counting on the day you first enter Schengen territory, or so one of those 26 countries. In this way, for example, if you fly to Lisbon (Portugal), the 90 days will start as soon as you arrive at the Lisbon International Airport. This staying counting will be going on until the end of the 180 days period. 

So, if you arrive in Lisbon on January 1st and decide to stay for a consecutive 90 days, you will have to leave the Schengen Zone by March 31st. But if you do not aim to stay in Portugal for those 90 days in a row, you could also go back to your country and come back again to Portugal as much as you want, between the period of January 1st and June 29th (180 days) and just spend a short amount of time on each visit. You can do this as long as the total of days you stayed in Portugal is up to a maximum of 90 days.

After your 90 day stay in a Schengen Zone country, you will need to wait another 90 days out. This period of 90 days that you need to wait until you come back to the Schengen Zone just starts to count one day after the end of the 180 days, which in our previous example is on June 29th. 

Even though you had left Portugal before the end of the 180 days, the new period of 90 days that you have to wait outside Schengen will just start to count at the end of the 180 days. So, as our example states that your 180 days will end on June 29th, you cannot come back to any Schengen Zone country (without a legal Residence Permission) until at least September 28th, when you will complete the period of 90 days out of the zone. 

Obtain a Portuguese Visa through the Golden Visa Programme

Colourful riverside of Porto.
If you wish to stay in Portugal for more than 90 days, you should consider applying for a visa that will give you Residence Permission. One of the easiest and most profitable ways is through the Portuguese Golden Visa Programme.

All third-country citizens who conduct an investment activity, as an individual business person or through a company set up in Portugal or in another EU Member State and who also are stably settled in Portugal, provided these citizens fulfil the quantitative requirements and the time requirements set out by the relevant legislation, may apply for a Residence Permit for Investment.

This programme is also extended to your family members, including your spouse, as well as your children (as long as they are younger than 18 at the time of application, or enrolled in studies and supported by you). In certain circumstances, you can even bring your parents and/or in-laws, as long as you can demonstrate that you are supporting them.

Portuguese Golden Visa Programme is one of the most popular residency-by-investment programmes both in Europe and the world, because of its relatively affordable property prices (one of the lowest of all EU capitals). Adding to this, Portugal is a safe country to live in, with an affordable quality of life, and excellent health care. That is no question that the Schengen 90/180-day rule is necessary to keep European borders safe. But it would be way better to skip this rule by having your own residence permission and be able to go back whenever you find it necessary.

Invest now through Portugal Golden Visa - you can still apply for the visa programme.

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