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Brexit: How Brits can properly plan their 90 out of 180 days in Italy and the Schengen zone

British second home owners and other UK nationals who aren’t residents in Italy now have to plan their time carefully due to the '90-day rule' for non-EU nationals. Here's how to do it successfully.

Brexit: How Brits can properly plan their 90 out of 180 days in Italy and the Schengen zone

What are the new rules?

As you may know, since the start of 2021 non-resident Brits now face new restrictions on the length of time they can spend within the Schengen area, which includes Italy.

The rule, which applies to all residents of non-EU or Schengen zone countries, says that people who are not resident can only spend 90 days out of every 180 in the bloc.

The Schengen zone is a group of 26 European countries (of which 22 are EU states) which have agreed to allow passport-free travel between their mutual borders. This includes Italy.

Map: European Travel Information & Authorization System

As the rule now applies to British nationals (who are not resident in a Schengen country), it’s become an important consideration particularly for people with second homes in Italy, and anyone else who usually splits their time between two or more countries for any reason.

How do I calculate my 90 days – and what exactly counts as a ‘day’?

“The 180-day reference period is not fixed,” as the European Commission explains, “it is a moving window, based on the approach of looking backwards”.

That means taking a calendar and highlighting all the time spent in Italy and other Schengen countries already over the past 180 days.

The date of entry is considered the first day of stay in the Schengen territory and the date of exit is considered the last day of stay in the Schengen territory.

This means you start counting on the date you arrive in Italy (or the Schengen zone), rather than on the first full day in the country. Your entry and exit days may count as either full days or half days spent in the country, depending on timing.

This site has a full explanation of how the 90-day rule works, as well as a calculator to allow you to work out your visits.

If police or border officials ever question how long you’ve been in the EU or Schengen zone, this will be how they calculate if you’ve overstayed or not. 

A few things to note are;

  • The Schengen rule doesn’t work with the calendar year – it’s always a case of counting back 180 days.
  • The rule allows for 90 days in every 180, so in total in the course of a year you can spend 180 days in Italy, just not all in one go
  • The rule applies to the whole of the Schengen zone, so if you spend a whole three months in Italy you can’t then go for a week in Paris within the same 180 day period
  • Any time spent in Italy or the Schengen area authorised under a residence permit or a long-stay visa are not taken into account in the calculation of the duration of the 90-day visa-free stay.

Photo: AFP

Will I have to spend three months away from Italy?

Whatever your preferences or calculations for your time spent in Italy and other Schengen countries, once the 90 in 180 day-period is over, you will have to spend 90 days outside of the Schengen zone. 

As the website puts it, “an absence for an uninterrupted period of 90 days allows for a new stay for up to 90 days”.  

Plan ahead to make sure this absence from the Schengen area doesn’t fall at a time when you want to be in Italy. 

However, remember that you are always counting back the last 180 days, so if you have not exhausted the 90-day limit over the past six months, you will not have to leave the Schengen area until that’s the case. 

READER QUESTION: Can Brits stay more than 90 days in the EU if they have a European spouse?

When that happens, know that 90 full days outside of the Schengen area and Italy will give you a new period of 90 days.

This means that if you start your 90-day period during the summer in Italy, it will mean that the six-month window will end in winter, and you won’t be able to enter the Schengen zone for the next three months.

For many Brits in this situation it will mean spending the coldest, darkest and wettest months of the year back in ‘Blighty’, which is often exactly what they don’t want.

In order to enjoy warmer winters in Italy and mild summers in the UK, try to avoid starting your 180-day Schengen window in summer and wait instead until at least October or November to enjoy three months of winter sunshine for the following six months.

Can you split your time in Italy into several trips?

Over a period of 180 days, you can spend four three-week holidays (22.5 days each) in Italy, and alternate it with three-week periods in the UK or outside the Schengen Area.

You can also break the three months you have available into six-week periods. For example, if you arrive at the beginning of November in Italy, spend six weeks there till the middle of December, then return to the UK to spend Christmas and New Year in the UK,then go back to Italy in the middle of January until the end of February.

Explained: What Brits need to know about visas for Italy after Brexit

The UK’s Covid-19 travel restrictions and testing requirements mean this isn’t as affordable or practical at the moment, but in normal times there are countless low-cost airlines operating between both countries to make it a feasible option. 

This way you’ll be able to spread out your time in Italy over a six-month period. 

It’s worth highlighting that time spent in other Schengen countries counts towards the total number of days, so factor this in if you’re planning on travelling around Europe. 

If you have to leave Italy but you don’t want to return to the UK, there’s also the option of spending some time in other countries outside of the Schengen area. 

What happens if you overstay?

Needless to say, overstaying your time in Italy is not a good idea. There is no clear mention in Italian government sources regarding fines, deportations or travel bans from the Schengen area for overstayers, but the likelihood of there being a record of this is high. 

If you are caught over-staying your allocated 90 days you can end up with an ‘overstay’ flag on your passport which can make it difficult to enter any other country, not just Italy, and is likely to make any future attempts at getting visas or residency a lot more difficult.

Is there a way I can stay in Italy longer than 90 days?

After the end of the Brexit transition period, British citizens now require a long-stay visa in order to legally spend more than 90 days in 180 in Italy.

Requirements and fees vary depending on the type of visa you need to apply for.

Here is a quick overview of the types of visa available for non-residents hoping to spend more than 90 days in Italy.

For more details about the process of applying for a long-stay visa, see the Italian Interior Ministry’s website or the EU immigration portal.

If you really want to spend long periods in Italy you may look at taking up Italian residency.

This is more than simply declaring that you live in Italy. To become resident you will need to apply for a residency permit, or permesso di soggiorno – which means you’ll pay tax in Italy and comes with its own conditions: find more information on those here.

See The Local’s Brexit section for more updates.

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For members


Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

People who have more than one citizenship often hold multiple passports, so what does this mean for crossing borders? Here's what you should know.

Passports: What are the post-Brexit rules for dual-nationals travelling in Europe?

For many readers of The Local, gaining citizenship of the country where they live helps them to feel more settled – but there are also travel benefits, including avoiding the long ‘non EU’ queue when coming back into the Schengen zone.

But this week the problems associated with travelling while holding dual citizenship came to light, leaving many people wondering what they should know when they are entering different countries.

Put simply – which passport should you use? And do you have to carry both with you?

Financial Times journalist Chris Giles tweeted that the UK Border Force “detained” his dual-national daughter while she was travelling from France into the UK with her German passport – and not her British one. 

He went on to say that UK border guards released his daughter. According to Giles, the border staff said she should have had both passports with her “and asked why she was travelling on her German one”.

The rules on dual-nationality have not changed, but now that the UK is not in the EU, there are strict rules on non-Brits who enter the country (and vice-versa) which has made it trickier for travel.

For instance, UK nationals receive a stamp in their passport when entering Schengen member states because they are only allowed to stay up to 90 days within an 180 period (unless they have a visa or residency card).

READ ALSO: Brexit: EU asks border police not to stamp passports of British residents 

People coming from the EU to the UK can generally visit as a tourist for up to six months without a visa – but are not allowed to carry out any work while there.

So which passport should you show?

The first thing to be aware of is there are no specific rules on travelling with more than one passport. 

Travellers can choose to use whichever passport they prefer when going to a country. 

But one thing to note is that it’s worth using the passport that is best suited to your destination when travelling there. Each country has its own set of immigration and visa rules that you’ll need to research closely.

It could be that one passport is better suited for your trip – and you may be able to avoid visa requirements.  

READ ALSO: How powerful is the German passport?

In the case of the UK, many people are still getting to grips with the different rules that apply because it’s not in the EU anymore.

A question submitted to the Secretary of State for the Home Department in September 2021 provided some insight into this issue. 

The question from Labour’s Paul Blomfield asked what steps the UK government “is taking to enable dual UK and EU citizens to travel to the UK on an EU member state passport without having to further prove their UK citizenship?”

The Conservatives Kevin Foster said: “Border Force Officers examine all arriving passengers to establish whether they are British citizens, whether they require leave to enter or if they are exempt from immigration control.

“Where the passenger claims to be British, but does not hold any evidence of British citizenship, the officer will conduct all relevant checks to satisfy themselves the passenger is British.

Border control at Hamburg airport.

Border control at Hamburg airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

“When dual nationals who are eligible to use e-gates travel to the UK, they will enter via the e-gates without being examined by an immigration officer.

“We recommend all dual nationals, including EU citizens, travel on their British passport or with evidence or their British citizenship to minimise any potential delay at the border or when commencing their journey.”

The Local contacted the UK Home Office to ask if there was any official advice. 

A spokesman said: “An individual can present whichever passport they desire to enter the UK, however they will be subject to the entry requirements associated with the nationality of the passport they present.”

They said anyone who is looking for more information should check out guidance on entering the UK and on dual nationality.

In short, if you present a German passport on entry to the UK you will be treated the same as any other German citizen – which can include being quizzed about your reasons for visiting the UK – as border guards have no way of knowing that you are a dual-national. 

Do I have to carry both passports?

There’s no rule requiring you to have both passports, but you won’t get the benefits of a British passport (entry into the UK without questions) if you don’t show it.

Likewise if you are a French-British dual national and you enter France on your UK passport, you will need to use the non-EU queue and may have your passport stamped.

Should I think about anything else?

An important thing to remember is that if you apply for a visa and register your passport details, the same passport has to be used to enter the country. 

It could also make sense to travel with both passports, just in case. 

However, note that some countries – like the US – require that US nationals use a US passport to enter and leave the States even if they are dual nationals. 

In general, it’s best to use the same passport you entered a country with to depart.

The rules and systems are different depending on the country. But many countries require people to show their passport when leaving – and they will either stamp or scan the passport – this is how authorities know that a foreign visitor hasn’t overstayed their time in the country. 

So if your passport is checked as you leave the UK, you should show the one you arrived with, just to ensure there is a record of you arriving and leaving.

However as you enter France/Germany/other EU destination, you can show your EU passport in order to maximise the travel benefits of freedom of movement.