Can I spend as long as I like in Europe each year once I retire?
Not really is the simple answer if you want to stay in a Schengen country.
See the map below of the 26 European countries that make up the Schengen block of countries that have a rule that overseas visitors not part of the EU Schengen block can only stay for 90 days in total within a 6 month period.
On the day you first enter any country within the Schengen zone, you start a 180 day “period”, within which you can stay a maximum of 90 days in all Schengen countries. After you have racked up your 90 days (in one go, or in several chunks if you leave to non-Schengen countries & come back), you can’t enter any Schengen country again until your 180 period ends.
This means that you cannot merely take a trip to say Russia for a short time and then expect to come back in to an EU country for another 90 days. Schengen’s system calculates the number of days you spent in the Schengen area over a 180 day period.
Though of course, visiting Russia or England or Morocco for example whilst on your overseas holiday will not be part of the calculation as they are not Schengen countries.
Note that having a British passport does not help – you are still only allowed to stay in Schengen countries for a maximum 90 days within a 180 days period.
The fines for overstaying can be huge – ie: depending on the country fining you it can be 500 – 1200 euros pp and you might even be DEPORTED which is stamped in your passport and you are not allowed back in to that country or perhaps all Schengen countries for 1-3 years. So do not stay longer than 90 days!
Plan your trip.
If you want to potter around France for example and immerse yourself and learn the language for 12 months then you can if you apply for a Long Stay Visitors Visa in the country you want to stay in. Not an easy process of course. They need lots of documentation and proof of funds, place of residence etc etc.
Another option is to look into visa waiver agreements between your country and the the individual Schengen countries.
When you have your itinerary worked out, write to the relevant embassies in your capital city and as concisely as possible spell out your plans for how long you plan to remain in their country as well as elsewhere within the Schengen Area and carry a hard copy of their response with you – you’re probably going to need it if you can prove your country has a bilateral visa waiver agreement.
For Australians, you have bilateral visa waiver agreements with the following countries:
These agreements are separate to the Schengen Agreement which came in to being many years later. This means that you may be eligible to stay 60-90 days in these countries below without affecting your Schengen 90 day in 180 days stay in other countries after or before holidaying in these countries below.
- Netherlands – 90 days – http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/treaties/1951/4.html
- Belgium – 60 days – http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/treaties/1951/6.html
- Scandinavia – 90 days (Includes Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark & Iceland
- Germany – 90 days – http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/treaties/1953/1.html
- Italy – 90 days – http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/treaties/1951/5.html
- Luxembourg – 60 days- http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/treaties/1951/7.html
- Austria – 90 days – http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/treaties/1956/8.html
In correspondence received from DFAT they suggested that you contact the Embassies of the individual countries listed above to determine their currency and validity.