Working holiday & Schengen visa combination tips for non-EU residents

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As the unhappy German customs officer handed me my passport back and nodded his head, I* felt invincible. Trying to hold back my smile as to not draw attention, I walked on thru to another security check, I was not an illegal immigrant and my theory had paid off.

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After a considerable amount of trawling online travel forums and EU codes, I had a good feeling about my plan to over stay my one year Swedish working holiday visa by one week on the basis that my 90 day tourist visa for the Schengen would kick in – admittedly I was not 100% certain and the consequences of being wrong were great (i.e. labeled an illegal immigrant and not allowed back in the EU anytime soon).

I concluded from my research that once expired, the WHV would automatically transfer over to a Schengen tourist visa. Interpretations of the relevant EU codes suggest it is up to the visa holder to prove he/she has not over stayed said visa.

As most non-EU citizens would be aware, the Schengen tourist visa – of which several countries are granted automatically upon arrival, and monitored based on passport stamps – allows the visa holder to stay a total of 90 days in a 180 day period. I worked out the date 180 days prior to my departure, listed my travel dates and summated the total number of days spent inside the 20-something countries included in the Schengen zone. Importantly my time spent in Sweden was not included in this 90 day period as I was utilising the WHV, effectively giving me temporary residence, and as soon as I left the country the clock would start ticking down from 90. I presented this neatly in Excel ready to argue my case for hours.

I approached the customs desk with my excel calculation loaded on my phone and handed him my passport and my expired Swedish residency card. He pointed out it was expired and I had no exit stamp prior to the expiry date. I calmly showed him my excel and explained I am now on a Schengen tourist visa. He wasn’t happy, pointed out it was expired again, I explained the Schengen visa calculation again. He mumbled. My heart raced. I was ready to talk this out hours, half expecting him to palm me off to another colleague who would take me away to a holding cell. The line behind was growing long. He checked my Australian drivers license. Looked at me, back to my ID’s then handed them back nodded his head. It worked! Merry fucking Christmas. Ecstatic, I walked thru another security check, joking with the guards trying to contain the adrenaline pumping thru my veins.

I justified these actions to myself as I was leaving the EU and not planning on using the entire Schengen 90 day limit (of which I had less than a month remaining) and after a year in Sweden/EU the extra week was much needed for goodbyes and packing. Had I planned on staying longer than a week and using the rest of my Schengen tourist visa I would have done what was the overall recommendation on the virtual street and flown to London or the Balkans for a weekend to get stamped in and out of the EU before my WHV expired.

While the combining of WHV with a Schengen tourist visa is somewhat of a grey area and results may vary on the personality of the customs officer and yourself. As no explanation was provided by the customs officer I can only assume I was correct in my assumptions. However, over staying your 90 day Schengen visa – or any other visa, even by a couple of hours – is a define no no and best case scenario you will miss your flight and it will cost you another flight ticket, worst case you may be fined, marked as an illegal immigrant and future travel plans will be complicated.

Note: this article and all characters are fictional and any resemblance to real events are purely coincidental.

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