European Exit Stamps

Article 15 November 2021 Experience: Immigration

Following Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, British passport holders travelling in and out of EU countries are now subject to the entry conditions of the Schengen Border Code and require their passports to be stamped upon entry and exit into Europe. This means that the Schengen visit limit also applies for British nationals, limiting time spent in Europe to 90 days out of every 180.

In recent weeks, there has been a rising trend of border officials forgetting to administer exit stamps, as British travellers leave European countries and return to the UK.

The absence of such exit stamp can make it difficult for when passengers try to re-enter Europe again. No exit stamp from a previous trip can make it look as though British tourists have overstayed the permitted 90 days in every 180 days. There is no digital system that keeps a record of travellers’ journeys, and the onus is on passengers to maintain up to date stamps to prove that they remain within the 90-day allowance.

Indeed, a British tourist was recently denied entry into Spain because a missing passport stamp from a previous stay made it seem as though she had stayed in Spain beyond the 90 day limit.

If you have recently returned from Europe without receiving an exit stamp, there are some alternative forms of evidence that you may be able to provide to border control to prove when you last exited a European country. For example:

  • Your day 2 COVID-19 test taken upon on return to the UK from Europe;
  • Boarding passes confirming flight details; or
  • Bank statements which evidence transactions taking place in the UK during the period in which you returned.

Looking forward

This somewhat old-fashioned stamp scheme is soon to be replaced with the EU’s new Entry/Exit System (‘EES’), which is due to become operational by 2022. The EES will digitally register entry and exit data for third-country nationals travelling into Member States, meaning that British tourists will no longer have to keep their own record of travel in and out of Europe.

However, until this scheme is introduced it is vital that British tourists get their passports stamps and maintain an accurate record of their time spent in Europe. If you have any questions in regards to this article, please contact either of the authors, your usual Withers contact, or email our enquiries inbox (enquiries.uk@withersworldwide.com).

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