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Does transit through Germany’s neighbours affect Brexit 90-day rule?

A border control at Hamburg airport.
A border control at Hamburg airport. Photo: dpa | Christian Charisius
Some British readers of The Local are concerned they may appear to have overstayed their 90 days in Schengen if they transit through another European country on their way back to Germany. Should they be careful?

Brits who live near the border to countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland are used to flying into international airports like Zurich or Amsterdam before travelling on to their homes in Germany by car or train.

Previously this would have never posed a problem. But since the UK left the EU at the beginning of the year, Brits with permanent residence status have to obey new rules.

They are only allowed to spend a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period in the Schengen area outside of the country they are resident in.

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Some readers have raised concerns that transiting through a third country, despite only taking up a few hours of the day, could count towards this time limit. Or alternatively, a stamp on the passport upon entry in another European country could make it look like you’ve spent much more time there than a couple of hours of transit.

However – luckily – there doesn’t appear to be much cause for concern here. People who can prove their status under the Withdrawal Agreement – i.e. by showing their Aufenthaltsdokument-GB at the border – shouldn’t usually have their passport stamped at any external Schengen border.

A spokesman for Zurich police told The Local it was “highly unlikely” that police at Zurich airport would stamp your passport if you show your residency card.

In the unlikely case that immigration authorities challenge you over such a stamp, you could also show the train ticket from the airport to the border as proof that you only spent a brief period in the third country.

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?

In terms of whether the few hours in transit count towards the overall 90 days, this also seems to be unlikely. The spokesman for Zurich police told the Local that he didn’t think that the couple of hours that someone spent travelling from the German border to Zurich airport would count as part of this time, although he was unable to give a definitive answer.

Because border police generally shouldn’t stamp your passports when you arrive in the Schengen area if you can present your residency document, this means in practice that there is no physical record in your passport of how much time you have spent in a specific Schengen-area country. Once in the Schengen area, you will not face border controls when travelling from country to country.

READ ALSO: Passport stamps: What British residents in the EU need to know when crossing borders


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