How can I get out of the EU without attracting attention to my visa status?
January 31, 2011 2:47 AM   Subscribe

I've overstayed my tourist visa in Europe and need to know the best airport to fly out of.

I'm an American who has been living in Europe for several years but I've never bothered to get a visa. I've always just travelled on the implied 3-month tourist visa. Now I need to fly back to the States (to apply for a French visa) and I am afraid I'll get called out on my status (embarrassing at best, catastrophic at worst).

I have heard (and experienced first hand) that Frankfurt is a bad for calling out people who have overstayed tourist visas. I also got a harry eyeball from customs at Schipol a couple of years ago when I flew back to the States from there.

This sounds like a ridiculous question when I actually say it: Does anyone know of a very lax international airport in the EU for out-going customs?
posted by pandabearjohnson to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've had bad experiences leaving from Zurich.

Probably best off flying out from one of the newer, central European cities; Warsaw or Budapest for example. I haven't had any problems flying out of Warsaw.
posted by mammary16 at 4:27 AM on January 31, 2011

Spain has a reputation for being lax about this, but I have no hard information about whether the reputation is deserved.
posted by sesquipedalian at 4:35 AM on January 31, 2011

Geneva has always been easy. At least for the couple of times I've flown out of there.
posted by dfriedman at 4:50 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got called out in Berlin. Technically, for about twenty minutes, I was 'arrested' (I only realized this later when my wife explained it to me). Typical for German burocracy - very thorough. Thus I would heartily recommend you avoid Germany. I have heard Italy and Greece are very lax though I have nothing to back that up but heresay.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:08 AM on January 31, 2011

Can you travel by train, ferry, or coach to a non-Schengen country and fly out from there?
posted by elsietheeel at 5:08 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is probably obvious, but I'd avoid Paris CDG. I just came through there last week and there was some kind of security thing going on and the customs dude was giving me a great big hairy eyeball.
posted by ukdanae at 5:15 AM on January 31, 2011

I flew in and out of Barcelona (and Madrid to a lesser extent) constantly for 7-8 years on a US passport and in total defiance of normal visa stays, and never got so much as a funny look.
posted by elizardbits at 5:43 AM on January 31, 2011

To the question: flying from Nice (France) is VERY lax. There are direct flights to the US from it.

Tangent to the question: you do realize that your time spent in Europe without a visa can and very probably will be held against you for your French visa application? They'll be looking at your passport stamps even more closely than any airport border control. (IANAIL - not an immigration lawyer, just have gone through innumerable visa, residency, and most recently, citizenship hoops in France.)
posted by fraula at 6:10 AM on January 31, 2011

Southern Europe.

From personal experience, flying out of Lisbon, Madrid, Rome has always been less trouble immigration-wise than flying out of Germany, Paris or London.

London is the worst. I always get cross-examined when entering or departing Heathrow.
posted by vacapinta at 6:11 AM on January 31, 2011

add-on (sorry I forgot to put it in my previous comment): your 3-month tourist visa is not automatically renewed if you go from one EU country to another. It's only good for 3 months, within any number of EU countries. Then you have to leave the EU (making sure your passport is stamped as such), then come back in (getting another passport stamp).
posted by fraula at 6:12 AM on January 31, 2011

I had zero problems flying out of Rome, after flagrantly and joyously overstaying my European travel visa for years.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:17 AM on January 31, 2011

@fraula - Yes, that thought is weighing on me now. My only hope is that there are precious few French stamps in my passport as we normally come in and out through Amsterdam. That said, the last in-stamp is glaringly over two years old!

My wife already has her carte de sejour and my kids were born in France, any idea if that will help or hurt my case?
posted by pandabearjohnson at 6:26 AM on January 31, 2011

Y'know, for all that I hate flying into/out of Madrid and Lisbon for their very... cavalier... attitude about Customs and things like "standing in line," I would recommend either for exactly these reasons.
posted by sonika at 6:33 AM on January 31, 2011

Is there any reason that if the issue is not having enough stamps in your passport, that you could "lose" your passport and get a replacement that would be too new to have any stamps in it?
posted by ShooBoo at 7:23 AM on January 31, 2011

Can you travel by train, ferry, or coach to a non-Schengen country and fly out from there?

I did this over the summer, both by train and by coach, and each time we came to a border crossing, we had to disembark and go through customs before entering each non-Schengen country.
posted by HotPatatta at 7:44 AM on January 31, 2011

Is there any reason that if the issue is not having enough stamps in your passport, that you could "lose" your passport and get a replacement that would be too new to have any stamps in it?

They do scan passports too, you know. Most of the time.
posted by wingless_angel at 7:58 AM on January 31, 2011

The most Schengen visa-related issues I had was at Brussels - Charleroi. That was coming into the country; not sure how tough they are on those departing the EU.

I was questioned after overstaying my Carte de Sejour in Montpellier (southern France) but even though I was about 6 months overdue they let me leave and come back in. I agree that the south may be a better bet.
posted by amicamentis at 8:19 AM on January 31, 2011

If the stamps are a huge concern, you could always 'lose' your passport and get a new one. I recently got a French Visa in a brand-new passport; it's not like they're going to say "no, you have to show us your previous passport too."
posted by xueexueg at 8:36 AM on January 31, 2011

I'm not sure the physical stamps are as big an issue than having an airport security worker scanning the OP's passport and noting that the OP entered the EU on a tourist visa two years ago and has not been 'checked out' of the EU since then. A new passport wouldn't negate the OP's travel history record.
posted by amicamentis at 10:04 AM on January 31, 2011

I can confirm that Frankfurt is NOT the way to go...I was given a hard time several years ago for overstaying a visa even though I had all the paperwork showing that it was the French government who was delaying the entire process.
posted by richmondparker at 1:44 PM on January 31, 2011

I lived in the czech republic for 6 months and they barely glanced at my passport at the airport on my way out. No one said anything about it during my layover at cdg either. Newark mentioned something briefly, but I wasn't concerned (what were they going to do, send me back to prague?)
posted by Betty_effn_White at 12:27 AM on February 1, 2011

I ended up flying Nice-Madrid-Miami thus doing passport control in Madrid. On the way out the immigration official could hardly stop talking to her co-worker long enough to get my passport open to stamp it. On the way back in two weeks later the immigration official hastily stamped my passport so carelessly that he managed to get the stamp square in the middle of the page. My passport was not scanned electronically either time.

So, in short, Madrid is a great place to enter and exit the EU. And its a nice airport to boot.
posted by pandabearjohnson at 7:47 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

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