I'll be traveling from Amsterdam to Brussels by train (Thalys) later this month and was wondering if there is any kind of passport or immigration process at the border or once I arrive in Brussels. I'll definitely have my passport of course (US citizen), just wanted to know what to expect. Thanks for any information!
No, there is no passport or immigration checks.
What roubrat said is true of just about every border crossing in the EU. The only time I’ve ever had to show my passport was when I was traveling from Germany to Copenhagen, for some strange reason. But that is uncommon.
Great, thanks for the info!
As the Netherlands and Belgium are EU members within the Schengen zone there will be no passport or immigration proces crossing the border. Nevertheless there is an identification obligation in general.
Thanks - I just wasn't sure as a non EU-member citizen if there was any formality when crossing the border by train. Train travel is definitely a lot simpler than flying!
Even before Schengen, when there were still immigrations checks at internal EU borders there were never passport checks before boarding the train. International trains also serve domestic passengers, and you cannot really separate them. So the way it was done then is that the train would stop somewhere before the border, immigration and customs officers would board, and they would check people on the train while the train was crossing, and then got off after the borders.
All international trains from Amsterdam to Brussels (and beyond) would stop in Roosendaal (on the Dutch side) and Essen (on the Belgian side) especially for this.
Maybe I look suspicious 😊, but I’ve had to show my passport recently on multiple occasions when crossing borders in the Schengen zone: From Basel, Switzerland into Germany (2021); from Salzburg, Austria into Germany (2022); and from Lugano, Switzerland into Italy (2023).
The first time was a little intimidating because we weren’t expecting it as everyone always says, “oh no, you won’t have to show your passport.” And we thought they were checking tickets, so we handed over our tickets and a photocopy of our passports. (We had been using the photocopy as identification with our Swiss Travel Pass in Switzerland, so were in the habit of showing it with tickets while on the train.) The border control agents wanted to see our actual passports which luckily we had because I knew to ignore the advice to “leave it in the hotel safe.”
My point is, make sure you always have your passport handy because you might just need it.
The point of the Schengen treaty is that there are no regular passport checks between countries. There might still be spot checks though, and the borders are still international borders so you are required by law to have a passport with you when you're crossing them if you are a noneuropean.
Good to know, Carrie--and I I must look suspicious too--I am frequently selected for additional screening at the airport! Will make sure to have passports easily available in case there are any spot checks on our journey.
“ There might still be spot checks though, and the borders are still international borders so you are required by law to have a passport with you when you're crossing them if you are a noneuropean.”
Not just non-Europeans, Europeans too. Also how would the border police even know you’re not European without first asking for your passport?
In the Netherlands and in Belgium, and probably other countries too, everyone older than 14 years old should be able to identify themselves when a police officer asks them to. Not just at the border, but also in other instances.
I’ve had to show my passport recently on multiple occasions when crossing borders in the Schengen zone: From Basel, Switzerland into Germany (2021); from Salzburg, Austria into Germany (2022);
Those were during the Pandemic crisis right? There were dramatically different travel restrictions and border controls were indeed in place.
Spot checks do indeed take place, but on the train, and near the border. You can't do this at the original departure station, as international trains also take domestic passengers.
Last April flying from Athens to Stockholm there was a full passport inspection upon arrival into Stockholm. Took me by surprise. It was the toughest grilling I had ever had in Schengen. Ten minutes of questioning and I had to show proof of my flight out of Schengen.
A few days later I flew to Helsinki and the only thing I had to show upon arrival was proof of Covid vaccination.
A few years ago taking the train from Innsbruck to Venice.....border guards entered the train just before we left Austria. Four people in my compartment and the police wanted to see passports. The guy ahead of me had a German passport and it was scrutinized. The two other people were traveling together with a Middle East passport and they had their passport scrutinized. My turn, I held it out, he looked at the cover (USA passport) smiled and waved it off without taking it.
I have learned to now have my passport ready whenever crossing a border. Even within Schengen.