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What is the difference between a Schengen Visa and the Tourist Visa Issued at the arrival airport?

I am curious if there is a difference between a Schengen Vias (that is issued prior to leaving on a trip) and the Tourist Visa granted at the airport immigration desk upon arrival (when flying to and staying in the Schengen Countries)?

Extra information -- I am a US Citizen. Flying from the USA to France.

I look forward to your replies. Thanks!

Posted by
18679 posts

"a Schengen Vias (that is issued prior to leaving on a trip)"

I think the visa granted at the airport immigration desk IS the Schengen visa, Everytime I go, I just go to the desk when I arrive and get a temporary visa. I've never had one issued before leaving on a trip.

Posted by
3466 posts

Yikes! I can't believe that anyone who frequents this forum could not know what a Schengen visa is and how it is different from a regular tourist visa. In brief, as a US citizen, you are automatically granted permission to be in the Schengen zone for a total 0f 90 days in any 180 day period. The rules tend to be very strictly enforced. A Schengen visa allows you to stay longer, but you generally need some purpose, like work or study. Obtaining one takes a fair amount of pre-departure time and loads of documentation. Basically, the member countries want proof that you will not become a burden on their social services. Therefore, you have to present documentation of your financial resources and what they consider to be adequate health insurance coverage.

For more details, you can do a search on this site. It's been discussed endlessly.

Posted by
17966 posts

A Visa other than a tourist visa can allow longer stays for certain reasons: education, business, etc. Then you have to jump through the required hoops. Tourist Visa is implied with your US Passport allowing you to stay for up to 90 days in any 180 day period. No paper work to deal with.

Posted by
31819 posts


If you're only going to France as a tourist for a period of 90 days in a 180 day period, the stamp on your Passport when you enter the Schengen zone IS your "Schengen Visa". That's the only "tourist visa issued at the arrival airport" (AFAIK) and it's not issued prior to leaving on the trip. If you're planning on staying longer than 90 days as a student or for employment, the situation will be different.

As a tourist, it's very simple - board the plane and fly to Europe, have your Passport stamped when you arrive and again when you leave, and et voilà.

Posted by
8618 posts

I don't know of any visas being issued at the airport in European/Schengen countries. They're pretty strict on making you get your visa ahead of time, just as the United States is (if you're a traveler needing a visa, that is).

A US citizen traveling to France for a tourist visit of less than 90 days doesn't need a visa.

Posted by
14763 posts

Ditto to the above: if you are traveling on a U.S. passport, and don't intend to stay longer than the 90 allowable days out of 180, you don't need anything but that passport to enter the Schengen. A return ticket, however, is helpful as proof of when you're planning to return to the States.

Posted by
30290 posts

There is a chance that a couple of terms are getting mixed up here.

There are millions of people traveling worldwide every year and there are many many different rules in different countries who wish to control people crossing their borders, and often different rules for different nationalities crossing the same border, and different rules for people of the same nationality but in different circumstances,

At its root, a "Visa" is a permission given to an individual by a country to cross a border into that country. Sometimes it is a stamp in a passport, sometimes it is a piece of paper attached to a passport, sometimes it is a piece of paper not attached to a passport with or without a stamp in the passport. It always comes with conditions and rules.

A tourist visa, for example, can be to enter Turkey. $20 US and you are in (I think it is 20). No application needed for many western country citizens, just pay your money and enjoy your vacation.

Or, it could be what is required to enter Russia. Lots of paperwork, lots of money, lots of restrictions.

Or if you are a US Citizen, going to Canada or Mexico, you get verbal permission from the dude or dudette at the border or airport upon presentation of either your passport or the little plastic card issued with your passport. No fuss, no muss, just long lines. I remember when all you had to do was show your driving license, no passport to go in and out of Canada from the US.

Europe is a different kettle of fish. Many of the European countries, but by no means all, have banded together to sign the Schengen Treaty which allows free movement across member states borders, with no more hassle than driving from Alabama into Georgia, or Colorado into New Mexico.

There is a border around all these member states, and anybody requiring entry from any non-Schengen country needs permission. The required permission can be in one of at least 3 different basic ways.

For citizens of the non-Schengen European Union or EEA such as the UK or Norway, we need to have our passports checked when we enter the Schengen area and then have EU and EEA right to remain and work.

For citizens of certain countries such as the US and Canada it depends if the intention is to work or remain a long time or not. For stays within the Schengen area of not more than 90 days in any 180 days (cumulative for all Schengen countries visited or transited) where no work or settlement is undertaken or contemplated, those citizens may enter under a strictly enforced Schengen Visa waiver program where all that is required are the usual entry and exit immigration stamps. That's not stamps for going between Schengen member states but in and out of the Schengen area.

If a citizen of the US or Canada wishes to enter the Schengen area to work, to settle, to stay longer than 90 in 180, or various other conditions they need to get a specific visa - which varies by circumstance - from either the first country they will enter or where they will spend the majority of their time, and the Schengen visa waiver program will not apply.

For citizens of other countries they either qualify under the Schengen visa waiver program, or need a Schengen visa from their port of entry, or need a different visa, depending on their citizenship, origination point or other criteria.

I hope that clarifies it - a little.

I neither work for the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, nor am I a lawyer; nor do I play any of the above on TV.

Posted by
31819 posts

I agree, an excellent and articulate answer from Nigel, who may not be a Lawyer but certainly covered the information well.

Posted by
2216 posts

Well done, Nigel. I have often found forum discussions of the Schengen zone, it's definition and rules, visas, stamps, etc., confusing. I think you have done a great job of clarifying the different terms, at least for me. Thank you.

Posted by
22585 posts

A better question now is, Does Michael now understand? I thought his original question appeared very confused as to terms. For a very simple question, we can make very complicated.

Posted by
13033 posts

Let me add to the list of people congratulating Nigel especially some of the advice given prior to his post is wrong.

A Schengen visa is required of people who wish to visit the Schengen area but are not from a visa waved country such as the U.S., Canada and Australia. Technically, citizens from these countries, the visa waved ones, don't need a visa to visit Schengen and the stamp they receive is not a visa but just an entry stamp to let them know when you arrived (and the immigration officers when you leave.). Whether you are from a visa waver country or need a Schengen visa, you get 90 days out of 180.

If you wish to stay longer than 90 days, an extended visa is needed. "Schengen" doesn't issue this. It must be gotten from a specific country within Schengen. Technically, you don't get extra days in Schengen but extra days in that one country. However, with open borders, there is no way to prove you spent more than 90 days in any of the other countries besides the one in which you have a visa.

Schengen does not have an extended stay tourist visa. (That was taken directly from the France visa page for Australians.)

For some light reading:

Posted by
9 posts

First, thank you for all the feedback given so far.

Second, I know what a Schengen Visa is. In fact, I got one back in 2007 for a trip I took to Europe (in my case it is a paper sticker attached to my passport). I originally though I needed one because I wanted to stay in Europe for longer for 90 days as a TOURIST. So, I visited the French Consulate in Los Angeles, CA, and they issued it to me right there on the spot [VISA ETATS SCHENGEN, Type of Visa – C, Number of Entries – MULTI, Duration of Stay – 90 Days, Remarks – NON-Professional].

But, after receiving this visa from the French Consulate, it occurred to me that it did nothing more than give me the same 90 day privilege of visiting Europe than a stamp at the airport would have given me.

I am traveling to Europe again and would like to stay in Europe for 270 days (9 months). That is why I posted the question. Based on my my research I might be able to do this and just move (via Automobile) between the Schengen States (first 3 months) and Great Britian (middle 3 months) and back to the Schengen States (final 3 months). Once again, all travel will be via Automobile.

[My prior research -]

So, is there any value to the TOURIST Schengen Visa (which seems to be good for only 90 days) over getting the visa stamp (in the airport) at the country of arrival? I think not but it is still a little vague...

Thanks for your feedback.

Posted by
8618 posts

Michael --You did NOT receive a "visa stamp at the airport." the authorities stamped your passport with a stamp noting that you had entered on such a such a date. EUROPEAN COUNTRIES DO NOT ISSUE VISAS AT THE AIRPORT.

You need to look more carefully at the Schengen rules. Basically, you can go without a visa for 90 days out of an 180 days.

It sounds like you applied badly the last time -- I certainly don't know why you would apply for a 90-day visa, when that's already the number of days you can stay (as a US citizen tourist) without a visa.

If you want to stay longer than that, you need to apply to one of the individual Schengen member states (such as France) for a visa that will allow you to do that.

Posted by
9363 posts

I think Michael applied for the visa in 2007 thinking it would allow him more than 90 days, but it didn't. To reiterate, you don't get a "visa stamp" at the airport. There is no visa needed for a US citizen to enter European countries. If you wish to stay longer than 90 days, you will have to shuttle back and forth between Schengen area and non-Schengen area to make it work. You can come and go whenever you want. But once you reach a total of 90 days in the Schengen area, you must leave the area for 90 days (or until some of your earliest days drop off your 180 period). You can't stay in for 90 days, leave for a few to reset the clock, and then come back for another 90. And it's on you to keep track of the number of days in so you don't run over 90 total.

Posted by
3865 posts

You say you are doing all your travel via automobile. Did you give up on the camper van thing?

Are you planning to rent a vehicle (left hand drive) for -90 days on the Continent, then a different one (right hand drive) for +90 days in Great Britain, then go back to the Continent for -90 days and rent a third vehicle (left hand drive)?

If you plan to use the same vehicle, camper van or automobile, for the entire trip, do you already know if you can find a rental agency in France that will let you do that? Have you compared the costs of a ferry with those for using the Eurotunnel option to get to England and back with that vehicle? I'm assuming that you wouldn't have any issues with driving a right hand drive vehicle in Great Britain, and that you can drive a stick shift or have the money to pay for automatic if not.

However you decide to do this, I'd love to hear what your decision is and how it works out. I don't recall anyone ever planning to use a vehicle for such a long trip with a major logistical change in the middle.

Posted by
9 posts

Hey Lo:

Just for 'briefness' I used the word “automobile.” It is still my intention to travel via Camper-Van around Europe for 270 days… or longer if possible. I am starting in the USA and using Sea-Bridge to ship my US registered Camper-Van (2015 RAM Promaster) over to Antwerp where I will begin my European travels.

Sea-Bridge specializes in shipping European Camper-Vans to the US and US Camper-Vans to Europe. They have already provided me with information on two Insurance Agencies that can handle any requirements for insuring my vehicle.

As for the cost of Eurotunnel vs Ferry… I took the Eurotunnel back in 2007 when I was traveling via motorcycle and it was so boring. Fast but boring. Also, the news has indicated that the Eurotunnel is currently facing some difficulties because of illegal immigrants sneaking on the train and through the tunnel that I think regardless of the cost I will be taking the Ferry this time. But I will determine this when I am closer to needing transportation for myself and my Camper-Van over to the UK.

As for driving on the opposite side of the road. Should not be a problem – I think it is just a confidence issue. I have done some driving in the Bahamas and they drive on the left side of the road; and, the rental car was left hand drive. You adjust quickly.

If you are interested in following my (and my wife's) little adventures, you can view them at

(Quick note – the website is getting a major overhaul. So at the moment not everything is in working order. It is just a site for family and friends but feel free to look around.)

Have a great day!