Myth Busting - European Schengen Visas

22 December 2010 By John Leonida

Let's bust a few myths about the European Schengen Visa.

Fact: The Schengen visa is meant to make it easier for people to move around the European member states for the purposes of business and tourism.

Fact: It is not legal to work in the European Union on a Schengen visa. If you are visiting the countries of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Holland, Norway, Portugal, Spain or Sweden by all means take a Schengen visa.

A Schengen visa is issued by any of the embassies of these countries and if you get the Schengen visa, the holder is allowed to move freely in all of these countries but a Schengen visa is not the correct piece of paper to hold if you are going to stay in a Schengen country for more than three months, start working or set up a business.

If you are a non-EU national, you have got to decide what country you are going to work in. You must apply for a work permit and deal with all that entails. Now, as a result of getting a work permit for a particular state you would normally get the Schengen visa, but that does not allow you to necessarily work elsewhere in the European Union. The difficulty for crew is that often they will claim they do not have a home port, but where crew do have a land-based apartment or the yacht has a shore side office\ will be your place of "residence." That is the place for which crew will need a normal residence visa/work permit.

If truly the only place that you lay your hat is on board the yacht, there is a real risk that by working on the yacht in territorial waters of the European Union country – be it France, Italy, Greece and so on – you will be working illegally. Therefore if your yacht is boarded by border control officers, you will struggle to justify why you are working in EU waters if you do not have a residence visa/work permit for a named country.

One further spin on this, it could be said that if you have a residence visa/work permit for, say France, arguably you cannot work in Italian waters or for that matter the waters of any other EU state. There is no work permit equivalent of the European Schengen Visa.

John Leonida is a Partner at Clyde & Co LLP, superyacht specialists.