The European Commission states that EU citizens have the right to reside on the territory of another country "for up to three months without any conditions other than the requirement to hold a valid identity card or passport". Importantly, there is no requirement to register with the local authorities for a residence permit.

Unfortunately, it is not stated how you would count the period of three months or in another words when it would reset. For non-EU residents' Schengen visa, the '90 days in any given 180 days' rule is clear. However, I'm not finding any such rule for the 90-day maximum that applies to EU citizens.

A few examples: - Can a EU citizen alternate between two countries indefinitely with no conditions (e.g. stay in Schengen country A for 90 days, then 90 days in Schengen country B, rinse and repeat)? - Can a EU citizen stay 90 days in Schengen country A, move to Schengen country B for a weekend trip, then stay in Schengen country A again? How often could they do that in a given year?

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    Just a quibble, but there are EU states which require (citizen and non-citizen) residents to register their place of residence, without registering for a permit. That is, you don't ask for permission to stay, you inform the local authorities that you stay.
    – o.m.
    Jan 13, 2018 at 22:03
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    Schengen refers to elimination of internal border controls and a common visa policy for non EU-nationals. Movement of EU citizens inside the EU is not covered by Schengen, but by other directives of the European Single Market, the last codification of them being the European Ctitizens'Rigths Directive of 2004.
    – SJuan76
    Jan 14, 2018 at 1:03
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    It would be probably useful to specify which countries you're talking about. Many don't have any requirements for EU citizens, you can just move there and stay for years.
    – jcaron
    Jan 14, 2018 at 1:07
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    @ddd Schengen is about the elimination of internal border controls for everyone, including for EU citizens. The regulations concerning the crossing of external borders by EU citizens, for example, are contained in the Schengen Borders Code. This has little to say about the crossing of internal borders, whether by EU citizens or by third-country nationals.
    – phoog
    Jan 14, 2018 at 3:51

4 Answers 4


The freedom of movement rules are promulgated as a directive which means it is up to each member state to flesh them out in its own laws.

As such, it differs considerably between member states which registration requirements they impose on EU/EEA citizens -- and where they do, they don't have to use the same detailed criteria for when the registration requirement kicks in.

Importantly, individual citizens don't usually get to interpret the directive by themselves -- the national law is what the national law is, and to the extent that doesn't match the directive it is up to the European Commission to (try to) force the relevant government into compliance.

It seems very unlikely that the Commission would bother to quibble about each member state's exact rules for how to determine when a new 3-month residence period starts, unless those rules look like an attempt to circumvent the intent of the directive. All a citizen can reasonably rely on without actually researching the national law in question is that he won't have to figure out where and how to register as long as his circumstances match the usual case where he stays for no more than three months, and then leaves and doesn't return (other than under obviously "not actually living there" circumstances) for a long period of time compared to those three months.

In practice, a member state's enforcement of its registration rules will not be based on border crossings specifically, but on other kinds of case-by-case evidence that the person in question has been living in the country for so long that he needs to register.

  • A quibble here: It is true that unlike EU regulations, which have direct and immediate effect, directives must be implemented in national law. But in a line of cases starting with Francovich, the European Court of Justice has found that directives can have a direct effect against Member States, but not against private persons. So you can (in many cases) sue a Member State in court for violating an EU directive. Recent cases in this area focus on whether this also applies to state-owned companies and similar entities.
    – Guan Yang
    Jan 30, 2018 at 23:16

Yes, they can, indefinitely. However, the penalty for staying longer than three months without registering (not "90 days") must be proportional to the penalty imposed upon a country's own citizens for not registering. In particular, they cannot be deported. In most countries this is a fine; in others there's no penalty at all. There seems to be no rule about how long an absence is required to interrupt the three-month period because it's not particularly important to determine that except to defend against a penalty.

The controlling legislation is directive 2004/38/EC.


EU/EFTA countries except Switzerland

This rule is extremely flawed altogether: as Schengen countries don't record movements between them (even when internal border checks do take place, most commonly when entering Sweden or Switzerland by bus), there's no way to track someone's presence in one member state vs. another.

Furthermore, an EU/Schengen citizen cannot be deported or banned from these countries unless they pose a proven health or security risk. And even if they are, keeping a Schengen citizen out of another Schengen country will be nigh impossible in practice, again because of the largely open borders.

Thus, the actual question is moot: not only is the issue not addressed in legislation with regards to EU/EFTA citizens, but even if it were it would be virtually impossible to enforce (just as with the 90/180 rule for residence permit holders).


For EU/EFTA citizens, a residence permit must be obtained for stays longer than 90 days within 180 days. Failure to comply with this can lead to hefty fines. Again, however, entries and exits are not recorded, even when entering/exiting Schengen through a Swiss airport, and so this is hard to enforce, although I have been subject to a raid by municipal police in my apartment complex, whereby my ID card and residence permit were briefly taken for verification.

  • Border hop to Ireland or the UK, where passport checks are in place, and movements are recorded.
    – Moo
    Jan 13, 2018 at 21:23
  • @Moo: EU/EEA passports still do not get stamped in the UK or Ireland. Jan 13, 2018 at 21:24
  • @HenningMakholm no idea about Ireland, but at Heathrow you can go through electronic gates with an EU passport - care to guess those movements are not recorded...? Just because a passport isn't stamped doesn't mean the movement isn't recorded - my entry into NZ for example didn't involve a stamp in my passport, but I received a 6 month limited entry visa at the border. EU entries into the UK are almost certainly recorded the same way.
    – Moo
    Jan 13, 2018 at 21:27
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    @Moo: Even so, that doesn't immediately help the traveler prove anything after the fact, if he is challenged by a different state about his movements. Jan 13, 2018 at 21:28
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    @HenningMakholm it provides a record you could request from the relevant government.
    – Moo
    Jan 13, 2018 at 21:30

As @phoog says, yes, you can do that.

And contrary to what it seems to be at the first glance, the country you repeatedly enter may be totally fine with this: Remember that for the 90 day period in country B (unless you register) your country of residence A basically stays responsible wrt. social insurance.

E.g. if I being German with previous residence in Germany go to Italy and within the 90 day period need to go to the doctor, the German health insurance will be responsible to pay to the extent the Italian health insurance would pay if had residenza (and health insurance) there.
Of course, the German health insurance will make me pay their fees for this - and they would be in a very unpleasant category (default fee is about 800 €/month) if I didn't register correctly with the German health insurance.

In other words, not registering may turn out to be rather more expensive than registering. This is even more if I'd then start working in Italy: I'd automatically pay taxes, including health insurance. But without registering I wouldn't get the health insurance benefits from Italy, and without the form from the Italian health insurance saying I'm registered there, the German health insurance will not let me get out of that very expensive category and will go on sending bills (and if you don't pay them, they won't forget or forgive that, neither). So in case of the employment contract without registering residence, I'd pay twice.

Of course, if you move the other way round, you may get German health care for, say, the Italian taxes you still pay. Germany doesn't care as Italy has to pay for that. However, Italy may start asking questions after a while (e.g. the tax office may have a questionnaire to determine where the "center of your life" is).

  • Thanks for this post. I am so shocked however. Health insurance is 800 euros in Germany? I keep hearing people moving to Germany from EU and out of EU and spend several months seeking jobs. Do they pay it out of their own pockets until they get a job? It's crazy expensive!
    – Phil
    Jan 24, 2018 at 7:34
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    @Phil: well, there are lots of categories for the German health insurance where you pay less - but they are not easily compatible with the scenario in question. E.g. if you are employed, it is about 1/6 of the gross wage/income (nominally shared 50:50 by employee and employer, up to that maximum fee ≈ 800€). If you are registered as unemployed, health insurance is included. If you come to Germany, you can bring your own health insurance (for many visas you need to, from other EU countries that's what happens automatically). Jan 24, 2018 at 18:21
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    Otherwise, you are in the category e.g. for freelancers, with that maximum of 800 € / month being the default value. you can get reduction to 1/6 of your income by proving income below 5000 €/month (lower limit fee ≈ 400€; 155€ if you prove 0 income). However, if you cannot bring this proof (income tax declaration; single digit € interest somewhere counts as income here [whereas it doesn't for employees]) then you'll be in the 400 - 800 € category. And of course, e.g. you cannot be in foreign countries for months and be registered for social welfare or as unemployed. Jan 24, 2018 at 18:24
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    ... oh, and I forget wrt. people looking for a job: if you come from outside EU and bring your own health insurance, that may be much cheaper if are young and healthy you may get basic health insurance from ≳ 40 €/month on (for a contract duration of, say, 1 - 5 years). AFAIK this is possible because such insurances are allowed to make terms that the public health insurance is not allowed to make, e.g. age restriction, health check, higher deductibles) Jan 25, 2018 at 9:24
  • Wow thank you so much for explaining so well @cbeleites. I just have one more question simply out of curiosity. What exactly do you mean by "bring"?
    – Phil
    Jan 25, 2018 at 9:52

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