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I am an Australian who has spent the last 85 days in the Schengen zone. Of those 85 days, 70 were in Switzerland and 15 were in Germany.

Today I got a working holiday visa in Germany under the youth mobility program, granting me 1 year in Germany as well as 90/180 days outside of Germany in other Schengen states.

My question is, if I were to travel to Switzerland tomorrow, for how many days could I legally stay there before having to return to Germany? I've found conflicting information online and have arrived at three different conclusions:

  1. 5 days, since I've spent the last 85 days in the Schengen zone and thus have 5 left out of my 90/180 quota

  2. 20 days, since my working holiday visa grants me 90 days outside of Germany per every 180 and I've only spent 70 outside Germany so far

  3. 90 days, since apparently a change of visa status "resets the counter"

Which of those conclusions is correct?

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My reading of the Schengen codes is that (1) is correct.

The second conclusion is clearly incorrect as the restriction is expressed in the Schengen Borders Code thus (from Article 6, section 2):

Periods of stay authorised under a residence permit or a long-stay visa shall not be taken into account in the calculation of the duration of stay on the territory of the Member States.

There's no way anyone could interpret the 15 days you've already spent in Germany as having been authorized under the visa or permit you received today.

The third conclusion is also nowhere to be found in the code itself.

The most reasonable interpretation of the quoted text is that any days you spend in Germany during the validity of your permit are excluded from the calculation, and this leads to the first conclusion.

One might argue that the phrase "periods of stay authorised under a residence permit or a long-stay visa" includes time spent in Schengen countries other than the one issuing the visa, but this leads to a result that is clearly not intended by the text of the code, namely that a residence permit from one Schengen country allows its bearer to spend the entire period of its validity in another Schengen country. This leads to the conclusion that the phrase only denotes periods of stay in the issuing country. I don't know whether any court has ruled on this question, however.

Because there is no systematic enforcement of the 90/180 rule for people with long-stay visas or residence permits, you're unlikely to have any trouble if you spend more than 5 days in other Schengen countries. Most likely, problems would arise only if you fall afoul of the police for some reason.

  • The first sentence states that conclusion (1) is correct while the rest of the answer seems to justify that conclusion (2) is correct. This answer also references 70 days in Germany while OP references 70 days in Switzerland. – Jacob Horbulyk Jun 1 '18 at 6:05
  • The Germany/Switzerland confusion was probably just a little mistake; if you swap "70" with "15" then it still makes sense. If we assume that getting a visa does not reset the 90/180 counter, that removes (3) from possibilities. If we assume the 15 days already spent in Germany do not fall under the german WH-visa, that removes (2) from the possibilities too. Why @Jacob do you think the answer supports (2)? I am struggling to see that. Thanks for the feedback though! Appreciated. – houlahaj Jun 1 '18 at 10:58
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    @JacobHorbulyk thanks for catching the incorrect number of days. The point is that any days in Germany before the validity of the permit count in the 90/180 calculation (as do the days spent in Switzerland, of course). Therefore, the number of days available to spend in Switzerland is 5. This ignores the possible off-by-one error, though: if the "last 85 days" includes May 30, and the permit was received on May 30, and houlahaj spends all of May 30 in Germany and/or non-Schengen territory, then the number of days available would be six. – phoog Jun 1 '18 at 14:30

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