I am going to be an au pair and will not qualify for a work visa, and do not want to pay for 15 hours of classes to qualify as a student. Does Spain have any rules for "onward travel" where I would need to show proof of when I am leaving the country? I plan on staying for at least 9 months, but do not want to fly out of Spain because I will be visiting friends in northern Europe afterwards. I want to travel by train into France so I won't have a flight booked for then either. It will be a long time before I know what day I fly back to the USA so I prefer to book a one-way flight. I have been looking into this for a while but can't seem to get a concrete answer on what will happen when I show up with a one-way flight.

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    This is not an answer to your question about flights, but since you are from US you can only stay in EU Schengen Area (includes Spain and most of Western/Northern Europe) for 90 days. According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_in_the_European_Union "for pleasure or for business without the need to apply for a visa for a maximum of 90 days in a 180 day period." This means you cannot stay in Spain for 9 months as you planned without a proper visa. Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 18:50
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    You're planning to be illegal immigrant and work illegally? You want advice? Come legally or don't come at all. You're risking getting deported and banned from entering Europe.
    – vartec
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 13:34
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    Have you investigated whether there are special rules to cover au pairs? It's a common enough situation that I find it hard to believe all the au pairs in Europe are illegal. Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 13:23

5 Answers 5


Buy the cheapest one-way ticket out of the country. Show this as proof of your onward travel. Then forget about it; you don't need to use it.

For example, you can get Madrid to London for 15 euros on RyanAir.com. For 15 euros, you can have peace of mind. Better safe than sorry.

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    You could also buy a fully flexible/refundable one way ticket onwards, then get a refund on it once you're there.
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 17:50
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    Train and bus tickets also usually work for such purposes I've been told but I've never had to use one. Commented Aug 27, 2011 at 18:27
  • Although a train or bus ticket might work I think a plane ticket is the safest. Even though it doesn't really make any sense I've seen a case where a passenger with an onward bus ticket country was denied boarding and had to buy an onward plane ticket on the spot.
    – user27478
    Commented Sep 2, 2011 at 13:15
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    As long as being illegal immigrant and tax criminal can be considered "at peace of mind".
    – vartec
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 11:00
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    @vartec - you still need to leave the country/region before your visa expires. It's just that you don't have to know that date in advance--whether it's one week or one month in the future. Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 1:33

In my experience, you're not going to have any problems. They can technically ask for proof of onward travel, proof of adequate funds, and proof of housing. In reality, they'll (in all likelihood) see that you're American and (maybe) ask how long you're staying. There aren't really concrete answers because there seems to be a discrepancy between the law and the reality. I flew in the Schengen area fairly extensively, and I never had any trouble at customs.

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    Did you fly into the Schengen area on a one-way ticket? It's possible the immigration officer already knows that you have a round-trip ticket out of the country and that's why you weren't questioned. Personally, I have been hassled upon entering Europe on a one-way ticket. I've seen it happen in the USA before too. I think in these cases officers could see there was no onward travel which triggered the flag for questioning.
    – user27478
    Commented Aug 28, 2011 at 8:28
  • Technically, they can't demand proof of onward travel, having the means to return to your country of residence is all that's required.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 21:38

I've done this several times now for several countries - entering it without a return ticket.

(To be fair, every time I've been to Spain I've had a return ticket, but they'd be similar to any other EU country.)

Countries that I've done it ve not always asked, but have always been satisfied with:

  • an onward plane journey (eg I arrived to the USA by plane from Colombia, and then had another ticket on to Germany) - doesn't have to be return
  • an onward bus journey (I used to book buses from Seattle to Vancouver, as that's pretty cheap - often less than $10 with Bolt Bus, but still reasonable with Greyhound
  • if that wasn't available, a train ticket

I've also heard of evidence of accommodation being booked in another city being enough - for example, you may be planning on going from Buffalo to Toronto (Canada) via local transport, or by car, so showing a car rental if you have it, or your hotel booked in Toronto and an explanation of how you 'plan' to be there is plenty.

However, nothing says you HAVE to stick to those plans, and as long as you don't overstay your visa, don't break the law and always have an exit ticket of some form (even if it changes), there should be no problem.


Spain is part of the Schengen area so going to France or Northern Europe is not a problem. To the extent that documenting onward travel is relevant, you would need a ticket to a destination outside of the Schengen area (possibly departing from another country) and not merely outside Spain. Therefore, a ticket from Spain to Sweden would not help at all but a ticket from Sweden to the UK would be perfectly fine so your wish to leave from Northern Europe isn't an issue.

That said, you need a reasonable plan and justifiable purpose for the trip and can be asked about it at the border. Since you can't stay for nine months as a visitor in the Schengen area, your actual plan (being an au-pair for 9 months) would not satisfy this requirement. At the very least, you would need to lie about that, with all the risk and consequences. If the border guards suspect what you are up to, you would presumably be denied entry and would have to return to the US immediately.

Now, formally, actually having a ticket is not required at all. You merely need to show you have the financial means to acquire one. Having a one-way ticket could however invite further scrutiny and increase the risk of being exposed.


Netherlands, UK, Turkey, Mexico, Spain, Iceland, Peru since October 2014. Sometimes I had an exit ticket, sometimes I didn't. No one ever asked. Sometimes they asked how long I planned to stay, sometimes they didn't.

  • UK did give me a hard time about having funds to live on, but finally accepted my word that my bank account wasn't empty.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 22:11

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