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I have a 2 year Schengen business visa from Germany. This week, I am leaving for the EU on a 3-week trip, with meetings in Germany, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Unfortunately, my last week of meetings are still getting planned, so I have not yet booked the return flight out of the EU, since I don't know yet whether it'll be most convenient to fly out of Munich or Brussels or Berlin.

Is this lack of a return-trip ticket likely to be a problem when I enter the EU? My entry is through Amsterdam by air.

Just curious what the rules are on this. Is it mandatory to hold a return ticket at the time of entry?

Of course i could buy a flex ticket and cancel it etc but that's expensive / adds unnecessary effort.

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3 Answers 3

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Is it mandatory to hold a return ticket at time of entry?

No. There is no actual requirement to have a firm plan to leave the Schengen area when you enter. It is necessary, however, to be able to convince the passport inspector that you will leave before you run out of days under the 90/180 rule (and under the terms of your visa, if it is further limited to fewer than 90 days, which shouldn't be the case with a 2-year visa). Since this is a business trip, the officer is less likely to be worried about your ability to afford an air ticket at short notice (though this probably also depends on whether your employer is a well known, well established company).

As long as you have a credible plan to arrange your departure, the officer should admit you. The problem, then, is whether you can convince the officer that your plan is credible, and that is difficult to predict (and not what you asked about, so I'll avoid further speculation).

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In case it helps anyone: the immigration officer didn't even ask.

On the other hand the check in agent of the airline gave me huge amount of trouble.

To expand on my answer: on recent trips I have had this ironic experience that the EU immigration agents rarely ask me any questions and just let me through HOWEVER the check in agents are getting increasingly obnoxious and intrusive about immigration related questions.

This time the agent first tried to tell me that a return ticket was a must. When I insisted the desk manager came in and an intrusive and rude inquisition followed about where I lived, what I do, why I was traveling to Europe and such.

The questions included skepticism about why I was entering via Amsterdam although my visa was issued by Germany. Also wanted to know all my hotel bookings. Again I only had them for the first week of my 3 week trip.

Eventually though they let me through. I am almost so pissed that I considered whether to lodge a protest with the airline or the EU authorities.

But i guess they will say the airline is within its rights to deny boarding to who it will?

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    Timatic (the database used by airlines to determine required paperwork) says “Visitors not holding return/onward tickets or sufficient funds to purchase a ticket, could be refused entry”. This is only a warning and not a requirement like the rest of the entry. And it specifically allows for “sufficient funds to purchase a ticket”.
    – jcaron
    Mar 22 at 0:24
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    I'd be curious to know more about what happened at check-in. What did the agent say, and how did you convince the agent to check you in?
    – phoog
    Mar 22 at 19:53
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    @phoog I was also denied kiosk check-in and asked to present a return ticket at counter (holding a visa-waiver passport) with BA a couple years ago just before pandemic. I was holding a Schengen residence permit so once I presented that there were no further questions, but if I didn't I probably would've also needed to do some convincing (so I'm also curious about the answer to your second question).
    – xngtng
    Mar 22 at 20:15
  • Sometimes if you are denied entry the airline is responsible for flying you home. If you have a return ticket they can reschedule that flight so they are still paid for the return trip, but without a return ticket and if you are unable to pay yourself they will be footing the bill. So the financial liability could explain why the gate agents are behaving more strictly than the border officers themselves.
    – IronSean
    Apr 5 at 20:45
  • @ironsean: but if i am flying in to Amsterdam on Transavia and have a return trip booked 3 weeks later from Salzburg on Austrian how is that going to help in any way with flying me back in case of a denied entry? Apr 6 at 20:50
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What Immigration is looking for is if you are a rootless vagabond, likely to find things hospitable in this country and want to stay indefinitely.

Consider the case of a 22 year old college graduate, still living with parents, no job, house, wife or other home ties, many online friends in the country they're visiting, not a lot of money, and from Moldova which is doing much worse than the EU economically. The officer is going to ask "why would this person return to Moldova at the end of their claimed visit?" That person helps their case by having a non-refundable return ticket in their itinerary.

For you, having a job, home ties, house, wife and kids pretty much makes the case that you have a reason to go back.

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  • True, but see OP's answer about the check-in agent.
    – phoog
    Mar 22 at 19:55

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