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I had an odd experience with Schengen at the Gibraltar border earlier this year and am wondering about the implications of this.

I crossed on foot from Spain into Gibraltar. I first went through Spanish exit controls, which had biometric e-gates for EU citizens. As I held a US passport, I was waved around the gates and was never stamped out of Schengen, nor did anybody note or record my passport number. It is apparently Spanish policy not to provide exit stamps here, though they may do so if you're really insistent. This was followed by a small desk used by Gibraltar immigration, who glanced at my passport but also didn't stamp it.

For my trip, I crossed back into Spain a few hours later, having enjoyed a lovely hike down the Rock and seen my fill of wild monkeys. Again, no Schengen entry stamp, and my passport number wasn't noted nor entered into any kind of computer system.

What I'm wondering though is how this would have worked had I instead flown out of Gibraltar by air. I understand that Gibraltar is not part of the CTA, so I would have had to go through UK immigration, but how would Schengen know I left? I would have Schengen entry stamps in my passport (from when I flew into Spain in the first place), but no exit stamps, as I wasn't stamped out when entering Gibraltar. Presumably, if I later turned up at a Schengen entry point, they could think I overstayed.

And similarly, what if I began my trip in the UK and flew to Gibraltar. Could I have then crossed into Spain and wound up in Schengen with no entry stamps or computerized record of my arrival?

Is this normal? Does it break the Schengen entry/exit tracking system?

  • You would have been stamped in wherever you arrived, which you could have used as evidence of your Schengen exit. – phoog Jun 27 '16 at 1:36
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    @phoog I could presumably construct an itinerary where I wouldn't end up being stamped in anywhere (say, GIB-LHR-JFK, and I don't get a US entry stamp because I have Global Entry or use one of the kiosks), but I'll grant that's somewhat a contrived situation. – Zach Lipton Jun 27 '16 at 1:43
  • True. The broader point is, however, that an exit stamp is not the only acceptable evidence of your leaving the Schengen area. If you managed to get into the US without a stamp, you could carry your boarding pass with your passport. – phoog Jun 27 '16 at 1:45
  • It's a common problem but note that the burden of proof is on you (fortunately, as @phoog explained, you can resort to other type of evidence if necessary). – Relaxed Jun 27 '16 at 6:56
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There are indeed a few 'holes' in the external Schengen border, not only at the Spanish/Gibraltar border, but also:

  • At the border of the European 'micro-states' Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City, where the micro-states are not part of the Schengen area, but there is still no permanent immigration control at the borders. For most practical purposes, this is not an issue, since there is no reasonable transport options to or from these micro-states without going by land via a Schengen country. You could however manage to enter or exit the Schengen area illegaly by e.g. using a private flight or going by boat.

  • There is no immigration control on flights between the Faeroe Islands or Greenland and the Schengen Area, although the Faeroe Islands and Greenland are not part of the Schengen area. This situation is similar to above, as you at least using public means of transport cannot enter the Faeroe Islands or Greenland without going through a Schengen Country (except for a direct flight from Edinburgh to the Faroe Islands).

  • There is only a limited immigration/id check between Svalbard and the Norwegian mainland. Svalbard is not part of the Schengen area and can be reached with regular scheduled flights from non-schengen countries. The current implementation of the check allows Norwegian citizens to pass showing a national id or driver's licence, but foreigners are required to present a passport (or ID card for EU/EFTA citizens) and undergo the regular entry/exit procedure. The implementation is AFAIK in conflict both with the Norwegian constitution and the Schengen border code. Performing an id check on Norwegian citizens, just because they are travelling within the state, violates the Norwegian constitution and the lack of proper exit controls when Norwegian citizens are leaving the Schengen area is a violation of the Schengen border code.

Unfortunately, you are as a non-EEA traveller yourself responsible to make sure that you do not run into problems because of these situations and that your passport is properly stamped when entering or exiting the Schengen area. As phoog suggested, you can of course also use other stamps in your passport, tickets or boarding passes to prove or at least make probable that you haven't overstayed.

  • Greenland stamps non-EU visitors in. There is a charming sign on the Nuuk ferry port about 200 miles from the Canadian coastline that says "Schengen border post: Welcome to Europe". (They are not actually in Schengen, but they pretend to be) – Calchas Jun 27 '16 at 13:50
  • @Calchas Which ferry port? There are currently no international ferry services to or from Greenland. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 27 '16 at 13:56
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    @TorEinarJarnbjo The harbour isn't closed to international traffic. You just have to charter your own boat. ;) Agree that ferry port is not the right word, I just meant sea port. – Calchas Jun 27 '16 at 14:00
  • @Calchas nor are they in Europe! – ajd Feb 24 '18 at 7:53
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    @JonathanReez There is an operating Spanish immigration checkpoint at the Gibraltian border and the procedure used to be that you get an entry stamp, but no exit stamp. The missing exit stamp is not due to leniency, but because of a dispute over a small part of the peninsula, which is de facto controlled by the UK. When you pass the Spanish immigration checkpoint towards Gibraltar, you are first entering this zone. From a Spanish point of view, giving you an exit stamp would acknowledge that you are leaving Spain and that the zone belongs to the UK. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Feb 24 '18 at 10:57

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