I'm non EU-citizen, living in Belgium. I've have positive decision from the Belgian authorities granting a residence permit to stay in the country, but I haven't yet received the actual card.

Is it possible to cross internal EU borders (from Belgium to Italy) by car/bus with only my passport and a letter proving that residence permission has been approved?

I no longer have a valid Schengen visa.

  • 2
    How does your paper "prove" that you have a positive decision? The physical card has mechanisms to prevent forgery or alteration. The letter could be copied by anyone.
    – o.m.
    Dec 20, 2016 at 17:04
  • @o.m. nice one! In addition to the security features on the card itself. And yeah forgery is rampant. Please promote your comment into an answer, thanks
    – Gayot Fow
    Dec 20, 2016 at 17:13
  • AFAIK, this is the point of the EU region but the refugee crisis might have changed that. Last time in Europe, which was before the influx of refugee, we moved freely between EU countries.
    – Itai
    Dec 20, 2016 at 18:13
  • @Itai the absence of systematic border controls does not mean that it's okay to travel from one country to another without any documents. It just means that travelers are far less likely to be caught if they don't have the required documents.
    – phoog
    Dec 20, 2016 at 20:07
  • border control != checks at the border Dec 27, 2016 at 17:54

2 Answers 2


A letter indicating a positive decision is not a travel document. Letters lack the security features of the actual card, they may be retained if a card has been revoked, etc.

The Schengen Area agreed to an absence of systematic border controls, but that does not mean everybody is allowed to pass without documents. People who receive e.g. a D national visa are trusted to abide by the 90/180 rule even if they are not likely to be caught, abusing that trust is a bad idea.

  • I suspect you might be correct in this case but the reasoning is shaky. A residence permit isn't a travel document either, the question is whether it's enough to exempt the holder from any visa requirement together with a travel document (which the passport most certainly is).
    – Relaxed
    Dec 20, 2016 at 22:21
  • Now, it's a slightly different context because it's about external borders but the Schengen Borders code actually includes a definition of a residence permit that's much broader than what you seem to believe, as it also covers “all other documents issued by a Member State to third-country nationals authorising a stay on its territory that have been the subject of a notification and subsequent publication in accordance with Article 39 […]”, i.e. not only those that are in the common format (even if the intent is obviously to move towards that) or have specific security features.
    – Relaxed
    Dec 20, 2016 at 22:23

No, you are not allowed to travel between Schengen countries. However, you are very unlikely to get caught if travelling by plane, since no border checks take place. Within Schengen, except for Ryanair, most airlines only check that you're the person on the ticket, and furthermore, if travelling on a full-service airline such as Brussels airlines or Alitalia and you check in online and only travel with hand luggage, chances are you will never have to show your passport at all.

As for travelling by car or especially by bus, I strongly recommend you not to. Buses are likely to travel via Switzerland, which does border checks fairly often at major land crossings such as at St-Louis (where the bus is likely to cross). Once they see you don't have the documents to enter Switzerland, you'll be thrown off the bus, and since they share a building with the French border police at St-Louis, you would likely garner the attention to the French. You could then be in big trouble.

If you choose to travel by car, avoid Switzerland, for the same reason.

Like I said, you are not allowed to travel to other Schengen countries without the actual residence permit card, but in practice it is possible, especially by air on a full-service airline (or at least not Ryanair)

An approval letter for a residence permit is useless by the way, you need the actual card. A letter can be retained even if the approval is revoked, and as such proves nothing. While in the case of a border check the authorities should contact the Belgian authorities to clear things up, in my experience they do not normally bother to, instead summarily denying the person entry.

  • Not OP's situation, but this doesn't appear to be the case in France. I've had to go through border control before and after flights to UK, US, Italy (should have been schengen) in the past few months and I've had to show my residence permit every time. I suspect it has to do with the state of emergency in France, but still. OP, did you get a récépissé / receipt of submission for your residence permit? Here, this would count as a provisional residence permit for 3 months and you could travel with it. Check to see if that's the case for you. Dec 27, 2016 at 19:48
  • @lafemmecosmique Curious, what Italian airport was this at, and where did you fly from?
    – Crazydre
    Dec 30, 2016 at 15:33
  • CDG --> Fiumicino. To clarify, I didn't have border control in IT, but there was exit control in France, which I thought was very strange. And I did have to go through French border control when flying back FCO --> CDG. If I didn't have my passport and only had my residence permit, I'd have had some trouble. @Crazydre Jan 1, 2017 at 17:18
  • 1
    @lafemmecosmique France is a Special case. They've got permission to re-introduce internal border checks at ALL ports of entry, although I don't if it's always being done (it isn't when going by train to bus from Switzerland). It's currently the only Schengen country currently performing internal border checks at airports (others, such as Switzerland, commonly do entry checks at land borders, but not airports)
    – Crazydre
    Jan 1, 2017 at 20:27

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