Many tourists visiting the Schengen Zone find the 90-day limit within a six-month period enough for their trip. But as their visa’s end date gets close, some think about staying longer than allowed. If you’re considering overstaying your visa in Italy or any part of Europe, it’s important to know what could happen. This is key information for non-EU tourists thinking about extending their stay past the legal limit.

Overstays Are Always Noticed

At each airport and land border check every European state of the Schengen area meticulously monitors all entries and exits. While you might not receive a physical stamp in your passport upon entering, every arrival and departure is electronically documented in a shared Schengen database. Should you remain even a single day beyond your permitted stay, this overstay will be documented and possibly punished. Each country has the authority to handle overstays at their discretion.

Italy’s Specific Rules

In Italy, overstaying is considered a criminal offense. Fines for overstaying range from €5,000 to €10,000 as stated in Article 10 bis section 1 of the Italian Aliens Act (Decreto Legislativo of 25 July 1998, no. 286).

Leniency upon exit

Italy offers a leniency to tourists found to have overstayed at the moment of their departure at border controls. It means that the Italian authorities will not apply at the border checks when you are leaving the country. Article 10 bis provides:

1. Unless the fact constitutes a more serious crime, the foreigner who enters or remains in the territory of the State, in violation of the provisions of this consolidated Aliens Act, is punished with a fine of between 5,000 and 10,000 euro.

2. The provisions referred to in paragraph 1 do not apply to the foreigner rejected at the border upon entry pursuant to article 10, paragraph 1 or to the foreigner identified during border police checks, leaving the national territory.

What Happens If Caught Overstaying Inside Italy?

If you’re caught overstaying by police inside Italy (not at border checks), the authority will have to handle the situation as a criminal offence. In practice, they will first identify you by your passport and then start a prosecution process for misdemeanor which may end with giving you the fine.

What happens if you fail to show your passport to the Italian police?

Non-EU nationals who refuse to show their passport face the consequences of a criminal offense. The law provides punishment such as arrest and a fine up to €2000. In fact, if you don’t show your passport for a very valid reason (e.g. it was stolen), the police can detain you for up to 48 hours while they confirm your identity. After this, a process will start and you might get the fine or even a year in jail, depending on your situation, according to Article 6 section 3 of the Italian Aliens Act.

Other European Countries

Not every country in the Schengen Zone is like Italy. Some might punish overstayers at exit checks and even limit your future return to Europe with a re-entry ban. So you may consider that the leniency approach may not apply if you decide to exit the Schengen zone from Frankfurt airport in Germany, for example. According to Paragraph 95 Section 1 no. 2 of the German Aliens Residence Law (Aufenthaltsgesetz), the consequences can include imprisonment and fines, with no special exceptions for tourists at border checks. German law leaves some room for the authority to handle overstays at their discretion, so they may be lenient with very short overstays.

Simple Advice

The key takeaway is that overstaying your welcome in Italy or any part of the Schengen Zone can lead to serious consequences. Always be aware of the duration of your stay and make sure to leave before your visa or allowed stay period expires. Learn here how the Schengen rule 90/180 applies to you. If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve overstayed, it’s wise to seek legal advice to understand your options and minimize the impact on your future travels.

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