23 June 2018

Released from the Schengen Dance!

Back and forth, back and forth in Corfu Town brought me Schengen freedom!
Clearing in and out is a different set of bureaucracy in every country.  For me, a nonEU citizen and hence, limited by Schengen 90 day rule, the dilemma in Europe has been whether or not getting a stamp on my passport is a good or a bad thing.  For example, checking into Malta from Tunisia on a Sunday with disinterested officials I did not get a stamp to enter the EU.  According to some cruising lore, this is good - I could stay as long as I wanted.  But the wise are adamant that, instead, bureaucratic trouble can pop it's ugly head.  I took the naive but positive perspective.  We left Malta for Italy, Norway by plane via Netherlands and France, and Greece with nary a stamp.

I was about two weeks over my 90 day allowance we decided it was time to head to Albania and out of Schengen.

Clearing out time in Corfu, Greece in 34 degree sunshine:  Walk a couple of kms from anchorage to commercial port.  First stop, port authority where very efficient woman dressed in a spotless white uniform took multiple photocopies, asked about our engines! and sent us a hot km to immigration/passport control because of my Canadian passport - they didn't care about Peter's EU passport.

Passport control official looked through my passport for a stamp from Malta.  Voice raised and angry, "Where is your stamp?  You could have been in the EU for a year.  You are allowed 90 days only or you will get major fines."  Yikes.  We told her that Malta did not stamp.  She did not consider this a valid excuse, I am responsible for ensuring that my passport is stamped.  I told her that I had an exit stamp from Tunisia.  Don't know how this would have gone - she was now in no mood to be kind - but I decided to test a theory.

As an aside, when internet is available I have a couple of favourite FB profiles (is that what they're called) that I look at for cruising/travelling info.  Women Who Sail the Med is an excellent one, full of helpful info with no grumpy or offensive comments allowed.  Rarely do I read entire threads - some people are wordy, as you are now reading - but I happened on one thread where one woman said that as a nonEU citizen travelling with an EU spouse, she was treated as EU with respect to freedom of movement i.e. the 90 Schengen limitation did not apply.  Several women, including myself, responded in disbelieve.  (I had checked Schengen rules, asked multiple people including the Canadian government and told by all that Schengen applied to me.  The Canadian government response had been terse and clear.) A few resources were posted on the FB thread and, indeed, it seemed to be true with marriage license documentation and a copy of EU rules and, most important, an official who was aware of the rules.
Some say it's only a piece of paper but to us it's saved us from the Schengen dance.

So in Corfu, with our official on the edge of boiling, I said, "Doesn't freedom of movement apply when I am married to an EU citizen?"  She threw up her hands, not believing that I was married, and handed our documents to another official who calmly agreed, yes, with proof of marriage I could travel with Peter!!  Eureka.  Marriage certificate was on Milly.  Walk back to Milly in heat but with lighter steps.  And back to passport control where he looked at and copied marriage certificate and told me that I do not need a stamp coming into the EU or leaving EU and that I can stay as long as I want when with Peter.  Wow!!  Unbelievable revelation!!

To complete our clearing out, we had to go back to port authority (1 km), return to customs which was the office beside passport control office (1 km) and return to port authority (1 km) where another official took the same photocopies that the first one did.  Do they actually keep all these copies??
Happily joined at the hip!

We walked 12 km, sweated buckets but were elated with a new sense of freedom.  We could stay in Europe and winter anywhere.  I could even join the EU passport line.  Yet another great reason for marrying Peter!!

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