Schengen Shuffle – Yachts In Transit

This is our experience of being a non-EU resident (Australian)and wanting to sail in the Mediterranean longer than the typical 90 days in 180 that applies to most third country nationals.

The Schengen shuffle will be familiar to most. As your stay approaches 90 days you have to high tail it to Montenegro, Albania or Tunisia and wait out 90 days before returning to the EU. Croatia used to be an option but they have now joined the Schengen region.

The prupose of this article is to explain our experience staying long term in the EU/Mediterranean and our understanding of the IMO Convention for the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL) which enables crew on foreign yachts to stay longer than what their visa would normally allow. The relevant part is section 3 on page 16. We detail our experience starting in the section on Malta. Even though this convention is suposed to be applied by all IMO member states (i.e. all EU countries) it seems that in practice this is more so in the Western Meditteranean and less in the East.

Note that the experience we detail below applies to us as non-EU, third country nationals with a non-EU flagged boat. You need to be aware that the rules for people and boats are different. For example, as people with Australian passports we can stay in most EU countries for 90 out of a rolling 180 days without needing to apply for a visa. Our boat on the other hand, which is non-EU flagged, can stay up to 18 months before it would have to be imported and be subject to VAT.

Croatia

We stayed in Croatia for 12 months prior to them joining the Shcengen zone simply by applying for temporary residency. We had to prove we had sufficient funds (income or money in the bank) to cover our stay and take out local health insurance. The process was simple enough and we loved our time in Croatia. It’s given us our best sailing in the Mediterranean so far.

Montenegro

We passed thorugh Montenegro on the way to Turkey and so didn’t explore options for staying beyond our automatic 90 day visa.

Albania

We passed thorugh Albania on the way to Turkey and so didn’t explore options for staying beyond our automatic 90 day visa.

Greece

We passed thorugh Greece twice. Once on the way to Turkey and once on our way from Turey to Malta. So we didn’t explore options for staying beyond our automatic 90 day visa.

Our understanding is that Greece honours the IMO FAL. However, reports are that it is hit and miss and depends on who you speak to at the time.

Turkey

We were able to get 12 months temporary residency in Turkey. However, not long after we arrived there were reports that many applications were being denied.

Italy

We passed thorugh Italy on the way to Malta and so didn’t explore options for staying beyond our automatic 90 day visa.

Our understanding is that Italy may honour the IMO FAL convention. However, reports are that it is hit and miss and depends on who you speak to at the time.

When we left Italy we asked them to stamp our passports out of Italy. They asked us our destiation. Even though we were headed to Tunisia they wouldn’t stamp the passport since we would be going via Malta (still in the EU).

Malta

We first arrived in Malta with the Schengen clock still ticking and only 12 days left but needing to stay for at least one month before heading to Tunisia for the start of our marina contract there. On arrival at Gozo we radioed the Mgarr marina and they gave us a temporary berth for free while we were processed thorugh immigration and customs.

The immigration police at Gozo were extremely helpful in finding a solution for us. After some investigation they reported that Malta honours the IMO Convention for the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL) which enables crew on foreign yachts to stay longer than what their visa would normally allow.

All they needed was a crew list and to sight the usual paperwork including our passports. In our case they stamped our passport out of Malta. Even though we had physically just arrived in Malta, in effect, we were transitioning to being a yacht in transit. Otherwise, our passports would not have been stamped at all.

The two conditions were that it was only applicable to crew, not passengers, and we would have to leave before the end of 12 months after which we could return and repeat. If we needed to sleep on land we have to have our passport stamped in to Malta and stamped out when we returned to the boat. If we needed to catch a plane we would have to have our passport stamped in so that we could be stamped out at the airport. We have done this, leaving the boat in a marina. When we returned by plane we were stmaped in at the airport. The next day we went to immigration so that we could be stamped out and return to the boat. So only 1 or 2 Schengen days. This also reset the 12 month yacht in transit clock.

We have stayed both at anchor and in a marina well beyond our normal 90 in 180 Schengen days without any issues. We have also parked the boat and flown in and out of the country by plane, again without issues.

We don’t know if Malta will continue to honour the IMO convention but we have been through the process a number of times now with no issues. We have been thtough the same process at the immigration office in Msida. We prefer to stick with the smaller office on Gozo where they know our faces.

Our concern with relying on the IMO convention as we sail West was that we may be asked to prove that we are crew. So, we secured seaman’s books via an agent we know in Greece. The books are issued from St Kitts & Nevis but there are other options such as Burundi. This can then be used for identification in the same way as a passport but negates the need for having the passport stamped. The cost was 650 Euro for each book.

Our understanding is that it’s extremely difficult to get a marina berth in the Summer. If you’re happy at anchor there are places to go even when it’s crowded in the most popular bays.

In Winter, we were able to stay at Manoel Island yacht Marina. Kalkara Marina only had space on the hard stand. Both of these marinas are affected by the NE swell. We have had reports that Creek Marina is very well protected from swell.

If we were to stay in Malta for another Winter we wouldn’t bother with a marina. Staying at anchor and moving between Paradise Bay and Mellieha would be fine. In fact, we were at anchor in Paradise Bay when Hurricane Daniel came through in November 2023.

Tunisia

We had planned to stay in Tunisia for 6-12 months. After spending some time there we decided to We have been told treturn to Malta. We were told that we could stay for 6 months and then return after leaving for 24 hours.

Sicily

We departed from Malta after visting immigration and having our crew list cleared for departure.
On arival in Sicily (Fanignana) we went to the Coast Guard to get a Consituto for our non-EU boat. They checked our crew list and said we did not need to visit when leaving Italy if we were going to another EU country.

Sardinia

We went to the Coast Guard at port di Foxi to hand in our Constituto. Three officals had big discussions about us for an hour. It appeared they were looking up IMO documents and calling other ports we had been. They asked us if we were a commercial vessel of any type. I said no, pleasure only. They said no problem. After more discussions between themselves they sent us on our way.

Spain

We arrived in Mallorca and proceeded to Customs in Palma the next day. A very helpful lady said there was nothing for us to do in terms of formalites. The only thing we needed to make sure of was that we had a declaration from our first EU port stating when our 18 month temporary EU import began and will end. We must take the boat out of the EU within 18 months and have proof that weve touched land in a non-EU port in order for the 18 month clock to be reset when we return to the EU.

video
play-rounded-fill
video
play-rounded-fill
video
play-rounded-fill
Follow Our Boat
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x
Scroll to Top