The Extra Mile

How does a multiple-entry Schengen visa work?

Elizabeth Sleith explains the rules of travelling on a Schengen visa

04 February 2018 - 00:00 By Elizabeth Sleith
Where to find the vital info on your Schengen visa.
Where to find the vital info on your Schengen visa.
Image: Visas and Passports Unlimited

Q. I have a South African passport with a multiple-entry Schengen visa, issued by the German consulate in Cape Town. It expires on July 18 2018. I used it in July 2017 to go on a Rhine cruise. Can I use it to enter either Switzerland and/or France in May-June this year? - Kate

A. There are 25 signatories to the Schengen agreement, which allows for the easier freedom of movement within Europe.

This includes Switzerland and France.

There are different types of Schengen visa, but the one that applies for tourism is the Category C, "short-term" visa.

Again, there are different kinds of Category Cs.

• Single-entry: Allows one entry within the stipulated time on the visa.

• Double-entry: The same rules as the single-entry apply, except the visa expires on your second exit.

• Multiple-entry: You can freely enter and leave the Schengen area as many times as you like within the period of the validity.

The crucial rule to remember is the  180/90-day limit

The visa sample in the image above, provided by Visas and Passports Unlimited, shows clearly where you can find all the information relevant to the conditions of your own visa.

The crucial rule to remember is that these visas work on a 180/90-day limit.

This means that, in any six-month period, the total number of days you spend in Schengen countries cannot add up to more than 90. This is regardless of how long your visa is actually valid.

In your case, as you last used your visa in July 2017, you will have zero days spent in Schengen countries by the time of your trip this year. And since your visa will not have expired yet, you will be fine to visit France and Switzerland.