Well well well, if it isn’t you… a human who reads. If you’re considering moving to Europe, part 1 of our 3-part series defines what the Schengen area is and how to calculate your stay within the 90/180-day limit.

In part 2, we are giving U.S.-passport holders some visa-free options for long term stays in Europe, including countries that offer stays from 90 days up to 1 year.

How to Stay in Europe Longer than 90 Days, Part 2: Visa-Free Options for Long Term Stays

One important note: the majority of options I’m going to discuss in this video apply specifically to U.S. passport holders. So game on. 

Where to Stay in Europe Visa-Free: Up to 1 Year 

If you’re a U.S. passport-holder, you can stay in Europe for up to 1 year, visa-free, in 2 countries:

  • Option #1 – Albania
  • Option #2 – Georgia

Whether you arrive by plane, boat, bus or piggyback ride, if you have a U.S. passport, you are automatically granted a 1-year stay in Albania on arrival. You can leave and return anytime you want within that year, or stay in Albania the entire time. At that 1 year mark, you need to leave Albania for at least 90 consecutive days, then you can return and be granted yet another 1-year stay, visa-free.

Much like democracy in the United States or the balance in my checking account, I’m really not sure how long this is going to last, so my advice is if you’re really considering staying in Europe for any significant amount of time, make Albania your home base while this very generous option is still on the table.

Now, a little bit about Albania. It’s in an area of Europe known as the Balkans, named after the Balkan mountain range, and is bordered by Greece, North Macedonia, Kosovo & Montenegro. You can also travel here by overnight ferry from Italy. Prego. Scenery-wise, you have gorgeous beaches along the coastline known as the Albanian Riviera, there’s the capital city of Tirana where we’re currently based for the winter, you have gorgeous mountains, rivers and lakes at your disposal, and a handful of very charming historic towns & villages.

Similar to Albania, if you have a U.S. passport, you are automatically granted a 1-year stay in Georgia on arrival, visa-free. You can leave and return to Georgia anytime you want within that year, or stay there the entire time. Unlike Albania where you need to leave for 90 consecutive days once you hit that 364 day mark, in Georgia, you simply have to leave for an unspecified amount of time, then can come back and be granted another 1 year stay, again, visa-free. 

As of 2024 there’s no minimum amount of days you have to be out of Georgia before your 1-year clock restarts, nor a specified limit on the amount of times you can repeat this process. So if you’re interested in making Georgia your home base and want to stay more than a year, take a little journey over the border to Turkey or Armenia and come back, rinse, repeat.

Georgia borders Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey, and along with most of the countries in the Balkans, it’s a candidate for EU membership. We haven’t been to Georgia yet, but I only hear great things. I will say that if your goal is to explore a lot of Europe, Albania is in a more convenient location for doing that, though both countries are excellent options if you value having a long term home base.

Where to Stay in Europe Visa-Free: Up to 180 Days

Next up, if you’re a U.S. passport-holder, you can stay in Europe for up to 180 days, visa-free, in 2 countries:

  • Option #1 – Armenia
  • Option #2 – The UK

Bordering Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey, U.S.-passport holders are granted a visa-free stay of up to 180 days per year in Armenia. We haven’t made it here yet, but a few things to note:

  • It’s landlocked
  • It’s one of the world’s oldest wine producing regions
  • It has a low cost of living
  • You can expect there to be a language barrier

Your second option for visa-free stays for up to 180 days is the United Kingdom. Unlike most of the options I’ve presented so far, the UK explicitly states that you *are* permitted to work remotely for foreign companies while you’re there. U.S.-passport holders are considered ‘non-visa nationals’ in the UK and will be granted a 180-day stay on arrival, visa-free.

Now, you can leave and re-enter the UK within that 180 days and technically be granted yet another 180 days from the start of your second entry date, but it is important to note that spending anything over 183 days in the UK in any given tax year may trigger tax residency. No thank you.

Where to Stay in Europe Visa-Free: Up to 90 Days – The Balkans

Additionally, if you’re a U.S. passport-holder, you can stay in Europe for up to 90 days of every 180 days, visa-free, in Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. 

Y’all know what that means… it’s time to bust out that tracksuit, baby. You’re in the Balkans! 

Now, the ‘Schengen shuffle’ is when you legally travel between countries both in and out of the Schengen Area without ever overstaying your limit in any of them. Because the Balkan countries border each other, you can technically stay only within this region for 3+ years without ever stepping foot in the same country twice. Say what?! 

As of 2024, the Balkan countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece are all in the Schengen Area while the rest are not. So let’s get to that 3-year figure. As an example, you could stay in Albania for 1 year, then go to Greece for 90 days, leave the Schengen Area by going to North Macedonia for 90 days, re-enter the Schengen Area in Bulgaria for 90 days, leave the Schengen Area again in Serbia for 90 days, and so on and so on. 

Even without doubling up on any countries, and if your math was perfect, you could do the Schengen shuffle just within the Balkans for over 1,200 days, or around 3 1/2 years. And that’s just one section of Europe! I will also say that everywhere we’ve traveled in the Balkans so far we’ve loved, though you can absolutely expect ‘inhaling secondhand smoke’ to become one of your new pastimes. 

If y’all ever legalize marijuana… I’ll get you back. 

Where to Stay in Europe Visa-Free: Up to 90 Days – The Rest of Europe

Finally, if you’re a U.S. passport-holder, you can stay in Europe for up to 90 days of every 180 days, visa-free, in the following countries in the rest of Europe, including Cyprus, Turkey, Moldova & the Republic of Ireland.

Two notes: 

  1. Cyprus has been pushing to join Schengen for a while now, so it may not be an option much longer as far as countries that won’t count toward your days in the Schengen area.
  2. We haven’t made it there yet, but we’ve heard excellent things about Turkey and will probably spend a decent chunk of time there, especially in warmer months, if and when Albania becomes insanely crowded and we want an affordable place in which to eat doner kebabs both before and after floating merrily in the sea. 

As a reminder, this is part 2 of 3 for how to stay in Europe longer than 90 days. Next time I’m going to bring in my Finnish homie, Dr. Digital Nomad herself, Ms. Kaisu Koskela, to talk about digital nomad visas in Europe, should you have a job you can do remotely and also have access to both a printer and an endless amount of patience. 

Thanks for watching. Keep it weird, subscribe, drink a beer, high five a stranger, pinch a butt, do what you do. Bye.