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Rules on crossing EU borders

Rules on crossing EU borders



Regulation (EU) 2016/399 setting out the Schengen Borders Code


Also known as the ‘Schengen Borders Code’, it sets out, among other things, rules on:

  • crossing the EU’s external borders; and
  • the absence of border controls at internal borders.


The Code sets out the rules that govern:

  • checks on persons on external borders;
  • entry conditions;
  • the conditions of temporary reintroduction of border controls at internal borders in the Schengen area (a border-free area comprising 22 EU countries, along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) in the event of a serious threat to public policy or internal security.

To whom does it apply?

The ‘Schengen Borders Code’ lays down the rules that apply to any person crossing the external borders of the Schengen area. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia and Romania are not yet full members of the Schengen area but must follow the rules concerning controls at the external borders.

External borders

When crossing external borders, nationals of non-EU countries not benefiting from the freedom of movement under EU law are subject to thorough checks in accordance with the conditions of entry into the country, including systematic consultation of relevant databases such as Schengen Information System (SIS) as well as verification of the Visa Information System (VIS) if the person is subject to the visa obligation.

In the event of an intended stay on the territory of a Schengen country, for no more than 90 days in any 180-day period, non-EU country nationals must:

  • be in possession of a valid travel document and visa, if required;
  • justify the purpose and the conditions of their intended stay and prove that they have sufficient means of subsistence;
  • not be the subject of an alert in the Schengen SIS for the purpose of refusing entry; and
  • not be considered a threat to EU public policy, internal security, public health or the international relations of any of the EU countries.

Entry of a third country national (a non-Schengen or non-EU country) who is not benefiting from the freedom of movement under EU law may only be refused by a decision taken by a relevant national authority stating the precise reasons for the refusal and may be subject to appeal.

Internal borders

In the area without internal border controls (meaning the Schengen area with the exception of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania), any person of any nationality may cross any internal border without border checks being carried out. Nevertheless, national police authorities have the right to carry out police checks, including in the border area, subject to specific rules and limitations.

Countries which are part of the area without internal border controls must remove all obstacles to smooth traffic flow at road crossing-points at internal borders, and in particular any speed limits not exclusively based on road-safety considerations.

Temporary reintroduction of internal border controls

Internal border controls may be exceptionally restored inside the Schengen area for a limited period of time where:

  • there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security: border controls may be reintroduced by the affected Schengen countries for a maximum duration of 6 months in case of foreseeable events (e.g. important sport events, conferences, etc.) and for a maximum of 2 months in case of events requiring immediate action;
  • the Schengen evaluation mechanism* reveals that there are serious and persistent flaws in external border controls putting the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk. In such cases, the Council may recommend that one or more EU countries reintroduce border controls at all or at specific parts of their internal borders for a maximum of 2 years.

Recent amendments of the Schengen Borders Code

Systematic checks against relevant databases at external borders

Since April 2017, Regulation (EU) 2017/458 has required systematic checks against relevant databases to be carried out on EU/EEA (European Union/European Economic Area)/Swiss citizens at the external borders of the Schengen area, in addition to the existing checks already undertaken on non-EU nationals. The new rules were introduced in response to the terrorist attacks that have hit various EU countries in recent years and should help in particular to address the threats of EU-born terrorist fighters going to or returning from abroad. The checks take place both at entry and at exit of the external borders. The checks are made against databases such as the SIS and Interpol’s database on stolen and lost travel documents.

Entry Exit System

Regulation (EU) 2017/2225 amends Regulation (EU) 2016/399 to take account of the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2017/2226 which created a centralised system for the registration of entry and exit data (Entry-exit system — EES) in regard to non-EU nationals coming for a short-stay, once the latter enters into force. The main objective of Regulation (EU) 2017/2225 is to replace the stamping of the travel document on entry and exit by the electronic recording of the entry and exit directly in the EES. The use of automated border control systems for persons subject to registration in the EES has been integrated. Schengen countries are also able to establish national facilitation programmes to allow pre-vetted non-EU nationals to benefit on entry from exceptions from certain aspects of border checks. Regulation (EU) 2017/2225 will start to apply only from the date of entry into force of the EES.

eu-LISA, the agency responsible for managing the EU’s large-scale information technology (IT) systems relevant to freedom, security and justice, is already responsible for the operation of the 3 EU information technology systems essential for safeguarding the Schengen area and border management. These are:

  • the Eurodac (EU asylum dactyloscopic database which allows fingerprint comparisons),
  • the SIS and
  • the VIS.

Under Regulation (EU) 2017/2226, eu-LISA is given the additional task of developing the EES and ensuring it is well managed.


It has applied since 12 April 2016. Regulation (EU) 2016/399 codifies and replaces Regulation (EC) No 562/2006 (and its subsequent amendments).

The Schengen Borders Code, as first adopted on 15 March 2006 (Regulation (EC) No 562/2006), has applied since 13 October 2006.


For more information, see:


Schengen evaluation mechanism: a system set up by Regulation (EU) No 1053/2013 with which the EU countries and the Commission must jointly conduct regular evaluations to check that the Schengen EU law in the area of management of the external as well as the absence of border control at internal borders, including the Schengen Borders Code, is being correctly applied. If serious deficiencies are found in the performance of external border controls, the European Commission may recommend that an EU country take specific measures. In case of serious and repeated deficiencies, internal border controls may be reintroduced as a measure of last resort.


Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code) (codification) (OJ L 77, 23.3.2016, pp. 1-52)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EU) No 2016/399 have been incorporated in to the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Regulation (EU) 2018/1726 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 on the European Union Agency for the Operational Management of Large-Scale IT Systems in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (eu-LISA), and amending Regulation (EC) No 1987/2006 and Council Decision 2007/533/JHA and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1077/2011 (OJ L 295, 21.11.2018, pp. 99-137)

Regulation (EU) 2017/2225 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2017 amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 as regards the use of the Entry/Exit System (OJ L 327, 9.12.2017, pp. 1-19)

Regulation (EU) 2017/2226 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2017 establishing an Entry/Exit System (EES) to register entry and exit data and refusal of entry data of third-country nationals crossing the external borders of the Member States and determining the conditions for access to the EES for law enforcement purposes, and amending the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement and Regulations (EC) No 767/2008 and (EU) No 1077/2011 (OJ L 327, 9.12.2017, pp. 20-82)

See consolidated version.

Regulation (EU) 2016/1624 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2016 on the European Border and Coast Guard and amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC (OJ L 251, 16.9.2016, pp. 1-76)

Council Regulation (EU) No 1053/2013 of 7 October 2013 establishing an evaluation and monitoring mechanism to verify the application of the Schengen acquis and repealing the Decision of the Executive Committee of 16 September 1998 setting up a Standing Committee on the evaluation and implementation of Schengen (OJ L 295, 6.11.2013, pp. 27-37)

See consolidated version.

Regulation (EC) No 562/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 establishing a Community Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code) (OJ L 105, 13.4.2006, pp. 1-32)

See consolidated version.

last update 04.05.2020