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My Schengen

I lived for a few years within the boundaries of the European Union.

As an American I was entitled to stay for 90 days. But there was a natural loophole that allowed me to remain — a loophole created by the epochal changing of European international law.

Prior to the elimination of border controls between Schengen states, each country specified how long a visitor could stay. There might also be a specified time that one would have to spend outside of the country in order to "reset the clock," and allow him or her to visit again.

After the integration of states and before union-wide border policy, a person with access to one state could travel between them — or stay within any one of them — with no record that they had done so. And since there was no mechanism of communication between countries vis-a-vis federalized immigration control, there was no normal way of checking how long a person had been within the newly-unionizing superstate.

At least that's how it worked for me.

After my passport was stamped in Brussels — my first border-control stop within the Schengen area (following a train ride from London through France) — no border-control agent looked at my documentation again until I went to Ireland, which (with the UK) is outside of the Schengen area.

I stayed in the Netherlands for seven months and in Spain for six months with no scrutiny.

Nobody on the Continent knew how long I had been in their country, because they'd eliminated border controls — and nobody knew how long I'd been within the EU, because that part of the agreement hadn't been worked out yet.