PLEASE Clarify the "gray-area" around entry and exiting EU countries. Is there anywhere in Europe (Switzerland?) that will 'technically' STAMP you out of the EU? So you can return for another 3 months? My friends have traveled other parts of the world and do this 'technique' often.... Will it work for non-EU's like Switzerland or Poland?
Firstly, Poland is a member of the EU.
Switzerland, although not in the EU, has some special agreement with the EU, so not sure what happens with passport stamping there (sure someone would be able to help!).
Depends where in Europe you mean - non-EU eastern European countries stamp your passport (e.g. Romania, Bulgaria, Albania - may change when the first two join the EU next year).
The UK will also stamp a US passport on entry from mainland Europe.
Croatia will stamp you, ditto the UK (which is not part of Schengen). Guessing Ireland (by air) will as well as they also aren't schengen, but I wouldn't count on it. In all Eastern EU countries, even if you specifically request it stamping is unlikely to occur and even passport checks are hit and miss in places. Sometimes if you explain why you need it,they will stamp you crossing in/out of the Schengen area, but not always.
just hoping to get further clarification on this. I have about nine months free to travel. I had originally wanted to spend all of that time in France but ran into trouble getting a long stay visa (long story). Anyways I want to be clear on all of this. Can I potentially stay in France (also traveling throughout Europe) for my allotted 3 months, head to the UK and Ireland and then re-enter France for 3 more months?
Just to clarify - if you've stayed in France for 90 days already then you can only re-enter if you've been out of the Schengen zone for 90 days. You can't leave the Schengen zone for a few days and then come back and get another 90 days.
My advice to all people travelling in Europe is:
Get yourself a big, A4 or College sized bound book with empty pages. Use it to document your journey by writing diary entries and sticking used tickets, reciepts and photos into it. This way you can prove that you have been at a certain point on a certain date, even if you do not have a passport stamp to go with it.
If for some reason you do not get a stamp at the border, contact either your embassy in the country you are in or go to the next police station and report your problem there. One of them will be able to help you to get the necessary stamp.
BlackFrank is right, you need to stay outside of the Schengen states for 90 days to be allowed back in. So starrjones, you need to stay for 90 days in the UK and in Ireland to be allowed legally back into France for another 90 days.
You might want to read this thread:
With a US passport, you can stay in the UK for up to 6 months as a tourist (not sure what it is for Ireland), so there's no problem with staying around there until you can re-enter the Schengen zone.