So Russia may be off the books, but on the upside, I learned more about Schengen and Bilateral countries when talking to Peter my ‘visa guy’. His first question to me was “So why are you doing it this way? Logically you’d do Western Europe first, in fact, with a New Zealand passport you can stay in Europe for 4.5 years without hassle.” My response sounded weird, as it sounds weird every time I say it “Umm, Latvia has really good internet and low cost of living.”
Peter’s response “Ah, right, ok. Anyway…”
So after speaking to Peter, I’ve realized why Martina* our travel agent recommended we use our NZ passports. New Zealand has an awesome deal that supersedes the Schengen agreement.  The Schengen agreement means that most (not all) EU countries have open borders and we can spend up to 3 months (within a 6 month period) hopping and bopping around those countries, but once you’ve used up the 3 months you’ve got to get out. I.e. go to Non-Schengen countries, like Turkey, Croatia, or Egypt for 3 months and then come back again. That was always our plan. But there is a Bilateral Agreement in place with New Zealand and 12 European countries which allow NZ passport holders the ability to stay 3 months in each without leaving the area. So we can stay 3 months in Italy and then go directly to Spain for 3 months without leaving. However, as soon as we leave the Bilateral countries and ‘pop into’ a non-bilateral but Schengen country then the Schengen rules apply. I hope that made sense.
So originally we were thinking something like:

  1. Latvia (Schengen)  — 1 month
  2. Estonia (Schengen)  — 1 month
  3. ?? (Schengen) — 1 month
  4. Non-Schengen country(s)  — 3 months
  5. Spain — 3 months
  6. Non-Schengen country(s)  — 3 months
  7. Italy —  3 months
  8. Non-Schengen country(s) —  3 months
  9. Schengen  — 3 Months
  10. Non-Schengen  — 3 Months
  11. Home

Now we can do:

  1. Latvia (Schengen) 1 month
  2. Estonia (Schengen) 1 month
  3. ?? (Schengen) 1 month
  4. Non-Schengen country(s) 3 months possibly Croatia/Turkey/Egypt
  5. Spain 3 months
  6. Italy 3 months
  7. ????

But we can hit the big ones in the first year and then decide if we want more or not.
Canary Islands
I am super paranoid we’ll get this wrong though and will accidentally become an overstayer and then be deported, which wouldn’t be a good thing. But if we do this right, then we have more flexibility in the countries we visit. Spain, Italy, and Scotland are countries we want to spend 3 months each in, and I’d love to do 3 months in Turkey as well. However, I’d love to do 3 months in every country we stay in (as long as there’s good internet that is), but we don’t have time to do it that way. Ideally going forward my current idea is we’ll do this big two-year stint and no doubt the travel will bug will grow and not diminish so in the future we’ll be doing 9 months in NZ and 3 months elsewhere (around the kids school holidays). I dunno, that’s my dream anyway. Who knows what I’ll think in a couple of years.
*Why didn’t Martina explain the visa situation to us? She did mention it, and fully admitted that visas are their own area of expertise and I should speak to Peter about it before making final decisions. I didn’t heed that advice until much later. If I had this information in the beginning I probably would’ve adjusted things slightly, maybe Estonia first, then Russia for a quick trip and then down to Latvia. I don’t know. Can’t do much now.

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Alice Rae-Flick

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