In the 1950s, Australia signed bilateral visa waiver agreements with several European countries. At various times the list has included the Czech Republic, Greece and Switzerland, but these countries have since rescinded those agreements, and the deal with France came later.
Currently: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden.
France, Spain and Portugal are special cases – read on.
Visa waiver agreements allow Australian passport holders to stay in these countries without impacting the 90 days visa waiver granted them under the Schengen Agreement. For Belgium, it’s 60 days. Using them to your advantage takes a lot of work. Each country operates the visa waiver agreements in its way. Most countries require you to utilise the visa waiver agreement at the end of your Schengen area travel.
Australian citizens can visit the (bilateral) Schengen member states visa-free for up to three months in each country. If, however, an Australian citizen visits another Schengen state not included in the list, the restriction of up to three months out of six months in the Schengen area applies. Therefore, if an Australian citizen has already spent three months in one or more of the (bilateral) Schengen countries, any visits to another country without a bilateral visa waiver agreement with Australia may lead to difficulties with local law enforcement agencies.
It would be best if you documented your travels thoroughly. Say you spend 90 days travelling around the Schengen Area and then drive across the border from Italy into Austria. Under the visa waiver agreement between Australia and Austria, you are entitled to stay for up to 90 days in Austria. However, since there is no border control between Italy and Austria, your passport has no documentation to prove that you “left” the Schengen Area and “entered” Austria under the visa waiver agreement. It might subsequently appear to an immigration official that you have overstayed the 90-day limit under which you are entitled to remain in the Schengen Area. If you are deemed in breach and can’t prove otherwise, that’s a severe offence.
The Nordic countries regard themselves as a single bloc for the visa waiver agreements. According to the Danish Embassy in Canberra, “Australian citizens are allowed to stay in Denmark visa-free for up to 90 days in any 180 days regardless of stays in other Schengen countries. Please note that days spent in another Nordic country do count towards the 90 days maximum.” And this from the Norwegian Embassy in Canberra: “Please be advised that there is currently a separate bilateral agreement between Norway and Australia allowing stays for up to 90 days visa-free in Norway in addition to any days spent in a non-Nordic Schengen country. Consequently, Australian citizens will not be refused entry to Norway due to time spent in, for example, Spain.” … “If spending 90 days in Norway, you must exit Norway and spend at least 90 days in a non-Nordic country before you are allowed to re-enter Norway.”
For the Netherlands: “To return to the Netherlands after a stay of 90 days, you need to leave the Schengen area for a minimal period first (for example, by travelling to the UK or any other country outside the Schengen area).” “Minimal period” is vague, but it could mean that after a stay of just a few days outside Holland, you would be permitted to return for another 90 days.
Some other countries are less specific about the time you must remain outside before being allowed to re-enter under a visa waiver agreement. Euro-Nomads have returned to Germany after one day to restart the Australia-Germany bilateral visa waiver for another 90 days.
France is a tricky case. The bilateral visa waiver agreement between France and Australia allows Australian passport holders to remain in France for three months. This agreement was only signed after the Schengen Area came into existence, and it refers to that agreement. When Australians “enter France after staying in the territory of one or several states party to the Schengen Agreement, the three-month period shall take effect from the date of crossing the external frontier, delimiting the area of free movement constituted by those states.” Therefore, if you enter another Schengen Area country other than France and stay for 30 days, you would be permitted to remain in France for only the remaining 60 days of your allowance under the Schengen Agreement. The same applies to Spain, who (re)interprets their bilateral agreement in the same way.
Portugal had a visa-waiver agreement with Australia, but sometime in the distant past, it was rescinded. The Australian government travel advisory website no longer lists Portugal as a bilateral visa-waiver state. But when invited by the EU Commission to register all existing bilateral visa waiver treaties for encoding in the new Entry/Exit system to be rolled out in parallel with ETIAS in 2023, Portugal offered up Australia!
Spain effectively repudiated the bilateral agreement with Australia in 1998. The dumbos at Foreign Affairs/Smart Traveller don’t realise it.
Like France’s interpretation of their bilateral with Australia – the 90 day visa waiver starts as soon as you enter the Schengen zone. In other words identical and overlapping the Schengen visa waiver. Then, to remove any doubt, when confirmation of existing treaties was sought for coding the new Exit/Entry system, Spain and France didn’t submit Australia.
Shame Australia didnt cancel the reciprocal visa waiver for French and Spanish nationals as a protest.