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I am hoping to visit Europe for between 3-6 months beginning this summer. I am flying from the US to England in early June and my return flight is booked for mid-November. My plan is to stay in England with my boyfriend for about one month, then travel alone to France (to visit my American sister working as an au pair) from England and continue bopping about the other Schengen countries alone until late August or September when my 90-days allowance in the Schengen zone runs out.

Will I be allowed to return into the UK after my visits to the Schengen area? Should I mention my travel plans upon entering the UK (at immigration/customs) in early June? Should I mention that I am visiting my sister in France? I am asking because I am concerned that they will not grant me the 6-month-stay permission. Not sure if they frown upon being seen as a "home" point or if that is better than me staying there for 6 straight months. Also concerned about mentioning that I am staying with my boyfriend in England - they might think I intend to settle there with him...in reality, it's not that serious of a relationship.

I am starting online classes through a US institution in August - would that be decent evidence of intent to return to the US? I am also planning on bringing pictures of my family (I want to return home for Thanksgiving and Christmas) and my cat (unless that seems excessive...). Plus my return flight ticket with the November return date, and any train tickets for the Schengen zone I have booked prior to my arrival. I am going to look at several universities in the Schengen zone, as I am planning on studying abroad beginning summer or fall 2015. Would print-outs of these universities' websites be a good thing to bring? Emails from my student advisor discussing my study abroad options?

One last question: Worst case scenario, they deny my entry in England. Rather than going back to the US, can I immediately book a flight from England to France and try my luck there? I honest to goodness intend to return home in November (or earlier!), it's just that I don't have an immense amount of tangible evidence to show why I would want to.
 

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I visited the UK for three weeks last July and was grilled at immigration (much to my surprise) as to how it was that I could manage to take such a long vacation. So you are right to have your story sorted out ahead of time. I had recently been made redundant, and was actually job hunting for a role in the US while I was away, but my unemployed status also aroused a bit of suspicion. It had been 15 years since my last visit to the UK, and clearly a lot has changed in the interim.

It sounds like you have planned yourself a "gap year". You should be able to justify having the time off if you are a student. You should have your planned itinerary written up, and use your train tickets and other documentation of your trip organized into a concise packet. What's important is that you can demonstrate that you have something to return to such as a job, school, or other commitment. You might also want to refer to your boyfriend as your friend, as this is a less loaded term.

I have seen it recommended that one apply for a visa if there is a concern that there will be an issue, and I've also heard that even with a visa, people can be refused entry. Either way, you should have your story prepared.
 

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The leave to enter you get in UK is single-entry, so it expires the moment you depart from UK. So when you return from continental Europe, you will have to get a fresh leave at the UK border. Just answer their questions truthfully, show your return ticket (eticket receipt) to the US and sufficient funds (e.g. bank statement), but only if you are asked. You need to have strong ties in US. Online course isn't enough as it can be done anywhere. Intention to study on the continent next year may be admissible, but intention isn't strong enough. Think of arranging a part-time job to return to with a letter from employer. They want solid documentary evidence, not vague intentions or desires. If you are refused re-entry into UK, you will be sent back to the airport on the continent you flew out of.
 
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