What is a Schengen Visa?
A Schengen Visa is a permit that allows nationals of eligible countries to travel in the Schengen Area for a short period. It can be used for both tourism and business purposes.
The Schengen Area is currently the most extensive free travel territory in the world, and there are no border controls within its member countries. The Schengen Visa acts as a visa for Europe and lets you travel freely to and within its area. To be eligible, you must meet specific Schengen Visa requirements, based on your traveling intents.
As a side note, you cannot use your Europe tourist visa to live permanently in the Schengen Area. Instead, you need to apply for a national visa of that European country.
Ask IAS for Schengen Visa guidance
A valid Schengen permit can be issued by any member country if you meet the Europe visa requirements. To be eligible, you must have proof of pre-existing travel arrangements and submit your Schengen Visa application form.
If you are not sure if you need a visa to travel to Europe or have queries about the type of visa you will need, our advisers are happy to help.
One of our immigration lawyers will assist you with your Schengen Visa application form and supporting documents. If you need to transit to the Schengen Area, we can advise you on the best Transit Visa to apply for based on your circumstances.
For Schengen Visa application help, call us on 0333 363 8577 or use our online contact form.
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The institution of the Schengen Area has resulted in a zone where nationals of every world country can travel free from border controls. As a result, the visa requirements for travel to Europe are shared between all the member countries.
The visa policy of the Schengen Area is set by the European Commission and applies to all the member countries. It states that:
- Nationals of eligible countries can enter the Area without a visa and stay up to 90 days in any 180 days period (so-called “short stay visa”);
- Every country must share standards for crossing the external borders;
- There must be a judicial collaboration between the Schengen countries to achieve a safe environment for all members.
At the moment, there are 26 countries within the Schengen Area. They are:
- Czech Republic
Not all the European Union countries are members of the Schengen Area at the same time. For example, Iceland, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and Norway are not part of the EU. On the other hand, the UK, Romania, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus are EU countries but are outside the Schengen zone. Similarly, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican City allow visitors from the Schengen Area but are not associated with this region. The Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands are special members of the EU, and they are part of the external borders of the Schengen area as well.
Citizens of certain states need to apply for a Schengen Visa to travel to Europe. If you are a national of one of the following countries, you need to submit a Europe Visa application:
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Cote D’Ivoire
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Dominican Republic
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
As a general rule, you do not need a Europe visa if:
- You are the citizen of a Schengen country;
- You are an EU/EEA citizen;
- You hold a residence permit issued by a Schengen country or a diplomatic passport.
If you are a citizen of one of the following countries, you also do not need to apply for a visa to travel in Europe and to visit the Schengen Area:
- Czech Republic
The Schengen borders still extend outside the EU. For this reason, you are also exempt from a Visa for Europe if:
- You hold a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport;
- You hold a Macao passport;
- You are a British overseas national.
The documents needed for a Schengen Visa are usually listed on your home country’s Consulate website. While you wait for your visa, you may be asked to provide further documentation to assess your traveling purposes. You will also be summoned for an interview.
Before you submit your request, it is recommended to review this Schengen Visa documents checklist:
- A valid passport with at least two empty pages. Your travel documents must have been issued within the last 10 years and be valid for at least three months after the date you leave the Schengen Area.
- The Schengen Visa application form that you can find on the European Commission’s website. It must be completed in every part and signed. If you are applying as a member of a group, each person should complete and submit a separate form. If you are under the age of 18, your parent or guardian must sign it for you;
- A return ticket or enough available funds to buy one;
- Two recent photographs conform to ICAO standards;
- Proof of paid Schengen Visa fees. It costs €60 for adults and €35 for children until the age of 12;
- Travel insurance that covers any emergency medical and repatriation. The minimum cover should be of €30,000 and valid throughout your stay;
- Complete documentation of your trip. This includes details of your booked accommodation and means of transport to travel within the Schengen Area.
When you reach a Schengen port of entry, you must present your passport and your visa. Border officials may ask for further information about your trip. Before letting you enter the Area, they will give you an entry stamp in your passport. Without it, you may be fined or detained when leaving the EU. The Visa Information System in use in certain countries also requires your fingerprints to be collected.
Even though you may not need to meet specific visa requirements to travel to Europe, you still need a valid passport to enter the Schengen Area.
You must submit your Schengen Visa application to the Consulate of the country that you wish to visit. If you are going to visit several states, you should refer to your first destination or the country where you are staying for a longer time.
You must submit your application at least 15 days before your intended journey. However, you are not allowed to apply earlier than three months before the date you intend to enter the Schengen Area.
It usually takes 15 days to receive a decision. If the Consulate requires further supporting documents, this period may extend up to 60 days.
The Schengen Visa is a short stay permit that covers a maximum of 90 days in any 180-days period. The actual length of validity of your stay is indicated on your Europe visa under the heading “Duration of visit”.
The number of entries allowed by your permit is indicated on your visa sticker as well. Depending on your purposes of stay, you can get a single-entry or a multiple-entry Schengen Visa. If your visa allows multiple entries, you may enter the Zone several times during your 180-days validity period.
In 2010 the European Union introduced new visa requirements to transit through airports in the Schengen Area. This permit allows nationals of non-Schengen countries to change their flight in one of the airports of this zone.
An Airport Transit Schengen Visa is not a Visa for Europe and cannot be used to leave the international transit area. This order also applies if you need to wait overnight or leave the airport to take your next flight. If you need to fly between more than one airport within the Schengen Area, you must apply for a regular Schengen Visa.
In exceptional circumstances, individual Schengen members can impose different Airport Transit Visa requirements. In addition, most members have added further countries in the list of those who need to apply for a Transit Visa.
Nationals of the following countries need to apply for an Airport Transit Schengen Visa:
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Sri Lanka
You may be exempt from the Transit Visa if you have a residence permit issued by a Schengen country, or are a family member of a Schengen/EU national.
If you wish to obtain a Schengen Visa to travel to Europe, you must complete an official application form. This includes 37 questions which must be filled in with your relevant information.
The details about your trip you must provide for the Schengen visa process must be accurate. Providing a comprehensive overview of your trip with adequate evidence may be intricate. For this reason, seeking legal advice can let you organize your trip to Europe without the stress of the visa application.
At IAS, our expert immigration advisers can help you fill in your Schengen Visa application correctly. Our service includes:
- Gathering all the relevant information about your trip to Europe;
- Reviewing if you need a Schengen Visa;
- Checking if your passport is valid to travel;
- Liaising with your local Consulate;
- Creating an application portfolio to present your application to your local Consulate;
- Writing a detailed Letter of Representation to support your application;
- Sourcing, organising and filing all your supporting documents;
- Reviewing whether you need a single or multi-entry Europe Visa.
Get in touch today to start planning your trip to Europe. Call us on 0333 363 8577 or use our contact form to request a call back from our advisers.