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. The area covers 26 countries and there are no border controls within these member countries. Schengen Visas are the most common visa for accessing Europe and a valid Schengen visa lets you travel freely to and within its area. To be eligible, you must meet specific visa requirements, based on your travelling intents.
The Schengen Visa is a short-stay visa that is only valid for up to 90 days, you cannot use your Europe tourist visa to live, study or work in the Schengen Area. Instead, you need to apply for a national visa for that European country that you intend to stay in.
Who needs a visa to enter Europe?
Schengen visas are for all nationals of third countries that do not have a visa waiver agreement with the Schengen member states. You will need to apply for a Schengen visa if you plan on visiting a Schengen country and are a citizen from one of the following countries:
|Angola||Ghana||Papua New Guinea|
|Belize||Indonesia||Sao Tome And Principe|
|Burkina Faso||Kazakhstan||South Africa|
|Central African Republic||Lebanon||Syria|
|Dem. Rep. Of Congo||Mali||Tunisia|
|North Korea||Northern Mariana’s|
You will need to obtain your visa before travelling to the Schengen country you are going to.
What are the Schengen countries?
At the moment, there are 26 Schengen area countries that you can travel to for up to 90 days using the Schengen visa, they include:
Not all the European Union countries are also members of the Schengen Area and not every Schengen country is a member of the EU. 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.
How to apply for a Schengen Visa?
You must submit your visa application to the Embassy or Consulate of the country that you wish to visit.
You can visit more than one member state using this visa. If you are going to visit several Schengen member countries, you should submit your application to your first destination or the country where you are staying for a longer time.
The first step in the application process is to book an appointment at your local Embassy or Consulate of your chosen Schengen member country, this can usually be done online. You will then need to complete the Schengen Visa application form that you can download online and must also gather all of the required documents.
You will need to attend your visa interview and submit your application form and supporting documents to the consular officer. During the interview, you will be asked questions about your trip such as where you intend to visit and why. Finally, you will need to pay the visa application fee.
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.
What are the documents required for a Schengen Visa?
When applying for your visa you will need to submit a number of supporting documents. Use our handy Schengen Visa document checklist to make sure that you have everything you need.
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.
- Your completed visa application form.
- Evidence that you intend to return to your home country such as a return ticket or enough available funds to buy one.
- Two recent photographs conform to ICAO standards.
- Proof of paid application fees
- 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
Evidence that you can support yourself financially during your trip.
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.
Schengen Visa entry restrictions
Schengen visas allow overseas nationals to enter Schengen countries for up to 90 days in a 180 day period. However, there are different types of Schengen visas that come with varying restrictions that you must adhere to.
Most Schengen Visas come under the category of a Uniform Schengen Visa. Uniform visa holders are permitted to travel in any Schengen country. However, there are also subcategories of the Uniform Schengen visa and the entry restrictions vary for each category, they include the:
- Single Entry Visa – This permits the visa holder to only enter a Schengen country once within the visa’s validity, if they leave the Schengen area then their visa will no longer be valid.
- Double Entry Visa – This is similar to the single entry visa except that double-entry visa holders can enter the Schengen area once more when they have left it.
- Multiple Entry Visa – This allows holders to go in and out of the Schengen area as many times as they like providing they do not stay for more than 90 days in a 180 day period. Multiple Entry Schengen Visas are available for periods of 1 year, 3 years and 5 years.
Another category of Schengen visa is the Limited Territorial Validity Visas (LTV). LTV visas permit holders to only travel within the Schengen country or countries that they have obtained the visa from. This visa is not valid for travel to or transit through any other Schengen countries.
What is an Airport Transit Schengen Visa?
In 2010 the European Union introduced new visa requirements to transit through airports in the Schengen Area. An Airport Transit Schengen Visa is a subcategory of Uniform Schengen Visa that allows nationals of non-Schengen countries to change their flight in one of the airports of this zone.
However, unlike the other Uniform Visas, 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 to 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:
- The 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.
How can IAS help?
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 advise you on whether you need to apply for a Schengen Visa and if so can support you throughout the visa application process. This includes assisting you with your 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 Schengen Visa acts as an entry visa for 26 countries including:
- Czech Republic
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
- The central African Republic
- Cote D’Ivoire
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Dominican Republic
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
A full list of the countries that require a visa for Europe can be found here.
The Schengen Visa is a short stay permit that covers a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day 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.
It currently costs €80 to apply for a Schengen Visa.
For children between the ages of 6-12, the application fee is reduced to €40 and for children under the age of 6, there is no application fee.
There are also other individuals that are exempt from paying a Schengen Visa application fee, these include:
- Holders of diplomatic, official or service passports travelling for official purposes
- Family members of EU/EEA nationals
- Pupils, students and accompanying teachers on a school trip
- Researchers travelling to perform scientific research
Nationals from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia are subject to a reduced fee of €35.