All the Schengen member countries adhere to the same standards of immigration controls. This means that, under the European Commission regulation, you can travel through Europe with one single visa.
However, depending on the nature of your trip, you will need to apply for a specific Schengen Visa type. This will affect the validity rules and duration of stay that you must respect to cross Europe’s borders.
Furthermore, as a part of your Schengen Visa application, you are required to state the nature of your journey. For this reason, you also need to choose your Schengen Visa type based on your travel purposes.
What is a Schengen Visa validity period and duration of stay?
Your Schengen Visa is attached to your passport in the form of a sticker, and it lists the information about your travel permit. This includes your validity details, which depend on your Schengen Visa type.
The Schengen Visa maximum validity indicates the period during which you are allowed to travel to Europe. It starts from the date your permit is issued, regardless of your date of entry. If you hold a double or multi-entry visa, you can go back in and out of the Schengen Area until you reach your maximum duration of stay.
On the other hand, the Schengen Visa duration of stay refers to the number of days you can spend in the Area. In other words, this is your Schengen Visa expiry date. Your eligible period starts on the day you enter the Schengen Zone. Likewise, your last day is the one when you leave the Schengen Area.
Schengen visa maximum validity: the 90/180 Rule
The Schengen Tourist Visa validity is of a maximum of 90 days in any 180-days period. This is also known as the 90/180 rule, or three months rule. In other words, once you have spent a total of 90 days in the Schengen Area (either consecutively or separately), within a 180-day frame, you must leave Europe.
This period of time starts when you officially cross the border of the Schengen Area. If you hold a double or multi-entry Schengen Visa, your 180-day period keeps rolling even when you have left the zone.
Subsequently, if you wish to spend more than 90 days in the Schengen Area, you should apply for an extension or a new permit. Otherwise, you may be interested in a national visa to study or work for a short time in your destination country.
Types of Schengen Visas
- Uniform Schengen Visa (USV): this lets you visit one or more Schengen Area countries for a period of up to 90 days in a six-month period;
- Limited Territorial Validity Visa (LTV): it allows you to enter only the Schengen country that has issued your permit. If there are other states mentioned on your visa stickers, you can travel to them as well;
- National visas: these are granted only to individuals eligible for living in the Schengen Area for work or study.
While these categories refer to your visa validity, your application should also take into account the intent of your trip. For this reason, your Schengen visa type will also be based on your traveling purposes.
Uniform Schengen Visa Categories
A Uniform Schengen Visa allows you to transit or to reside in your destination for no more than 90 days in a 180-day period. It can be used to travel to two or more countries unless otherwise stated on your visa sticker.
Based on the purpose of your trip, you can apply for one of the following Schengen Visa types:
- Schengen Visa type “A”, to travel through the international zone of a Schengen Airport. This permit is also mandatory if you need to change your flight in a local airport before leaving Europe. Most importantly, you cannot use it to leave the airport and enter the Area.
- Schengen Visa type “C”, to reside in a Schengen Country for a brief period, depending on the validity reported on your visa. This permit can grant you either single, double or multiple entries Europe.
Single-entry visa type C
You can only use this visa to enter the Schengen Area once. This means that, after you have left the territory, you will not be able to re-enter unless you apply for a new visa.
In this case, the Schengen Visa validity refers to the number of countries you can visit. You can find the states where you can travel on the “Valid for” tag of your visa sticker. Apart from a few exceptions, you may enter all the countries indicated on your sticker as long as you do not overstay your visa expiry date.
Double-entry visa type C
This permit allows you to enter the Schengen Area twice. You are still subject to your Schengen Visa validity rules, which means you cannot exceed the number of days registered on your sticker.
Once you have left the Schengen Area for the second time, you will no longer have the right to go back unless you get a new visa.
Multiple-entry visa type C
With a multiple entry Schengen Visa, you can go in and out of the Area as many times as you want. However, you are still subject to the 90/180 rule.
To be eligible, you must have held at least one double-entry visa before. Along with your Schengen Visa application, you should also provide proof that you are a regular traveller of the zone, as well as the nature of your trips.
Based on the frequency of your travel to the Schengen Area, you may need one of the following type C visas:
- 1 year multiple-entry Schengen Visa;
- 3 years multiple-entry Schengen Visa;
- 5 years multiple-entry Schengen Visa.
Limited Territorial Validity Visas (LTV)
Under an LTV Schengen Visa, you can only travel to the countries mentioned in your sticker. Therefore, you are not allowed to enter or transit any other Schengen state.
Because of its strict visa validity rules, this permit is not usually issued for tourist purposes. It is instead designed for humanitarian reasons or other exceptional circumstances.
The LTV Visa may also be issued to individuals who are not yet in possession of a valid travel document but need to enter the area.
National Visas (type D)
A Schengen Visa type D is only granted to individuals eligible to settle for a fixed time in a country for either working or studying purposes.
Usually, a national visa allows you to enter the area only once, letting you stay until the completion of your intended activity. However, you may need also a multi-entry Schengen Visa type D if you are:
- An international student whose program is going to last for more than one year. It is especially useful if your national student visa would not cover an extended period otherwise. You can also apply to extend your national visa after the first year of validity;
- A foreign professional hired by an EU-based employer because of his or her area of expertise;
- A pupil or a worker of a higher institution or research centre.
Schengen Visa Extension
If you wish to extend your Schengen Tourist Visa validity, you must prove that you have strong reasons to stay in Europe.
The European Parliament has established the following as acceptable reasons to extend a visa validity:
- Humanitarian reasons. For example, if you need to take part in the funeral of a relative, or even receive or provide medical treatment in the case of a national emergency;
- Important personal reasons, such as an unplanned wedding, or if you still need time to manage your business;
- Late Entry. If you entered the Schengen Area only after your visa become valid, you might be eligible for a visa extension. Usually, this allowable period covers the number of days that you did not spend in Europe after the issue of your permit.
If you wish to apply for extending your stay in Europe, you should submit your request at least two weeks before your Schengen Visa expiry date. If you do not respect your visa validity rules, you will be deported.
You can lodge your application to the immigration authorities in the country where you wish to stay. While you wait for your visa extension, you may not be allowed to travel to other Schengen states. As a part of your application, you also need to schedule an interview.
Usually, it takes a few days to get a Schengen Visa renewal. However, in some cases, you may wait up to a month before you receive your response.
Schengen Visa validity rules guidance
Although it is easy to travel through Europe once you get your Schengen Visa, it is essential to respect specific validity rules. If you overstay your visa, or if you enter a country without having the proper permit, you will be deported.
To make sure that you understand your visa validity and duration of stay, you can seek legal guidance. The IAS has already helped several travellers with their visa queries, and we are ready to offer you our bespoke service.
One of our solicitors can also help you find the Schengen Visa type to suit your travelling purposes. Get in touch today or ask for a free call back from our advisers.