The Schengen Visa – Allows you to travel to, stay in and freely travel within the Schengen Area Countries.
Travel in Europe before the First World War was easy. You didn’t need a passport and there were hardly any border controls in place. Countries didn’t get the millions of visitors we now see crossing borders.
WW1 created more awareness for nationality, border control, etc. resulting in everybody needing a passport in order to be able to visit another European country.
These days if you have a passport from a Schengen country you should (in theory) be able to travel unhindered from one Schengen country to another as there should not be any border controls any more.
If you have travelled in the Schengen zone you will know that this is not always the case. Brussels still wants to be able to catch criminals and tax dodgers (whilst criminally squandering loads of tax payers money, but that’s another issue).
Be aware though that a Schengen visa is NOT a work permit. You need the correct paperwork in order to be able to work.
What are the Schengen-area countries and where is it valid?
For the purposes of the Schengen visa and Schengen border controls, the current Schengen area is composed of 22 European Union countries
– Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden – in addition to two associated countries, Norway and Iceland.
The Azores and Madeira, as part of Portugal, and the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands, as part of Spain, are included in the Schengen area.
Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s autonomous cities in northern Africa – are a special case: they are part of the Schengen area, but border control is still in force there.
France’s overseas possessions, on the other hand, are considered to be outside of the area.
Ireland, the UK, Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Romania are all members of the European Union and the Schengen treaty. However, Ireland and the UK have reserved the right to only subscribe to certain provisions of the treaty and do retain their own border controls.
Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Romania, on the other hand, do plan to fully participate in the Schengen area.
Liechtenstein and Switzerland are not European Union members (though Liechtenstein is a member of the European Economic Area), but they have signed the Schengen treaty, and as with Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Romania, their participation in the Schengen area has not been implemented yet.
Who needs to apply for a Schengen visa and who doesn’t need one?
You do not need to apply for a Schengen visa to travel to the Schengen area if you meet the following conditions:
- You have a valid passport or travel document.
(Note that EU citizens do not need a visa to travel anywhere within the Schengen area, and neither do their official family members, i.e. spouses, when in possession of a valid residence permit from a Schengen member country, excluding permits from Ireland or the UK.)
If you meet the three conditions listed above, then you are exempt from the visa requirement, though you are considered as if you were in possession of a Schengen visa when you enter the Schengen area.
Exceptions include being deemed a “threat to public policy or national security” to any Schengen-area country or having earned the dubious honor of being banned from the Schengen area as recorded in the Schengen Information System database (SIS).
However, even though you don’t actually need to apply for the Schengen visa, as a short-stay traveler without additional authorization you must still abide by the limitations of the Schengen visa (i.e., the maximum length of stay).
If you are planning to stay in the Schengen area for less than 90 days, and you are a passport holder of a country on the following list (or if you do not currently have a country or are a national of a non-recognized country), then you will need to apply for a Schengen visa:
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central Africa, Chad, China, Colombia, Comoro Islands, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, The Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Granada, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Northern Marianas, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Palestinian National Authority, Papua-New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Western Samoa, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
If you are a national of a country that does not appear in this section on the two lists of countries, then please check with your nearest embassy or consulate of a Schengen-area country regarding your particular visa requirements.
If you are not a citizen of a European Union country AND you plan to stay anywhere in the entire Schengen area for more than 90 days in any 180-day period, then you will need a work, residence, long-term, and/or other type of visa (depending on what you plan to do) from the country in which you plan to be in order to do so.
Last but not least, no matter what your nationality is, if you already hold a valid residence permit with a Schengen member country (except for residence permits issued by Ireland or the UK), then that is automatically considered equal to a Schengen visa (which is only valid up to 90 days) when traveling to other Schengen countries, but you will still need to carry a valid passport or travel document from your country of nationality.
How long is the Schengen visa valid for?
The Schengen visa is valid for a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period. This means that if you enter and exit the Schengen area with a Schengen visa, the time you spend outside the Schengen area is not counted toward your maximum of 90 days only as long as you do not exceed the maximum of 90 days in ANY 180-day period.
To further clarify, in the case of those exempt from needing to apply for the Schengen visa, exiting the Schengen area does not “restart” or “renew” the Schengen visa or the 90-day maximum stay limit. This is only the case if you have been outside of the Schengen area for a minimum of 90 days (e.g., three months in and three months out).
Can I leave and enter the Schengen area more than once?
You can leave and re-enter the Schengen area, but make sure to keep in mind how long the Schengen visa is valid for. However, if you are not exempt from applying for the Schengen visa, then you must have originally requested a two-entry or multiple-entry Schengen visa in order to leave and re-enter the Schengen area.
- You plan to stay in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days.
- You are a passport holder of one of the following countries:
Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Holland, Honduras, Hong Kong and Macao (China), Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela.