The Schengen Area allows EU citizens the ability to move freely from country to country without so much as slowing down at a border. Now there is a visa that enables non-EU citizens the chance to experience the Schengen Area first hand.

The Schengen Visa allows non-EU citizens 90 days in which they can travel freely and cross borders into any of the 26 countries that make up the Schengen Area. The Schengen Visa is therefore an essential tool for the intrepid tourist and ambitious entrepreneur alike.

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About Schengen

In 1985, five EU member states came up with the idea of abolishing internal border controls within Europe, and the nucleus of the Schengen Area was born. For centuries, Europe’s great nations have waged war against each other and defended their borders against invasion, and yet today those same borders only exist on maps.

A Europe without internal borders brings huge benefits to the European economy, and now Europeans make over 1.25 billion journeys within the Schengen Area every year. While it has had and continues to have its critics, on the whole most Europeans believe that the Schengen Area is a good thing.

Supporters of the Schengen Area wish to not only preserve but also reinforce what has been an incredible achievement. It is amazing to think that nations that were twice torn apart during two devastating world wars have now removed their borders and live together side by side in total peace.

Removing those borders, guaranteeing safety and building the necessary trust between nations that were once sworn enemies took many years to achieve, and today it signifies one of the greatest accomplishments of the European Union, and hopefully,  it will be irreversible.

Schengen Visa Information

What is the Schengen Zone?

The Schengen Area or Schengen Zone refers to the group of bordering, interlocking countries that opted into the Schengen Agreement which was originally signed by five nations – Belgium, France, West Germany, Luxembourg and Holland at the town of Schengen in Luxembourg on June 14 1985.

Eventually the Schengen Agreement would comprise 26 EU countries whom all agreed to do away with border checks and instead open their borders to promote greater trade and tourism between European countries.

Similarities Between Schengen & The US

The Schengen Area operates like one very large single country encompassing 26 states, with no internal border controls, but with regular external border controls for travellers entering and exiting the area. In that respect the Schengen Area operates in much the same way as the United States. In fact, the Schengen Zone is currently the largest free travel area in the world behind America.

The 26 European countries that currently make up the Schengen area have a combined population of over 400 million people. The combined landmass that makes up the Schengen Area  adds up to 4,312,099 km2. The US currently has a population of 328.2 million, and its land mass is 9,147,590 km2.

What is a Schengen Visa?

The Schengen Visa is a short-stay visa that grants its holder 90-days of travel within the Schengen Area. The visa allows the user to enter any and all of the 26 countries that make up the Schengen Area. The Schengen Visa can be used for both tourism or business purposes, or to visit family or friends in Europe.

The Schengen visa is the most commonly used visa for foreign travel within Europe. Its holder is able to enter the Schengen Area, move freely from country to country within it, and leave the Schengen zone from any of the Schengen member countries. There are no borders nor  controls within the Schengen Area. In 2019 more than 15 million people used Schengen Visas to travel around Europe.

(If you would like to study, work, or live in one of the Schengen countries for more than the 90 days provided by the Schengen Visa, you will need to apply for a National Visa for a particular EU country within the Schengen Area. Or you could become an EU citizen.)

Which Nationalities Require Visas To Enter Europe?

All citizens of countries that have not reached a visa-liberalization agreement with the Schengen member states will need to obtain a visa prior of their arrival in Europe. Those countries include:

Afghanistan Gabon Oman
Algeria Gambia Pakistan
Angola Ghana Papua New Guinea
Armenia Guinea Palestinian Authority
Azerbaijan Guinea-Bissau Philippines
Bahrain Guyana Qatar
Bangladesh Haiti Russia
Belarus India Rwanda
Belize Indonesia Sao Tome And Principe
Benin Iran Saudi Arabia
Bhutan Iraq Senegal
Bolivia Jamaica Sierra Leone
Botswana Jordan Somalia
Burkina Faso Kazakhstan South Africa
Burma/Myanmar Kenya South Sudan
Burundi Kosovo Sri Lanka
Cambodia Kuwait Sudan
Cameroon Kyrgyzstan Suriname
Cape Verde Laos Swaziland
Central African Republic Lebanon Syria
Chad Lesotho Tajikistan
China Liberia Tanzania
Comoros Libya Thailand
Congo Madagascar Timor-Leste
Cote D’ivoire Malawi Togo
Cuba Maldives Tonga
Dem. Rep. Of Congo Mali Tunisia
Djibouti Mauritania Turkey
Dominican Republic Mongolia Turkmenistan
Ecuador Morocco Uganda
Egypt Mozambique Uzbekistan
Equatorial Guinea Namibia Vietnam
Eritrea Nepal Yemen
Ethiopia Niger Zambia
Fiji Nigeria Zimbabwe
North Korea Northern Mariana’s

 

Travel Documents And Entry Requirements For Non-EU Nationals

If you are a non-EU citizen, regardless if you are visa-exempt or not you will still need to present several documents at the Schengen port of entry, in order to be permitted entry to the Schengen Area. Those documents are:

A Valid Passport

Your passport must have been issued within the previous 10 years and be valid for at least three more months after the date you intend to leave the EU.

A Schengen Visa

EU/Schengen border officials may also ask you for additional information such as whether you have sufficient funds to support your stay in Europe,  proof of accommodation, how long you intend to stay, if you have a round-trip airline ticket, and the purpose of your entry, etc.

It is essential that the customs officer gives you an entry stamp in your passport when you enter the Schengen area. Without that stamp, you could be find yourself in trouble with local authorities, resulting in a fine, being detained or even expulsion.

Do US Citizens Need A Schengen Visa To Enter The Schengen Area?

Citizens of the United States who hold a valid and current US passport are free to travel to each and all 26 European member countries of the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days without having to apply for or obtain a Schengen Visa.

However, if you reside in America but are a non-US passport holder, you will need to check your nationality against the list of countries who require visas to enter Europe. Just being a resident of the US does not give you access to Europe.

What Documents Do Americans Need To Carry Before Entering The Schengen Area?

Whilst US citizens do not need to obtain an EU/Schengen Visa prior to traveling to any country within the Schengen Area, they will still need to carry the following documents with them in order to be allowed to enter Europe’s visa free zone:

A US Passport

The passport must be no older than 10 years and it must be valid for at least three more months beyond the intended date of departure from the Schengen Area.

Reason For Their Visit

The visitor must show or explain evidence for their purpose of entry. This means documents or other proof that shows the reason or reasons why a US citizen is traveling to the Schengen Area. It could be as a tourist, for business purposes or to visit family, but tangible proof must still be shown.

Sufficient Funds

The visitor must show proof that they are carrying or have access to sufficient funds or financial means to support themselves during their stay in Europe.

Please keep in mind that the customs official has the final say whether a traveller should be permitted to enter the Schengen Zone or not. If you are rejected from entering any of the EU member states, then you will have to go back to the United States and apply for a regular Schengen Visa.

If your entry is approved, you will receive a stamp with the date indicating your arrival into the country.

Which EU Countries Can Americans Visit Without A Visa?

American citizens are one of the very few nationalities permitted to enter and travel throughout the entire Schengen Area plus the UK without having to obtain any EU visas nor apply for the Schengen Visa.

The European countries where Americans can travel to without having to obtain a short-term Schengen visa are:

Austria Hungary Norway
Belgium Iceland Poland
Czech Republic Italy Portugal
Denmark Latvia Slovakia
Estonia Liechtenstein Slovenia
Finland Lithuania Spain
France Luxembourg Sweden
Germany Malta Switzerland
Greece Netherlands

 

How Long Can A US Citizen Stay In Europe Without A Visa?

US citizens are free to remain within the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days during a 180 day period.

Which European Countries Issue Schengen Visas?

The Schengen Area is made up of 26 European countries that have signed the Schengen Agreement. Each of these Schengen Area member states can issue Schengen Visas.

Which Countries Make Up The Schengen Area?

The 26 Schengen Countries Are:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland

There are a further 19 European countries that are not part of the Schengen Zone. They also allow citizens of other non-Schengen countries to enter their borders, but only if they hold a valid multiple-entry Schengen Visa.

As long as you hold a Schengen Visa you will not need to apply for any individual national visas issued by these countries prior to entering their borders, or staying their temporarily.

Schengen Visa Types For Short-Term Visits To Europe

When you apply for a Schengen Visa you must state if you intend to visit one or more European countries of this area for the following reasons:

Business purposes, Visiting friends and family, Tourism and holidays, Cultural and sport events, Airport transit and transit for seafarers, Official visit, Medical reasons, Short-term study and research purposes

The Schengen Consulate can issue you with a single-entry visa, a double-entry visa, or a multiple-entry visa, depending on your reasons for visiting the Schengen countries and the frequency of your visits.

The validity of your single-entry visa depends on the number of days you have stated you are going to be in the Schengen zone on your visa application form and the actual decision of the consulate that issues you the Schengen visa.

Frequent Traveller

If you are a frequent traveller you can apply for an EU visa that is valid for up to five years. Please be aware that should you obtain such a visa, you are still limited to remaining within the Schengen area for a maximum 90 days during a 180 day period. Unfortunately even if you are qualified to hold a multiple-entry visa for Europe valid for up to 5 years, you still cannot stay within the Schengen Area for more than 90 days in a 180-day period of time.

How Do I Apply For A Schengen Visa To Enter And Travel In Europe?

Before you apply for a Schengen Visa to travel to Europe, it is worthwhile putting together a detailed plan of action. Ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of my trip to the Schengen Area? Business, pleasure, looking up family, a bit of everything?
  • Which countries am I definitely going to visit, which countries might I visit if I have time, how much time am I going to spend in my chosen countries
  • Which country am I planning on using to enter the Schengen Area, and which will I be using when I leave?

Once you have put together your plan of action, make an appointment to visit the nearest Schengen consulate in your country. You should be able to obtain this information by asking at any EU embassy.

How Much Does a Schengen Visa Cost?

The cost of a Schengen visa is €80 per adult. There are some categories where the applicant will be to able pay a lower fee, or even be exempt from paying.  You will be able to obtain this information when you chat with your Schengen consulate.

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