What is a Schengen Visa?
The Schengen area is a group of 26 member countries, mainly in the European Union, that allow free movement of people and goods across their borders. A Schengen Visa can be authorised by any one of these members, and it allows the holder to travel within these 26 countries for a short stay of less than 90 days in a 180 day period or as a transit passenger at one of its airports.
Which countries take part in the Schengen Agreement?
There are 26 Schengen Member Countries of the Schengen Agreement namely, 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.
What does EFTA stand for?
EFTA stands for European Fair Trade Association and is made up of the four countries that are in Europe but not part of the European Union: Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It was designed to promote free trade and freedom of movement between its members and the other countries in Europe that are part of the European Union. With EFTA members entering a single market with the other countries of the EU, this enables economic integration throughout the continent.
How does EFTA differ from EU?
There are overlaps but essentially the EFTA countries are in Europe but are not part of the European Union. The European Union consists of 28 countries that have joined together politically and economically and many of them use one unit of currency, the euro. They promote free trade and freedom of movement, and the countries with membership of EFTA are also included in this as part of the Schengen Agreement. This agreement means that to a great extent the borders between these countries are non-existent, which is why a Schengen Visa allows the holder to move between these countries freely.
Who needs a Schengen Visa?
Schengen Visas or Schengen transit visas are not required by anyone who holds a passport as a citizen of one of the Schengen member countries. Additionally, residents of some countries such as the USA, Canada and Japan are also not required to hold such a visa for entry to one of the Schengen member states. If you are unsure, please see this list of countries whose citizens need to apply for a Schengen Visa.
How long can I remain in the Schengen Zone with a Schengen Visa?
A Schengen Visa will allow the holder to remain and travel in one or more of the Schengen states for up to 90 days in a six month period. A Schengen airport transit visa allows the holder to pass through any airport in the Schengen area en route elsewhere. Citizens of countries that are required to hold a Schengen Visa must apply for a transit visa even if they are to remain airside. If you would like to spend longer than 90 days in the Schengen area, then a Schengen Visa will not be appropriate. You will have to contact the embassy or consulate of the country where you will be spending the majority of your time.
Who is allowed to apply for a Schengen Visa?
Anyone can apply for a Schengen Visa as long as they can support themselves financially while in the Schengen countries, and have access to the documentation that will be required for the application process. This includes a valid passport, confirmation of the purpose of the trip including hotel reservations or connection to family residing within the Schengen zone, travel insurance and a return ticket.
What type of Schengen Visa do I need?
There are three different types of visas depending on the purpose of your trip.
• Uniform Schengen Visa – This is the most common, and allows the holder to visit one or more of the Schengen member states for up to 90 days within a six-month period.
• Limited Territorial Validity Visa – These visas restrict the holder to travelling and staying in just one of the Schengen states. Transiting through other Schengen states en route to the destination country is also allowed as long as these are specifically noted on the application.
• National Visa – This is usually given to students or workers who are likely to reside in the Schengen country of choice for a longer period of time before returning home. Typically, they can be granted for a year, after which the individual will need to reapply.
What is a Uniform Schengen Visa?
The Uniform Schengen Visa allows travel within the Schengen zone for up to 90 days in the six months following entry to the first Schengen country. There are two main categories of visa, the Airport Transit Visa and the Short-term Visa.
The Airport Transit Visa allows transit through one of the airports in the Schengen zone for citizens of countries who would normally require a Schengen Visa to visit. Even though the passenger may not be leaving the airport, they still require a visa to land in the Schengen country before flying to their final destination.
The Short-term Visa allows travel to any one of the Schengen states for up to 90 days in total throughout a six-month period. The visa can be Single-entry, Double-entry or Multiple-entry. Single entry will allow travellers to enter the Schengen area only once within the six months. Once the traveller has left the country, even if the visit lasted less than 90 days no further re-entry will be allowed. Double-entry allows two such visits and Multiple-entry allows as many as the holder would like without exceeding the total of 90 days within the Schengen zone.
What is the difference between an Airport transit visa and a Transit visa?
If travelling by plane, the Airport Transit Visa will allow transit through the airport of a Schengen country if the passenger is travelling elsewhere but does not allow entry into the country itself. A Transit visa is for travellers using road transport, and it will allow the holder a 5-day period of travel through one or more of the Schengen countries en route to a non-Schengen country.
What is the difference between a Single-entry and a Multiple-entry Schengen Visa?
The Single-entry, Short-stay Visa allows the holder to visit one or more of the Schengen countries for up to 90 days within a six-month period. However, the traveller is only allowed to enter the Schengen zone once. If the traveller leaves the Schengen zone, their visa expires and they will no longer be allowed to return, and this applies even if they have not stayed 90 days in the Schengen zone. A Multiple-entry, Short-stay Visa allows as many journeys into and out of the Schengen zone as the holder requires, but still limits the overall visit to 90 days within a six-month period.
What is a Limited Territorial Validity Visa?
A Limited Territorial Validity Visa does not allow entry to all countries that are members of the Schengen zone. It is restricted to a single country or small number of countries that must be mentioned on the original application. This is usually granted in exceptional circumstances, for example, if the holder has to visit because of a medical emergency but holds no valid national papers or documentation.
What is a National Visa?
The National Visa is usually granted to workers, students or persons remaining in a particular country for a specific reason, all of whom will be staying longer than normally allowed by the Short-term Visas before returning home.
Can I travel to more than one Schengen country with the same Schengen Visa?
As long as the stay does not exceed 90 days within a six-month period, and the holder abides by the rules of the Single-entry, Double-entry or Multiple entry restrictions of their visa, they can visit any or all of the 26 Schengen member countries.
How to Find Cheap Flights to Schengen Countries?
Finding cheap flights to Europe and the Schengen countries in particular is much easier if you have access to the internet. There are websites such as Kayak that search for cheap flights for you, and travel agencies that do likewise. However, not all airlines will allow aggregators to access their flights so in this case it is better to book direct with the airline itself. Prices fluctuate daily so make sure you look for any companies that are having a sale, or track flights using Google Flights and book when the price drops significantly.
Most airlines raise their prices in the two or three weeks before departure to take advantage of last-minute shoppers, but holiday companies like Tui and Thomas Cook do the opposite. Their business plan revolves around package holidays, so last-minute seats will be sold off cheaply in order to fill the plane. For the other airlines it is better to book from around 6 weeks to 12 weeks before departure, as this is when their seats are likely to be cheaper.
Where do I apply for the Schengen Visa?
If you require a Schengen Visa, you should apply to the consulate or embassy of the country where you will be spending most of your time. If you expect to stay in many of the Schengen countries, you should apply to the consulate or embassy of the country you intend to visit first.
If I am travelling to more than one Schengen country, at which embassy do I apply for a Schengen Visa?
If you are travelling to more than one Schengen country, you should apply for the visa at the embassy or consulate of the country where you will be spending the majority of your time. If you are planning on moving between many of the Schengen countries, then the recommendation is that you should apply to the embassy or consulate of the first Schengen country that you will be travelling to.
What is a flight itinerary for the Schengen Visa application?
The flight itinerary is a document that shows a confirmed flight to and from the country you intend to visit. The office granting the visa has no wish for you to waste money on an actual flight until you know that your visa application has been successful, so this is just a reserved or dummy ticket to show your intention. Some consulates and embassies require you to show the actual ticket on the flight that you have booked when you pick up a successfully granted visa, but up until then just an itinerary with no confirmed booking is sufficient.
What do I have to do to apply for a Schengen Visa?
The application form can be downloaded online from the embassy or consulate of the country where you will be spending the majority of the time. Once this is completed and you have all the required supporting documents you must make an appointment at the embassy or consulate in question. At that appointment, you will be asked to show all the documents you have so please ensure your passport is valid and current, and will not expire for at least six months after your planned arrival date in the Schengen zone.
What type of documentation will I need in order to apply for a Schengen Visa?
There are seven different documents plus copies and fees required to apply for this visa:
• Current and valid passport (with six months left before expiration) plus one copy
• Completed application form for each traveller
• Two passport-sized photographs
• Proof of travel insurance (to include medical assistance and repatriation if necessary)
• Proof of financial means (this can be travellers cheques, credit cards, cheque book or cash. Each country has a specific reference amount that it requires.)
• Additional application forms and documents for any minors travelling
• A return ticket if arriving by air, enough funds for fuel if driving or the return documentation for a rental car
There are additional requirements for Iceland and Denmark in the form of supplementary information. Germany requires a signed declaration that the copies are indeed likenesses of the original documents. Also, if you are applying to work in a Schengen country you may be asked for proof of your professional status.
Where can I get the application form for a Schengen Visa?
All application forms for a Schengen Visa will have the same format, and you can download them from the embassy or consulate of the country that will be granting your visa.
How do I fill in the application form for a Schengen Visa?
You can fill in the application form either by hand or electronically. No answers should be left empty, but most of the questions are very simple and fact-based, for example, Name, Address, Date of Birth. If there are questions that you do not think apply to your situation, you may insert N/A which stands for Not Applicable.
Do I have to hand the documentation in personally at the embassy or consulate?
Yes. In order to apply for a Schengen Visa, an appointment for a meeting must be made at the embassy or consulate that you choose. At this meeting you should hand in the completed application form and have with you all the supporting documentation that is required.
Do I have to make an appointment at the embassy or consulate, or I can show up whenever I want to?
The answer to this may depend on the embassy or consulate that you have chosen, but please be aware that the vast majority will require you to make a specific appointment to discuss the visa application. If you contact the embassy or consulate in question, they can let you know their procedures.
What do they commonly ask in the interview for the Schengen Visa?
The interview is to ascertain whether the applicant should be granted a visa and the questions will range from simple fact-checking to personal questions about the reason for your trip. If there is any doubt about whether replies are truthful or not, the visa application may be turned down. This is to ensure you are a not seeking to stay illegally in the country in question, and you will not enter into any unlawful activities once there. For the honest and genuine traveller this should not be an issue. If you answer truthfully and completely there is no reason why your application shouldn’t be successful.
How much does a Schengen Visa cost?
The fee for a Schengen Visa is non-refundable, even in the event of an application being rejected.
An Airport Transit Visa costs 60.00 euros
A Short-stay Schengen Visa costs 60.00 euros
The longer-stay National Visa will cost 99.00 euros
Children between six and twelve years will be charged 35 euros, and the fee is waived for children under six years and students entering the Schengen zone to study.
Is it normal for the embassy or consulate to require additional documents beside the ones that are mandatory?
Depending on the type of visa you are applying for and your own personal circumstances, the embassy or consulate could require additional documents. Please contact the embassy or consulate in question for their specific requirements.
Do I buy the plane ticket before or after they issue the visa?
The embassy or consulate that will be granting the visa will not insist that you purchase a ticket before you apply for a visa in case the application is rejected. They do need to see a flight itinerary with your application, but a confirmed ticket is usually only required when picking up the approved visa.
If I am visiting someone in the Schengen country, how do I document that to the embassy or consulate?
When visiting friends or relatives in the Schengen zone, you will need to prove that they are expecting you and you have the funds to be able to remain in the country for the duration of your trip. This takes the form of a written formal invitation signed by the relative or friend that you will be visiting, as well as copies of their passport or residency permit.
Whoever will be funding the trip, whether this is the applicant or the relative or friend they are visiting, needs to submit proof of their financial status including information that shows they have the required funds.
How much money do I have to prove I have in order to get the Schengen Visa?
There are different requirements in each country because of exchange rates and the cost of living. Each country has a recommended amount and it is usually enough to cover accommodation and day-to-day costs for the duration of the trip.
Do I have to send copies of previous visas when applying for a Schengen Visa?
If you have been issued with any previous visas, you should submit copies of them all with your completed application form.
How much time does it take to get a response when applying for a Schengen Visa?
It is advisable to apply for a Schengen Visa at least two or three weeks before your planned trip. Generally the application will be approved within two working days, but occasionally it can take from ten to fifteen working days to process.
Can I apply for a Schengen Visa in a country where I am not a resident?
It is recommended that you apply only from the country where you are a resident. If you have to apply from a different country each embassy or consulate will have specific requirements. For example, if you are not resident in the UK but want to apply from there, you must show that you have been living in the country for at least three months. Contact the embassy or consulate in question and ask for any additional documentation that they require in these circumstances.
What do I do if I want to extend my Schengen Visa?
Generally, this is not possible. If there are extenuating circumstances, for example, illness or medical emergency, then you may be granted an extension but you will have to apply to the immigration department in the country you are visiting. If there is no acceptable reason to extend the visa, you will have to return to your country of residence and apply for a new visa.
What documentation do I need in order to be granted a Schengen Visa if I am travelling for the purpose of studying?
If you intend to study at a recognised institution in the Schengen zone, then you will need to produce the letter of acceptance from that educational body along with your application form. Other documentation is as for any other Schengen Visa application including a current passport and proof that you are able to fund your stay.
Do I need additional documents to reside more than 90 days in a Schengen country?
Staying more than 90 days usually results in being granted a National Visa for students and visitors on business. There are specific requirements for these over and above those accompanying a Short-stay Visa application. If you are planning to study in a Schengen country, then a letter from the educational institution will be required. If you are working, then documentation from your place of business explaining the reason and length of time you will be expecting to stay in the Schengen zone is necessary.
What is a residency permit?
A residency permit is not necessary for a citizen residing in their own country. If they would like to move to an alternative country, they must be granted permission to do so and this usually results in a residency permit to show that they are allowed to stay legally.
Am I able to travel within the Schengen area with a residency permit?
If you have a residency permit allowing you to stay in one of the Schengen countries, then this covers you for travel to any of the other countries in the Schengen zone. There are additional restrictions when if comes to leaving the Schengen area however, and the immigration authorities will need to be notified if you are planning on leaving, as you may have difficulties returning without authorisation.
What if there is not an embassy or consulate of the designated country in my country of residence?
There are not embassies or consulates for every single Schengen member in every country, but if your country of residence has an embassy for another of the Schengen members you might be able to send the application to them instead. Although it is recommended that you apply to the embassy of the country you are actually going to be spending the time in, the Schengen Visas cover all member states and the embassies have reciprocal agreements to cover just this situation. If you contact the embassy or consulate that have the jurisdiction to grant Schengen Visas for the country you want to visit, then they will be able to issue you with the required visa.
What documents do I need to attach when applying for a Schengen Visa if I am self-employed?
If you are self-employed, you need to submit a letter that is less than three months old with the following information included:
• The professional activity undertaken and the starting date
• Business registration and VAT certificate if applicable
• Tax returns, bank statements or some other proof of revenue
Can I get a Schengen Visa if I am a minor?
Yes. There are additional documents required in addition to the ones specified for adults, and either the parents or guardians have to sign the application form. If only one of the parents has full custody then they can be sole signatory of the application form, but the family court order must also be included.
Are there any additional documents requested when obtaining a Schengen Visa for a minor?
Yes. In addition to the documents required for an adult, the application for a minor must be signed by both parents and has to include the child’s birth certificate and certified copies of the parents’ ID or passport. If one parent has full custody in the event of a divorce, the family court order must also be included. Finally, in the special circumstances of a child travelling alone, a notarized parental authorisation must be signed by the parents or guardian and included in the application.
In case my Schengen Visa application is denied, will I get my money back?
No. Unfortunately, the administration fee for the Schengen Visa is non-refundable whatever the result of the application process.
Where do I pay for the Schengen Visa?
You can pay the visa fee at whichever consulate or embassy is issuing the visa. They will all take cash or a debit card, and some but not all will allow you to pay by credit card.
Is the Schengen Visa fee the same for adults and for children?
No. There is no fee at all for children under the age of 6, and children between the ages of 6 and 12 will be charged 35 euros. Georgian, Kosovan, Russian and Ukrainian nationals will also pay 35 euros, but everyone else will be required to pay 60 euros for a Short-stay Visa and 99 euros for a Long-stay Visa.
What is travel insurance?
Travel insurance will compensate you for any medical expenses required throughout your trip including repatriation if that is required. Depending on the insurance you purchase, it can protect you if any of your valuables or travel documents are lost or stolen, for any cancellations or if you experience travel delays. If you expect to take part in any extreme sports or if you have a pre-existing medical condition, these can also be covered as long as you purchase the correct level of cover.
Where do I purchase travel insurance?
Travel insurance can be purchased online, directly from insurance brokers or through travel agencies and selected financial institutions. Insurance must cover the traveller for pre-existing health conditions, and the duration must include the entire time spent within the Schengen countries.
Does everybody need travel insurance?
Anyone travelling to a country or countries with a Schengen Visa has to prove that they have travel insurance before they will be issued with the visa. The insurance must cover the individual for the period of time they will be spending in the Schengen area and should cover medical expenses and repatriation.
Should I bring my medical file with me if I am travelling to a foreign country?
Normally this is not necessary, but it is recommended if knowledge of any pre-existing health condition will be useful for health professionals that may need to treat you.
If I am travelling on vacation and get hurt while engaging in an extreme sport of any kind, will insurance pay for my medical bills?
No, not unless you have specifically purchased insurance for extreme sports. Generally, this type of injury will not be covered by conventional insurance.