What is a Schengen Visa?
The Schengen Visa is a document that allows its holder to travel throughout the Schengen Area. This type of visa is issued by one of the Schengen States, and allows you to visit any of the Schengen countries for a duration of up to 90 days in total within a period of six months.
What is the Schengen Area?
The Schengen Zone is a territory of 26 countries, and home to more than 400 million citizens. It was first initiated in 1985 by five EU member states in order to abolish internal borders. It consists of 22 European Union member states and four other countries that are part of the European Free Trade Association, which are Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
Who Needs a Schengen Visa?
Every citizen of each country that is not part of the Schengen Area and whose country doesn’t have a visa Facilitation Agreement with the EU needs a visa in order to enter any of the member countries. To find out if you need a visa for Europe, check list of countries whose citizens require a Schengen visa.
The Schengen states have common rules for issuing short-stay Schengen visas, which are valid within the entire Schengen area. These visas allow a person to stay and travel in the territories of Schengen states for a maximum of 90 days in any six month period.
Types of Schengen Visa
Depending on the purpose of your travel the embassy or consulate of your Schengen destination country will issue you the appropriate visa. There are three main types of visas that are issued which include tourist visas, business visas, working visas, student visas and transit visas.
Uniform Schengen Visas (USV)
The Uniform Schengen Visa (USV) allows its holder to travel and stay in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days every six month period. This type of visa has three different categories.
A Category – Airport Transit Visa
The Airport Transit Visa is a visa for citizens of a non-Schengen country who have to enter the airport of a Schengen country in order to take the plane to their Schengen destination country.
You may be exempt from the airport transit visa requirement, if:
- You are a holder of a valid visa or residence permit issued by one of the Schengen member states
- You are a holder of a visa valid for a Member State of the EU or the European Economic Area, Canada, Japan or the United States
- You are a holder of a valid residence permit issued by a Member State of the EU or the European Economic Area
- You are a holder of a residence permit issued by the Principality of Andorra, Canada, Japan, Republic of San Marino, or the United States, that guarantees unrestricted right of return
- You have a family member that is a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland
- You are a holder of a diplomatic passport;
- You are a flight crew member national of a contracting party to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.
C category – Short-term Visa
This type of EU visa is issued for a short period of time, and its holder can stay in the Schengen Area depending on the visa validity. It can be provided for single entry, double entry, or multiple entry, depending on the nature of your travel. Depending on the purpose of the travel the C-category could be either:
Single entry visa
With this visa one can enter a Schengen country only once and stay until the expiration of visa validity. If the holder leaves before the expiration, they are not allowed to enter the country again, since the visa is considered to have expired once its holder has left the country.
Double entry visa
With this visa one can enter a Schengen country twice within the time of visa validity. If the holder enters the country twice, and the second time leaves before the expiration, they are not allowed to enter the country again, since the visa is considered to have expired once its holder has left the country for the second time.
Multiple entry visa
This type of visa allows its holder to enter and leave the Schengen Zone as many times as he or she pleases. The only condition is that the visa holder must not stay more than 90 days within six months in the Schengen Area.
Limited territorial validity visas (LTV)
The Limited Territorial Validity (LTV) visa allows its holder to travel only in the Schengen member country that has issued the visa. If i.e. France has issued you the visa, then you are permitted to stay only in France and no other country. You are not even allowed to transit from one country to another with the LTV visa. This visa is considered as an exception to a Uniform Visa and is only issued for international obligations or humanitarian reasons in general.
National Visas – D visa
The National Visa is granted to individuals coming to one of the Schengen member countries for one specific reason, like working or studying. In order to be eligible to apply for this type of visa one must meet one of the requirements as follows:
- Be an international student in a program that grants Schengen visas,
- Be an international student about to start full-time studies in a Schengen country,
- Be a teacher at a higher education institution or research center in a Schengen country,
- Be a professional traveling to a Schengen country with the purpose of sharing expertise,
- Be a traveler in the Schengen Area who is experiencing an emergency, as a medical condition, that prevents departure at the end of your National Visa.
How to Apply for a Schengen Visa?
Where to submit the visa application?
You should apply for a Schengen Visa at the embassy or consulate of the Schengen country you are planning to visit. If you are planning to visit two or more countries during the same trip, then you have to apply at the embassy of the country where you plan to spend more time. If you are planing to spend equal time in two or more countries, i.e. five days in France and five days in Germany, then you have to apply at the embassy of the country where you are planning to land first.
In case that in your country, there is no consulate of the Schengen country you wish to visit, then you will have to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Immigration Office of that country and get information where you will have to apply in order to get a Schengen visa.
You have to apply and make an appointment at least 15 days before the intended journey, and the earliest three months before. Collect the required documents and on the day of your appointment show up at the embassy on time.
Required Documents for Schengen Visa Application
There is a number of documents the embassy of your destination Schengen country will ask you to submit in order to grant you with a visa.
The following documents are required for any short term Schengen visa application:
- A valid passport with at least two empty pages, issued within the last ten years. The passport must be valid for another three months beyond the intended stay in the Schengen Area.
- A visa application form. Completely filled online, downloaded in two copies and signed at the end.
- A recent photography. No more than 6-months old (35–40mm in width, close up of your head and top of your shoulders so that your face takes up 70–80% of the photograph. It should be taken in sharp focus and clear, of high quality and with no ink marks or creases).
- Schengen visa travel insurance. Covering emergency medical, hospitalization and in case of death, repatriation. Minimum cover should be 30.000 EUR, and is must be valid for you entire duration of stay in the whole territory of the Schengen Area.
- Visa fee. Which costs EUR 60 for adults and EUR 35 for minors.
- Travel Itinerary – a booked flight reservation, hotel booking etc, that shows in details when you plan to visit the country, where you will stay and what you will do.
For more details about the Schengen visa requirements visit the article.
Schengen Visa Fee
All of the Schengen Member countries have agreed on the cost of a Schengen visa. The Visa fee is EUR 60 for adults, and must be paid when you submit the visa application. Whereas the visa fee for children from the age of six years and below the age of 12 years is EUR 35.
However the European Union has concluded a Visa Facilitation Agreement with the nationals of several countries, according to which the citizens of these countries shall pay a fee of EUR 35.
These countries are:
In case of visa application rejection, the fee will not get reimbursed. If you apply again for a visa, you will have to pay the visa fee again.
Schengen Visa Validity
The validity of your visa depends on the type of visa you obtain. If you have a multiple entry visa, then you can stay within the Schengen territory for 90 days at most, within a period of 6 months.
Whereas, if you have a single or double entry visa the embassy or consulate you have applied at decides on its validity after processing all your documentations and deciding to issue you a visa. Sometimes they issue you a visa for the amount of time you have sought for, and sometimes for a longer or shorter period, depending how they see it reasonable.
The embassy not only appoints the number of days you can stay in the Schengen territory, but also the earliest date you can enter and the last date when you can leave, which sometimes is confusing for many people. You can read the validity of your visa in the visa sticker in your passport.
How to Read the Visa Sticker?
The phrase “DURATION OF STAY….DAYS” indicates the number of days you are allowed to stay within the Schengen Area. The first date you enter a Schengen state is counted as ‘day 1’ and the day you leave as the last day.
Whereas the field “FROM…UNTIL” indicates the days when you are allowed to stay in the Schengen country. This is always a bigger number than that of “DURATION OF STAY” because the embassy wants to give you flexibility.
If it writes “DURATION OF STAY 10 DAYS” but in the other field says “FROM 1 JANUARY UNTIL 30 JANUARY”, this means you can go in your destination country in whichever period of time you wish within these days (i.e. 17 January to 26 January).
Find out more on How to Read a Schengen Visa Sticker.
Citizens Entitled to Accelerated Visa Procedure Free of Charge
If the applicant meets the following criteria, then he or she is entitled to an accelerated visa procedure free of charge:
- The applicant is a family member of a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) citizen and the EU/EEA citizen is travelling to or is residing in a member state other than that of which he/she is a citizen.
- The applicant is accompanying the EU/EEA citizen or planning to join him/her in the Schengen State of destination.
Schengen Visa Extension
In order to get your visa extended you must have a very strong reason behind it as:
- Force majeure
- Humanitarian reasons
- Serious personal reasons
You must show strong proof that you cannot leave the Schengen country before the expiration of your visa. If you have stayed in the Schengen area for more than 90 days within six months, then your chances to get your visa extended are almost zero. You have to apply for the visa extension before the expiration of your visa.
In Case of Visa Rejection
If the embassy of consulate of the destination country you have applied at refuses your visa you can always appeal against the decision. ON the day you go to receive your answer regarding your visa application, if rejected, you will receive a paper that indicates the reasons behind the visa denial. There you will also have included the procedures and deadlines for submitting an appeal.
If your visa has been rejected, it does not mean that you cannot apply for it anymore. The embassies advise the applicants to take notes on the reasons why their application was denied at first, and make amendments where necessary. You will have to pay a new visa fee, which covers the cost of the examination of the visa application.
Non-EU Countries You Can Visit With a Schengen Visa
There are also some non-EU and non Schengen countries which you can visit with a valid Schengen visa. They are the following:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Sao Tome and Principe
Applying from the UK
UK residents may be required to apply for a Schengen visa if they hold a passport of a country that does not have a visa facilitation agreement with the EU.
The application process for a Schengen visa in the UK is similar as to applying anywhere else in the world. However, there may be extra requirements that applicants from the UK must fulfill depending on their nationality and purpose of travel.
Applying from the US
As a legal resident US you may need to apply for a Schengen visa if you hold a passport of a countries that does not have a visa facilitation agreement with the EU. However, some US passport holders may also need to apply, if they have been rejected visa-free entry in Europe.
Although the application process for a Schengen visa from USA is similar to any other visa application there are specifics that you need to keep in mind. Depending on your nationality and the purpose of travel there may be extra requirements that you need to fulfill.