Europe remains the top favorite overseas destination for US travelers. With its touristic destinations, historical monuments and sites, beautiful mountains and landscapes, the old continent keeps luring travelers across the globe. Almost 16 million US residents entered Europe in 2017 alone. After the neighboring Mexico, Europe was the second most visited by Americans within the same year.
For some, traveling is easy. You buy a ticket, and that is it. For others, traveling includes applications and processes that are often confusing and time-consuming, in particular when it comes to traveling to Europe.
If you are living in the United States, and you do not know what procedures you should follow to enter Europe, this article will make it clear to you.
Do US citizens need a visa to Europe?
You will not need a visa to Schengen Area, if you are living in the US and you belong to one of the following categories:
- A US citizen.*
- A passport holder of one of the Schengen States.
- A holder of a valid residence permit issued by one of the Schengen countries.
- A national of one of the countries that have a visa-free agreement with the Schengen Countries.*
*You will need to apply for an ETIAS starting January 1, 2021, in order to be permitted to enter any of the Schengen states.
Who needs to apply for Schengen Visa in USA?
You will have to apply for a Schengen visa from the US prior to your trip, in order to enter Europe, if you belong to any of the following categories:
- You have been rejected visa-free entry in Europe despite of being:
- A US passport holder
- A passport holder of one of the countries that have a visa-free agreement with the Schengen Area
- You are a national of one of the countries that have not established visa-free regime with the Schengen states yet
Please keep in mind that you will be able to get a Schengen visa from US only if you have a US residence permit. In case you are there on a visa, you will not be able to apply for a Schengen Visa. Instead, you will have to go to your country of residence in order to be able to apply.
How to apply for Schengen Visa in USA?
Through it might sound as tons of work and requirements; in fact, applying for a Schengen visa from US is simple, especially if you fulfill the eligibility criteria. As a start, in order to get your application ready, you need to figure out a couple of things as:
- Whether you need a visa at all (which you have probably found out so far)
- What type of visa you need
- Where you should file your application
- When is the best time to submit you application
- What documents should you collect
- Is there any appointment you shall make and attend
Below, find the answers to all these questions and much more.
Where to Apply for a Schengen Visa in US?
Just because the Schengen states have a common visa policy, it does not mean you can file your visa application at whichever Schengen embassy in US. There are strict rules on where an applicant shall file their application. Before you schedule an appointment, decide:
- How many Schengen countries will you visit?
- If you are planning to visit more than one:
- How much you will remain in each?
- In which country will you step first?
If you are going to visit only one country, then file your application at the embassy / consulate / visa center of that country in the US.
On the other hand, if you will be visiting more than one country, then file you application at the embassy / consulate / visa center of that country in which:
- You will spent most days
- You will step in first, since you will spend an equal amount of days in each
In addition, depending on how your destination country has regulated visa submission, you may have to submit your application at their:
- Visa Center
- Embassy / consulate / visa center of another Schengen country to which your destination country has outsourced visa submission.
Aside of that, in the US, each embassy and each consulate have their own jurisdiction area. This means that where you need to file your application also depends on the jurisdiction area under which you fall.
When to Apply?
Once again, you cannot just file you visa application whenever you want to. The most advisable time to file your application is three weeks prior to your trip to Schengen zone.
Still, the earliest you can submit your Schengen visa application is three months prior to your trip to this region. The latest you can do so, is two months prior to the date of your planned trip.
Schengen Visa Requirements for US Residents
To complete your application process, you will need to collect the required documents to apply for Schengen visa in USA, which are mandatory.
Below find a list of the standard required documents for a Schengen visa and their specifications:
- Schengen Visa Application Form. The form is the same for all countries in Schengen. Fulfill the form with correct information and print it twice. Sign both copies at the end.
- Valid passport. Your passport must be valid for another three months beyond the date you plan to leave the area. It must not be older than ten years, and have at least two blank pages.
- Two identical photos. It must not be older than 3 months and fulfill the requirements for a Schengen visa photo.
- Schengen Travel Health Insurance for Europe. In the minimum amount of €30,000, that covers any medical emergencies and repatriation in case of death.
- Proof of Accommodation. You must submit documents through which you prove where you will be staying throughout your time in the Schengen states. That could be:
- a hotel booking,
- a letter of invitation, or
- a rent agreement.
- Flight Itinerary. A document through which you prove you have a saved seat in a flight. It also contains the dates you enter and leave Schengen.
- Cover Letter. A letter in which you explain your whole trip in details, what you will be doing, the places you will be visiting, etc.
- Proof of financial means. Evidence that you have the means to support yourself throughout your whole trip in the Schengen Area.
Depending on your employment status you will have to submit the following documents:
- If you are an employee, you need to submit:
- Leave permission from the employer.
- Employment contract.
- Income Tax Return (ITR) form or Certificate of Income Tax deducted at the source of salary.
- If you are self-employed, you need to submit:
- A copy of your business license.
- Income Tax Return (ITR).
- If you are retired, you need to submit:
- Pension statement of the latest 6 months.
- If you are studying at a US university, you need to submit:
- Proof of enrollment.
- No objection letter from School or University in the US.
- If you are unemployed and married to a US citizen, you need to submit:
- Your spouse’s Confirmation of Employment. This document should be issued by the employer of your spouse, and must indicate details as the position held by your spouse within the company, as well as the starting date.
- Spouse’s valid passport.
- An officially translated marriage certificate. If your marriage certificate is not in English, translation is required. This translation must be certified as a true copy by the Embassy of the country where the marriage took place or by the Legalization Bureau of the Foreign Office in US. In case this Certificate was issued outside the EU, it must bear a stamp by the Foreign Office of the issuing country, or its Embassy in the US.
In addition, you will have to gather specific documents for the visa your are applying for, as following:
Remember that despite of the fact the Schengen states have a common visa policy, some of the countries may have extra requirements. Thus, when you apply for i.e. a Germany Schengen Visa, or a France Schengen visa, expect some additional requirements or different documents’ specifications.
Schengen Visa Interview in USA
A Schengen visa interview is a meeting of the applicant with a visa consular at the appointment center. The interview lasts around ten minutes. Throughout this time, you will have to submit the required documents and answer to the questions the visa interviewer asks.
The interviewer will ask you about your background, the reasons why you wish to visit the Schengen Zone and other questions related to your trip.
If you have never applied for a Schengen visa before, you will have to submit your biometrics. Which means you will have your fingerprints and facial image taken.
Schengen visa fees for US residents
The fees for a Schengen visa are the same, no matter which countries you will be visiting. Currently, the fee for a Schengen visa for adults is $69 and $40 for children under 12. Children below the age of 6, do not have to pay any fees.
In addition, there are categories of people who are exempt from paying the fee, or who only have to pay a lower fee. Check the Schengen visa fees for more!
Keep in mind that in case of visa rejection or application withdrawal you will not be able to get your money back.
ETIAS for Americans
Starting from January 1, 2021, all U.S citizens and U.S travelers from visa-exempt countries will have to apply for an ETIAS prior to their trip to Schengen. ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System, and is quite similar to the American ESTA.