The Schengen Area, which today covers 26 countries, including most of the European Union member states and is home to more than 400 million citizens, has been initiated in 1985 by five of the current member states. The main idea behind it was to abolish internal borders and make possible free move with less border control between the member states. With the expansion of the Schengen Area, came up the need for a document that would allow the residents of non-Schengen member countries to cross the external borders.
The Schengen Visa is a document that was drafted with the sole purpose of allowing its holder to travel throughout the territory. If you want to travel to Europe for tourism purposes, there is a type of Schengen visa specifically for this purpose. This type of visa is the Tourist Schengen Visa and 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.
This article will go through the Tourist Schengen visa, what it is, requirements, how to apply and more relevant details.
What is the Tourist Schengen Visa?
The Tourist Schengen Visa is an EU travel visa which allows its holder to travel to 22 European Union member states and 4 members of EFTA. You need to apply for this type of visa if your sole purpose is visiting and experiencing one or more European countries that are a part of the Schengen territory.
Tourist visas are short term visas and are on the C category. Depending on the number of times you intend to cross the external border of the Schengen territory there are three types of visas that are issued:
- Single entry
- Double entry
- Multiple entry
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.
Who Needs a Tourist Visa to Travel to Europe?
Every citizen of a non Schengen Area member country that wants to travel throughout Europe, respectively, to travel through the member countries of the Schengen needs a Tourist Visa. The Schengen states have agreed on common rules for issuing short-stay Schengen visas, which are valid within the entire Schengen area.
Tourist Visa Requirements
There are certain documents that you are required to submit when applying for a Schengen Europe Tourist Visa. Take care to check the website of the embassy or consulate of the country you are planning to visit, for the complete list of the required documents or you can find a list of generally required documents in our article here. If you do not find the list, you can ask for it from the consulate through email. The required documents depend on the type of visa, but also on your destination country.
During the processing time the consulate may, in individual cases, ask you to submit extra information or documents or you may be contacted for another interview. Make sure to submit them too, since the submission of the firstly required documents does not guarantee you will be granted with a visa.
In general, the required documents for a Tourist Schengen visa are as listed below:
- Visa application form – completely filled online, downloaded in two copies and signed at the end. You can find it on the website of the consulate /embassy in your destination country, or if not, you can require it from the consulate through email.
- Two photographs – 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, and according to all of the standards set by ISCO.
- Valid passport – with at least two empty pages in order to affix visa, issued within the last ten years. The passport must be valid for another three months beyond the intended stay in the Schengen Area.
- Clear photocopies of the 1st and last page of the passport (bio data)
- Previous passports (if applicable) – if you have more than one old passport, do not staple them, but tie them together with a rubber band instead and hand them along with the other documents.
- Personal covering letter (original) – where you will tell more about the purpose of visiting EU countries, the dates of your planned travel, where you plan to stay and other details of your trip.
- No Objection Letter – this is a letter from your employer or your school/university which states that you have contractual obligations in your home country, and assures the embassy that you will return back to your homeland.
- Health Insurance – covering emergency medical, hospitalization and in case of death, repatriation. The Schengen Zone member states have agreed that the minimum cover should be 30.000 EUR, and it must be valid for you entire duration of stay in the whole territory of the Schengen Area.
- Flight reservation – there is no need to buy actual plane tickets. However the embassy wants you to purchase a flight reservation in order to prove your intended entry and exit dates. One way tickets are not accepted.
- Proof of accommodation – for the entire period of stay in the Schengen Area. If you are staying in a hotel, you must show hotel booking. If you are staying at relatives or friends, they must submit proof that they have enough room for you.
- Proof of financial status – you must show evidence that you possess sufficient funds for the visit, that you will be able to financially maintain yourself during your stay in the Schengen territory. You should be able to prove that through a bank statement of the past three months, which must not be older than three days. The minimum amount required is different in each country, therefore you will have to consult with the relevant consular authority in your country. You should also submit documents to prove your working status.
- Visa fee – which costs EUR 60 for adults and EUR 35 for minors. However, the European Union has also concluded Visa Facilitation Agreements with the nationals of a few countries, according to which agreement their citizens shall pay a lower fee of EUR 35. Dependingly, some other countries apply visa waivers to some other categories of people. Check the embassy of your destination country for more information in this regard.
Tourist Schengen Visa Application Process
If you have ever applied for a visa to go somewhere in the world, just to let you know, the procedure is pretty much the same everywhere in the world for every type of visa. The main difference is on the required documents.
The first thing that you will have to do when applying for a Tourist Schengen Visa is to realize in which embassy you have to apply. If you are planning to visit only one country, then you will have to simply apply at the embassy of that country in your home country.
But, 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 planning to spend equal time in two or more countries, i.e. five days in France and five days in Switzerland, 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.
Submit Required Documents
Collect all of the required documents. Make sure you have all the necessary documents as required, all of them in two copies. Do not staple any of them. Organize them in the given order, so on the appointment day you will not have a mess in your hands.
Fill the Application Form
Complete the application form online carefully and correctly, print it twice and sign it at the end. The application form contains questions for basic information such as your name, date of birth, country of birth, passport number and nationality. You will also have to answer questions regarding your trip, such as how long are you planning to stay in each country, where you’re staying, etc. Make sure that the information you have given in the application form corresponds with that in the other documents.
Schedule an interview
You have to apply and make an appointment at least 15 days before the intended journey, and the earliest three months before. Appoint an interview through the website of the consulate or embassy of the country you are planning to visit, in your country of residence.
On the day of appointment
Show up at the appointment center on time (embassy of consulate). Remember that if you are late even for a few minutes, then they will probably cancel your appointment. In general the submission process takes around 10 minutes to complete.
Please make sure that the official person at the application center will check and verify all of your documents.
Provide Biometric Data
You will also have to get your fingerprints scanned at the consulate’s office, if you have never before applied for a Schengen Visa before. They will be stored in a new Visa Information System (VIS). Once finger scans are stored in VIS, they can be re‐used for further visa applications over a 5‐year period, therefore frequent travelers to the Schengen Area do not have to give new finger scans every time they apply for a new visa.
Pay the Visa Fee
All of the Schengen Member countries have agreed on the cost of a visa application. 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.
After you pay the visa fee, you will be issued a receipt which you have to keep in order to collect your processed application. 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.
Application processing time
As a common rule, each consulate or embassy has to take a decision whether to grant the applicant with a visa or not within 15 days. However, in some exceptional cases, this process might take up to 30 days, or even up to 60 if more additional documents are required to be submitted by the applicant. You are recommended to apply around six weeks prior to your planned travel.
Tourist Schengen Visa Validity
The validity of a Schengen visa depends on its type. A multiple entry visa gives the right to its holder to stay within the Schengen territory for 90 days at most, within a period of 180 days, to enter and leave whenever she or he wants to.
In the meantime, single entry and double entry visa holders will have to wait for the embassy or consulate they have applied to decide on its validity after processing all documentation. 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. This is all indicated on the visa sticker affixed in your passport.