The town of Schengen where the agreement was signed


If you are researching a trip to Europe, you have probably stumbled across the word “Schengen”. And then Schengen is attached to Area and Visa and other words. If you want to know about the Schengen Area, the Schengen Visa and all things Schengen then I’m here to de-mystify the Schengen Area, the Schengen Visa and all things Schengen for you. So here is what you need to know to help you navigate your way through this tricky European zone.


A Brief History of the Schengen Agreement


It was in 1985 that a number of European countries signed an agreement to abolish internal borders. This would enable passport-free movement across these countries. On 26 March 1995 it finally started with seven Schengen member countries, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain deciding to abolish their internal border checks. As the years roll on more countries have signed up and currently there are 26 European countries that make up the Schengen Area. By the way, Schengen is the name of a town in Luxembourg, where the agreement was first signed. 


Which Countries Belong In The Schengen Area


As mentioned, there are now 26 countries that make up the Schengen Area. Twenty two are EU (European Union) countries and four are non-EU countries. Together these countries have a mutual border. Basically that means they function together as one single jurisdiction for international travel purposes and thus one visa, the Schengen Visa which allows free movement between the Schengen Area countries. I could give you a list of the Schengen Area countries however, that can be extremely boring to read. So see the map following that shows you the extent of the area. Also visit the official Schengen website where you can see other maps and get more information.


Map of Europe Showing Schengen Area

The Schengen Area


What Is The Schengen Visa and How Does It Work?


The Schengen Visa is one visa that allows travel within the Schengen Area. It was created so you don’t have to show your passport and/or visa every time you cross a Schengen country border. It allows for free movement between the Schengen Area countries which makes life of travelling in Europe so much easier. Having a Schengen Visa means you can transit through or have a stay of no more than 90 days in any 180 day period.


Who Qualifies For The Schengen Visa


The following individuals are eligible for unrestricted travel in the Schengen Area:

  • Schengen-country citizens
  • Holders of a residence permit issued by a Schengen country
  • EU/EEA citizens
  • Non-EU individuals from eligible countries who are not required to obtain a Schengen visa for travel of 90 days or less
  • Non-EU individuals with a valid Schengen visa

Note: You will need a valid passport to enter any and all Schengen countries.


Do I Need A Schengen Visa?


Before you start applying for a Schengen Visa make sure you need one first. Citizens of some countries do while others don’t. If you need one or not will depend on your citizenship and/or residency of a certain country. Those that currently do need to apply for the visa are citizens from: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burma/Myanmar, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote D’ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic Of Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Sao Tome And Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

And those that don’t (but you do need a valid passport) are citizens from:  Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Holy See (Vatican City State), Honduras, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macedonia (FYROM), Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Serbia, Singapore, Solomon islands, South Korea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela.


How Do I Apply For A Schengen Visa?


You must apply for the visa from the country of your main destination. If you don’t have a main destination but will be travelling to several of the Schengen states, you need to apply for the visa from the country that you will enter first. And you should apply for the Schengen Visa from your home country, or the country you are in. And it should be done at least 15 days before you travel. So to put this into practice, if you are Australian and your main destination is Germany and you may make a few day trips to the countries around Germany you would apply for the visa through your nearest German Embassy. Or say, you are a citizen of Sri Lanka but you are currently living in London and you would like to travel to France, then Germany then Italy. You. must apply for the Schengen Visa through the French Consulate in London.


So there you have it. An overview of what you need to know about the Schengen Visa for your travels through Europe. You can find more information about the Schengen Visa including where and how to apply here.


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