The Schengen visa enables its holders to travel between 26 European countries on a single visa. First signed in 1985, the Schengen Agreement was designed to open up Europe’s borders, making it easier to travel between countries on the continent.
Today, Schengen visa holders can travel to any or all 26 countries that are part of the border-free Schengen area. Internal border controls between the member countries have for the most part stopped – making it similar to travelling from one US state to another. Note though that Schengen countries have the right to reintroduce temporary border control in response to current events.
The Schengen visa is for everyone who requires a visa before entering Europe. There are different types of Schengen visas depending on the purpose of your visit. Tourists need a short-stay type ‘C’ Schengen visa. Type ‘A’ transit visas are also available to nationals coming from a specified list of countries who are only passing through the Schengen area.
As of June 2018, citizens of the following countries need to apply for a Schengen visa: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Dem. Rep. 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, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Northern Mariana’s, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Schengen visa is currently available for travel between the following countries:
In addition to these 26 countries, there are three countries – Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City – who are not part of the Schengen member or European Union but have opened their borders to visitors with a valid Schengen visa.
Most embassies and consulates charge €60 for a type ‘C’ Schengen visa.
A short stay Schengen visa allows the holder to travel within the Schengen area for a maximum stay of 90 days in a six month period.
Applications for Schengen visas must be lodged at the relevant embassy or consulate in your country of residence. If you plan to visit one Schengen country, apply for a visa at the embassy or consulate of that country. If you’re visiting several countries, apply to the embassy or consulate of your main destination (if you don’t have a main destination, apply to the embassy or consulate of your first port of entry).
Visa processing will vary, sometimes dependent on nationality. They can take anywhere from one day to 10 weeks to process.
The name Schengen originates from the small town in Luxembourg where the agreement was first signed.