Schengen Visa

What is a Schengen Visa?

The Schengen visa is a document that allows individuals to travel freely within the Schengen Area in Europe for short stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period. It is intended for eligible citizens who wish to visit one or multiple countries within the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area is made up of 29 European countries that have eliminated passport control and border control at their mutual borders. This area functions like a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy, meaning you do not need to undergo identity checks if you cross the border from one Schengen country to another. 

A Schengen visa allows travelers to visit any of these 29 countries for a short-term stay without needing to apply for separate visas for each country. The visa covers specific activities, including tourism, approved business activities, visiting family or friends, attending cultural and sporting events, transit, short-term study and research, as well as medical treatment.

Obtaining a Schengen Visa has many benefits, including streamlining travel within the Schengen Area and eliminating the need for separate visas. It saves time and money on administrative processes while providing flexibility to explore multiple countries during one trip, fostering economic, social, and cultural ties within the region. For business travelers, it facilitates access to various markets, promoting trade and investment. Additionally, by simplifying travel procedures, particularly for tourism and cultural exchanges, the Schengen Visa enhances the overall travel experience for visitors.

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Schengen Area Countries List

The Schengen Country List 2024 is made up of 29 European countries

The Schengen Area is likely to grow in the future, with non-Schengen countries, including Cyprus, as a member of the European Union, committed to joining the Schengen Area in the future. Additionally, the European micro-states of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City have open or semi-open borders with the Schengen Area. While most of these countries are members of the European Union (EU), some non-EU countries, such as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein, participate in the Schengen zone.

Who Requires a Schengen Visa?

Below is a list of the countries that require a visa to visit the Schengen Area.

Most non-European citizens require a visa to enter a Schengen member state. However, citizens of a visa-free country, such as the U.S.A., Canada, Japan, or Australia, do not need a Schengen Visa to enter the Schengen Area for short stays (usually up to 90 days within a 180-day period) for purposes such as tourism, business, or family visits. 

Some countries have visa waiver agreements with certain Schengen Area countries, allowing their citizens to enter for short stays without a visa. Additionally, there are specific exceptions and special arrangements for certain categories of travelers, such as diplomats and government officials.

However, if you are from a visa-required country, you must obtain a Schengen visa before traveling to any country in the Schengen Area.

Schengen Visa Types

There are different types of Schengen visas, including:

The Type A visa is intended for transit through the international zone of a Schengen Area airport on the way to a final destination in a non-Schengen country. Even if you do not plan to leave the airport, you will still need to apply for a Schengen transit visa. The Type A visa is typically valid for 24 hours.

Also known as the Schengen short-stay visa, this is the most common type of Schengen visa. It allows the visa holder to freely visit the Schengen Area for up to 90 days in a 180-day period for the following purposes:

  • Tourism
  • Visiting family and friends
  • Business purposes
  • Journalism and reporting
  • Official visits
  • Certain medical treatment
  • Studying
  • Cultural, sporting, and religious events

This type of visa allows you to travel only to the specific Schengen State that issued the visa. In some cases, the LTV allows you to visit more than one Schengen State, but not all of them. An LTV is typically issued for a specific purpose of visit.

The Schengen visa provides three entry options, detailed as follows:

  • Single entry: The Schengen single entry visa allows one entry into the Schengen Area for up to 90 days.
  • Double entry: Two entries into the Schengen Area, with each stay not exceeding 90 days (within a 180-day period).
  • Multiple entry: Multiple entries, with each stay not exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period. You can apply for: 
    • 1-year multiple entry Schengen visa.
    • 3-year multiple entry Schengen visa.
    • 5-year multiple entry Schengen visa.

Schengen Visa Required Documents

When applying for a Schengen visa, there is specific documentation you will need to provide, without the correct documents, your EU travel visa application will likely be delayed or rejected. The documents you require are listed below:

A valid passport

You will need a valid passport with at least three months of validity beyond your intended departure date from the Schengen Area. Your passport will need at least two blank pages.

A completed application form

You will need to complete and sign a Schengen visa application form as accurately and honestly as possible.


You will need to provide a recent passport-sized photograph (taken in the last six months) that complies with the ICAO standards, including:

  • Your face should take up between 70%-80% of the photograph.
  • The photo should be clear, in focus, and identifiable as you.
  • You must be facing forward and looking directly at the camera.
  • The photo should show your natural skin tone.
  • Your eyes should be open and clearly visible. 
  • The photo should be taken on a plain, light-colored background.
  • Remove your glasses if possible or ensure they do not obscure your eyes or reflect the flash.
  • Head coverings are not permitted, except for religious reasons.

Valid travel insurance

You will need valid medical travel insurance that covers you for medical emergencies, hospitalization, and repatriation for the entire duration of your stay.

Travel itinerary

You will need to provide a detailed itinerary of your trip, including flight reservations, accommodation bookings, and your planned activities.

Proof of financial means

You will need to provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover your expenses during the stay, such as bank statements, sponsorship letters, or proof of employment and income.

Purpose of travel

Depending on your reason for visiting the Schengen Area, you will need to provide additional documentation demonstrating the purpose of your visit, for example:

  • A business invitation
  • An employment certificate.
  • An invitation to study.
  • A conference registration.
  • Letter of invitation from a family member.

Proof of ties to your home country

You may be asked to provide documents demonstrating ties to your home country, such as property ownership, family relationships, or ongoing commitments, to establish your intention to return.

Additional documentation

Some applicants may be asked to provide additional documentation by the consulate or embassy they are making their application to, for example:

  • A medical certificate.
  • A Criminal record certificate.
  • A proof of vaccination.

Where to Submit Your Application

When applying for a Schengen visa, you should apply with the consulate, embassy, or visa application center (VAC) of the main country you are visiting. If you plan to visit multiple countries, you should apply for a visa with the country you will spend the most time in. If you are spending an equal amount of time in multiple countries, you should apply to the consulate of the first country you will visit. 

Specific requirements or procedures for choosing the correct consulate, embassy, or VAC may include:

  • Check the website of the consulate, embassy, or VAC for jurisdictional information and application procedures.
  • Verify residency requirements and ensure that you are applying at the appropriate location based on your place of residence.
  • Contact the consulate, embassy, or VAC directly if you have any questions or need clarification on the application process.
  • Ensure that you have all necessary documents and information ready for submission according to the requirements of the consulate, embassy, or VAC where you are applying.

The application process may vary slightly depending on the specific requirements of the country you are applying to. Some countries allow applicants to use the Schengen visa online application form and then schedule an appointment for document submission and biometric data collection at the consulate, embassy, or VAC. Others may require applicants to submit the application and supporting documents in person, without prior online submission.

Application Process

There are several steps involved in the Schengen visa application process, as listed below:

Identify the type of Schengen visa required based on your purpose of travel and the length of your intended stay. Review the visa requirements specific to the country you plan to visit, including document requirements, visa fees, and application procedures.

Prepare all necessary documents, as listed above.

Fill out the Schengen Visa application form completely, accurately, and honestly, following the instructions provided by the consulate or embassy. Ensure that all information provided matches the details in your supporting documents.

Book an appointment with the consulate or embassy of the Schengen country you intend to visit. Some countries allow online appointment scheduling, while others may require appointments to be made via email or phone.

Submit your visa application form and supporting documents to the consular officer during your appointment. As part of your Schengen Visa application, your biometric data will be collected. You will need to provide your biometrics in person, including digital scans of all 10 of your fingerprints (unless there is a physical or medical reason this is not possible) and a photograph taken at the embassy or consulate. Children under the age of 12 and some official visitors to the Schengen Area will be exempt from providing biometrics.

You will need to pay the applicable visa fees at the consulate, embassy, or VAC. Accepted payment methods can vary but may include cash, credit or debit card, or bank transfer.

Post-Application Steps:

Processing times vary depending on the consulate or embassy, the volume of applications, and the specific Schengen visa type. You may be informed of the decision by email, letter, or through the online portal.

Once your visa application has been processed, collect your passport with the issued visa from the consulate, embassy, or VAC. Verify that all details on the visa sticker are correct before leaving the premises. With your Schengen visa, you are now ready to travel to the Schengen Area. Make sure to adhere to the visa conditions, including the permitted duration of stay and any additional entry requirements.

Schengen Visa Interview

You may be required to attend a visa interview as part of the application process. The visa interview is an important step in the visa process, and it is important that you thoroughly prepare for the interview. The interview will be conducted by a diplomatic official who will carefully review the information you provide and may ask for additional information. Applicants should familiarize themselves with the details of their trip, provide accurate information, and be prepared to address any concerns raised by the consular officer. 

During the visa interview, you may be asked questions related to:

  • Your identity (for verification purposes).
  • Your travel plans and the purpose of your trip.
  • Your previous travel within the Schengen Area and to other parts of the world, including locations and the dates of your visits. 
  • Your financial means. 
  • Your ties to your home country.
  • Whether you have any family or friends in the countries you plan to visit. 
  • The people you are traveling with. 
  • How long you plan to stay in the Schengen Area.
  • Your intentions to return to your home country.

Visa Fees and Payment

The visa fees associated with applying for a Schengen visa vary depending on the type of visa, your nationality, and other factors. Although visa fee costs can vary, you can typically expect to pay:
  • Adults: €80
  • Children aged 6-12: €40
  • Applicants from countries with Visa Facilitation Agreements with the EU: €35
However, not all applicants are required to pay a visa fee. Typically, the Schengen visa fees are applicable as follows:
  • Standard visa fee:  This is the basic fee for processing a Schengen visa application. It applies to most applicants, including adults and children.
  • Reduced visa fee: Some categories of applicants, such as children under a certain age, students, researchers, or participants in certain cultural or sports events, may qualify for a reduced visa fee.
  • Visa fee exemptions: Certain individuals may be exempt from paying the visa fee altogether, including:
    • Children under the age of six.
    • School pupils, students, postgraduate students, and accompanying teachers who are visiting the Schengen Area for educational purposes.
    • Applicants traveling for scientific research. 
    • Representatives of non-profit organizations who are below 25 years of age and are participating in a seminar, conference, or a sport, cultural, or educational event.
    • Family members of EU/EEA citizens.
The accepted payment method varies depending on the specific consulate, embassy, or VAC you are applying with. Before submitting your application, you should check the accepted modes of payment and any specific instructions regarding payment on the website of the establishment where you intend to submit your Schengen visa application. Failure to pay the correct visa fee or use the accepted mode of payment may result in delays or rejection of the visa application.

Visa Processing Time

You will need to apply for a Schengen visa at least 15 days before your date of intended travel. The minimum processing time for a Schengen visa is typically two weeks, with some applications taking up to 45 days to process. 

Some factors that can affect the Schengen visa processing time include:

  • Application volume: The volume of visa applications received by the consulate or embassy can impact processing times. During peak travel seasons or holidays, consular offices may experience higher demand, leading to longer processing times.
  • Type of visa: Some types of Schengen visas, such as multiple-entry visas or visas for certain purposes like study or work, may require additional processing time due to additional documentation or scrutiny.
  • Accuracy of your application: Applications that are incomplete or contain errors may require additional time for processing as consular officers may need to request additional information or clarification.
  • Your nationality: The processing time may vary based on nationality, as certain nationalities may require more extensive background checks or additional documentation.
  • National holidays: When submitting your application, ensure you take into account any national holidays, as this can delay your application.

Although applying in advance is recommended, you cannot apply for your visa more than six months before your intended travel dates.

Visa Validity and Duration of Stay

The validity period of a Schengen visa refers to the timeframe during which the visa holder is permitted to enter the Schengen Area. Because there are different types of Schengen visas, the validity period can vary. A Schengen visa is typically valid for a specific period, which may range from 24 hours (Type A visa) up to five years (Type C multiple entry visa). The validity period usually starts from the date of issuance and ends on the expiration date stated on the visa sticker.

The maximum duration of stay allowed within the Schengen Area is typically indicated on the visa sticker and refers to the total number of days a traveler can spend within the Schengen Zone during the visa’s validity period. This duration is typically up to 90 days within a 180-day period, meaning that the visa holder can stay in the Schengen Zone for a total of up to 90 days within any 180 days starting from the date of first entry.

You must adhere to the permitted duration of stay specified on your visa. Overstaying the permitted period in the Schengen Area is a violation of immigration rules and can result in consequences such as fines, deportation, and entry bans. Therefore, you should carefully plan your trip and ensure you exit the Schengen Zone before your visa expires.

Schengen visas are generally not extendable. If you wish to stay in the Schengen Area beyond the validity of your current visa, you must leave the Schengen Zone before the visa expires and apply for a new visa if needed. However, in exceptional circumstances, such as unforeseen emergencies or serious events, some Schengen visa countries may consider granting visa extensions on a case-by-case basis. 

European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS)

The European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is an electronic travel authorization system for visa-exempt nationals traveling to 30 European countries. Implemented in 2018, ETIAS is designed to pre-screen travelers from visa-exempt countries before they arrive in the Schengen Area for short stays and helps to enhance security measures for travelers visiting the Schengen Area. It also helps to create smoother and more efficient border crossings for travelers by streamlining the entry process.

The ETIAS is linked to your passport and allows you to enter the 30 European countries for short stays, usually up to 90 days in a 180-day period. The ETIAS is valid for up to three years, or until your passport expires (whichever date occurs first). 

The ETIAS is different from the Schengen visa as it is intended for travelers from visa-exempt countries, rather than travelers who require a visa. Schengen visas require a more comprehensive application process, ETIAS applications are relatively straightforward and can be completed online. 

To apply for the ETIAS, eligible travelers must complete an online application form and provide: 

  • Their personal information.
  • Their passport details.
  • Their travel plans.
  • Any relevant background information. 

They may also need to answer questions related to security and health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although the general rule is that applications should be submitted no later than 15 days before your intended date of travel, in justified cases of urgency, you can apply for a visa closer to your travel date. In urgent cases, you may be exempt from being interviewed and may be issued a visa based on your application alone.

If your visa application is refused, you will be notified by the consulate of the Member State that refused the application, specifying the reason or reasons why your application was refused. The notification will also state the procedure for submitting an appeal and the appeal deadline. You can then submit an appeal, although you must make sure you address the issue that resulted in the refusal and make any necessary amendments.

As a general rule, if your passport has less than three months of validity, you cannot apply for a Schengen visa. However, in justified emergency cases, the Consulate or Embassy can make an individualized decision to allow an exception and issue you a visa.

If you see ETATS SCHENGEN, followed by brackets and the initials of a country, for example, «ETATS SCHENGEN (-IT)», this means your visa is valid for all Schengen countries except the country listed in the brackets. So, in the example listed, you could enter any country in the Schengen Area except Italy.