July 26, 2020

What are Schengen Countries?

Schengen countries are the 26 countries that make-up the Schengen Area or Zone. The Schengen Zone operates as a single state for international travel purposes. External border controls are provided for entry to and exit from the Schengen Zone, but internal borders between the Schengen countries are open. Nationals from Schengen countries can move freely across internal borders, within the Zone, using applicable identification cards or documents. Nationals from countries outside of the Schengen Zone are required to apply for a Schengen Visa, which allows free travel throughout the Zone using only one document.

The Schengen Zone and its common visa policy were created via the Schengen Agreement treaty, which was signed in 1985 and supplemented by the Schengen Convention in 1990.

Schengen Countries

The following 26 countries have signed up to the Schengen Agreement:

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Denmark
  5. Estonia
  6. Finland
  7. France
  8. Germany
  9. Greece
  10. Hungary
  11. Iceland
  12. Italy
  13. Latvia
  14. Liechtenstein
  15. Lithuania
  16. Luxembourg
  17. Malta
  18. Netherlands
  19. Norway
  20. Poland
  21. Portugal
  22. Slovakia
  23. Slovenia
  24. Spain
  25. Sweden
  26. Switzerland

The number of countries in the Schengen Zone may expand to include Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, all of which have applied to join the treaty.

Schengen Visas

There are a number of different types of Schengen Visa. The Schengen Visa you apply for will depend on the purpose of your visit and the intended length of stay. Visa types include:

  • Tourist Visa
  • Family and Friends Visit Visa
  • Business Visa
  • Medical Visa
  • Study Visa
  • Training/Internship Visa

Single, double or multiple entry visas are available. Multi-entry visas allow travellers to enter and exit the Zone as many times as necessary within a 3-5 year period.

To obtain a visa you would need to:

  • Collect together all of the required documents;
  • Book and attend an e-visa interview in your home country, at the Embassy or Visa Centre of the country you planned to enter first or spend the most time in during your trip;
  • Pay the associated visa fee.

The required documents for obtaining a visa include:

  • A completed visa application form (downloadable via the Embassy or Visa Centre of the country you are applying to) - two copies;
  • Two identical passport photographs;
  • A valid passport (validity must be for at least 3 months after the date you intend to leave the Schengen Zone);
  • A return or onward ticket to a destination outside of the Schengen Zone;
  • Proof of travel insurance that meet the requirements of the Schengen Visa;
  • Proof of purpose of travel i.e. tourist itinerary, business letter, letter of invitation, etc.;
  • Proof of accommodation during stay, i.e. hotel reservations, rental agreement or letter of invitation;
  • Proof of funds to support duration of stay, i.e bank statements (not more than 3 months old) or letter of sponsorship.

Additional documentation may be required depending on the type of visa applied for, the home country and the destination country Embassy requirements. These include proof of employment status, birth certificates, marriage certificates, educational establishment acceptance or enrollment letter, etc.

For further information on types of visa, visa requirements, visa fees and Schengen Visa insurance requirements, refer to:

Worth Noting

  • Travellers with a Schengen Visa may also visit Andorra, as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City, who each have an open border with one of the neighbouring Schengen countries.
  • Visa Waivers exist for nationals of some countries entering the Schengen Zone. A visa waiver awarded for one Schengen country will allow onward travel to all Schengen countries within the Zone. To check whether you qualify for a visa waiver, you need to contact the Embassy or Visa Centre of the country you intend to enter or spend the most amount of time in.
  • Travellers with a Schengen Visa may also visit a number of countries who are not part of the Zone. These countries allow foreign nationals who have a multi-entry Schengen Visa to enter and stay for a limited period of time. These countries include:
    • Albania
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Belarus
    • Bosnia & Herzegovina
    • Bulgaria
    • Columbia
    • Croatia
    • Cyprus
    • Georgia
    • Gibraltar
    • Kosovo
    • Macedonia
    • Montenegro
    • Romania
    • Sao Tome & Principe
    • Serbia
    • Turkey
  • The earliest you may apply for a Schengen Visa is three to six months prior to travel. The latest application can be submitted is no less than 15 working days prior to travel.
  • Schengen Visas contain the date that you may travel to the Schengen Zone and the last day that you must leave. It also provides the number of days that you are entitled to stay within the Zone. The number of days of stay is always shorter than the visa validity. Overstays are subject to steep fines and possible imprisonment.
Published: January 09, 2020
Last updated: July 26, 2020
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