Schengen Visas — a complete guide

What is a Schengen Visa?

A Schengen visa obtained from any of the Schengen Area member countries entitles the owner to unrestricted travel across the Schengen Zone, including among European Union Schengen members and EFTA Schengen members, subject to the validity and length constraints of the visa. In other words, the Schengen visa is an official document that some non-Europeans must have in order to travel to any of the 26 Schengen nations. This visa permits the traveler to cross the borders of other member nations without having to go through identity verification at the border after it has been granted. There are varying restrictions that apply to each visa depending on the type of visa issued by a specific embassy/consulate of each Schengen country, as well as the nature of the trip and other relevant factors.


What are the Schengen Areas?

The Schengen Area, often known as the Schengen Countries Zone, is a group of twenty-six (26) European countries that have eliminated cross-border restrictions. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, and Scandinavian countries are among them, but not the United Kingdom or Ireland. The Schengen Agreement is signed by the majority of European Union (EU) countries, however certain non-Schengen countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania, are signed but not yet active members and are expected to be a part in the future. Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway are not members of the European Union, yet they are part of the Schengen Area.

The following are members of the Schengen countries, listed in alphabetical order: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Despite the fact that the Schengen Zone encompasses 26 countries, including the majority of countries in mainland Europe, not every European country is included in the area where border checks have been eliminated. Countries associated with Europe but not part of the Schengen Zone include Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Romania.

Andorra, Monaco, and the Vatican City are not members, but they are regarded as de facto members because they do not implement border controls.
Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus are also not members of the Schengen Zone but are legally obligated to do so at some point in the future.

To enter one of the Schengen member states, the majority of non-European individuals (especially from Africa, Russia, India, and China) require a Schengen visa. The United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, and Japan are among the countries that have signed a visa waiver agreement with the EU. This means that their citizens do not require a visa to visit Europe if their stay is less than 90 days.


Types of (Schengen) Visas

There are numerous types of Schengen visas, but the most common (the short-stay visa) permits you to travel/stay for a maximum of 90 days over a six-month period beginning on the visa’s entrance date.

  • Uniform Schengen Visa (Type ‘C’ Visa)

The Uniform Schengen Visa is a license issued by one of the Schengen Area Member Countries to pass or remain in the desired region for a period of up to 90 days every six months, beginning on the date of entrance. Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland are all accessible to holders of a Uniform Schengen Visa.

The Uniform Schengen Visa is divided into three categories:

  • Single-entry Visa: This Uniform Schengen Visa permits its possessor to enter a Schengen country only once for a fixed length of time. The visa immediately expires when the foreign tourist leaves the country.
  • Double-entry Visa: The requirements that apply to the single-entry visa also apply to the double-entry visa. The main distinction is that a person with a double-entry visa can visit each Schengen country twice. The visa automatically expires after the second exit (passing of an external Schengen border for the second time).
  • Multiple-entry Visa: Holders of a multiple-entry visa can enter and exit Schengen member nations as many times as they choose throughout the visa’s validity period. However, starting from the date of admission, their stay cannot exceed 90 days every six months.

    EU Passport and Visa
  • Limited Territorial Validity Visa (Type ‘A’ Visa)

The Limited Territorial Validity visa allows holders to access just the Schengen member nation that issued the visa. They will be unable to go to any other Schengen countries unless they have been granted permission through the visa application procedure. Holders of a Limited Territorial Validity Visa are not permitted to enter or travel through any nation other than that which is issued on the visa.

Usually, people do not apply for limited territorial visas; some Member States may not accept particular passports or may simply refuse to allow entry to their nation at their discretion. Limited territorial visas are frequently issued to allow applicants admission to a particular country. As a result, visas with Limited Geographical Validity are the most restrictive in terms of territorial validity, compared to uniform Schengen visas. Individuals who do not have a valid travel document but must go to a Schengen area for whatever reason may be eligible for this sort of visa.

Note: For an adult, the cost for either Uniform Schengen Visa or Limited Territorial Validity visa is generally 80 Euros; children between the ages of 6-12 will only pay 40 Euros. All visa fees are waived for certain types of applicants, most students, children under the age of six.

Overstaying a Schengen visa can have serious ramifications, as it violates your travel permit’s restrictions as well as European immigration and visa laws. You must adhere to the terms of your visa and exit the Schengen area before it expires.  If you do not, you can have trouble getting a Schengen visa in the future, be fined, and face even worse repercussions.
Your permit’s duration is determined by the sort of visa you seek for as well as your personal circumstances. Short-term visits of up to 90 days are permitted under the Uniform Schengen Visa (USV). Meanwhile, the ETIAS visa waiver allows tourists to remain for up to 90 days and is one of the easiest ways to get a travel clearance to enter the region.


How to Apply for a Schengen Visa

When you have determined which country will be your primary destination, look into its diplomatic representation in your home country, including where its embassy or consulates are located and whether they accept and process Schengen Visas.
The next steps will vary depending on the country you are applying to and where you live. You may be required to submit your application to their embassy or consulate, or to a visa application center operated by your country of destination. You may also need to apply to a Schengen embassy, consulate, or visa application center in your home country, which works on behalf of your destination country. You may also need to apply through a neighboring country’s embassy, consulate, or visa application facility, which operates on behalf of the embassy of your home country.
External service providers (such as VFS Global or TLS) who are allowed to accept application files are sometimes used to handle visa applications.

Handing over schengen visa and passport

Schengen Visa Requirements

The general requirements for a Schengen Visa are outlined below. However, for more information about each application, as well as where the Schengen visa interview will take place, it is advisable to contact the local embassy or consulate.

  • Fill up the ETIAS application form and sign it.
  • Attach a recent passport-style photo with a white or off-white background that displays a full, clear, and front view of your face.
  • Photocopies of all previous Schengen visas, as well as the passenger’s passport. Prior to departure, the passport must have at least two blank pages and be valid for at least three months.
  • Reservations for round trips, such as hotel/room/flight bookings, as well as their distinguishing reservation numbers. The traveler’s entry and leave dates from the Schengen Area must be properly indicated on the flight information.
  • Travel health insurance that covers the duration of your trip within the Schengen area.
  • Demonstration of sufficient financial resources to support oneself over the period.
  • A copy of your passport and your passport (issued less than 10 years ago and valid for at least 3 months beyond the expiration date of the requested visa)
  • A letter explaining the reasons for your trip
  • The reservation confirmation of your return ticket
  • Proof of your accommodation plans

You will be able to attend your consular appointment in the best possible conditions if you have a comprehensive application file with all these documents attached to it.


Schengen Visa Types based on Purposes

When you fill out the Schengen Visa application form, you will be asked to choose a reason for wanting to visit the Schengen area. These goals, as well as an explanation of what each one means, are listed below:

  • Airport Transit: This type of entrance is for persons who need to transit via a Schengen Country Airport’s international zone without entering the Schengen Country. The Schengen countries have compiled a relatively short list of countries whose citizens must have this visa. Some member countries, on the other hand, have added more countries to their list. As a result, while you may not need a visa to transit through some countries, you may need one in others depending on your nationality.
  • Transit: This term sounds strikingly similar to the previous definition of travel. The majority of foreign sailors who only need to stay for a few minutes at a seaport in one of the member nations check this box on their application form.
  • Tourism: One of the most well-known reasons for visiting the Schengen Zone is for tourism. People who intend to travel to any of the nations in this territory for the purpose of sightseeing and learning about their culture, architecture, gastronomy, and other aspects of life should indicate this in their application form.
  • Visitation: Those who wish to visit family or friends who are legally residing in the Schengen area can apply for this visa. This visa has some unique requirements that the applicant must meet in order for the application to be approved, such as a letter of invitation.
  • Business: Many people travel to and from the Schengen nations on a regular basis for business. The advantages of applying for such a visa are numerous, including the ability to obtain a faster appointment during the peak season for visa applications when a large number of individuals are applying.
  • Official Visit: If you are visiting the Schengen Area on official business, you must mark “Official Visit” on your application form. Even if you are traveling with a large delegation with the same travel dates and official reasons, you must check this visa purpose.
  • Medical reasons: If you are heading to any of the Schengen member states for medical care, you should check the box “medical reasons” on your application form. This visa allows people to receive medical treatment at any clinic or hospital in the country within the period of 3 months.
  • Study: Students who intend to attend any form of educational institution, such as university courses, language courses, and other courses, for a duration of fewer than three months can apply for a Schengen study visa. This visa purpose should be checked by anyone who has to take an admission exam for a school or university in the Schengen Area.
  • Artistic Crews: A visa created for those residing outside of the Schengen area who want to go to Europe for a Cultural, Sports, or Religious Event, as well as Film Crews. The applicant should be a participant in the event, not just a spectator, such as a singer at a concert or a writer exhibiting their book at a book fair.
  • Other: If your reason for entering the Schengen Area does not fall under one of the categories listed above, you must select “Other” on the application form. However, you must still explain why you are submitting your application. At most, you’ll be able to accomplish it in a single brief statement. For example, if you want to visit one of the member states for a religious event or something similar, you can write “Religious Visit” or “Religious Purposes” on your visa application.
Schengen visa stamped on passport

Schengen Visa Validity vs. Duration of Stay

The validity of your single-entry visa or double-entry visa, with the exception of a multiple-entry visa, which allows you to stay in the Schengen region for a maximum of 90 days during a 180-day period, is determined by the embassy. The number of days you are allowed to spend in any of the Schengen countries, as well as the first day you are allowed to enter and the last day you are allowed to leave, are all determined by the embassy.
Many people become puzzled at this point because they are unaware of the distinction between visa validity and the term of stay in a visa.

  • Visa Validity: Visa validity, on the other hand, is the time limit for entering and staying in the Schengen Area with your visa.
  • Duration of Stay: The maximum number of days you can stay in Schengen is called the duration of stay. The first day you step into the region is calculated as your “First Day”. The “Last Day,” on the other hand, is the day you leave Schengen, even if it’s only a few minutes after midnight.

For instance, your visa allows you to stay for ten days, yet the validity of your visa is from September 1 to September 20. In this situation, you are free to enter the Schengen Zone at any point within this time frame. You can arrive on September 3 and depart on September 12, for example. However, even if you arrive on the 15th of September, you must depart on the 20th, despite not having spent the maximum number of days permissible.

Another instance, if you have a three-year multiple-entry visa that is valid from February 15, 2021, you will be able to enter and depart Schengen whenever you choose until February 20, 2023. It is important to remember that each 180-day term has a 90-day restriction.

  • National Visa (Type ‘D’)

A national visa is a kind of visa that allows you to enter a single country. Schengen visas are not the same as national visas. National Visas are classified as “long stay” (Type D) visas, as opposed to “short stay” Schengen visas (Type-C).

Individuals who will be studying, working, or permanently residing in any of the Schengen Area nations will be given a national visa. In most cases, the National Visa is a single-entry, limited-term visa that covers the specific objective of the applicant’s visa request, whether it be for work or school.
Certain conditions, however, permit individuals to apply for a multi-entry National Visa. At least one of the following criteria must be met by applicants:

  • Be enrolled in an international educational program of at least one year’s duration, as evidenced by an official document.
  • The candidate is applying for a position as a professional educator at higher research or educational institution.
  • A professional who is traveling to Europe because of his or her competence in sports, the arts, or any other career that involves transferring knowledge.
  • The applicant is unable to return to their home country due to an emergency and is obliged to remain in the Schengen Area for a defined period of time.

Schengen Visas vs. National Visas

A Schengen visa and a National visa have two major differences:

  • A Schengen visa gives you entrance to the Schengen area and can be used in any of the Schengen countries. A national visa, on the other hand, grants you exclusive access to a single country.
  • The validity of a Schengen visa is limited to 90 days, whereas a National Visa might be valid for considerably longer.

No such thing as a Schengen National Visa exists. There are national visas and Schengen visas, which are two different types of visas in Europe.
Germany, for example, is a Schengen country, but if you want to remain longer than 90 days, you will need a national visa rather than a Schengen visa.
Please keep in mind that national visa charges vary per country. Your visa fees should be available at the consulate of the country to which you are applying for a national visa.

In order not to make the article unbearably lengthy, this first part only focuses on the Schengen Visa and points out the major differences between the Schengen Visa and National Visa. The next related article will elaborate on how to get National Visas in major European countries.

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