The Schengen Zone – A Simple Guide
Have you ever travelled to a country in Europe and wondered why you didn’t have to show your passport?
What Is The Schengen Agreement
The Schengen Agreement was introduced in 1995 to allow ‘Passport Free’ movement throughout Europe and it then came into force in 25 March 2001. The Schengen Agreement was designed to abolish Internal Border Controls and only keep External Border Controls. There are currently 26 currently in the ‘Schengen Zone’ and there is a little confusion as to which countries are part of the zone and which are not. Although the Schengen Agreement was introduced to allow ‘Passport Free’ movement in Europe, there are several countries that are in the European Union that are not part of the Schengen Zone. There are also several countries that are not part of the European Union that are part of the Schengen Zone. As you can see, this can be a little confusing.
Why Is It Known As The ‘Schengen’ Agreement
How Does The Schengen Zone Work
EU Citizens: Any EU Citizen that is travelling to any other country that is part of the Schengen Zone, is only required to present their Passport when leaving the European Union’s External Borders.
Non EU Citizens: Any Non EU Citizen will need to get their Passport stamped on entering the Schengen Zone and once they have had their Passport stamped or validated they can then travel freely throughout the Schengen Zone without having to present their Passport again.
EU Citizens do NOT require a Schengen Visa to travel throughout the Schengen Zone. However, if you are not an EU Citizen, you may require a visa to enable you to travel throughout the Schengen Zone.
There are also several other countries whose Nationals can travel without a Visa for a limited period of 90 days in a 180 day period.
If you are a National form one of the following countries, you will not require a Schengen Visa, so long as your travel is just for recreation and leisure and you have valid Travel and Medical Insurance.
Schengen Visa Application And Applying For A Schengen Visa
A Schengen Visa will allow you to travel throughout the 26 countries that are part of the Schengen Area.
If you need to apply for a Schengen Visa, you will need to apply for a visa at the Embassy or Consulate for the country to which you wish to visit. If you are planning to visit several countries on your trip, you will need to apply at the Embassy or Consulate for the country to where you are staying the longest. If you are traveling to several different countries and are not sure as to which one you will be spending the most time in, you will need to apply for a visa through the Embassy or Consulate for the country that you will be entering first.
What Documents Are Required For Visa Application For The Schengen Zone
The following are just guideline and it is advisable you contact the Embassy of the country you are visiting to ensure you have the correct documentation for your application.
- Ensure you have completed all questions on the form
- Application form must be signed (if the applicant is under 15, it should be signed by a parent of the child).
- A recent photograph taken within the past 6 months. Some countries may require 2 photographs.
- The correct fee should be included
- A valid passport that has been issued within the last 10 years. The passport should be valid for a minimum of 3 months after the expiry date of the Schengen Visa you are applying for. 2 copies of your passport should be included with your application.
- British residency permit (if applicable).
- Evidence of your accommodation during your stay.
- Evidence of savings to fund your stay in the Schengen Zone.
- Valid Travel and Medical insurance certificate to cover the duration of your stay.
- Itinerary , you should include details of your movement for the countries you intend visiting.
When To Apply For A Schengen Visa
You must always apply for your visa before travel. The process of applying for a Schengen visa from submitting your application to receiving your visa can vary and usually takes around 2 weeks. If the application is a little complicated, it can sometimes take longer.
Schengen Visa Insurance
Many of the Embassy and consulates for the countries who are part of the Schengen Zone require you to present adequate Travel and Medical Insurance when you apply for your Schengen Visa. There are many Insurance Companies that offer Travel and Medical Insurance that is designed to meet all the requirements of the Schengen Visa Application form.
Schengen Visa Countries
There are currently 26 Schengen countries that make up the Schengen Zone:
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.
At the begin when the Schengen Agreement was first introduced in 1995, there were only a few countries that agreed to join the Schengen Zone and these consisted of Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
The following countries then all joined the Schengen Zone at different times. Below, you can see a list of countries that joined the Schengen Agreement after 1995 and also the year in which they joined.
1997: Austria and Italy
2001: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden
2007: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia
Please Note: The United Kingdom and Ireland are not Schengen countries. The United Kingdom and Ireland both decide to opt out of the Schengen Agreement despite them both being part of the EU. The United Kingdom opted out of the Schengen Zone because it wanted to retain it Border controls.
However, despite opting out of the Schengen Agreement, both the United Kingdom and Ireland chose to opt in to the SIS (Schengen Information System) which is just one part of the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen Information System is designed for Police co-operation throughout forces in the different Schengen Zone countries. It allows Police forces throughout Europe to share certain types of Data and it also allows them to enforce other proceedings and procedures.
If you want to read more about the Schengen Agreement and the Schengen Zone countries please click on the following link: Schengen Agreement