What is the Schengen Visa?
The Schengen Area is a large passport-free zone across several European countries that allows individuals to travel freely without needing to access border control or immigration authorities.
The visa allows holders to stay up to 90 days in participating Schengen countries without needing to apply for a permanent visa.
It is primarily used for the following purposes:
- Short business trips
- To visit friends or relatives
- Tourist and holiday reasons
- To attend cultural or sporting events
- Transit for air travel or sea travel personnel
- Official government or diplomatic visits
- To obtain medical treatment
- To undertake study (short-term) or research
There are 26 countries in the Schengen zone who have agreed to abide by the terms of the Schengen agreement.
Your visa may be issued by any of the eligible Schengen countries. There are also a number of non-EU and non-Schengen participating countries where you may be granted temporary entry if you hold the Schengen Visa.
Applying for the visa can be complex depending on your circumstances and the purposes of your visit to one of the participating Schengen countries.
Speak to one of our immigration experts for immediate advice and support with your application.
Do I need a Schengen Visa?
If you are a citizen of one of the below countries and you wish to travel to a European country in the Schengen zone, you must apply for the visa:
|Countries whose citizens must apply for the Schengen Visa|
|Angola||Ghana||Papua New Guinea|
|Belize||Indonesia||Sao Tome And Principe|
|Burkina Faso||Kazakhstan||South Africa|
|Central African Republic||Lebanon||Syria|
|Dem. Rep. Of Congo||Mali||Tunisia|
|North Korea||Northern Mariana’s|
As well as this, the nationals of the below countries will also need to apply for a Schengen airport transit visa if they intend to change aircraft while in a Schengen country:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Sri Lanka
However, there may be additional circumstances in each case, so to avoid any doubt, it is recommended to discuss your case with a qualified immigration adviser.
Additionally, the nationals of certain countries may participate in the visa-free scheme if they hold biometric passports, or have an identity card number in their passport.
What documents do you need?
The precise document checklist that is required for your Schengen Visa application will depend on the type of visa you are looking for.
Below are some of the most common documents needed for the visa application:
- Online visa application form
- Two recent identical passport-style photos
- Valid passport or travel document with at least three months validity after the intended date of departure
- Fully copy of all pages in the passport
- Proof of travel tickets (arrival and departure times confirmed)
- Medical travel insurance (minimum €30,000 coverage)
- Proof of financial maintenance ability
- Proof of intended accommodation arrangements
- Proof of application fee payment
You will also need to submit visa-specific documents as they relate to your purpose of travel.
Tourist Visa required documents
To obtain a Tourist Visa for a Short-Stay Schengen Visa you will likely need to submit the following documents:
- Bank statements going back approximately six months
- Official affidavit of support from the person you intend to visit in the Schengen zone
- Comprehensive travel itinerary outlining your plans for the visit
Business Visa required documents
- Cover letter outlining the nature of the visit
- Profile of the workplace
- Letter from employer describing the purpose of the visit
- Invitation letter from the company in the Schengen zone
- Employment contract
- Permission of leave from employer/ copy of business license if self-employed
- Income Tax Return
Training Visa required documents
- Enrolment certificate for the training course
- No objection letter from the educational institution (where relevant)
Medical Visa required documents
- Confirmation letter from doctor or healthcare professional in the home country confirming the need for treatment
- Confirmation from receiving European medical institution
- Verbal note from applicant’s home country Ministry of Health declaring their readiness to cover the medical treatment costs
Study Visa documents
- Two application forms
- Letter of acceptance from EU-based university or institution
- Proof of financial maintenance ability
Employment Visa documents
- Two application forms
- Employment contract
Joining a Spouse Visa documents
- Two application forms
- Certified copy of marriage certificate
- Copy of spouse’s passport (if they are a EU citizen) or residency permit (if a national of outside the EU)
Participating in Cultural, Sport, or Religious Activity Visa documents
- Information related to the event (e.g., entry tickets, programme documents, etc.)
- Proof of previous performances or participation
Types of Schengen Visas
There are a number of different types of Schengen Visa, and you should take care to apply for the most appropriate one based on your circumstances.
Uniform Schengen Visas
This category of Schengen Visa allows the visa holder to travel through or live in the European country for a period of 90 days maximum during a six-month period from the date of entry.
Holding the Uniform Schengen Visa entitles the bearer to travel to the following countries: 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.
Within this, there are two further categories, A and C. The A category refers to the Airport Transit Visa, while the C category refers to a Short-Term Visa, allowing holders to stay in a Schengen Area for a specified length of time based on their visa expiration date.
Single-entry visa, double-entry visa, and multiple-entry visa
The Schengen Visa may be issued as a single-entry or double-entry visa. The visa holder will be given information on the conditions of their visa when it comes to entering and leaving the European country.
A single-entry visa means that once the holder chooses to leave the Schengen territory, they are no longer permitted to return.
Double-entry typically means that you can leave and subsequently return to the European country before the expiration of your visa when you must leave for the second (and final) time.
Multiple-entry may be issued as a one-year multiple-entry, three-year multiple-entry, or five-year multiple-entry visa.
Ultimately, you must ensure that you abide by the conditions of your specific visa, and in general, must not stay longer than 90 days within a 180-day period.
How to apply
The application process may look different depending on an individual’s circumstances. How you apply for a Schengen visa will probably follow the below steps:
- Identify the right type of visa based on your situation
- Find the most appropriate location to apply for your visa (this may be an embassy, consulate, visa centre, or another country’s embassy, if relevant)
- Apply at the correct time
- Schedule a visa appointment at the embassy or consulate of your destination Schengen country
- Download and complete the Schengen visa application form
- Locate the supporting documents (standard required documents and visa specific documents)
- Prepare for and attend your visa interview
- Pay the visa application fee (currently €80 per adult applicant)
- Wait for a decision on your application
Although the application process may seem relatively straightforward, there are ways that the application can be refused or denied.
If you need expert assistance, consider working with a dedicated immigration lawyer to maximise your chances of a successful application, prevent delays, and prevent additional costs.
How much does the visa cost?
To apply for this visa, you must pay the associated application fee. The cost of this fee is non-refundable, even if your application is denied. Whether you pay by cash or card depends on the embassy and consulate of the Schengen member states in which you apply. Below is the table of fees relating to the Schengen Visa:
|Type of visa applicant||Fee in Euro||Fee in US Dollar|
|Children aged between 6-12 years||€40||$48|
|Children younger than six years old||FREE||FREE|
|Visa holders of diplomatic, official, or service passports on official travel purposes||FREE||FREE|
|An EU/ EEA citizen’s family member||FREE||FREE|
|Students and teachers travelling on a school trip||FREE||FREE|
|Researchers undertaking scientific research||FREE||FREE|
|Nationals of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia||€35||$42|
Visa fees may change over time, so it is important to check the embassy in your country for the latest information.
What are the Schengen Visa countries?
The Schengen countries consist of the majority of the EU countries, with the notable exception of Ireland and some others.
Some countries are in the European Union but not in the Schengen (Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Croatia).
The majority of countries are in the European Union and in the Schengen (Austria, Belgium, 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).
Finally, some countries are not in the EU, but are in the Schengen (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland).
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To apply for the Schengen Visa from the UK, you should be aware that the UK is not a member of the Schengen Area, although the programme allows British citizens to travel throughout European countries without a visa for 90 days maximum.
This also applies to British Overseas Territories citizens, British Overseas citizens, British Protected Persons, and British Subjects.
To apply for the visa, you must either be a citizen or alternatively, if you have British residency, your status must be valid for three months longer than your proposed end date of leaving the Schengen Area.
You can check your eligibility using this online tool. You should follow the application process outlined above and submit the requested documents.
Each Schengen country has the power to set their own rates of minimum bank balances, which means there is no exact figure that applies for every country.
The figure for means of subsistence varies from €42.50 per day in Czech Republic, €30 per day in Finland, €120 per day in France, €14 per day in Latvia to €70.77 per day in Spain.
The guiding principle behind the minimum bank balance is outlined in Article 21 (5) of the code on visas is as follows:
“The means of subsistence for the intended stay shall be assessed in accordance with the duration and the purpose of the stay and by reference to average prices in the Member State(s) concerned for board and lodging in budget accommodation, multiplied by the number of days stayed, on the basis of the reference amounts set by the Member States in accordance with Article 34(1)(c) of the Schengen Borders Code. Proof of sponsorship and/or private accommodation may also constitute evidence of sufficient means of subsistence.”
It is recommended to consult your local embassy or consulate for confirmation.
Although related concepts, the European Union and the Schengen Zone are completely different entities.
The EU is a union of countries across Europe who are joined for the purposes of political and economic stability and co-operation.
The purpose of the Schengen Area is to facilitate free movement of people across participating countries.
Some countries are in the EU but not in the Schengen Zone, while some are not in the EU but are in the Schengen, while others are in both.