Visa policy of the Schengen Area

Schengen stamp at entry to the Schengen territory at Munich airport
Schengen stamp when exiting the Schengen territory from Hoek van Holland harbour

The visa policy of the Schengen Area is set by the European Union and applies to the Schengen Area and to other EU member states except Ireland.[1] The visa policy allows nationals of certain countries to enter the Schengen Area via air, land or sea without a visa for stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. Nationals of certain other countries are required to have a visa either upon arrival or in transit.

The Schengen Area consists of 22 EU member states and four non-EU countries that are members of EFTA: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, while EU members, are not yet part of the Schengen Area but, nonetheless, have a visa policy that is based on the Schengen acquis.[2]

Ireland has opted out of the Schengen Agreement and instead operates its own visa policy, as do certain overseas territories of Schengen member states.

Nationals of EU single market countries are not only visa-exempt but are legally entitled to enter and reside in each other's countries. Their right to freedom of movement in each other's countries can, however, be limited in a reserved number of situations, as prescribed by EU treaties.

Visa exemptionsEdit

 
Schengen Area visa lists.
  Schengen Area
  Other EU member states outside the Schengen Area but bound by the same visa policy and legally obliged to join the Area when they meet the criteria, and special territories of Schengen member states (freedom of movement in the Schengen Area)
  Members of the EU single market with independent visa policies (freedom of movement in the Schengen Area)
  Visa-free access to the Schengen states for short stays, usually 90 days in any 180-day period (EU 2018/1806 Annex II)
  Visa required to enter the Schengen states, and to transit some Schengen states in some circumstances (EU 2018/1806 Annex I)
  Visa required to transit any Schengen state (EC 810/2009 Annex IV)
  Travel documents not accepted

Freedom of movementEdit

Council of EuropeSchengen AreaEuropean Free Trade AssociationEuropean Economic AreaEurozoneEuropean UnionEuropean Union Customs UnionAgreement with EU to mint eurosGUAMCentral European Free Trade AgreementNordic CouncilBaltic AssemblyBeneluxVisegrád GroupCommon Travel AreaOrganization of the Black Sea Economic CooperationUnion StateSwitzerlandIcelandNorwayLiechtensteinSwedenDenmarkFinlandPolandCzech RepublicHungarySlovakiaGreeceEstoniaLatviaLithuaniaBelgiumNetherlandsLuxembourgItalyFranceSpainAustriaGermanyPortugalSloveniaMaltaCyprusIrelandUnited KingdomCroatiaRomaniaBulgariaTurkeyMonacoAndorraSan MarinoVatican CityGeorgiaUkraineAzerbaijanMoldovaArmeniaRussiaBelarusSerbiaAlbaniaMontenegroNorth MacedoniaBosnia and HerzegovinaKosovo (UNMIK) 
A clickable Euler diagram showing the relationships between various multinational European organisations and agreements.

Nationals of 'Annex II' countries and territories (visa waiver countries)Edit

Since 2001, the European Union has issued a list of countries whose nationals need visas (Annex I) and a list of those who do not (Annex II).[11] The two lists are also adopted by Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, even though the four countries are not yet part of the Schengen Area.[12][13][14][15]

Nationals of the following 62 countries and territories holding ordinary passports may enter the Schengen Area, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania without a visa, for short stays (usually 90 days within a 180-day period):[16]

Residents and holders of visas of Schengen statesEdit

Holders of a long-stay visa or residence permit issued by a Schengen state or Monaco may also travel to other Schengen states, without an additional visa, for a stay of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.[49][50][51] Short-stay visas issued by a Schengen state are also valid for all other Schengen states unless marked otherwise.[49]

Holders of a visa (even if limited to a specific country) or residence permit issued by a Schengen state, Monaco, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus or Romania may also travel to Bulgaria,[12] Croatia,[13] Cyprus and Romania[15] without an additional visa, for a stay of up to 90 days in any 180-day period (except nationals of Turkey and Azerbaijan travelling to Cyprus, who still need a Cypriot visa).[14] However, visas and residence permits issued by Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus or Romania are not valid for travel to the Schengen Area.[52]

Family members of EU single market nationalsEdit

Individuals of any nationality who are family members of EU single market nationals and are in possession of a residence permit indicating their status are exempt from the requirement to hold a visa when entering the EU single market when they are accompanying their EU single market family member or are seeking to join them.[53]

School pupils resident in the EU single market or Annex II countries and territoriesEdit

Holders of local border traffic permitsEdit

Currently the local border traffic regulation agreements exist with Belarus (with Latvia since 2011), Moldova (with Romania since 2010), Russia (with Norway since 2012, with Latvia since 2013 and Poland 2012-20161) and Ukraine (with Hungary and Slovakia since 2008, Poland since 2009 and Romania since 2015). Agreement between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is pending ratification but is applied on provisional basis.[61]

  1. ^ Poland has suspended the border traffic agreements with Russia indefinitely from 4 July 2016.[62][63]

Holders of non-ordinary passportsEdit

There are no common visa lists for holders of diplomatic, service and other official passports. States may still maintain different policies on these.[48]

Airport transitEdit

In general, a passenger who transits through one single airport in the Schengen Area, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania while remaining airside in the international transit area less than one day will not require a visa (transit privilege). This only applies if the transfer is possible without leaving the international transit area, which depends on the connecting flight and airport layout.[68]

However, on 5 April 2010, common visa requirements for airport transit were introduced by the European Union.[60] Nationals of the following 12 countries are required to hold an airport transit visa (ATV) when transiting through any airport in the Schengen Area, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus or Romania, even if they remain airside:[69]

However, nationals of the above countries are exempt from airport transit visas if they hold a visa or residence permit issued by an EU single market country, Andorra, Canada, Japan, Monaco, San Marino or the United States, are family members of an EU single market national, hold a diplomatic passport, or are flight crew members.[60]

Additionally, individual Schengen countries can impose airport transit visa requirements for nationals of other countries in urgent cases of mass influx of illegal immigrants.[60] For example, nationals of Syria need ATVs for many but not all Schengen countries.

VisasEdit

Schengen visas can be issued by any country in the Schengen area. Travellers must apply to the embassy or consulate of the country which they intend to visit. In cases of travellers visiting multiple countries in the Schengen area, travellers must apply to their main destination's embassy or consulate.[75] If the main destination cannot be determined, the traveller should apply for the visa at the embassy of the Schengen country of first entry.[75][76] Often, external service providers are contracted by certain diplomatic missions to process, collect and return visa applications.

Schengen visa applications may not be submitted more than six months prior to the proposed date of entry into the Schengen area.[77] All countries' embassies may require applicants to provide biometric identifiers (ten fingerprints and a digital photograph) as part of the visa application process to be stored on the Visa Information System (VIS). Biometric identifiers are not collected from children under the age of 12.[60] Travellers must apply in person and are subject to an interview by the consular officers. Providing that the visa application is admissible and there are no issues with the application, a decision must be given within 15 calendar days of the date on which the application was lodged.[60]

Schengen visas are valid for any country in the Schengen Area unless marked otherwise.[49] Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania also accept Schengen visas (even if limited to a specific country), as well as visas issued by each other, for stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period (except for nationals of Turkey and Azerbaijan travelling to Cyprus).[12][13][14][15] However, visas issued by Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus or Romania are not valid for travel to the Schengen Area.[52]

The Schengen Convention and Codex permit countries to require visitors to report their presence to a police station within 3 days if passing over an internal border.[78] This requirement varies by country and can usually be performed by hotels instead.

Visa facilitation agreementsEdit

The EU has concluded visa facilitation agreements with several countries, which allow facilitated procedures for issuing visas for both EU citizens and nationals of partner countries. The facilitated procedures include faster visa processing times, reduced or no fees, and reduced list of supporting documents.[79] These agreements are also linked to readmission agreements that allow the return of people irregularly residing in the EU.[80]

At the borderEdit

In exceptional cases, single-entry Schengen visas valid for up to 15 days may be issued on arrival at the border. These visas are reserved for individuals who can prove that they were unable to apply for a visa in advance due to time constraints arising out of 'unforeseeable' and 'imperative' reasons as long as they fulfil the regular criteria for the issuing of a Schengen visa.[82] However, if the individual requesting a Schengen visa at the border falls within a category of people for which it is necessary to consult one or more of the central authorities of other Schengen States, they may only be issued a visa at the border in exceptional cases on humanitarian grounds, on grounds of national interest or on account of international obligations (such as the death or sudden serious illness of a close relative or of another close person).[83] In 2017, about 89,000 Schengen visas were issued to travellers on arrival at the border.[84] People trying this way to travel to the Schengen Area can be denied boarding by the airline because of the carrier's responsibility, which penalises airlines if they carry passengers who do not have the correct documentation.

Visas with limited territorial validityEdit

In exceptional cases, Schengen states may issue visas with limited territorial validity (LTV), either specifically naming the state(s) for which it is valid or, inversely, the state(s) for which it is not valid. Holders of LTV visas are only permitted to travel to Schengen states for which it is valid, as well as to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania.[12][13][14][15]

According to the Schengen visa code, member states may issue LTV visas when a consulate deems it justifiable to overcome the three-month limitation in six months, when a member state considers it necessary due to pressing circumstances to derogate from entry conditions as set by Schengen Border code, to overcome objections of other member states, or in cases of urgency.[60]

Unrecognised travel documentsEdit

Schengen visas are only issued on travel documents of UN member states, Kosovo, Palestine, Taiwan, Vatican City, the Order of Malta, and certain international organisations (Council of Europe, EU, NATO, Red Cross, UN).[85][86][87] Belgium and France also accept the passport of Somaliland.[88] Passports of Abkhazia, Artsakh, Northern Cyprus, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Western Sahara are not accepted.[89]

StatisticsEdit

Most Schengen visas were issued to applicants located in the countries listed below (listed if more than 100,000 visas issued in most recent year).[84][90][91][92] Applicants were not necessarily nationals of these countries.

Future changesEdit

Visa exemptionsEdit

  •   Armenia – In 2018, EU and Armenian officials announced plans for visa liberalisation.
  •   Ecuador – In 2018, Spain submitted a request for visa exemption for nationals of Ecuador.[93]
  •   Indonesia – In 2015, EU and Indonesian officials started discussing possibilities for nationals of Indonesia to obtain visa-free access to the Schengen Area.[94][95][96][97][98][99][100][101][102][103][104][105][106]
  •   Kosovo – In 2018, an EU report concluded that Kosovo had met all of the conditions required for visa liberalisation.[107]
  •   Nauru – In 2012, the EU proposed introducing visa-free travel for nationals of several island countries,[108] all of which concluded the required agreements by 2016 except Nauru.
  •   Russia – In 2014, the EU suspended talks for visa-free travel with Russia as a result of the situation in Ukraine,[109] but from 2016 a number of EU politicians and officials stated that they would be interested in restarting the process.[110][111][112][113][114][115][116][117][118]
  •   Turkey – In 2016, the EU presented a legislative proposal to include Turkey in the list of countries whose nationals are exempt from visas for short stays in the Schengen Area.[119]
  •   United Kingdom – In 2019, the EU approved a regulation granting visa-free travel for short stays to all British nationals, to take effect at the end of transition period following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, when they would lose their freedom of movement in the EU single market.[120]

ETIASEdit

In 2018, the EU approved regulations to establish a system for electronic authorisation of visa-exempt visitors, named ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System).[121] It is similar to other electronic travel authorisation systems implemented by Australia, United States, Canada and New Zealand. It will be required for travel to the Schengen Area, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, and it is expected to enter into operation in 2021.[122][123]

ETIAS will be required from nationals of visa-exempt countries (Annex II) except the European microstates (Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City), and to family members of EU single market nationals not holding a residence card indicating that status. However, it will not be required from family members holding such card, from holders of visas, residence permits, local border traffic permits, refugee or stateless travel documents issued by an EU single market country, or from crew members or holders of diplomatic or official passports.

Prospective visitors will need to complete an online application, and a fee will be required from those between ages 18 and 70. The system is expected to process the vast majority of applications automatically by searching in electronic databases and provide an immediate response, but in some cases it may take up to four days if manual processing is needed. If approved, the authorisation will be valid for three years, or until the expiration date of the travel document if earlier.[123]

Entry/Exit SystemEdit

In 2017, the EU adopted a regulation to establish an Entry/Exit System to electronically record the entry and exit of third-country nationals to and from the Schengen Area in a central database, replacing the manual stamping of passports. The goals are to increase automation of border control and to identify overstayers.[124][125] The system is expected to be implemented in 2020 or 2021.[122]

The EU also plans to establish a Registered Traveller Programme that would allow pre-screened travellers easier access.[126]

ReciprocityEdit

 
Visa requirements for European Union citizens
  European Single Market (freedom of movement)
  Visa-free access for all EU citizens
  Visa-free access for some EU citizens
  Visa on arrival for all EU citizens
  Visa on arrival for some EU citizens
  Electronic visa application

The EU requires that all Annex II countries and territories provide visa-free access for 90 days to nationals of all Schengen states and other EU countries implementing the common visa rules (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, but not Ireland). If an Annex II country is found to not provide full reciprocity, the EU may decide to suspend the visa exemption for certain categories or later all nationals of that country.[11]

Since the adoption of this policy, full reciprocity has been achieved with all Annex II countries except the United States, which still requires visas from nationals of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania.[127] In November 2014, the Bulgarian government announced that it would not ratify the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership unless the United States lifted visa requirements for its nationals.[128] Since the United States failed to lift the requirements, on 3 March 2017 the European Parliament approved a non-binding resolution calling on the European Commission to revoke the visa-free travel for US nationals to the Schengen Area.[129]

Some Annex II countries and territories also impose minor restrictions on nationals of EU or Schengen states that are not considered a breach of reciprocity by the EU. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States require an electronic authorisation before travel by air or sea, similar to the EU's own planned ETIAS. Canada also requires a visa from nationals of Romania not holding electronic passports.[130] Israel requires a visa from nationals of Germany born before 1928, which is issued free of charge if they were not involved with the Nazi Party.[131][132][133] Montserrat requires an electronic visa from nationals of Croatia.

Stays exceeding 90 daysEdit

In general, third-country nationals staying more than 90 days in the Schengen Area as a whole or in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus or Romania require either a long-stay visa for less than a year or a residence permit for longer periods.

Although long-stay visas issued by these countries have a uniform design, the procedures and conditions for issuing them are usually determined by each individual country. For example, some Schengen countries require applications for long-stay visas to be made in the applicant's home country, while other Schengen countries permit them after arrival. Some procedures may vary depending on the applicant's country as well.[134][135][136][137] In some situations, such as for study, the procedures and conditions for long-stay visas have been harmonised among all issuing states.[138][139] Each country is also free to establish its own conditions for residence permits.

Third-country nationals who are long-term residents of an EU or Schengen state (except Ireland and Denmark) may also acquire the right to move to and settle in another of these states without losing their legal status and social benefits.[140] The Van Der Elst visa rule allows third-country nationals employed in the EU single market to work temporarily in another EU single market country for the same employer under certain conditions.

Some third-country nationals are permitted to stay in the Schengen Area for more than 90 days without the need to apply for a long-stay visa. For example, France does not require nationals of the European microstates to apply for a long-stay visa.[141] Nationals of some countries that had visa waiver agreements with individual Schengen states before the Schengen agreement, such as New Zealand, are permitted to stay for up to 90 days in each of such Schengen states without a long-stay visa.[35][142]

Means of subsistenceEdit

In addition to general requirements, Schengen states also set entry conditions for foreign nationals of countries outside the EU single market called the "reference amounts required for the crossing of the external border fixed by national authorities" regarding means of subsistence during their stay.[143][144]

Visa policies of Ireland and overseas territoriesEdit

Ireland has an independent visa policy. It grants visa-free entry to all Schengen Annex II nationalities, except for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, East Timor, Georgia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Palau, Peru, Serbia, Ukraine and Venezuela. It also grants visa-free entry to several additional countries – Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Eswatini, Fiji, Guyana, Lesotho, Maldives, Nauru and South Africa. Visas for Ireland and for the Schengen Area are not valid for each other.

The British overseas territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia has open borders with Cyprus and follows the visa policy of the Schengen Area, but requires permits for stays longer than 28 days per 12-month period.[159][160]

Overseas France and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands have individual visa policies that are mostly aligned with the Schengen Area, with some exceptions regarding countries recently added to Annex II and some additions.

The Faroe Islands and Greenland have the same list of nationalities exempt from visas as the Schengen Area, and arrivals from the Schengen Area are not subject to border checks. However, Schengen visas are not valid there, so nationalities that are not exempt need separate visas for these territories.[161][162]

Svalbard is an entirely visa-free zone.

Visa policies of candidate and applicant statesEdit

Countries applying to join the European Union are obliged to adopt the EU's visa policy no later than three months before they formally join the Union.[163] Schengen countries give visa-free access to nationals of all European Union candidate and applicant states except Turkey.[164] Candidate states Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia maintain similar visa policies to the Schengen Area with some notable exceptions regarding countries that were added to the Annex II more recently and additional nationalities not listed in Schengen Annex II, while Turkey still requires visas even from nationals of some of the Schengen member states. Bosnia and Herzegovina as an applicant country also has its visa policy mostly aligned with the Schengen Area.

Validity for other countriesEdit

Schengen visas that are valid for further travel are accepted as substitute visas for national visas in several other countries.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  13. ^ a b c d Visa requirements overview, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia.
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  21. ^ Ratified by the European Parliament (EP) on 15 December 2015
  22. ^ a b Ratified by the EP on 15 December 2015
  23. ^ a b c Ratified by the EP on 8 June 2016
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  69. ^ Common list of third countries listed in Annex I to Regulation (EC) no 539/2001, whose nationals are required to be in possession of an airport transit visa when passing through the international transit area of airports situated on the territory of the Member States, Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs of the European Union.
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