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Which European Countries Use Schengen Visas?

What if there was a single visa that allows a third-country national to travel across numerous European countries for the purposes of business, tourism, short-term study, and visiting friends and family? Well, thankfully, there is! The Schengen visa allows holders to travel the length and breadth of 26 countries within Europe, some of which are part of the European Union (EU), and some which are part of the European Economic Area (EEA). In this article, we will explain which countries are part of the Schengen visa scheme, how to apply, and the variations in financial requirements

What is the Schengen visa?

The Schengen visa allows third-party nationals (i.e. those from outside the Schengen region) and those who are not from a country that is part of the Schengen visa waiver scheme to travel to and freely between any country in the Schengen zone.

As the European Union proudly explains, “The Schengen Area is one of the greatest achievements of the EU. It is an area without internal borders, an area within which citizens and many non-EU nationals staying legally in the EU can freely circulate without being subjected to border checks. Since 1985, it has gradually grown and encompasses almost all EU Member States and a few associated non-EU countries”.

Are all European countries part of the Schengen visa system?

As of 2021, 26 of 44 countries within Europe are part of the Schengen visa system.

The Schengen visa covers 26 European nations, including:

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.

The Schengen visa does not cover the following European countries:

Albania, Andora, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, The United Kingdom and Vatican City.

In addition, there are another set of Schengen countries outside of Europe, many with a much more limited implementation of the Schengen visa than the European members; these include:

Antigua and Barbuda, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Gibraltar, Kosovo, Mexico, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, and Turkey.

For which country should I apply for a Schengen visa?

The Schengen visa rules state that applicants should apply to the embassy or consulate in the country in which they are resident for the Schengen country they are planning to spend the most amount of time in. If you plan to spend the same amount of time in a number of Schengen countries during the same stay, then you are advised to apply to the country you will first enter.

How do I apply for a Schengen visa?

The general process of applying for a Schengen visa is broadly the same regardless of which country you apply in; however, there are some minor administrative differences between how each country handles the application process.

To apply for your Schengen visa, you will need to contact the embassy or consulate in your home country for the appropriate Schengen country based on your travel plans. Most applications are completed and submitted using an online form. The main steps involved in applying are as follows:

  1. Book an interview slot with the Embassy or Consulate
  2. Complete the Schengen visa application form
  3. Gather your documentation – the documents you need will depend on the type of visa you are applying for, but most applicants are required to provide the following:
    1. Passport
    2. Recent passport photos
    3. Travel insurance cover
    4. Travel schedule
    5. Details of your accommodation during your stay in the Schengen area
    6. Evidence you have sufficient financial means to support yourself during your stay in the Schengen area.
  4. Attend your interview – these typically take 15 minutes and will include questions about you and why you are travelling to the Schengen region.
  5. Pay the application fee of €80 per person

After you have attended your interview, a decision is then typically made within two weeks. If your application is complex or if further information is needed, it may take longer. For this reason, we recommend engaging the services of an immigration lawyer who will be able to review your application and documents to ensure they are complete before submission. This can save you money, time, and effort and provide peace of mind that your application has the best chance of receiving a positive outcome.

The sufficient means requirement can vary between Schengen countries

Schengen visa applicants must have sufficient financial means to cover their time in the Schengen region. The complicating factor is that each Schengen country has a different amount required per person per day. As such, if you are planning a trip to multiple countries in the Schengen zone in Europe, you need to calculate how much you need correctly. The following is an example of some financial requirements:

  • Belgium: €95 per day if staying in a hotel
  • France: €120 per day or €65 per day when the applicant already has hotel accommodation booked
  • Estonia: €100, per day
  • Germany: €45 per day

As you can see, the amount varies considerably between Schengen countries, hence it is important to check the amount required for each before preparing and submitting your bank statements.

Can I buy travel health insurance to cover my travel in all Schengen countries in Europe?

Yes, rather than buying individual travel health insurance policies for each European country you will be travelling to, you can purchase cover for the whole of the Schengen zone for hospitalisation, illness/injury and death. Cover of at least €30,000 is required for a Schengen visa.

Final words

With access to 26 European nations with a single visa, whether for business, short-term study, visiting friends and family, or tourism, the flexibility afforded by the Schengen visa for third-party nationals is unparalleled. If you require any assistance with your application, speak to an immigration solicitor in London who can handle the Schengen visa process for you.

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