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Europe Travel: Visa Requirements, What You Need to Know about Schengen Area

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Different countries in Europe have different visa requirements. Prior to departure, understand whether you are responsible for obtaining a visa to enter a particular country.

This article describes what the Schengen Area is, how it relates to the European Union, and will help you determine whether you need to apply for a visa prior to arrival.

What is the difference between the Schengen Area & the European Union (EU)?

The European Union has a visa policy that enables nationals of certain countries to travel freely between member countries within the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area is comprised of 27 members countries within the European continent, 23 of which are EU member states and four members of the EFTA, implement Schengen acquis through specific agreements related to the Schengen agreement.

Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City have opened their borders but are not members of the visa-free zone.

The Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands are special members of the EU and part of the Schengen Zone, even though they are located outside the European continent.

There are four more EU members that have not joined the Schengen zone: Ireland – which still maintains opt-outs, and Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus – which are seeking to join soon.

How long can I travel in the Schengen Area?

You are free 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. 

Which countries are part of the Schengen Area?

The 27 Schengen countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

I am a tourist. Do I need to obtain a Schengen Visa? 

It depends. Citizens of 62 countries around the world can enter the Schengen Area with an ordinary passport. You will not need to obtain a visa prior to travel. 

You do not need to obtain a Schengen visa if you are from the following countries:

Albania*, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Holy See (Vatican City State), Honduras, Hong Kong S.A.R***, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macao S.A.R***, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova*, Monaco, Montenegro*, Nauru, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North Macedonia*, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Samoa, Serbia*, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan**, Timor Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela

* Visa-free regime applies to citizens of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia only if they are holders of biometric passports.

** Visa-free regime applies to holders of passports issued by Taiwan only if their passport contains an identity card number.

You can travel within the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days within a 180 day period without having to apply or obtain a Schengen visa. 

You will need to apply for a Schengen visa if you are from one of the following countries:

Citizens of the following countries are required to hold a Schengen visa for travel within the Schengen Area:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burma/Myanmar, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, CentralAfrican Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic Of Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Sao Tome And Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

You can travel within the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days within a 180 day period once you have successfully obtained a Schengen visa. 

Why should I care about this agreement?

Whether you are a tourist or resident of Europe, the major benefit of this agreement is that you do not need to obtain an individual visa to travel to 26 countries within Europe. 

In January 2021, Europe rolled out a new system called ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). 

Who completes ETIAS?

The ETIAS system will be implemented for  citizens of visa-exempt countries. Countries that have Schengen visas like the USA, Canada, Australia and UK do not fall into this category. 

This pre-authorization security check is to determine whether you are a high-risk individual. The form can be completed online prior to departure.  It is a pre-authorization, not a visa.

How do I complete ETIAS?

You can apply for ETIAS online. Questions you can expect include general background information, details about your stay in Europe, and other security-related questions.

What happens next?

If you are approved, you’ll be able to enter and travel to Europe for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.


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