Schengen Visa: What, When, and How
If you will be traveling to Europe either for business or for pleasure, you might need to acquire a Schengen Visa. The Schengen Agreement back in 1995 led to the formation of a 26-country borderless zone called the Schengen Area. This region includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Citizens of European countries that are not part of this zone may travel through this region with no limitations (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, and the UK). With the Schengen Visa, you will be able to travel freely throughout these countries without showing documentation when crossing borders. The goal of the Schengen Agreement was to harmonize visa policies and eliminate traffic jams caused by border checks. For international travelers, the Schengen Area is sort of like one really big state. In fact, this area is home to over 400 million people.
If you’re from the following list of countries, you are able to visit the Schengen Area for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days without the visa: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong (SAR), Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Macao (SAR), Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, and Venezuela.
The Schengen Visa comes in three types. You’ll need Type A (Airport Transit Visa) to pass through airports within the Schengen Area. However, this visa is not standardized and each country has different regulations to determine which citizens need the visa to pass through Schengen airports. Type B (Transit Visa) is valid for only five days. This visa is issued to citizens of non-Schengen countries in order to travel through the Schengen Zone to reach their destination. Type C is the most commonly used Schengen Visa. It is valid for up to 90 days within a period of six months and grants entry into the Schengen Area. Tourists use this visa for single, double, or multiple entries into the Schengen Area.
To apply for the Schengen Visa, contact the Embassy of whichever country you will be staying in the longest during your European visit. If you will be in different countries for equal amounts of time, chose the country you will visit first. If you have any questions, feel free to ask the Embassy.
There are many requirements you must meet in order to acquire the Schengen Visa. First of all, your passport must be valid at least three months prior to the date at which you will visit the Schengen Area. In addition, you must prove to the Embassy that you have enough money to fund your trip. You must also prove that you have a valid itinerary, have purchased round-flight tickets, and have reserved room(s) in a hotel. Don’t forget to purchase travel health insurance covering at least the equivalent of $40.56. Your insurance must include hospital treatment and emergency flight. Lastly, you must prove that you are a citizen of your home country and convince the Embassy that you really will leave the Schengen Area within 90 days.