The Schengen area is the area within the European Union where any movement is completely free and not subject to border controls and passport checks.
Today, the Schengen area consists of the twenty-six countries: Belgium, France, Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Estonia, Iceland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Switzerland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Liechtenstein, Sweden, Netherlands, Malta.
At the same time, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are not members of the European Union but are still part of the Schengen area.
Cyprus, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria are due to join the Schengen area soon and are taking steps to implement the Schengen Agreement.
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Citizens of these twenty-six European countries have the right to freely travel through the Schengen countries or permanently reside in any of them visa-free.
Citizens of all other countries have to obtain a visa to enter the Schengen area unless they come from the countries with which the European Union signed visa waiver programs. Take a look at a more detailed breakdown below.
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Visa waiver programs: who can enter the Schengen area visa-free?
First of all, it is important to understand that visa waiver programs do not grant the right to stay in the Schengen area for an indefinite period of time. Rather, travelers can spend 90 days within a 180-day period visa-free for tourism or business purposes alike.
The visa waiver countries are sometimes referred to as Annex II countries. As of now, there are 62 countries citizens of which can enter the Schengen area visa-free for up to 90 days within a 180-day period:
Antigua and Barbuda, Albania, Australia, Andorra, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Barbados, Brazil, Bahamas, Colombia, Canada, Chile, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Georgia, Dominica, Honduras, Israel, Guatemala, Grenada, Hong Kong, Macedonia, Macao, Malaysia, Kiribati, Japan, Mexico, Monaco, Mauritius, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Montenegro, Moldova, Palau, New Zealand, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Panama, Samoa, Peru, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Serbia, South Korea, Seychelles, Tonga, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Timor Leste, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United States, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vatican, Vanuatu, Venezuela; Brits who are not citizens of the UK.
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Important tips & rules for visa-free travel to the Schengen area
Visa-free travel to the Schengen area and the EU countries suggest short-term trips. For example, foreigners can come as tourists, to meet friends or visit relatives, attend cultural or sports events or hold business meetings. In addition, visa-free entry makes it easier for foreigners who plan to undergo medical treatment or arrange short-term training.
The date of entry is the first day of stay in the Schengen area.
The date of departure is the last day of stay in the Schengen area.
The 180-day period is not fixed and depends on the date of entry and exit from the Schengen area.
Not visiting the Schengen area during a 90-day period (without interruptions) entitles a person for a new visa-free stay in the area for up to 90 days.
The above rules do not apply for the holders of C and D visas.
Despite the fact that the visa-free entry allows to enter the four EU countries that are not part of the Schengen area (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Croatia), the period of staying in these countries will not be taken into account when calculating the control period of 90 days.
This is due to the fact that these countries are not part of the Schengen area yet and the 90/180 rule works for each state separately. You can stay 90 days in Croatia, then 90 days in Romania, then go to the Schengen area for another 90 days and the officials will not view this as a violation since only Schengen trips will be taken into account.
However, in accordance with the rules of staying in the EU, the time one spends on the territory of Liechtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland and Norway (these states do not belong to the European Union but are part of the Schengen area) is taken into account when calculating the total number of days spent in the Schengen area.
Remember that the EU visa waiver programs do not entitle foreigners to permanently reside, work or study in the Schengen area if the person does not hold the appropriate type of visa (student visa, work visa, etc.).
In addition, note that Ireland and United Kingdom introduce their own visa policies and in most cases foreigners need to apply for visas to enter these countries.
Required documents to travel visa-free
While citizens of the above-mentioned countries do not need a visa to travel to the Schengen area, they do need a variety of other papers which border officials may ask for. These include:
some papers confirming the purpose of visit;
- return ticket;
- flight itinerary.
If one is traveling for business purposes, it is a good idea to have an invitation letter from a business partner or company, tickets for the conferences or presentations, etc.
Likewise, students traveling to the Schengen area to study must have some documents confirming they are students of a university, certificates for joining courses, etc.
Overstaying in the Schengen area: breaking the 90/180 rule
Exceeding the control period of 90/180 days may cause the citizen to be included in the list of persons who are prohibited from entering the Schengen states. This can lead to a denial of entry into the territory of the Schengen states in the future as well as be used as the grounds for the forced return of such a citizen.
If you need to stay in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days, you must apply to the consulate of the country in question so that you can be issued a visa of a proper type.
If you expect the total period of your stay in the Schengen area to exceed 90 days within a 180-day period and you are aware of this fact before your trip, you need to apply to the consular office of the destination state as soon as possible in order to obtain advice and, as the case may be, a different visa.
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Traveling to the Schengen area with children
In accordance with the Schengen border code, every traveler, regardless of age, must have his or her own personal biometric passport. This means parents must help their children apply for and obtain a biometric passport.
At the same time, children who have reached the age of 16 have the right to travel throughout Europe visa-free on their own, just like adults.
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Traveling to the Schengen area by car
One of the major requirements towards the entry into the Schengen countries by car is the technical integrity of the vehicle. Therefore, if you intend to visit Europe by car, it is necessary to prepare your vehicle in advance: eliminate all irregularities, check the tires and headlights, etc.
In addition, do not forget about the mandatory emergency kit. The lack of one of the components can lead to a significant penalty.
For more detailed consultations in touristic incurance for travelling to CIS countrits , you can contact the UTI Center - Ukrainian Travel Insurance. We work for you round-the-clock 7 days a week.
Call the number +38 050 412 77 79 and ask your questions!