Do I need a visa to travel
to the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is a borderless zone of European countries that have officially abolished all passport and other types of border control at their mutual borders. Made up of 26 European countries, it is the largest free travel area in the world.

A question asked by many organisations and individuals post-Brexit is do I need a visa when travelling to the Schengen Area?

Currently, citizens of 61 countries can enter the zone for up to 90 days in any 180 day period without the need to obtain a visa. This includes nationals of all countries in North America, most of South America, Australia, and several countries of Asia. Following Brexit, UK nationals are now on the visa exempt list. All other third country nationals must obtain a Schengen visa prior to entering Europe.

Visitor conditions

A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa that allows a person to travel to any country within the Schengen Area, for up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.

Business travel includes activities such as travelling for meetings and conferences, providing services (even with a charity), and touring art or music. It should be noted that the Schengen visa is not a work visa and as such it does not allow for productive work.

The Schengen Area consists of 26 countries in Europe with a common set of visa rules on entry and short stays and a common external border. It covers most of the EU countries except Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus. The 26 Schengen countries are:

  • 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
  • Switzerland

Different rules apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. If you visit these countries, visits to other EU countries do not count towards the 90-day total.

Non-visa nationals

Nationals of the 61 countries that do not require a visa to travel to the Schengen area may still need to check the entry requirements prior to travelling. The following entry requirements must be satisfied:

  • Check that your passport has at least 6 months validity left and is less than 10 years old
  • Ensure that you have travel insurance that covers healthcare
  • Show you have a return ticket and evidence of funds
  • Business travellers may need to meet further requirements.

If you are required to work or reside in the Schengen area for more than 90 days in any 180 day period, it may be appropriate to apply for a residence permit.

Third country nationals

Third country nationals must apply for a visa prior to travelling to the Schengen Area. Schengen visas can be issued by any member country of the Schengen zone. The application can be made at the Consulate of the country that you intend to visit, or if you intend to visit more than one Schengen State, the Consulate of the country where you will spend the longest period.

Schengen visas can be issued for 1 year, 3 years or 5 years with single, double or multiple entry. The cost of the visa is 80 Euros, but can vary depending on the type of visa and age of the applicant as well as other exceptions. The general processing time is 15 working days.

It may appear impossible to extend a Schengen visa, however with strong reasons an extension may be granted.

Help with applying for a Schengen Visa

Smith Stone Walters is on hand to assess your eligibility for a Schengen visa and can provide you with a document checklist to support your application.

If you need support with an upcoming trip to the Schengen Area, please contact us today.

Share story
Back to top of page