How to read a Schengen
23 March 2021
Currently, there is a list of 107 non-EU countries whose citizens require a visa if they wish to travel to the EU. Each year, millions of tourists and business trippers from these countries are able to travel freely across multiple European countries on a single permit, by applying for a Schengen visa.
A Schengen visa takes the form of a sticker affixed to the travel document, and allows its holder to enter, freely travel within and leave the Schengen zone from any of the 26 Schengen member countries.
There are several different types of Schengen visa available, each with slightly different validity periods and permissions granted. Key information such as the validity period of your visa and which countries you are permitted to enter on your visa type are indicated on the visa sticker by certain codes or abbreviations.
It is important that you know how to read your visa, as this will allow you to keep track of your permissions and ensure you do not overstay in the Schengen area. In this article, we examine the information you may find on your Schengen visa sticker and what it means.
Your Schengen visa number
This is found in the top right corner of your visa sticker.
How long you can stay in the Schengen area
The precise length of validity of your visa is indicated on the visa sticker. The label “DURATION OF STAY”, “DUREE DE SEJOUR” and “DAUER DES AUFENTHALTS” and the one immediately next to it with the words “DAYS”, “JOURS” and “TAGE” tell you the number of days you can remain in the Schengen Zone on each visit while your visa is valid.
“DURATION OF STAY…DAYS” indicates the number of days you may stay in the Schengen area. The days should be counted from the date you enter the Schengen area (the entry stamp) to the date you exit the Schengen area (the exit stamp), i.e. both days included.
How long your Schengen visa is valid for
You will also see the labels “FROM”, “DU” and “VOM” followed by the first day you are permitted to enter the Schengen Area, and the labels “UNTIL”, “AU”, and “BIS”, stipulating the date by which you must leave the Schengen Area.
The period between “FROM …UNTIL” is usually longer than the number of days printed in the “DURATION OF STAY” field. The difference in period is meant to give you flexibility to plan your entry into and exit from the Schengen area, but your stay in the Schengen area must never exceed the exact number of days in the “DURATION OF STAY …DAYS” field.
No matter how many days you have stayed in the Schengen area, you must leave no later than the date printed in the “UNTIL” field.”
Which countries you may enter
A Schengen visa sticker always contains information on the countries the visa holder is permitted to enter. This information can be identified on the sticker by the phrases “VALID FOR”, “VALABLE POUR” and “GULTIG FUR”.
If the words next to this are “ETATS SCHENGEN” or “SCHENGEN STATES”, then it means you can travel within all the countries in the Schengen Area. If your visa only permits you to enter certain countries within the zone, the letters A, B, CH, CZE, D, DK, E, EST, F, FIN, GR, H, I, IS, LI, L, LT, LVA, M, N, NL, P, PL, S, SK, SVN, stand for the Schengen states you are permitted to visit.
The full list of initials and their corresponding countries is as follows:
- A – Austria
- B – Belgium
- CH – Switzerland
- CZE – Czech Republic
- D – Germany
- DK – Denmark
- E – Spain
- EST – Estonia
- F – France
- FIN – Finland
- GR – Greece
- H – Hungary
- I – Italy
- IS – Iceland
- L – Luxembourg
- LT – Lithuania
- LVA – Latvia
- M – Malta
- N – Norway
- NL – Netherlands
- P – Portugal
- PL – Poland
- S – Sweden
- SK – Slovakia
- SVN – Slovenia
If just one or some of these acronyms are listed on your sticker i.e. S, M, N, NL, SK, PL, this means you are permitted to enter only the countries indicated, in this case Sweden, Malta, Norway, Netherlands, Slovakia and Poland. Your visa will only be valid for the respective territories listed, and you will not be able to enter any other states.
Alternatively, your Schengen visa may contain the following label: “ETATS SCHENGEN (-country initial)”. This means the visa is valid for all Schengen countries, except for the country after the dash. For example, if the label reads “ETATS SCHENGEN (-SVN)”. You will be able to enter all of the Schengen countries except Slovenia.
Number of entries permitted
The number of times you are permitted to enter the Schengen zone depends on the type of visa you hold. Some Schengen visas allow for only a single entry, whereas others allow the holder to enter the zone twice or several times during the validity period of the visa. The number of entries permitted under your visa will also be indicated on the sticker.
With a single-entry visa, you can enter the Schengen area only once. This is indicated on the visa sticker under the heading “Number of entries” by “1”. A double-entry or a multiple-entry visa allows for two or several entries during the validity period of the visa. This is indicated on the visa sticker by “02” or “MULT” under the heading “Number of entries”.
The type of visa
The labels “TYPE OF VISA”, “TYPE DE VISA” and “VISA TYP” indicate the type of visa you have obtained which may be:
- Label A – An A type visa, an Airport Visa, does not permit the holder to travel past the international airport zone.
- Label C – A C type visa, or the standard short-stay visa, allows the holder to stay up to three months in the Schengen Area.
- Label D – A D type visa, or long-term visa, permits the holder to stay for longer than three months.
Details about the visa holder
A Schengen visa will also include details about the visa holder, including your passport number, surname, name, and any other remarks relating to the purpose of your travel such as work, tourism, or medical reasons.
Help with your Schengen application
If you require support in filing a Schengen application and compiling the necessary supporting documentation, Smith Stone Walters can help. We also offer a bespoke, twinned service for Skilled Worker and Schengen applications, which is growing in popularity with our clients.
By partnering with us, we will work with you to ensure both your Skilled Worker and Schengen applications are prepared for your overseas employees simultaneously, securing a fast-tracked decision to provide your business with the fastest and most effective delivery possible.
To find out more, please contact our team today.