If you intend to travel within Europe, you most likely will need to obtain a visa(s) to complete your travel plans. Europe requires several types of visas depending on where you are from and the countries in which you wish to travel. If you wish to travel to the European Union “Schengen Area” countries, however, you may not need a separate visa to travel there. Here are the Schengen Visa rules.
Where is the Schengen area? The Schengen area is a group of 22 European Union countries (plus 4 others) that do not require a visa for short stay travel. These countries have decided to remove all border controls within the Schengen area. The Schengen name derives from the town in Luxembourg where the countries signed the original agreement to allow borderless travel.
The outside borders of Schengen have strict border control. Agents check all travel documents (passports, etc.). But after entry into the Schengen region, you are free to travel from country to country without showing documents.
What is a Schengen visa? The Schengen visa is a short-stay visa issued by all countries in the Schengen borderless area.
What countries comprise the Schengen area? The Schengen area countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Please note: Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Ireland and the UK are outside the borderless travel zone. Travel to or from any of those countries requires one of their own short stay visas.
How long can I travel with the Schengen visa? The Schengen visa permits travel up to 3 months within a 6-month period. This is a one-time entry option. You cannot travel within the area and then leave to go to another area outside Schengen and then return to Schengen. If your travel plans include coming and going, you will need to obtain a multiple-entry Schengen visa.
Also, a long-stay visa from one of the Schengen countries will provide the same permission to travel borderless as a short-term Schengen visa.
How do I know if I need a Schengen visa? Your need for a Schengen visa depends on your country of origin. If you are from the US, for example, and your travels take you to a Schengen area country from where you plan to travel throughout the Schengen area, you will not need a Schengen visa at all. You are free to travel within the borders of the Schengen area up to the short stay limitation period.
For further information about the Schengen visa, or to apply for a visa, visit Schengen Visa Info. To read about the Schengen region’s move to require biometric passports, please read “Schengen Visa Visitors to Require Biometric Passports”.