The Schengen Visa: Passport to an Entire Continent

A French issued Schengen Area Visa document

Travelling through Europe is a wonderful experience, rich in both culture and history. As with most travel, appropriate permissions and visas are necessary. Some nationalities are visa exempt, others aren't.

Should an individual wish to travel to Europe, the Schengen visa is an easy and accessible way of navigating the an otherwise complicated process. The bureaucracy involved in obtaining a visa for each separate country on a travel itinerary can be daunting, frustrating and expensive. If the proposed trip involves travelling in two or more of the Schengen countries then this visa is advised.

The Schengen visa acts as a catch all travel document that allows the holder entry to all 26 member countries. It's important to note 1) the Schengen visa must be obtained before the traveler has left their native country, 2) this visa cannot be acquired at immigration when landing in the first country, and 3) this visa is for visitors only and is exclusively for those travelling for leisure, tourism or business

Upon entering one of the 26 Schengen member countries, the visa remains valid for travel within the region for a maximum of 90 days, over a period of 6 months. Careful planning is essential to ensure adherence to the regulations. It is notoriously difficult to extend a Schengen visa. Should the time in country exceed the 90 days, automatic ejection country will occur.

Visa Exemptions

A number of nations are Schengen Exempt, meaning no prior application is required

Visitors from the following countries listed below are visa exempt for the Schengen Area and do not need to apply for the visa.

Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Macao, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Northern Marianas, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.

If the individual travelling is not native to one of the countries listed above, and the plan is to visit more than one country in the Schengen region, then this visa will provide a streamlined approach to the process.

The Application Process

There is no cost to apply for the Schengen Visa, but once approved, it can cost up to 60 Euros

Once establishing that a Schengen visa is required for your trip, the process of applying for the visa must begin. An application guide to the process can be found here.

To navigate the process successfully, contacting the consulate of the country that the majority of the trip will be in is the first step. The consulate staff will be able to help complete the application and provide a checklist of the documents needed to ensure the best chance of obtaining the visa.

To apply for the Schengen visa requires no payment. The process can be quite laborious, so patience is an asset during this stage of the process. Upon approval you will be required to pay for the visa. The charges are detailed below:

  • Adult: 60 Euro
  • Child aged 6-12: 35 Euro
  • Child under 6: Free

It is not unheard of for the fees to be waived in the interest of cultural or tourism incentives for the host country. This is especially true for children. If teachers accompanying a group of students are arranging a trip, make this known during the application process as the fee for the students may be waived.

Ease of Approval

France issues the most visas per year, but don't count on France as the sole nation to apply to

There is only one type of Schengen visa, which makes the process considerably easier to navigate.

When in the planning stage of the trip, it is advisable to research which country is the most amenable to granting Schengen visas. This fluctuates over time, so research can be extremely beneficial.

France has been known to consistently provide the most visas per year, however this is subject to change. Ultimately the application process and requirements are the same regardless of country, however, some research on the statistics of visas granted could make the difference between being granted the visa or a rejection.

Required Documentation

Make sure to have the proper documentation including round-trip airfare

Identity Documents: In order to procure the visa, a valid passport with plenty of empty pages is required. Once the 90 day trip has been completed, there should have 2-4 empty pages in your passport and at least 6 months left until the expiry date. Also required are 2 passport photos that conform to the biometric standard. Your local photo studio will be able to assist with meeting these standards. Completing the relevant application forms procured from the consulate of the country that you are applying through is needed at this stage as well.

Travel Documents: As with most travel, the need to have your round trip travel documents ready to go as proof of your intention to return to your home state are essential. A round trip flight reservation is acceptable, and the confirmed tickets may need to be presented upon entry to each country visited. Having a printed copy of the itinerary will expedite border crossings and help answer any questions an immigration official has.

Proof of Funds: The ability to demonstrate that the trip is within the means of the visa holder is required. This can be in the form of copies of bank statements from the previous 6 months or credit card bills. Family members within in the country(s) on the itinerary can supply documentation stating that they will provide financial are also accepted. The amount of money needed to be able to prove that the trip is affordable varies slightly from country to country. 50 - 60 euro per day is a rough average.

Travel Insurance: Documentation that details the travel/health insurance coverage of the person travelling is mandatory. This is not only a requirement for the Schengen visa, but thoroughly recommended when travelling anywhere outside of an individual’s native country. Hospital bills can be unforgiving, even for relatively minor injuries.

Rejection and Appeals Process

Rejections may be tough, but there is an appeals process that you can follow

Should the Schengen application be rejected, there is an extensive appeals process available. The consulate will thoroughly advise you of the particulars of this process in the event of a rejection.

Being meticulous in the preparation of documents prior to submitting the application will make the process much easier to complete. The consulate will provide a detailed checklist of paperwork required. It is vital that close attention is paid to all instructions given when gathering all documentation.

Even small details, when overlooked, can cause delays and put a dampener on the adventure. With proper planning the Schengen visa will provide an all access pass to some of the most fascinating cities and experiences Europe has to offer.

* Schengen Member Countries

A Map of the nations within Europe that make up the Schengen Area

There are 26 countries that are Schengen member states, listed below. Countries within the Schengen region hold some of the most famous tourist sites in Europe. From the Colosseum in Rome, to Old Bratislava in Slovakia. Based on nationality, should you require a visa to visit the following countries the Schengen is an excellent tool to meet this goal.

Below is a list of countries within the Schengen region:

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Denmark
  5. Estonia
  6. Finland
  7. France
  8. Germany
  9. Greece
  10. Hungary
  11. Iceland
  12. Italy
  13. Latvia
  14. Liechtenstein
  15. Lithuania
  16. Luxembourg
  17. Malta
  18. Netherlands
  19. Norway
  20. Poland
  21. Portugal
  22. Slovakia
  23. Slovenia
  24. Spain
  25. Sweden
  26. Switzerland

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