The Schengen Visa is a short-stay visa allowing holders to travel throughout the Schengen Area, 27 European countries.
While citizens of 60 countries, including the United States, do not need a Schengen Visa to enter the Schengen Area, citizens of countries do need to obtain a Schengen Visa.
Applying for a Schengen Visa entails a great detail of personal information and documents, so it is important to understand the process as outlined here fully.
Who Needs a Schengen Visa?
While there are currently 60 non-EU countries that can travel throughout the Schengen Area visa-free, there are many more that the Schengen Area requires citizens of to obtain a Schengen Visa. These countries include:
What Kind of Travel Does a Schengen Visa Cover?
There are several kinds of travel covered under the Schengen Visa. Applications may differ depending on the type of travel being planned. These include:
- Airport Transit or traveling through a Schengen Area airport without entering the country.
- Transit or stop for a short period of time at a Schengen Area seaport.
- Tourism, or entering the Schengen Area for purposes of sightseeing, leisure, or general vacation.
- Visiting Friends or Family or entering the Schengen Area to visit friends or family who legally reside in the Schengen Area.
- Business or entering the Schengen Area for business purposes.
- Official Visit or entering the Schengen Area on official duty.
- Medical Reasons, or entering the Schengen Area to seek medical treatment.
- Study Purposes or entering the Schengen Area to attend any type of educational institute.
- Cultural, Sports, and Film Crews, or entering the Schengen Area to work as a part of a cultural or sporting event or film crew.
It should be noted that the Schengen Visa only covers travel for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. All travel for the above reasons must be kept within that period of time. There are different visas available for longer visits, though.
What Are the Different Kinds of Schengen Visa?
Applicants must also consider the different variations of the Schengen Visa, each with unique purposes. It is important that applicants select the appropriate visa during their application process.
Uniform Schengen Visa (USV)
The Uniform Schengen Visa grants permission to travel through or reside in the desired territory for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. Under the umbrella of the USV are two categories. Category A covers travel for reasons of transit, while Category C, the most popular category, covers all other kinds of travel.
Depending on the specifics of the traveler’s itinerary, Category C is broken into the following categories:
- Single-Entry Visa allows holders to enter the Schengen Area once within the allotted time frame (90 days in 180 days). While the holder can travel to several different countries within the Schengen Area, they will not be permitted to return once they have left it. This is enforced regardless of time spent in the Schengen Area.
- Double-Entry Visa allows the same permissions as a single-entry visa, except the traveler will be allowed to re-enter the Schengen Area after their first departure. This is most suitable for travelers who plan to visit a non-Schengen country sometime during their trip to Europe.
- Multiple-Entry Visa allows holders to exit and return to the Schengen Area as often as they want, so long as they do not exceed the 90/180 rule. Those who have successfully obtained multiple Schengen Visas may be eligible for one, three, and five-year multiple-entry visas, granting holders access to the Schengen Area for longer periods. These are not exceptions to the 90/180 rule, however.
Limited Territorial Validity Visas (LTV)
While a USV grants holders access to the Schengen Area, the LTV will only allow access to a single Schengen State. This means the holder will not be able to enter or transit through any other country in the Schengen Area. Instances that warrant this type of visa include:
- Humanitarian reasons
- International obligations
- Emergencies in which the traveler does not possess a valid travel document
Similar to the LTV, the National Visa grants access to only one Schengen country. This type of visa is usually granted to individuals who are studying, working, or permanently residing in a specific Schengen country, after which time they will return to their country. In some cases, though, holders of the National Visa can be granted a multiple-entry visa. These cases include:
- International students about to begin a full course of studies in a Schengen country
- Pedagogical workers at a university or research center in a Schengen country
- Professionals traveling to a Schengen country to share their expertise to a public audience, such as athletes or artists.
- Individuals who cannot leave the Schengen Area at their designated time frame due to a medical condition.
How To Apply for a Schengen Visa
Upon determining the type of Schengen Visa necessary for their travels, the applicant should begin to prepare for the application process. This is a detail-oriented process that requires a great deal of personal information and documents. Before beginning the application, applicants should gather the forms necessitated by the steps below.
How to Fill Out the Visa Application Form
Download the Schengen Visa application form. The steps are as follows:
- Surname (Family Name) printed as it appears on the applicant’s passport.
- Surname at birth (Former Family Name), if different than the name written in step 1.
- First Name(s), printed as it appears on the applicant’s passport.
- Date of Birth, printed in order of day-month-year (e.g., 15-06-1990)
- Place of Birth, printed as indicated on the applicant’s passport.
- Country of Birth, even if it is not included in the applicant’s passport.
- Current Nationality, including nationality at birth, if different, and any other nationalities the applicant might have.
- Gender, male or female.
- Civil Status, designating your legal marital status.
- Applicants who are minors must include the name, address, and nationality of their parental authority or legal guardian.
- National Identity Number, if applicable.
- Travel Document Type, such as a passport.
- Travel Document Number, such as a passport number.
- Issue Date; the date that the traveler’s passport was issued (not including the extension date).
- Expiration Date; the date in which the applicant’s passport will expire (including any extension date).
- Issued By; indicate the issuing authority of the passport or other travel document, such as the U.S. Department of State.
- Applicant’s Home Address, Email Address, and Telephone Number; applicants should write the address at which they receive mail and the owner of that address if it is not theirs.
- Residence in Another Country; the applicant should indicate if they live in a country different from their nationality, providing their residence permit number and its expiration date.
- Current Occupation is written as it appears on the applicant’s passport. If the passport has an outdated profession, the applicant should provide their current profession and a short explanation. For example, if the applicant’s passport lists them as a student, they can write “lawyer (formerly a student).” Those without an occupation can write “no occupation,” “unemployed,” “retired,” or anything that applies most appropriately to their employment status.
- Employer or Educational Institution, as it pertains to the occupation listed above, and including its contact information.
- The Main Purpose of Your Trip, including tourism, business, visiting family or friends, cultural, sports, official visit, medical reasons, study, airport transit, or any other reason.
- Destination Member State, meaning the name of the country in which the applicant will reside for the majority of their stay.
- First Entry Member State, meaning the country in which the applicant will be entering the Schengen Area.
- Number of Entries Requested, referring to the amount of times the applicant wishes to enter and then exit the Schengen Area during their stay.
- Length of Stay, referring to the amount of time the applicant wishes to stay in the Schengen Area.
- Schengen Visas Issued during the Last 3 Years, referring to the number of visas the applicant has obtained over the last three years.
- Fingerprints; the applicant should check if they have previously had their fingerprints taken for the purpose of a Schengen Visa. First time applicants will have their fingerprints taken during an in-person appointment.
- Entry Permit for Your Final Destination Country, If Applicable. If the applicant’s final destination is outside the Schengen Area, include the number and validity dates of the visa obtained from that country.
- Arrival Date, refers to the date the applicant plans to first arrive in the Schengen Area.
- Departure Date, referring to the date the applicant plans to depart the Schengen Area.
- Inviting Person’s Name, referring to the name of the person who invited the applicant, or the contact information for the hotel in which the applicant will be staying.
- Inviting Organization’s Name, referring to the entity that invited or will be hosting the applicant, if applicable.
- Covering Part of Travel Expenses, referring to who will be paying for the trip. Whether covered by a host or the applicant themself, the applicant must also specify the means by which they will be paying (cash, credit card, check, etc.)
- Date and Location, meaning the date and geographical location in which this application was filled out.
- Signature. This application should only be filled out by the applicant and no other person. Applicants who are under the age of 18 must have their applications signed by either a parental authority or legal guardian. Multiple applicants may not share a single form.
What Documents are Required To Apply for a Schengen Visa?
After completing their applications, applicants will need to book an appointment with the embassy or consulate of the Schengen country in which they plan to spend the most days. Before this appointment, they will need to gather the following documents:
- Visa application form
- Valid passport
- Proof of residency
- Passport photo
- Travel itinerary
- Hotel booking
- Proof of funds
- Schengen Travel insurance
In specific circumstances, depending on the type of travel the applicant plans on doing, other documents may be required. If applicable, applicants should also prepare to bring the following supplemental documents:
- Birth and/or marriage certificate
- Sponsorship evidence
- Employment contract & pay slips
- Invitation letter
- Letter from employer
- Proof of enrollment in school or university
Applications can easily be rejected, so it is important that applicants bring all of the necessary documents to their appointments. Incomplete information can lead to rejection or delays.
How to Book an Appointment
Applicants should book appointments with the country in which they plan to spend the most time. If the applicant plans on spending equal amounts of time in more than one country, then they must apply at the embassy or consulate of the country in which they will first enter.
Most countries allow appointments to be booked online, but in some cases, appointments will need to be booked by phone, email, or in person at the embassy or consulate. Appointments are also usually free, although there is an application fee.
What is a Schengen Visa Appointment?
At their appointment, applicants will turn in their applications and all supplementary documents. Visa officials will look through the application, then ask the applicant pertinent questions in order to make a fair decision. They will also provide biometric data, such as fingerprints and a photo, pay the application fee, and be asked a series of questions. Questions can include:
- Have you previously visited the Schengen Area?
- Why do you want to visit your destination country?
- Do you know anyone in your destination country?
- Will you be meeting anyone there?
- What is your occupation?
The goal of the appointment is not to interrogate the applicant, but rather to verify the information on their application. That being said, applicants should dress presentably. You will also pay the necessary fee for your visa. Most embassies allow you to pay by cash, money order, cashier’s check or credit/debit card, but you should check beforehand which payment methods are accepted. Please note, that you will pay the fee in your local currency, so if, for example, you are in the US, you’ll pay in dollars or if you are in the UK, you’ll pay in pounds sterling.
When is the Best Time to Apply for a Schengen Visa?
Applications must be submitted as early as three months before the applicant’s trip, and as late as two weeks before the applicant’s trip. In most cases, the earlier the application is submitted, the better. This will prevent any delays to the applicant’s trip, especially in cases when the embassy or consulate must verify additional information.
Is There an Application Fee?
There is an application fee associated with the Schengen Visa. Currently, the fee is $96. Most embassies will accept payment via cash, credit card, debit card, money order, or cashier’s check. That being said, applicants should verify which payment methods are accepted before their appointment.
What is a No Objection Certificate?
A No Objection Certificate (NOC), also known as a No Objection Letter, is a document provided by the traveler’s employer or educational institution that testifies to the applicant’s obligations in their home country. Simply put, a NOC affirms the applicant’s stated return date. While this additional document is not required, it can improve an applicant’s chances of approval.
Who Should Provide a No Objection Certificate?
Since a NOC is not required, applicants may wonder when it is most appropriate to provide this additional document. Essentially, a NOC proves that the applicant will return on time. This means that applicants who are at the most risk for overstaying their visa should consider providing a NOC. Such applicants include those who are:
- Unemployed non-students
- Without any significant social obligations
- Living alone
- Not home-owners
Embassies and consulates will deny applicants they feel are going to overstay their visa, so a NOC can be a valuable addition to many travelers’ applications.
How to Write a No Objection Certificate
Applicants will need either their employer or educational institution to write a NOC. For those applying with an employment NOC, the following information will need to be provided:
- Full name of the letter writer
- The position of the letter writer
- The phone number and email of the letter writer
- The employer’s address
- Full name of the applicant
- Position of the applicant
- Applicant’s salary
- Applicant’s length of employment
- Verification of the applicant’s travel dates
- Verification of the applicant’s travel purpose
Those providing an education NOC will need to include the following information:
- Letter writer’s full name
- Letter writer’s position at the school
- Relationship to the student of letter writer
- Which year of study the student is in
- The student’s length of enrollment
- The student’s major or area of study
- Verification of the student’s travel dates
- Verification of school vacation dates (only if the student is traveling during this time)
- Verification of the student’s purpose of travel
- School address
Regardless of which type of NOC the applicant provides, it should be typed on an official company or university letterhead, concise, tonally formal, and manually signed by the writer.
Do I Need Schengen Visa Travel Insurance?
Schengen Visa applicants must purchase travel insurance in order to be approved. Without travel insurance, applicants will be denied. This is to ensure travelers can financially cover medical treatment in case of illness or injury. To qualify for the Schengen Area, medical insurance must meet the following criteria:
- Coverage of at least €30,000
- Coverage in all member states of the Schengen Area
- Cover all expenses that can arise from urgent health attention, emergency hospital treatment, death, or repatriation for medical reasons
What is Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance covers medical expenses in the event of injury or sickness during one’s trip. On top of that, travel insurance will often cover a range of unexpected losses suffered during the course of one’s trip. Such losses can include lost or delayed luggage, last-minute flight cancellations, and travel agency or accommodation bankruptcy. Travel insurance will often cover these unexpected losses in both the destination country and the home country of the traveler.
An example of travel insurance at work could be if a traveler were to experience food poisoning while abroad. Their trip to the hospital would be covered. Similarly, if a traveler’s checked luggage was delayed, insurance would reimburse them for the replacement of essential items.
How to Purchase Travel Insurance
Many travelers might be covered for international emergency medical expenses under their regular insurance policy. That being said, there are usually limitations in these cases. Before applying for a Schengen Visa, travelers should learn what their insurance plan covers, and determine if travel insurance is right for them.
Those who need travel insurance can find plenty of affordable policies from reputable companies, such as AXA and Europ Assistance. Plans can be purchased for the exact number of days the applicant will be in Europe. For two week trips, plans typically run between €30 and €50. Many companies will also allow free cancellations in cases where applicants are denied for Schengen Visas.
What Does Travel Insurance Cover?
Applicants will want to make sure their insurance plans provide comprehensive coverage. A good travel insurance plan will cover the following criteria:
- Medical emergencies, such as an accident or illness, while in the Schengen Area
- Emergency evacuations
- Return of mortal remains
- Return of a minor
- Trip cancellation
- Trip delays
- Accidental death, injury, or disablements benefits
- International funeral expenses
- Lost, stolen, or damaged personal items
- Baggage delays and emergency replacement of essentials
- Missed flight connections due to airline
- Weather delays
- Pregnancy-related expenses in the first trimester
What Is Excluded From Travel Insurance?
There are several instances that will rarely be covered by standard travel insurance, so it is important for travelers to understand what is and isn’t protected. In most cases, additional coverage can be purchased for the following criteria:
- Pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or asthma
- Activities with an expected level of risk, such as scuba diving or skiing
- Travel to high-risk countries, which can include risk of war, natural disaster, or terrorism.
- Acute onset of pre-existing conditions
What To Do After Applying for Your Schengen Visa?
In most cases, Schengen Visa applications are approved in less than 15 days. That being said, there is no guaranteed timeframe and some embassies and consulates can take as long as 45 days to reach a decision. Applicants should plan ahead to make sure they receive their visas before departure.
When Your Schengen Visa Is Approved
Upon approval, applicants will receive a Schengen Visa sticker. They will apply this sticker to their passport, which will be inspected upon arrival in Europe. Approved applicants should carefully look at the labels attached to their visa sticker. There, they will find the period they are permitted to remain in the Schengen Area. If they remain in the Schengen Area longer than their allotted time, there can be consequences.
When Your Schengen Visa Is Denied
If an applicant is denied, they will receive a rationale for why they were rejected. This will allow the applicant a chance to apply again and correct any mistakes they made on their application. If the applicant determines their rejection was a mistake, they will have the chance to appeal the decision. Some applicants may also want to apply at a different embassy or consulate in a neighboring country.
How to Appeal a Schengen Visa Rejection
In instances where an applicant is denied due to incorrect information, yet the information provided was actually correct, they may have a case for an appeal. In fact, any rejected applicant has the right to appeal; however, they will want to make sure their case is strong.
An appeal should come in the form of an appeal letter. This is a detailed yet succinct letter, addressed to the consulate at which the applicant applied, that should include the following information:
- Personal Details, including the applicant’s full name, date and place of birth, passport number, current address, phone number, and email address.
- The date of rejection, ideally in the beginning of the letter.
- The consulate’s justification for rejection, is stated clearly as it appears on the rejection letter.
- The applicant’s reasoning behind why the rejection was incorrect and why it should be overturned.
- Signature of the applicant.
In many cases, the applicant will also want to provide supplementary documents alongside their appeal. For example, if they were rejected due to unclear reasons for travel, they should provide their itinerary or invitation letter. If they were rejected due to suspicion they may not return, a No Objection Certificate (NOC) would be helpful. Depending on the nature of the applicant’s rejection, other kinds of supporting documents can include:
- Documents proving the applicant owns property in their home country
- Proof that the applicant is a caretaker (marriage certificate, birth certificate of the child, etc.)
- Proof of income, bank statements, or tax returns
- Statement of character from a reputable individual
Schengen Visa Application FAQs
What Countries Take Part in the Schengen Agreement?
The Schengen Area comprises 27 European countries that share open borders and a standard visa policy for international travel. This is different from the European Union, as there are several non-EU countries in the Schengen Agreement. These countries include:
- Czech Republic
- the Netherlands
While they are not currently in the Schengen Agreement, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania are in the process of joining. This will leave the Republic of Ireland as the only EU country not part of the Schengen Area. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland are not a part of the EU, but rather the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA). Nonetheless, EFTA countries are in Schengen Agreement, making them the only non-EU countries in the Schengen Area.
How Long Will a Visa for the Schengen Zone Last?
Schengen Visas or short stay visas that last for 90 days in any 180-day period. This means that the visa’s validity will last 180 days, during which time they can stay in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days. After the 180-day period, applicants can apply for another visa.
Can You Extend Your Schengen Visa?
While a Schengen Visa cannot be extended after it has been administered, applicants can opt for longer-stay visas instead. A National Visa, for example, will grant applicants the ability to stay in Europe for up to 12 months. It should also be noted that Multiple Entry Visas, which come in one, three, and five-year variations, are not exceptions to the 90/180 rule, though they can be mistaken as such.
What Is the Difference Between an Airport Transit Visa and Transit Visa?
These two visas cover travelers who are passing through a Schengen state for travel to a non-Schengen state, yet not fully entering the Schengen state they are passing through. An airport transit visa covers those who will enter, but not leave, a Schengen airport. Connecting flights is the most common cause of this. Travelers who require a Schengen Visa must obtain an airport transit visa if their flight connects to a Schengen state, even if they won’t enter the country. Transit visas are about the same, but they apply to seaports rather than airports.
Citizens of the following countries need to obtain an airport transit visa or transit visa:
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Sri Lanka
It is important to note that these countries are just the countries restricted by the Schengen Area as a whole. Many individual Schengen countries require transit visas from citizens of other countries, including:
- Austria (Syria)
- Belgium (Dominican Republic, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nepal, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Palestine)
- the Czech Republic(Chad, Egypt, India, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Yemen, Palestine)
- Denmark (Syria)
- France (Angola, Bolivia, Cameroon, Central African, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Dominican, Guinea, Haiti, India, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Russia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Togo, Yemen, Palestine)
- Germany (India, Jordan, Lebanon, Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Turkey)
- Greece (Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Syria)
- Italy (Senegal, Syria)
- Netherlands (Cuba, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nepal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan. Sudan, Syria)
- Norway (Turkey, Syria)
- Poland (Cuba, Sudan)
- Portugal (Guinea, Senegal)
- Spain (Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, India, Liberia, Mali, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Syria, Togo, Yemen)
- Switzerland (Syria, Turkey)
What If There is No Embassy or Consulate in My Destination Country?
Some prospective applicants may encounter an instance where their destination country does not have an embassy or consulate in their home country. When this happens, applicants should contact the central authorities of that country (i.e. Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Immigration Office). They will be able to provide information on whether the destination country is represented by another country where the applicant resides
What Is a Single-entry and Multiple-entry Schengen Visa?
Depending on the kind of visa they are approved for, Schengen Visa holders are restricted to how many times they can enter the Schengen Area.
- The Single-Entry Visa allows holders to enter the Schengen Area only once during the 90/180 window. Once the traveler has left, they will not be allowed re-entry.
- The Double-Entry Visa allows the traveler to re-enter the Schengen Area after their first departure, all within the 90/180 window.
- The Multiple-Entry Visa allows its holders to exit and return to the Schengen Area as many times as they want during the 90/180 window.
Under the umbrella of the multiple-entry visa, there are also one, three, and five-year multiple-entry visas. These grant longer periods of validity, but are not exceptions to the 90/180 rule.
Where Do I Apply if I’m Going to More Than One Schengen Country?
The Uniform Schengen Visa (USV) allows its holders to travel throughout any Schengen state unimpeded. Only the Limited Territorial Validity Visa (LTV) and National Visa restricts travelers to just one Schengen country. Travelers planning on visiting multiple countries in the Schengen Area should apply for the USV.
Do I Get My Money Back if My Schengen Visa Is Rejected?
Those who are rejected for the Schengen Visa will not receive a refund of their application fee.
How Does ETIAS Differ From the Schengen Visa?
As early as 2025, the Schengen Area will introduce the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), an electronic visa-waiver program. It is important to note that ETIAS does not replace the Schengen Visa, and those who currently require a Schengen Visa will continue to require a Schengen Visa.
Who Does ETIAS Effect?
Currently, citizens of 60 countries can travel throughout the Schengen Area visa-free. ETIAS will not change that; however, it will require that they register online before entering the Schengen Area. It is important to note that ETIAS is not a waiver, but rather a visa-waiver program. Effectively, ETIAS provides further security measures to ensure that these travelers can continue to travel safely throughout the Schengen Area visa-free.
Will ETIAS Replace the Schengen Visa?
ETIAS will not change who does and does not need a Schengen Visa. Travelers who currently require a Schengen Visa will still need a Schengen Visa. On the other hand, travelers who currently travel visa-free will continue to travel visa-free; however, they will need to register for ETIAS before entering the Schengen Area.
Do I Need ETIAS and a Schengen Visa?
Travelers who need a Schengen Visa do not need ETIAS. Travelers who need ETIAS do not need a Schengen Visa. There is no circumstance in which a traveler will need both a Schengen Visa and ETIAS.
What is the Purpose of ETIAS?
The main concern that sparked the need for ETIAS was deteriorating security conditions throughout the EU. ETIAS was officially proposed to address four areas of concern:
- Each year, around 200 million people cross EU borders, which continues to rise.
- As a result of several international crises, the number of refugees and people seeking asylum has risen sharply.
- Terrorist attacks have become disturbingly frequent, threatening the lives of citizens who call Europe home.
- Technological advancements have made electronic pre-travel authorization a realistic and practical way of maintaining border security.
ETIAS aims to reinforce EU borders while also expediting the customs process for visa-free travel. This will be accomplished due to the online database that ETIAS creates. As travelers register for ETIAS before entry, EU customs officers will know exactly who they will be encountering each day, enhancing the speed and quality of identity verification.
Those who wish to enter the Schengen Area should determine whether or not they need a Schengen Visa. If a Schengen Visa is required, the traveler should begin the application process well ahead of time. In addition to a large number of steps and documents involved in the application process, approval can sometimes take over a month.
Travelers who do not require a Schengen Visa should prepare for the arrival of ETIAS. While not a visa, ETIAS will still require an extra step to the usual travel process.