What is the Schengen Area?
Citizens of most countries planning to travel to the Schengen area in Europe, which includes the countries that receive the largest number of tourists each year, are required to obtain a Schengen visa in advance. It is an excellent opportunity to travel to 26 or even more countries with just one visa. Discovering Colosseum in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is possible with just one Schengen visa, and it is enough to start your journey in Europe.
Schengen Area and History
The Schengen area refers to the area which currently provides visa-free, border-free movement in 26 European countries according to the agreement signed in 1985 in Luxembourg's Schengen district. The area is governed by a single visa system for citizens of other countries from abroad. The Schengen area currently covers a population of 400 million and an area of more than 4 million square kilometers.
What are the Schengen countries? Well, although it initially had only five participating countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands), the number of partner countries has continued to grow over the years. Eight new countries (Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Austria, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden) over the next six years, following the Schengen Agreement's de facto procedure in 1990, followed the EU's "eastward expansion" decision in 2004. In 2007, 9 new countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia) and then 4 non-EU countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) joined the list. Currently, the Schengen area includes 26 countries, with 22 members of the European Union and 4 non-members.
You can get acquainted with the Schengen area's current coverage and its member countries on this map:
The countries marked in orange on the map are Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Southern Cyprus, which have joined the EU list in recent years and are currently in talks to join the Schengen area. It is highly expected that these countries will become Schengen countries soon.
On the list of EU member states, Ireland did not join the Schengen Agreement voluntarily and is still not recognized as a Schengen area. The United Kingdom has a completely different visa procedure. It should be noted that even before leaving the European Union, the United Kingdom was not one of the Schengen countries.
A Schengen visa is a visa that allows you to enter and leave the Schengen area countries, as well as short-term travel to any country in the Schengen zone for tourism or business purposes. There are no border controls within the territory of the Schengen countries. Border control is carried out only at the entrance and exit to the common Schengen area. However, in any case, those who want to study or work in the Schengen countries must obtain a national visa of the destination country, not a Schengen visa.
Citizens of third countries who have not reached an agreement on visa liberalization and are not included in the Schengen agreement must obtain a Schengen visa before entering the Schengen area. Whether or not a person is exempt from the visa regime, if a person is not from an EU member state or a Schengen country, he or she must present certain documents when entering the Schengen country. These documents are mainly passports and Schengen visas. However, EU / Schengen border guards may require a person to provide some documents, such as confirming letter for the availability of sufficient funds, proof of accommodation, round-trip tickets, travel insurance, an invitation letter, etc.
Travel to Non-Schengen Countries with Schengen Visa
Some countries do not require visas from Schengen visa holders to enter their country. That is, travelers can enter and leave these countries with an active Schengen visa. Antigua and Barbuda, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Mexico, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia are the countries you can enter with a valid Schengen visa. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Kosovo, and Romania allow travelers with valid multiple-entry (or double-entry) Schengen visas to enter their countries.
Types of Schengen Visa
Types of Schengen visas, depending on the purpose and reason of the visit, mainly include:
• Business visit
• Visit a friend or family
• Cultural and sports events
• Airport and sailor transits
• Official visit
• Medical cause
• Short-term education or research
Depending on the type and frequency of travel to the Schengen zone, a Schengen visa can be single-entry, double-entry, and multi-entry. The validity period of a single-entry Schengen visa covers the period of travel specified in the application form when applying for a Schengen visa. In most cases, a certain "corridor" is added to the duration of the visit by the embassy. However, in any case, the period of validity of the visa covers the period specified in the travel dates. If a person frequently travels to the Schengen area, he or she may obtain a one-, two-, three-, or five-year multi-entry Schengen visa, depending on the consul's decision. Applicants must state in advance in their application forms the period and type of visa they have applied for.
However, the visa holder can stay in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days in any case. Holders of multi-entry and long-term Schengen visas can stay in the Schengen area for 90 days every 180 days.
When applying for a Schengen visa, as a rule, a person must apply to the country's consulate in which he will stay in the Schengen area the most. If the number of days he stays in each country is the same, then he applies to the consulate of the first Schengen country he will enter.
Schengen Visa Fee
The Schengen visa fee may vary depending on the validity and purpose of travel. In general, the visa fee for adults applying for a Schengen visa is 80 euros. For children aged 6-12, the visa fee is set at 40 euros. Children under the age of 6, holders of diplomatic, official, or service passports, family members of citizens of the European Union and European Economic Area member states, and persons traveling for scientific research are free of charge. Citizens of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia pay only 35 euros as a Schengen visa fee under the reduced visa fee procedure.
Except for some cases listed above, each person must pay the visa fee in advance when applying for a Schengen visa. The visa fee is non-refundable, regardless of whether the visa is issued or not.
Schengen Visa Sticker
The Schengen visa sticker was last changed to a new form in 2019. The previous visa design was used for 20 years. In general, the Schengen visa sticker contains the visa number, country name, code of the consulate issuing the visa, validity area (Schengen countries), visa validity period, duration of stay, visa type, passport number, number of entries, visa issuance date, name, surname, and purpose of the visit of the visa holder.
Schengen Visa Information System
The Visa Information Center allows Schengen countries to exchange visa information. It consists of a centralized IT system and communication infrastructure that connects this central system to national networks. VIS connects the consulates of non-EU countries and all Schengen countries at all foreign border checkpoints. This system processes information and decisions regarding short-stay visa applications for travel or transit through the Schengen area. The system can perform biometric compatibility with fingerprints primarily for identification and verification purposes.
The primary purpose of the VIS system is to simplify the visa procedure. VIS allows border guards to verify that the person issuing the visa is its legal owner and to verify the authenticity of the documents submitted in the Schengen area. The use of biometric data to verify the visa holder's identity allows for faster, more accurate, and more reliable checks. The system also simplifies the visa process, especially for frequent travelers.
Travel to the Schengen Area
Every year millions of people travel to the Schengen countries. In 2019 alone, millions of trips were made to the Schengen area, including 87 million to France, 81 million to Spain, 58 million to Italy, and 37 million to Germany. Most of the countries that are currently experiencing a mass tourist amount worldwide, attracting people's attention to travel, are located in the Schengen area. That is why in 2019 alone, more than 20 million people worldwide seem to have applied for Schengen visas.
It's a great chance to see these countries, which combine travelers' most favorite places, with just one visa! As long as you live, it is necessary to appreciate this chance. Happy travels!