What's a Schengen visa?
If you are not a European Economic Area national and want to travel to Europe, you may be required to apply for a Schengen visa before you travel.
The Schengen Visa Scheme is a scheme that allows those wishing to visit certain countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) (and Switzerland) to travel between these countries using only one visa. Together the following countries all make up the Schengen space:
These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
If you are travelling to countries outside of the Schengen space, you should contact that country’s embassy in the UK for information about immigration procedures there. For a list of foreign embassies in the UK go to www.gov.uk and enter ‘London Diplomatic List’ in the search box, and click on ‘London Diplomatic List’ when it appears in the list.
How to choose your Schengen visa
If you were intending to study, for example, in the country you are visiting, we advise you to ask the appropriate embassy before you enter that country what type of visa you would require. The activities you are allowed to undertake using a Schengen visa are decided by the Schengen country you are visiting.
The three types of Schengen visa are:
Short stay or travel visa
The short stay or travel visa allows a visit of up to three months in any six-month period. This is the visa that most students wanting to travel within the Schengen space as tourists will require.
This visa costs EUR 80; for children between 6 - 12 the fee is EUR 40; and for nationals of countries which have concluded the visa facilitation agreement the fee is EUR 35; the fee is waived for children under 6 and other groups of people.
Airport transit visa
The airport transit visa allows the traveller to transit through the international transit zone/area of an airport of a Schengen member state, but not to exit this zone/area before they fly on to their next destination.
The transit visa enables a traveller to pass through the territory of one or more Schengen countries on their way to another country outside the Schengen space and can be issued for a maximum of 5 days.
Where to apply
If you are visiting only one country in the Schengen space, you should apply to the embassy of that country.
If you are visiting several of the 26 countries, you should apply to the embassy of whichever country is your 'main destination' - the country in which you plan to spend the most time during your trip.
If you are visiting several countries in the Schengen space without having a main destination, you should submit an application to the embassy of the country where you will first enter the Schengen space.
How and when to apply
Visa fees, eligibility criteria and documentation required vary, according to which type of visa you need and the country you are applying to.
You should check the website of the relevant embassy, or contact them to check what needs to be submitted with your application. You will have to fill in an application form, which you can probably download from their website. If the website does not have the information you need, you will need to telephone the embassy (most embassies have a telephone line giving detailed recorded information). Alternatively you can try faxing or emailing them.
You can also choose to apply for a multiple entry visa if you wish to travel more than once into the Schengen space during a three-month period. However, you may be required to show evidence of all the travel arrangements and bookings with your application.
You will need to apply at least 15 days before the intended journey, but be aware that applications can take longer to process, so you are advised to allow 60 days. You cannot apply more than three months before the intended journey
How long will the application take?
Applications should be processed in 15 days. This can be extended to 30 days, and exceptionally to 60 days if the consulate you are applying from needs to carry out a more detailed examination of your circumstances or requires further documentation.
Documents to apply
- Passport with at least two empty pages. The passport should have been issued within the last 10 years. Must be valid for at least 3 months beyond the date on which you intend to leave the Schengen territory, or, in the case of multiple journeys, the date on which you intend to leave after the last stay.
Any person appearing in your travel document must complete a separate application form. The visa application form for a child under 18 must be signed by a parent or guardian.
- Visa application form - completed and signed.
- Recent identity photograph conforming to ICAO standards.
- In the countries where the Visa Information System is operational your fingerprints will be collected when you submit your application (exemptions exist for specific categories of applicants).
- Visa fee to be paid when you submit your application.
- Service fee to be paid if you are requested to submit your application at the offices of a service provider.
- Travel medical insurance covering emergency medical, hospitalisation and repatriation (including in case of death). The minimum cover should be of 30.000 EUR. This insurance must be valid for the entire Schengen area and throughout the duration of the stay.
- Various documents relating to the purpose of your stay; evidence of means of support during your stay and your accommodation.
For more information, please refer to the EU Commision Schengen Visa policy.