What is the Schengen Area?

Everything you need to know about Schengen countries, Schengen travel insurance and obtaining a Schengen visa.

Schengen is the largest free-travel area in the world. It covers most European countries, 26 in total, and visitors can travel without restrictions and internal border control. It can be a little daunting at first, particularly if you are considering visiting more than one European country. To make things easier, our guide below will highlight all the key things you need to know so that you can enjoy Schengen as many others have.

What is the Schengen Agreement?

If we rewind back to 14th June 1985 the Schengen Agreement was signed. It is a treaty amongst many European countries who wanted to abolish their national borders and develop a Europe without restrictions on movement. The participating countries are known as the Schengen Area.

It is worth remembering that the Schengen Agreement and the European Union are not interlinked. Countries can be part of the European Union but not the Schengen Area, and vice versa.

Schengen Area countries

There are 26 member countries making up the Schengen Area. These are:

Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City also opened their borders but are not members of the Schengen Area.

The Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands are part of the Schengen Zone even though they are located outside of the European continent.

Do I need a Schengen visa to visit?

If you are a citizen of any of the countries listed below you do not need to obtain a Schengen visa in order to enter any member country.

AndorraGrenadaMontenegro*Solomon Islands
Antigua and BarbudaGuatemalaNauruSouth Korea
ArgentinaHoly SeeNew ZealandTaiwan**
AustraliaHondurasNicaraguaTimor Leste
BahamasHong Kong S.A.R***North Macedonia*Tonga
BarbadosIsraelPalauTrinidad and Tobago
Bosnia and Herzegovina*JapanPanamaTuvalu
BruneiMacao S.A.R****PeruUnited Arab Emirates
CanadaMalaysiaSaint Kitts and NevisUnited States of America
ChileMarshall IslandsSaint LuciaUruguay
ColombiaMauritiusSaint VincentVanuatu
Costa RicaMexicoSamoaVenezuela
El SalvadorMoldova*Seychelles

*Citizens of these countries can only visit Schengen visa-free if they hold a biometric passport.

**Taiwanese passport holders can only visit Schengen visa-free of their passport contains an identity card number.

***Visa-free travel only applies to holders of a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport.

****Visa-free travel only applies to the holder of a Região Administrativa Especial de Macau passport.

Citizens who will require a Schengen visa

The Schengen visa is a short-stay visa and will be a sticker affixed to your travel document. The countries whose citizens do need to obtain a Schengen visa to enter any member country are listed below:

AlgeriaThe GambiaPakistan
AngolaGhanaPapua New Guinea
ArmeniaGuineaPalestinian Authority
BelizeIndonesiaSao Tome And Principe
BeninIranSaudi Arabia
BoliviaJamaicaSierra Leone
Burkina FasoKazakhstanSouth Africa
Burma/MyanmarKenyaSouth Sudan
BurundiKosovoSri Lanka
Cape VerdeLaosSwaziland
The central African RepublicLebanonSyria
Cote D’IvoireMalawiTogo
Dem. Rep. Of CongoMaliTunisia
Dominican RepublicMongoliaTurkmenistan
Equatorial GuineaNamibiaVietnam
North KoreaNorthern Mariana’s

Citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somali and Sri Lanka would also need to apply for an airport transit visa if they are changing flights at an airport in the Schengen Area.

How do I complete a Schengen visa application?

There are different types of Schengen visas, these include:

  • Transit visa
  • Tourism visa
  • Business visa
  • Visiting family and friends visa
  • Culture or sports activities visa
  • Official visits visa
  • Study visa
  • Medical reasons visa

You will need to have a Schengen visa for freedom of movement in the territory. How you apply for your visa will depend on the country you will be landing in. Typically, you can file for a Schengen visa at one of the following locations:

How long can I stay in the Schengen Area?

If you have the correct visa or come from a country where it is not required for travel, you can stay 90 days in any 180-day period within the Schengen Area. The day you arrive will be considered as the first day of your stay. The date you leave will be considered the last day of your stay in the Schengen territory.

Do I need Schengen travel insurance?

If you fall into a category that requires you to have a visa when visiting the Schengen Area you will need to have travel insurance in place, as dictated by EU law. Travel insurance is not compulsory for those who do not need a visa. However, it is advisable.

Where can I buy Schengen travel insurance?

With Expatriate Group you can select and purchase your international travel insurance online. You will receive all your documents by email and, if you’re visiting an embassy, consulate, or visa centre, these can be presented to help you acquire your Schengen visa for your trip overseas. With over 100,000 unique customers in 182 different countries, you can rest assured your Expatriate Group travel insurance will be comprehensive and tailored to your needs.

Travelling, moving to, or working in another country overseas? Expatriate Group has been serving expats since 1997, providing International Health Insurance, Travel Insurance, Life Insurance for Expats and International Income Protection. No matter how long you’re overseas we will be able to deliver the protection you need.

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