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Visa policy

The border-free Schengen Area cannot function efficiently without a common visa policy which facilitates the entry of legal visitors into the EU, while strengthening internal security. The EU has set up a common visa policy for short stays, i.e. stays up to three months, which is applied through the delivery of so-called "Schengen visas". In 2011, the present 26 Schengen States issued around 12.6 million Schengen visas. You may find the complete data on short-stay visas lower in this page.

Main elements of the common visa policy

  • Citizens from some non-EU countries are required to hold a visa when travelling to the Schengen Area. The EU has a common list of countries whose citizens must have a visa when crossing the external borders and a list of countries whose citizens are exempt from that requirement. These lists are set out in Regulation No 539/2001 and its successive amendments. Generally, a short-stay visa issued by one of the Schengen States entitles its holder to travel throughout the 26 Schengen States for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visas for visits exceeding that period remain subject to national procedures.

    Visa requirements for the Schengen Area

    For individual Schengen States’ ATV requirements, click here pdf - 95 KB [95 KB]

    This map is for reference purposes only. The rules in force regarding visa requirements are set out in Regulation No 539/2001.

    Decisions on visa free access to the Schengen Area may follow from bilateral negotiations. They are based on the progress made by the countries concerned in implementing major reforms in areas such as the strengthening of the rule of law, combating of organised crime, corruption and illegal migration and improving of administrative capacity in border control and security of documents.

  • The second element of the common visa policy is the EU Visa Code . It sets out the procedures and conditions for issuing visas for the purpose of short stays and airport transit. Operational instructions for the application of the Visa Code are further specified in the Handbook for the processing of visa applications and the modification of issued visas pdf - 614 KB [614 KB] and the Handbook for the organisation of visa sections and local Schengen cooperation pdf - 76 KB [76 KB] Deutsch (de) français (fr) (List of annexes pdf - 11 KB [11 KB] ).
  • The third element of the common visa policy is the uniform format for the visa sticker.

Visa reciprocity

The EU aims at achieving full visa reciprocity with the non-EU countries whose nationals are exempt from the visa requirement. Thus, EU citizens would not need a visa either for travelling to these non-EU countries.

For that purpose, a visa reciprocity mechanism has been set up: if a country whose citizens are exempt from the visa requirement introduces a visa requirement for one or more EU States, the EU State(s) concerned notifies the Commission. The Commission then takes steps with the authorities of that country to restore visa-free travel. It can also propose retaliatory measures vis-à-vis the country in question.

The Commission publishes annual reports as part of its visa reciprocity monitoring.

Visa facilitation agreements

So far, the EU has concluded visa facilitation agreements with the following non-EU countries. Based on these agreements, both the EU and non-EU citizens benefit from facilitated procedures for issuing visas.

Visa facilitation agreementsEntry into force
AlbaniaAgreement between the European Community and the Republic of Albania on the facilitation of the issuance of visas01/01/2008
ArmeniaAgreement between the European Union and the Republic of Armenia on the facilitation of the issuance of visas01/01/2014
AzerbaijanAgreement between the European Union and the Republic of Azerbaijan on the facilitation of the issuance of visas01/09/2014
Bosnia and HerzegovinaAgreement between the European Community and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the facilitation of the issuance of visas01/01/2008
Cape VerdeAgreement between the European Union and the Republic of Cape Verde on facilitating the issue of short-stay visas to citizens of the Republic of Cape Verde and of the European UnionNot yet in force
FYROMAgreement between the European Community and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the facilitation of the issuance of visas01/01/2008
GeorgiaAgreement between the European Union and Georgia on the facilitation of the issuance of visas01/03/2011
Moldova

Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Moldova amending the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Moldova on the facilitation of the issuance of visas 
(amending the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Moldova on the facilitation of the issuance of visas)

01/07/2013
MontenegroAgreement between the European Community and the Republic of Montenegro on the facilitation of the issuance of visas01/01/2008
SerbiaAgreement between the European Community and the Republic of Serbia on the facilitation of the issuance of visas01/01/2008
RussiaAgreement between the European Community and the Russian Federation on the facilitation of the issuance of visas01/06/2007
Ukraine

Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine amending the Agreement between the European Community and Ukraine on the facilitation of the issuance of visas
(amending the Agreement between the European Community and Ukraine on the facilitation of the issuance of visas)

01/07/2013

Visa facilitation agreements are linked to readmission agreements. Readmission agreements establish the procedures for the return to the EU or to the partner non-EU country of persons (own and third country nationals or stateless persons) in irregular situation.

EU States may also individually negotiate agreements on local border traffic with neighbouring non-EU countries. These agreements enable border residents of well-defined areas to cross the EU external borders, under certain conditions, without having to obtain a visa.

Complete statistics on short-stay visas issued by the Schengen States

Additional tools




Glossary

Visa suspension mechanism

A mechanism established by Regulation 1289/2013 amending Regulation 539/2001 that aims at ensuring that visa-free travel with non-EU countries is not abused ...

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Visa (long stay)

Visa issued under national legislation allowing for stays beyond 90 days in an EU State ...

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Visa reciprocity mechanism

A mechanism regulated by Regulation 1289/2013 amending Regulation 539/2001 that aims at establishing, through ...

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Visa sticker

The uniform format for visas as defined by Regulation 1683/95.

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Visa facilitation agreement

Agreements between the EU and a non-EU country that facilitate the issuance by an EU State of authorisations to ...

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Visa (short stay) (Schengen visa)

An authorisation issued by a Schengen State with a view to: - transit through or an intended stay in the territory ...

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Uniform visa

A visa valid for the entire territory of the Schengen States.

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Schengen State

An EU State or associated non-EU country participating in the Schengen Area.

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Schengen Area

As of December 2011, the Schengen Area consists of the following EU States: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark,...

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Non-EU national

Any person not having the nationality of an EU State.

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Local border traffic

The regular crossing of an external land border by border residents in order to stay in a border area, for example ...

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Irregular migration

The movement of a person to a new place of residence or transit using irregular or illegal means, without valid ...

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External EU border

An EU States’ land borders, including river and lake borders, sea borders and their airports, river ports, sea ports ...

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Entry

Any entrance of a person from one country to another, whether voluntary or involuntary, authorised or unauthorised.

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Border resident

Non-EU national who has been lawfully resident in the border area of a country neighbouring a Schengen State for ...

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Border crossing

The physical act of crossing a border either at a border crossing point or another point along the border.

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Border control

The activity carried out at a border, in accordance with and for the purposes of Regulation 562/2006, exclusively in ...

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Border

A line separating land territory or maritime zones of two States or subparts of States. It can also refer to a region ...

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