If you are planning a short stay of up to three months in any six-month period of time in an EU country, you may need a visa, depending on your nationality and on the rules in the country you wish to travel to. Citizens from certain countries coming to the EU for a short stay may benefit from special visa rules or fast track procedures, or may not need a visa at all.
On these pages you will learn about Europe?s single travel zone, the Schengen area, whether you need a Schengen visa to enter this area and, if so, how to get one. There is also some information on applying for visas for short stays in EU countries outside the Schengen area.
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The Schengen area
What is the Schengen area?
The Schengen area includes 26 European countries which have decided to remove all internal border controls, which means that travellers can move freely within the area without having to show their passports. This area takes its name from the town of Schengen in Luxembourg, where the original agreement to create a borderless European travel area was signed.
Schengen area countries have strict border controls for travellers crossing the external borders of the single travel zone.
Which countries are in the Schengen area?
The 26 Schengen area countries are made up of 22 out of the 27 EU countries as well as four non-EU countries.
Schengen area countries:
Short stays in EU countries outside the Schengen area
Which EU countries are outside the borderless Schengen area?
Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Ireland and the UK are outside the borderless Schengen area. These five countries have their own rules for issuing short-stay visas.
How do I get a short-stay visa for any of these five countries?
For information on how to get a short-stay visa for any of these five EU countries, select the country you wish to visit from this map.
The Schengen short-stay visa
What is the Schengen visa?
The Schengen visa is a short-stay visa issued by all countries in the Schengen area.
What does a Schengen visa allow me to do?
With a Schengen visa you can travel to any or all of the 25 Schengen area countries for the period of validity of your visa, but for a maximum of three months within a six-month period. You do not need an individual visa for each country, and you do not have to show your passport when crossing borders between countries within the Schengen area. However, at the area's external boundaries - the borders with non-Schengen area countries - all travel documents are carefully checked.
Other entry conditions to the Schengen area are:
If you hold a residence permit or a long-stay visa issued by a Schengen area country, you will have the same freedom of travel as a Schengen short-stay visa holder.
You must be able to explain why you want to enter the Schengen area and to prove the conditions of your stay. You must also be able to show that you have sufficient financial means for the duration of the stay and for your return;
You must not be considered to be a threat to public policy, internal security, public health or the international relations of any of the Schengen area countries;
You must not have an alert issued in the Schengen Information System for the purposes of refusing entry.
If you have a Schengen visa and wish to visit any of the five EU countries which are outside the Schengen area (Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Ireland, the United Kingdom), you will need to apply for a separate national visa for each country.
Can I leave the Schengen area and return again with my Schengen visa?
Schengen visas are usually single-entry visas, which means that you can enter the Schengen area only once. If you wish to enter and leave the Schengen area a number of times during the validity period of your visa, you should apply for a multiple-entry Schengen visa which allows for several entries during the validity of the visa.
How long does a Schengen visa last?
A Schengen visa lasts for a maximum of three months in a six-month period. The precise length of your visa is indicated on your visa sticker under the heading Duration of Visit. In general, the duration of your visit can not be extended.
What happens if I overstay the duration of my Schengen visa?
If you overstay the validity period of your visa, you will be in an irregular situation and will be required to leave the Schengen area.
How do I obtain a Schengen visa?
Before leaving your country you should apply for a Schengen visa at the consulate of the Schengen country you plan to visit. If you want to visit more countries, you should apply for a visa at the consulate of the Schengen country where you will spend the most time. In case of visits of equal length, you should submit your application at the consulate of the first Schengen area country you plan to visit. If the country you are travelling to does not have an embassy or consulate in your country of residence, you may be able to apply at an embassy or consulate of another Schengen area country. For information on embassies and consulates in your country of residence, select your country of destination on this map.
What documents must I submit with my visa application?
Before applying for a visa, you should verify the website or bulletin board of the consulate that you will send your application to. To obtain a Schengen visa, you must generally present:
A completed application form;
The administrative fee (currently €60);
Your travel document and a photograph;
Documents related to the purpose of your trip e.g. an invitation from the person you will visit, your flight and hotel reservation details or proof that you are on a business trip;
Evidence of your financial means;
Documents related to accommodation;
Travel insurance covering a minimum of €30,000, including the costs that have to be paid if you would need to return to your home country in case of illness or death. This insurance must be valid for the entire Schengen area and for the duration of your stay.
Countries whose citizens do not require Schengen visas
Do all non-EU citizens require a Schengen visa for a short stay in the Schengen area?
This depends on your nationality. The EU countries have established a common list of countries whose citizens require visas to enter the area, as well as a list of those which do not.
Countries whose citizens require visas to enter the Schengen area
Countries whose citizens do not require visas to enter the Schengen area
If I do not require a visa to enter the Schengen area, what are my rights?
Citizens of countries who do not require a visa for a short stay will have their travel documents, as well as other entry conditions, checked at the external borders of the Schengen area. Once in the Schengen area, their rights will be the same as those of a Schengen visa holder.
Visa Facilitation Agreements
Citizens of countries which have signed visa facilitation agreements with the EU can have their short-stay visa applications simplified. This applies to citizens of:
This also applies to citizens of the following countries if they do not hold a biometric passport:
Citizens from these countries holding a biometric passport do not need a visa.
Special visa rules may apply to:
For visa procedures in a particular EU country, select the country on this map
More on the EU's visa policy
Overview of the policies governing the Schengen area and the Schengen visa.
Schengen Borders Code
Schengen Implementing Convention