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Everything you need to know about Schengen Visas

What is a Schengen Visa?

A Schengen Visa allows its holder to travel within and between all 29 countries of the Schengen Area. The most common type of Schengen Visa is a Schengen Short-Stay Visa which restricts its holder to stays of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.

There are two main categories of citizens for the Schengen Short-Stay Visa; nationals who need to apply for a physical visa before their travels and those who are exempt. Even those nationals who are exempt from applying in advance will be bound by the 90/180 rule.

Check if you need to apply for a Schengen Visa.

Types of Schengen Visas

If you travel to the Schengen Area and are a citizen of a country without a visa-free travel agreement (check if you need a visa), you’ll need to apply for a Schengen Visa in advance of your travels. You must have the visa with you when you enter the area.

There are four Schengen Visa categories:

Type A: Airport Transit

Type B: Journeys of less than five days (no longer in use and replaced by category C)

Type C: Short-Stay

Type D: National Long-Stay.

The most common Schengen Visa type is a Schengen Short-Stay Visa (type B). The Short-Stay Visa allows you to visit all countries within the Schengen Zone for a maximum stay of 90 days in any 180-day period during the validity of your visa. 

1. Type A: Airport Transit 

Some citizens wishing to transit through an airport within the Schengen Area for a connecting flight must apply for a Schengen Airport Transit Visa. Check if you need an Airport Transit Schengen Visa.

2. Type B: Transit (no longer in use)

This visa is no longer in use. It used to apply to journeys lasting fewer than five days.

It was replaced by the type C “Short-Stay” Visa with a “transit" condition. 

3. Type C: Short Stay Visa

The Schengen Short-Stay Visa is the most common Schengen Visa and is mandatory for citizens of some countries. See who needs a Schengen Visa.

Depending on the purpose of your trip, there are three types of Short-Stay category C Schengen Visa:

  • A single-entry visa (“1” on the visa): you can enter the Schengen Area only once. As soon as you leave the Area, your visa expires and becomes invalid.
  • A double-entry visa (“2” on the visa): You may enter the Schengen Area, then leave and re-enter it during the validity period of your visa. If/When you leave for the second time, your visa expires and becomes invalid.
  • A multiple-entry visa (“MULT” on the visa): There is no limit on the number of entries and exits to the Schengen Area. However, you must not stay for longer than 90-days in any 180-day period within the visa’s validity period. 

4. Type D: National Long-Stay Visa

The National Long-Stay Schengen Visa is for citizens of non-Schengen countries who like to live, work or study in a Schengen country for up to 1 year. 

It also allows travel within the Schengen Area outside of the country which issued the visa for periods of a maximum stay of 90 days over any 180-day period and during the entire validity period of their visa.

Example: You want to study in Italy next year. You apply for a Long-Stay Visa for Italy - which gives you the right to study/reside in Italy. This also gives you the additional right to travel freely within the entire Schengen zone for the validity of your visa, as long as you stay within the 90/180 rule. See more about the 90/180 rule.

Possible reasons for applying for a category D visa:

  • For professional activities
  • To study or to take part in training programs or internships
  • For tourism
  • For family reasons

The application requirements differ from country to country. You’ll need to contact the relevant embassy to know the visa requirements for the visa you wish to apply for.

Limited Territorial Visa

A Limited Territorial Visa only allows travel to one country. These are only generally issued in rare occasions or emergencies when a standard visa to visit the Schengen Area cannot be obtained.

What are the different types of Schengen Multiple-Entry Visas

It is crucial for holders of a Multiple-Entry Schengen Visa to be mindful of the nature of the 90/180 rule. A common misunderstanding is that the 180-day period starts when your visa becomes valid - but this 180-day widow is actually rolling. This means that for each day in your calendar, you need to count backwards 180 days and check you haven’t spent more than 90 days in the Schengen Zone.

Sounds complicated? It is! This is why apps like  Schengen Simple exist - to make it all easy as tortellini. 

One-year Multiple-Entry Schengen Visa

You are eligible to apply for a one-year Multiple-Entry Visa if you have previously used three Schengen Visas within the past two years. You must show your previous Schengen Visas and trips to the Schengen Area. The 90/180 rule applies - learn more about it here.

Three-year Multiple-Entry Schengen Visa

You are eligible to apply for a three-year Multiple-Entry Visa if you have used a one-year Multiple-Entry Visa within the previous two years. The 90/180 rule applies - learn more about it here.

Five-year Multiple-Entry Schengen Visa

You are eligible to apply for a five-year Multiple-Entry Visa if you have used either a three-year or five-year Multiple-Entry Visa within the previous three years. The 90/180 rule applies - learn more about it here...

How to apply for a Schengen Visa?

First, check if you need to apply for a Schengen Visa - see who needs a Schengen Visa? 

When applying for a Schengen Visa, you apply to the consulate of your primary Schengen destination (i.e. the Schengen country of your main purpose or where you will be spending most of your time). 

If you are planning on visiting several Schengen Countries and your trips are of the same length, you should apply to the consulate of the Schengen country you will enter first.

You must apply for the Schengen Visa at the appropriate Consulate in your country of residence.  

What documents do I need to submit when applying for a Schengen Visa?

Document requirements vary from country to country, so you must check with the consulate of the country you are applying to. As a guide, Schengen Visa application documents will typically include the following:

  • A completed and signed visa application form.
  • Your passport. Its expiration date should have a minimum of three months after the date you leave the Schengen Area.
  • A health & travel insurance certificate must be valid for your entire trip to the Schengen Area. The minimum coverage is €30,000 for medical emergencies.
  • Proof that you have the means to support yourself financially during your stay. Requirements vary according to the Schengen Area country you visit; consulates and embassies will provide the specifics.
  • Your itinerary and travel arrangements: Provide details on how you intend to move around (plane, train, or bus tickets, rental car bookings etc.)
  • Details of your accommodation: A hotel reservation, an email from a friend or relative inviting you to stay with them, etc.

How much does a Schengen Visa cost?

Adult: €80

Children between 6-12 years of age: €40

Children younger than 6 years of age: Free

Nationals from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, and Russia: €35

Applicants who meet any of the following categories are exempt from visa fees:

  • Children under the age of 6 
  • Pupils, students, doctoral students and accompanying teachers staying for study or training purposes. 
  • Researchers who are travelling to conduct scientific research.
  • Representatives of non-profit organisations under the age of 25 attending seminars, conferences, sports, cultural, or educational events hosted by the non-profit organisation.
  • Family members of EU/EEA nationals who are covered by The Citizens’ Rights Directive 2004/38/EC, which defines the right of free movement for citizens of the European Economic Area.

Does a Multiple Entry Visa cost more than a Single-Entry Visa?

No, all Schengen Visas, whether Single-Entry or Multiple-Entry, are priced the same. 

What are the penalties for overstaying a Schengen Visa?

There isn’t a standard policy for penalties for overstayers between the Schengen Area states. The severity of the penalties can be affected by the length of the overstay, the country where the overstay was caught, and the discretion of border officials.

It is essential to ensure you fully understand the 90-day in any 180-day rule and always stay within your 90-day travel allowance. 

Don’t assume short overstays by one or two days will be overlooked. Always ensure your passport is correctly stamped whenever you enter or exit the Schengen zone so you can prove your compliance with the rule.

If you are caught, any combination of the following penalties could be applied.

Deportation – Some countries will detain overstayers prior to their deportation, while others will give them a certain period of time to leave (hours or days).

Overstay flag - Receiving an ‘overstay’ flag on your passport can make it more difficult to re-enter the Schengen Area in the future, and you might not be granted entry by the border officials when trying to re-enter. If in the future, you seek to apply for a Long-Stay Visa or apply for residency in a Schengen country, this overstay flag could make your application much more difficult and potentially be grounds for refusal.

Fines – The cost of fines varies between countries. As an example, there are reports of Brits who have overstayed their 90 days (by as little as just two days) receiving a €198 fine and an overstay stamp in their passport.

Entry ban – You can be banned from entering the Schengen Area for three years or more.

How long before my trip to the Schengen Area should I apply for a Visa?

Applications can be submitted up to 6 months before the planned start of travel. Your application should be submitted at least 15 days before travelling. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a backlog of Schengen Visa applications, and it can take several weeks to get your visa, so make sure you enquire with the relevant consulate or embassy beforehand.

A seafarer travelling on business may submit an application up to nine months before the scheduled voyage. We recommend that you submit your visa application taking into account the Schengen countries and the public holidays of the country you are applying for the visa.

Holders of a Multiple-Entry Visa (expiration date longer than 6 months) can apply for a new visa before the previous visa expires.

How long does the Visa application process take?

Once an application for a Schengen Visa is submitted to the consulate, the consulate usually makes a decision within 15 calendar days; however, it could take up to 45 days.

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