The European Union is an economic and political union between 28 European countries, built on a complex series of agreements. Some countries accept some parts of the overall agreement while others pick and choose. For example, there are nine countries in the European Union that do not use the Euro, including Denmark, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Another example is the Schengen agreement, which creates a single zone for free travel without border controls between member states with a single Schengen visa.
What is The Schengen Visa?
The Schengen visa is a short-term visa to enter the Schengen countries, an area that is not identical to the European Union. Some of the states in the Schengen Area are not members of the European Union, including:
There are several members of the EU that are not a part of the treaty into which a Schengen visa would not grant entry:
- The United Kingdom
The Schengen visa grants entry into the Schengen Area and allows travelers to move freely between member states for up to 90 days in a 180-day period as either single-entry or multi-entry. Permitted activities on a Schengen visa include:
- Visiting friends and/or family
- Attending cultural or sports events or exchanges
- Conducting business, including attending meetings
- Journalistic or media purposes
- Medical treatment
- Short-term studies or training and any similar activities
If there is any intention to perform paid work in any of the Member States, a separate visa and a work permit will be required, even if it is for a period of less than 90 days.
Outside of the EU, citizens of some countries are exempt from the visa requirements, and some must receive a visa before entering the Schengen Area. Citizens of some countries need a Schengen visa to pass through an airport in the Treaty Area.
How to Apply for a Schengen Visa
The application process begins at the local consulate of a Schengen member state. If a traveler is going to just one country, then they apply at that country’s consulate. If they are planning to visit multiple countries, they can apply at the consulate in whose country they will spend the most time. If the country to which they are travelling does not have a consulate close by, then they may apply at a different Schengen state’s consulate.
To apply for a Schengen visa, applicants will need:
- A passport that was issued in the last ten years, will be valid for at least three months beyond the end of the stay, and contains at least two blank pages
- A completed and signed visa application form
- A recent photograph, conforming to ICAO standards
- A visa fee of EUR 60 for adults and EUR 35 for children between the ages of six and twelve
- Travel insurance covering medical care, hospitalization, and repatriation at a minimum of 30,000 EUR
- Various documents supporting the reason for your stay
Some groups are exempt from the visa fee, including:
- Children under six years of age
- Students and teachers coming to the region for the purpose of study
- Researchers coming to carry out scientific research
- Representatives of nonprofit organizations aged 25 years or less participating in various events scheduled by nonprofits
Once the application is in, the consulate will in most cases make a decision within 15 days. If the application receives extra scrutiny, it may take between 30 and 60 days at maximum. Citizens of some countries must have their applications submitted to the other member states before approval in a process called consultation. Consultation may take an additional seven days to process.
Entry and Stay in The Schengen Area
Unfortunately, receiving a Schengen visa does not necessarily mean that recipients will be admitted into the country; border control has the right to question anyone with a Schengen visa. They may ask the traveler to provide any of the information given in the visa application process. The European Commission recommends that travelers carry with them copies of each document submitted in the visa application, so they can present them to border authorities upon being questioned.
The Schengen treaty makes travelling through the European Union much easier than when each traveler was required to get an individual visa for each country. Obtaining a visa is much easier and has a simpler process than before the treaty was adopted; it makes it easy to send employees on short-term business trips throughout the region.
If you’re uncertain if a Schengen visa is needed or will suffice for a work trip that one of your employees will be making, take advantage of our Global Immigration Solutions to provide the necessary guidance and support. If you’re getting ready to take your company overseas and need assistance, reach out to our team of international expansion experts today.