The Schengen area covers 26 countries without border controls between them. These countries are:
Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
A Schengen visa is an authorization issued by a Schengen State with a view to:
- Transit through or an intended stay in the territory of the Schengen States of a duration of no more than 90 days in any 180 days period ("short stay visa"),
- Transit through the international transit areas of airports of the Schengen States ("airport transit visa").
You must lodge the application for a Schengen visa at the Consulate of the country that you intend to visit, or – if you intend to visit more than one Schengen State, the Consulate of the country where you will spend the longest period.
If you intend to visit several Schengen States and the stays will be of equal length, you must apply at the Consulate of the country whose external borders you will cross first when entering the Schengen area.
As a general rule, you must apply for a visa at the Consulate with territorial competence for the country in which you legally reside.
The application must, in principle, be submitted to the Consulate at least 15 days before the intended journey and cannot be lodged earlier than six months before the start of the intended journey. You may have to book an appointment before lodging the application.
In order to apply for a visa, you need:
- Original Passport - should have been issued within the last 10 years. The passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond the date on which you intend to leave the Schengen territory, or, in the case of multiple journeys, the date on which you intend to leave after the last stay.
- Visa Application Form - completed and signed for each applicant irrespective of the age.
- Visa Fee Payment – Usually it is to be paid on the application submission date but some countries might ask the payment in advance. Visa fee is not refundable.
- Service Fee – to be paid if you are requested to submit your application at the offices of a service provider.
- Travel Medical Insurance - covering emergency medical, hospitalisation and repatriation (including in case of death). The minimum cover should be of 30.000 EUR. This insurance must be valid for the entire Schengen area and throughout the duration of the stay.
- Round – trip Air Ticket
- Accommodation Proof – hotel booking, rental agreement, original invitation by a host or ownership proof if owning a house.
- Proof of Financial Means – original bank statements.
- Employment Letter or Trade License if self employed
- Other various supporting documents – that might be requested by respective Embassy/ Consulate in order to apply.
Please note that these are basic requirements for visa application. However, there will be small varieties between Schengen countries in terms of quality and requirements of the above mentioned documents. Also, the embassies have right to ask additional documents if required.
Therefore, it is advisable to get your documents checked and prepared on time to avoid negative outcomes as well as travel delays.