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Schengen Visa | Purpose, Types and Its Use

The Schengen Visa permits people to travel to any country that participates in the Schengen Agreement on a single visa, rather than having to get a separate one for each country.  

This visa makes travel to Europe easier because visitors only have to get one visa. They can apply once and see much of Europe.History of the Schengen Visa

On June 14, 1985, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands signed the first version of the Schengen Agreement.

It was signed in the small town of Schengen, in southern Luxembourg, and has since been named after the place where it was signed. The goal of this agreement was to work towards abolishing national borders. This is an old idea in Europe.

Throughout the Middle Ages, various countries in Europe had a wide variety of border agreements. Sometimes, borders were very open. Other times, borders were closed. When they were closed, trade between certain areas became difficult. Sometimes, these border closures separated families, since there were places where they were arbitrarily drawn through the middle of land that was the territory of a single ethnic group.

After World War II, the idea of a borderless area within Europe came up again. However, there were different factions that drastically disagreed on the issue. Some people were very much for abolishing the borders between the countries. Others were very much against it, raising concerns about illegal immigration and more.

In the 1980s, the idea of the Schengen Agreement began to get a foothold over its detractors. France and Germany were the first countries to push to make it a reality.

On June 17, 1984, they brought the topic to the European Council in Fontainebleau. Eventually, the countries voted to begin to define the conditions under which they would sign such an agreement. Once the initial agreement was signed, there was still a lot of work to do. On June 19, 1990, the same five countries signed an agreement on how to move forward.

Their plan included how to eliminate internal border controls, guidelines for issuing a single visa, and setting up a cooperation structure for immigration officers in different countries. It also worked toward establishing the SIS - the Schengen Information System - a single database for all countries.

As the Schengen Agreement became more and more prominent and had initial successes, other countries wanted to join. Eventually, twenty-seven countries would be part of this, making travel within much of Europe easier than it had ever been before.

In May 1999, the Treaty of Amsterdam brought the Schengen Agreement into the European Union.

Since most but not all Schengen countries are also EU countries, the treaty laid out how the two agreements would interact and what countries could expect to give and receive under each. The Schengen Visa is the document eventually established by the Schengen countries. There are standards that all countries must use to evaluate visas and accept or reject them.

Each country has approval power over visas for people entering their space. Once a person is in the area, though, they can travel to any country that participates in the agreement.

Travelers need to get a visa through the country where they plan to enter the Schengen Zone. If they can’t get one there, they may need to alter their travel plans to obtain one somewhere else.

The Purpose of the Schengen Visa

There are a number of reasons why these countries chose to establish the Schengen Visa. Some of these have to do with security, while others help facilitate trade and more. The Schengen Visa promotes ease of travel within the Schengen Zone. This means that it’s easier for people to move from country to country as long as they don’t leave the area.

Tourists are more likely to come when they don’t have to get a separate visa for each place they want to visit. Countries in Europe are relatively small, which means that many travelers try to visit more than one. This is especially true for travelers who come a long way to see Europe.

Before the Schengen Visa, these travelers would have to painstakingly apply for a separate visa for each country they wanted to see. With the advent of the Schengen Visa, they didn’t have to do this. This makes them more likely to visit Europe and more likely to stay longer and see more places when they do so.

All of this brings in tourist dollars, which are valuable to these countries and make up a significant amount of income for many people in them.

On the tourist side, the visa doesn’t only make travel easier. It also encourages them to see things that they might not otherwise have seen. Some smaller countries in Europe have a few well-known or beautiful sites, but these didn’t get much tourism when travelers had to get a separate visa just to spend a day or two there.

Now, they can see and experience more and use their time in Europe more effectively. The Schengen Visa also makes business travel easier. Previously, business travelers either had to choose a single country to visit or get a visa for each place where they wanted to do business.

This often limited business trips to the biggest countries, leaving the smaller ones behind economically and commercially. Now, the smaller countries that have joined the Schengen Agreement can get more business travelers. Since it’s easy to visit, there’s nothing to discourage them from seeking more opportunities.

This also helps increase economic prosperity in the region. More international business is nearly always a good thing for a country. The Schengen Visa also promotes trade. Open borders permit easier transport of goods across international boundaries.

This makes it more likely that these countries will trade with each other. When it’s easier and cheaper to get goods across a border, both buyers and sellers can benefit. This also permits each area to focus on what they do best because it’s easier to import what they don’t or can’t produce themselves.

This raises overall economic prosperity as well as personal happiness because it permits people to focus on what they want to do rather than having to focus on what they cannot import. Some studies show that more open borders have decreased unemployment throughout Europe. When people can travel to find a job, they are more likely to have one. Even people who come from areas with poor job markets can travel elsewhere to work. This opens up opportunities that help both economies and individuals thrive.

There are more opportunities with open borders, too. They permit people to travel to specialized educational programs in another country. They also allow people to apply for jobs in their area of interest and/or expertise, without having to focus only on those in their home country. The Schengen Visa raises security, too. It permits all of the countries to pool resources and intelligence to make sure that people who may cause problems aren’t invited into the area.

It also allows them to work together to address any threats that they’re made aware of. When they act together, they can often move faster to eliminate a threat and ensure safety. This provides both travelers and citizens of these countries with additional protection. They can feel confident that the government knows who is in the area and what they are doing there.

Types of Schengen Visa

There are three different types of Schengen Visa that travelers can apply for. They will need to choose the one that best meets their needs.

The first type is called the type A visa. It is for people who are not citizens of a Schengen country to use when traveling through a Schengen country to another non-Schengen area.

It is also called a Transit Visa. If travelers have connecting flights in a Schengen country, they need this visa from that country in order to enter the airport and make their connection. This visa does not permit entry into the country. All they can do is enter the international terminal and stay there until their next flight leaves.

There used to be a type B Schengen visa, but it no longer exists.

Instead, the next type is the type C visa. This is a short-stay Schengen visa and comes in one of three subcategories. The first subcategory is a single entry visa. This is for people who only need to enter the Schengen Zone once in any 180 periods.

It allows travelers to come into the Schengen Zone and stay for up to 90 days. However, once they leave, their exit is final. Travelers who are passing through the Schengen Zone and who want to stay for up to 5 days can get this kind of visa. It will be marked “Transit” and only permits stays of up to those 5 days.

The second subcategory of type C visa is double entry. It permits two entries into the Schengen country during the validity period. Once the traveler leaves the zone for the second time, the visa is no longer valid. If they want to enter again, they should get a visa in the third category.

This is called the multi-entry visa. It permits unlimited entries into the Schengen country, as long as the traveler stays for fewer than 90 days in any 180-day period.

It is only invalidated when the traveler reaches the 90-day mark or when the 180 days are over. The last type of Schengen Visa is the Long-stay visa. This is for people who want to live, work, study, and more, in a Schengen country. People should choose these visas when they want to stay in a country for more than 90 days and up to a year.

They can get these for personal or family visits, to complete study programs and internships, or to take part in professional activities.

What Documents Are Needed When Applying for a Schengen Visa?

Different sets of documents are needed depending on the Schengen visa being applied for. However, the basics of the process are the same for everyone. Every applicant for any Schengen visa needs to complete their application form. This is straightforward and comes with specific instructions in a variety of languages.

It mostly asks for personal information about the traveler, such as their name, date of birth, passport data, etc. It will also ask for information from some of the other documents listed below.

Finally, it will ask about previous travels, arrests and convictions, and certain political affiliations. This helps filter out travelers who may be entering the Schengen Zone to do harm.

Travelers need to be entirely honest and truthful, even if there are things in their past that may disqualify them from getting a visa. They are more likely to get through the process if they tell the truth. If they are found in a lie, they are not likely to be able to enter now or at any time in the future.

Travelers will also need to submit two passport photos taken within the last three months. These need to meet the Schengen standards for these photos. They also need to have a valid passport. It needs to have been issued within the last 10 years and needs three months of validity beyond the time the person plans to spend in the Schengen Zone.

Travelers will also need to show that they have a round-trip travel itinerary, including a date and a flight number for leaving the Schengen Zone. If they plan to leave another way, they need to demonstrate that they have purchased tickets and have a solid plan for leaving within the time allowed on their visa.

Their travel plans should also show their planned accommodations for their time in the Schengen Zone. These can be at a hotel or hostel, a rental property, or in someone’s home. If they will be staying in a home, travelers will need a letter of invitation indicating that they can remain in the home for the duration of their time traveling.

Every traveler who gets a Schengen Visa also needs to have travel insurance for their time in the zone. This needs to cover the whole zone and include emergency medical care or repatriation in case the traveler dies while they are overseas.

No one wants to think about these things, but coverage is essential to get the visa and get permission to even enter the Schengen Zone. Every traveler who wants to get a Schengen Visa will also need to prove that they have the financial means to cover their trip.

They can show bank statements showing their account balance, a sponsorship letter indicating that someone else is covering the cost of the trip or a combination of both. Finally, all travelers will need to show that they have paid the application fee for their Schengen Visa. Some travelers may be asked to show information about their current employer or employment status, depending on where they are coming from and the nature of their trip.

Business travelers may need to show proof that they have business meetings scheduled in the Schengen Zone or that they otherwise plan to participate in business activities. Travelers applying for a Transit Visa will need to demonstrate that their travel plans require a layover in the Schengen Zone.

Those who are applying for long-term visas will need to prove that they have been invited by an educational institution, have an internship, or have a business opportunity.

If they will be visiting family, they also need to show that their family lives in the Schengen Zone and that they are invited for a long visit. Travelers can be asked for additional information at any time. The embassy or consulate authorities processing the visa will let them know if they need to submit any other paperwork.

How to Apply for a Schengen Visa

Travelers will need to apply for their Schengen Visa before they leave home. They will do this through the embassy or consulate for the Schengen country where they plan to start their trip.

Most of the time, travelers must have visas issued by the country where their plane will first land. They can visit other Schengen countries on this visa, too. However, if travelers will be spending more time in one country than in any other, they should get a visa for that country even if they are not entering there.

Thus, a traveler living in India who wants to start their trip in France or spend the most time in France will need to visit the French consulate nearest them in India.

This is true for people who are not living in their home countries, too. A citizen of India living in the United States who wants to visit France will visit the French consulate nearest them in the USA. A person’s country of citizenship, not their country of residence, determines whether or not they need a visa to visit the Schengen Zone.

The list of countries that require these visas is always subject to change. Travelers should check online to make sure they have updated information before they plan a trip.

Once the traveler knows where to apply for their visa, they will need to contact the embassy or consulate to make an appointment. They should not show up without a scheduled meeting.

When the time comes for their meeting, they should bring all of the above documentation, as well as any additional documents they think they might need. They will meet with an embassy official, who will go over their paperwork and application. If they need more documentation, they will be notified and will need to make another appointment. The embassy will process the visa application and notify the traveler once it has been approved or denied.

Travelers who are approved don’t need to do anything else before they travel. Travelers with denied applications can reapply, or try to enter through another Schengen country.

They can also ask why their application was denied. Some embassies and consulates give more specific reasons than others, but they should be able to ask.

How to Use a Schengen Visa

Using a Schengen Visa is straightforward. The visa is a sticker attached to the traveler’s passport, though they may also be issued a separate document, too.

If they get this document, they will need to print it off so they can show it at borders going into and within the Schengen Zone.

At the border to enter the Schengen Zone for the first time, the traveler will need to show their visa, the passport they used to get the visa, and any other required documentation.

This can include proof that they plan to leave the area within the time allowed by their visa, proof of their financial status, and/or proof of their reason for travel. Even though they showed these documents to get their visa, they may need to show them again at this point.

When traveling between Schengen countries, crossing borders should be easy. However, officials can ask for paperwork at any time. Some countries may do this more often than others. Travelers should be ready to comply with these requests whenever they are made.

Thus, travelers should always carry as much documentation as they can. This can be electronic so they don’t actually have to keep track of papers as they make their trip.

Some countries may also need to see proof of travel insurance as people enter the zone for the first time. Travelers should have this on them at all times during their trip anyway. Travelers need to be aware that Schengen countries do share information about travelers in a database. Thus, their trip can be tracked by any country at any time.

This helps discourage dishonesty and makes the Schengen Zone safer for everyone in it, both travelers and citizens alike. It is also part of what makes the Schengen Visa possible.

Which Countries Accept a Schengen Visa

The following countries require a Schengen Visa for entry. The majority of these countries are also in the EU, though some are not.

EU countries that are in the Schengen Zone are Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.

Schengen countries that are not in the EU include Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

Note that this list is subject to change at any time. Mostly, countries get added to the list, though they could leave the agreement, as well. Any of these countries can issue a Schengen Visa and travelers can visit any of these countries once they enter on their Schengen Visa.

The Downsides of the Schengen Visa

While the Schengen Visa has many benefits, which are listed above, some people see downsides to it, too.

First of all, while the Schengen Agreement has done much to help control the drug trade and limit prostitution and trafficking, it is only as strong as its weakest link.

Since moving between countries is easier than ever before, all someone has to do is get through the border in one place. Then, all of Europe is open to them. Different countries in the zone have different border control policies and different laws. This means that it’s much easier to enter some areas than it is in others.

This may actually allow more drugs and trafficking into Europe at large, especially if criminals can exploit loopholes that allow them entry. Another downside is that people have to leave the entire Schengen Zone when their visa expires. They cannot get a 90-day visa in each country they want to visit.

This can seriously limit the time that a person can spend in the zone. While most travelers visit for less than 90 days, this hampers some business travelers and gap-year travelers.

There are ways around this, such as the long-stay visa or some special live/work visas for young travelers. However, these are harder to get and everyone who needs one may not be eligible. It may also be easier for travelers to overstay their visas and not get caught. Since they can move around a large area with nearly zero oversight, they can avoid authorities easily.

For the most part, these concerns have not created major problems in the Schengen Zone so far. However, officials are watching to ensure that things continue to be safe and controlled. Travelers simply need to make sure they follow the rules and leave the zone as required by their visa. If they face problems while traveling, they can contact their embassy at any time.

What Can Cause a Schengen Visa Application to Get Rejected

Each country within the Schengen Zone can evaluate visa applications on its own. Some are more likely to reject these visas than others. The countries most likely to reject applications are Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, and Belgium. The countries least likely to reject them are Luxembourg, Slovakia, and Lithuania.

Visas are often rejected because the applicant has a criminal past, a damaged passport, or a passport without sufficient validity.

They can also be rejected if the traveler does not submit sufficient information about their travel plans or does not have the required amount or type/s of travel insurance. Any use of fraudulent documentation or misrepresentation of anything pertaining to the application is grounds for immediate rejection.

Some applicants have complained that their visas were rejected for inappropriate reasons.

These include rejecting transit visas because flight options without a stop in the Schengen Zone exist and ignoring letters of invitation from schools when rejecting visas for students.

However, situations like these usually get rectified and are often a result of the number of Schengen Visas being processed. Mistakes get made, even when people are careful. If travelers believe their visa is rejected in error, they should appeal or contact an embassy or consulate to reapply.


The Schengen Visa is great for travelers who want to visit countries in the Schengen Zone. They can apply for the visa they need and receive it in a timely manner. 

Then, they can take their trip to Europe to visit family, tour, or conduct business.

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