Schengen Area Countries

Schengen Area Countries

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What is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area also called the Schengen Zone is the largest passport-free travel area in the world. The name “Schengen” comes from the Schengen Agreement signed in Schengen, the city in Luxembourg in 1985.

Schengen Area Countries

Do you know which are 26 Schengen Zone countries? Here you have the complete list of them:

Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Additionally, 3 micro-states: Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City maintain open borders for passenger traffic with other Schengen member countries but they have their own visa policies. Overseas territories of Spain and Portugal (the Canary Islands, Azores, and Madeira island) are also parts of the passport-free regime between Schengen Zone states.

Nationals of these countries can travel, work and reside without any limitations in any Schengen Zone member-state. There are no border controls within the Schengen Zone. 

The Schengen Area countries have a common visa policy – each country that is a member of the Schengen Area can issue a Schengen visa to a foreign applicant.

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Schengen Area external borders

The European Union has established common standards for controls at its external borders and put in place an integrated system for managing this distance of 50 000 km long. 

There is a common policy on external border management called Schengen Borders Code. It consists of undertaking appropriate measures concerning external border controls. 

The countries having external European Union borders (land borders, river and lake borders, sea borders and their airports, river ports, seaports, and lake ports, that are not common borders with another Schengen Member State) execute border control for any person crossing them.

Every EU country cooperates on border management to ensure the security of citizens and travelers inside of the Schengen Area. Two main systems may be specified: VIS and SIS.

  • The Visa Information System allows Schengen Area members to exchange visa data, in particular data on decisions relating to short-stay visa holders
  • The Schengen Information System allows Schengen Zone states to exchange data on suspected criminals, on people who may not have the right to enter into or stay in the EU, on missing persons, and on stolen, misappropriated, or lost property

In this regard, the Schengen Zone operates like one unified state.

Features of the Schengen Zone

The Schengen Area is one of the greatest achievements of the European Union. This is unique on a global scale area without internal borders, an area within which citizens and many non-EU nationals staying legally in the EU can freely travel, trade, make business, and even settle down without being subjected to border checks and visa regime.

But the abolition of internal border controls does not come at the expense of security. Inside of the Schengen Zone police and judicial cooperation is very important (based on the mentioned SIS). Cooperating services can track down and return illegally staying third-country nationals and exchange information in criminal matters.

Schengen Zone has a unique short-stay visa policy for foreign nationals. 

Visa policy in Schengen Area

Any member state of the Schengen Area is authorized to issue a Schengen visa to a non-EU citizen. Candidates have to apply to the embassy or consulate of the country which they intend to visit as the first in the European Union.

For example, if you have a Spanish Schengen Visa, you can enter the Schengen Zone only at the Spanish port-of-entry. Of course, you can later travel to other EU countries.

Remember that if you have a single-entry visa and you leave the Schengen Area, your visa is not valid anymore even if it is not expired yet. To come back to the EU you need to apply for a new visa but not before the 180th day from your first visa-issuing data. You can leave the European Union from any Schengen Zone state, it does not matter which country issued your visa.

Obtaining a Schengen visa at arrival is possible but not common. A traveler must prove that it was impossible to get a visa in their home country. Under special circumstances, the Schengen visa at arrival may be issued but this is much better to apply for it prior to their arrival in Europe.

List of visa-exemptions countries

There are some Schengen visa waiver countries in which citizens can enter the Schengen Zone without a visa for max. 90 days during the 180-day period.

If you have a biometric passport issued within the last 10 years, you can come to European Union without a visa. These countries are:

Antigua And BarbudaArgentina
BarbadosBosnia And Herzegovina
BrazilBrunei Darussalam
ColombiaCosta Rica
DominicaEl Salvador
North MacedoniaGeorgia
Vatican City StateHonduras
Marshall IslandsMauritius
MontenegroNew Zealand
San MarinoSeychelles
Solomon IslandsSouth Korea
St Kitts And NevisSt Lucia
St Vincent And The GrenadinesTrinidad And Tobago
United Arab EmiratesUnited States Of America
VenezuelaUnited Kingdom

Generally speaking, every citizen of a country that does not have a visa-liberalization agreement with the Schengen Area states, needs to get a visa in their passport once arriving in Europe.

When you are in the Schengen Area, always carry your passport and visa with you. There are no border controls but however, you can be a subject of police control and this is your responsibility to prove that you stay in the EU legally.

How to become a Schengen member country?

Every country which signed the Treaty of Accession to the European Union is obliged to join the Schengen Area eventually. The only exception is Ireland which negotiated an opt-out from Schengen and still executes border controls with other EU member states.

However, before fully implementing the Schengen rules, each state must have its preparedness assessed in four areas:

  • Air borders;
  • Visas;
  • Police cooperation;
  • Personal data protection.

This long and strictly executed evaluation process involves a questionnaire and visits by European experts. These experts visit and audit institutions and workplaces in the country which want to be a Schengen Zone member.

Non-Schengen European Countries

At the moment there are 26 countries in the Schengen Area but their list is not exactly the list of European Union countries. There are 4 states from outside of the EU – Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland and at the same time, some of the EU countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania) are excluded from the passport-free movement. They are called non-Schengen European Union countries.

There also are countries that are situated in Europe but they are not members of the European Union and Schengen Zone either: 

  • Albania,
  • Armenia,
  • Azerbaijan,
  • Belarus,
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina,
  • Macedonia,
  • Moldova,
  • Montenegro,
  • Serbia,
  • Ukraine
Non-Schengen European Countries

When you say: I am going to Europe, everybody thinks about Paris, London, Rome, maybe also about Madrid or Lisbon. Nothing surprising about this because these cities are the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

Of course, there is much more to see in Europe! You can visit Berlin, Warsaw, Stockholm or not capitals but also beautiful cities such as Porto in Portugal, Milano in Italy, or Thessaloniki in Greece.

What are you eager to see? The biggest natural history museum in Europe? Go to London! Or maybe Eiffel Tower and Basilica of Sacre-Coeur you know from movies? This is, of course, Paris! If you enjoy a night-life, try Barcelona with its clubs, discos, tapas bar, and live-music restaurants, or go to Berlin for a big techno concert or to Brussels where you can dance and make friends with people from all over the world.

Haven’t decided yet? Follow your dreams! Every European city has something to offer so you will never be bored during your European trip. And having a Schengen Visa you are free to jump from one country to another without border controls and paperwork!

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Schengen Area – Frequently Asked Questions

Which countries are in the Schengen Area?

There are 26 Schengen Zone countries:
Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. There are also 3 micro-states: Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City.

Why is the UK not in the Schengen Zone?

For many years, the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland were part of the European Union but decided to leave the EU in 2016. The UK officially exited European Union on 31 January 2020 and now the new visa policy between the EU and the UK is created.

What is the difference between the EU and Schengen Zone?

European Union is a political and economic union of 27 countries located in Europe and the Schengen Area is the passport-free travel area for 26 countries. Not all of them are in the EU and not every EU country is in the Schengen Zone. 

What does Schengen mean?

Schengen is the city in Luxembourg where 14 June 1985 the agreement about the creation of Europe’s Schengen Area was signed. The treaty was named after the city: Schengen Agreement.

Is Ireland part of the Schengen Area?

No. Ireland negotiated opt-outs from Schengen. The border controls between Ireland and other EU member states are maintained.

Is Spain in the Schengen Area?

Yes, Spain is a  member-country of the Schengen Zone.

Which Schengen Zone countries are not EU?

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland are not members of the European Union but their governments have signed the Schengen Agreement.

What are the 26 European countries in the Schengen Zone?

Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Can I go to Ireland with the Schengen visa?

No. Ireland operates border controls and has its visa policy independent of the Schengen Zone.

How long can you stay in non-Schengen countries?

It depends on each country. Before planning your trip to any country, check out in the embassy, or the consulate-general the visa and stay conditions.

What is the Schengen Agreement?

This is the treaty signed in 1985 whereby some of the European countries have abolished all passports and all other types of border control at their mutual borders.


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