Travelling through Europe has never been easier than it is now. Since the Schengen Agreements of 1985 and 1990 came into being, it is now wholly possible to travel between several European countries on one visa. The Schengen visa.
The Schengen visa allows you to cross the borders between Austria, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and The Netherlands in one trip on the strength of one visa rather than having to apply for and obtain visas for all of those countries. It can open up much broader travel horizons for you and give you the chance to enjoy all of the delights that Europe has to offer, but only if you know how to apply for a Schengen visa and Schengen insurance first!
Your Schengen Visa Options
Before applying for a Schengen visa and Schengen insurance, you have to know exactly what category of visa you need to apply for. There are several categories, all of which are outlined below:
- Category A – This is an airport visa that caters for an individual not staying in a Schengen visa country other than an overnight stay or a transfer during international travel.
- Category B – This is also a transit visa but it lasts for five days, thus giving someone travelling between two non-Schengen visa countries opportunity to travel through the Schengen area. Despite the fact that you would not be staying, you still need Schengen insurance if you are planning any stopovers.
- Category C – This is a short stay Schengen visa. It allows you to stay in the Schengen visa area for up to three months in a half year following the first entry. It covers travel within the Schengen state for 90 days out of a five-year period in total. You cannot immigrate on this visa but can make several trips or one continuous one.
- Category D – This one can be combined with category C Schengen visas because it is a national visa that allows you to travel from a non-Schengen visa country to a Schengen area country. You have five days to do so. You would need to obtain residency when you enter the Schengen state that you wish to stay in before departing for any other Schengen countries.
All of the above might sound complex but the majority of people will only need a category C Schengen visa for travel purposes.
In order to obtain a Schengen visa, you need to meet several requirements to qualify for one. They are outlined below in full so you are aware of whether or not you can apply in advance:
- You will need to have a specific destination in mind because it is that country that will grant you a Schengen visa. If you are travelling around Europe, you would then have to identify the country you will first arrive in.
- You will need a valid passport with at least six months remaining on it as well as two passport photos for your Schengen visa application.
- You must fill out a Schengen visa application form.
- You must have travel insurance to cover your trip. A Schengen insurance has to cover you for any emergencies that arise when you are heading to a Schengen state. The figure that is a minimum level is €30,000 worth of Schengen insurance. The Schengen insurance documents have to be presented when you have been approved for a visa in order to complete the procedure.
- Some countries will also ask you to provide proof of sufficient funds for your trip. You may have to prove that you have enough money to be able to get home when your trip is over and provide everything you need in the meantime.
Of course, if you provide all of the above then your Schengen visa may be approved but you can still be refused entry to Schengen countries if you are perceived to be a threat or cannot justify your visit when asked by border control.
How to apply for a Schengen visa
Applying for a Schengen visa could not be simpler if you have all of the documentation you need, including Schengen travel insurance. Many consulates actually have online portals that you can use to apply for a visa. They also have online payments systems so you can pay the €35 application fee then and there.
You may be asked to post supporting documents, along with your passport if applying this way. Alternatively, you could go to the consulate of your destination Schengen state with a completed application and all of the relevant documents in person. Regardless of how you apply, all applications are usually processed within three to ten working days so your travel plans can go ahead undisturbed.