European continent is comprised of 51 countries. Of which, 26 countries are part of Schengen agreement. Schengen agreement abolished internal borders between these 26 countries. Schengen visa is the only visa that is required to travel to any of these 26 countries. Schengen visa requirements are very clear and are fairly easy to understand. Schengen visa is only for short stays. Therefore, visas are issued for only up to 90 days.
Schengen visa is a unified visa for short stays for the following 26 countries in Europe
Schengen Visa Requirements
Visa EXEMPT passport holders
Antigua And Barbuda
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Timor-Leste (East Timor)
Trinidad And Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United States of America
Visa REQUIRED passport holders
Central African Republic
Congo (Dem. Rep. of)
Congo (Republic of)
Papua New Guinea
Sao Tome And Principe
Check if you need a visitor/tourist visa to travel to Schengen area in the “Visa Requirements” section above. Alternatively you can check your visa eligibility and requirements at any of your nearest Schengen member state consulates.
A few important things to consider
- If you intend to visit only one Schengen country, you must apply at the Consulate of that particular country.
- Example: If you are traveling to Spain only. Then apply for a visa at the Consulate of Spain in your city.
- If you intend to visit several Schengen countries, you must apply for a visa at the Consulate of the country of your main destination (the country where you are spending most days).
- Example: If your itinerary is 10 days of which 4 days in Spain and 6 day in France, then you must apply for a visa at the Consulate of France in your city since you will be spending more time in France.
- If you intend to visit several Schengen countries but do not have a main destination (same amount of days in each country) then you should apply for a visa at the Consulate of the country which is your first point of entry.
- Example: If you itinerary is 10 days of which you will be spending 5 days in Netherlands first and after that 5 days in France, then you must apply for a visa at the Consulate of Netherlands in your city since Netherlands will be your first port of entry.
- Schengen visa is for short stays, so typically visas are issued for up to 90 days.
- Example: If your itinerary is for 20 days, you might be given visa for only 20 days.
Schengen visa applications can be submitted up to 90 days in advance. Visa application is a 3 step process
- Schedule an in-person appointment
- Appear in person to submit visa application
- Pick up your original passport
The following documentation is required
- Filled in and signed Schengen visa application (downloadable from the consulate page)
- Original passport
- Copy of the visa/residence permit if applying in a third country.
- Example: if you hold a India passport and applying in the US, you have to provide a copy of your US visa
- One recent passport sized photo
- Round trip flight reservation
- Detailed hotel reservation
- Proof of health insurance
- Latest credit card statement
- Latest bank statement
- Original signed employment letter. If student, a letter from your school or college.
- Self addressed envelope if you are not picking up the passport in person
- Bank money order for the visa fee
Schengen Travel Health Insurance
Travel health insurance is mandatory for Schengen visa application. You must attach a certificate of travel health insurance in Schengen area or worldwide with 100% coverage with no deductibles or co-pays.
It must have a minimum coverage of €30,000 EUR for medical, emergencies and repatriation services.
You can purchase travel insurance on insurance aggregators such as listed below. Some insurance providers will let you cancel and get a refund if the visa is denied. You must request a denial letter from the consulate and submit it to the provider.
A few insurance providers and aggregators
- Insure my trip (For travelers from the US and worldwide
- Insurance pundit (For travelers from India)
The fee for Schengen visa is approximately €60 EUR. This fee must be paid in the form of a bank money order. Visa fee is non-refundable and it will not be returned if the visa is not granted or withdrawn.
Apply in person
Schengen visa can only be applied in person. First you must schedule an appointment via the consulate website.
Apply by mail
You cannot apply for a Schengen visa by mail.
Apply through visa/travel agency
You can apply for Schengen visa through a visa/travel agency in some countries. Travel agencies that offer vacation packages to Europe usually are allowed to apply for the visa on your behalf.
Priority visa service
There is no priority visa service. In case of emergency travel, you can go straight to the consulate to check if they can accept your application without an appointment.
There is no dedicated customer service. You can call/email the consulate where you applied for the visa if you need to know the status of your application.
There is no official procedure to withdraw an application. You can call/email the consulate if you intend to withdraw the application.
Immigration and Customs
Period of stay in Schengen area – the 90 days/180 days rule
Non EU Passport holders who are visa EXEMPT or REQUIRED are authorized to stay in the Schengen area for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days. This “90 days in any 180 days” applies to all short stay visitors to Schengen area.
- Stays in EU countries that are NOT part of Schengen area (Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, Romania, Cyprus and the United Kingdom) are not counted in assessing the period of stay.
- Stays in non-EU countries that are part of Schengen area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) are counted in assessing the period of stay compliance with the 90 days / 180-day rule.
- Both the day of entry and day of exit are counted in the calculation.
- The 180 days period is referenced backwards from the day of checking.
- A simple rule of thumb is, if you are out of Schengen area for a continuous period of 90 days allows you for a new stay of 90 days.
Most airlines do not let you check-in online if you need a visa to travel to the destination country. If you check-in online or at the airport, either way make sure to arrive at the gate a bit early and see the airline staff. They sometimes have to go through the visa requirements again, verify the documents and put a “Docs Ok” stamp on your boarding pass.
Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the day of travel.
You do not need to fill any arrival/departure card on entering the Schengen area. Do not panic if your flight attendant did not give you an arrival/departure card on your flight in.
At the immigration, you will generally be asked about your final destination, places you will be visiting and the number of days you are planning on staying. You might also be asked if it is your first time in Europe.
Immigration officer will stamp you passport with arrival airport. Number of days you are allowed to stay will not be marked in your passport.
You must go through passport control on exiting the Schengen area. You will not be asked any questions unless you have over stayed your visa. Passport control is fairly quick, about 10-15 minutes depending on the airport.
You may have to go through immigration and customs on your return at your home country or the country you are flying back to. If you are flying back on a Airbus A330/A340/A380 or Boeing 747/777, expect long lines at the immigration and customs
Europe is usually the first choice to many first time international travelers. It’s a dream for most people to visit Europe at least once in their life time. Europe has such an impeccable beauty, history, art and cuisine.
Schengen visa requirements are clear and fairly easy to understand. Appointment can be made online but application submission must be done in person. Applications can be submitted up to 90 days in advance.