The Schengen tourist visa is called a short-stay visa or a C-Type visa. This visa is only for short stays for up to 90 days. Schengen tourist visas are typically valid for 90 days. But, frequent visitors to the Schengen area can obtain Schengen visas valid for one, two or five years.
The continent of Europe is comprised of 51 countries. Of which, 26 countries are part of the Schengen agreement. Schengen agreement abolished internal borders between these 26 countries.
A Schengen visa is a unified visa for short stays (up to 90 days) for these 26 countries in Europe. Therefore, a Schengen visa is the only visa you will need to travel to any of these 26 countries.
Schengen visa countries
The following are the 26 countries that you can travel using a Schengen tourist visa.
- Czech Republic
Schengen visa requirements by nationality
Visa EXEMPT nationalities
90 day entry
- Antigua And Barbuda
- Bosnia Herzegovina
- Brunei Darussalam
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong
- Macedonia (FYROM)
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- San Marino
- Slovak Republic
- Solomon Islands
- South Korea
- Timor-Leste (East Timor)
- Trinidad And Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
- Vatican City
Visa REQUIRED nationalities
90 day entry
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Congo (Dem. Rep. of)
- Congo (Republic of)
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Dominican Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- North Korea
- Papua New Guinea
- Sao Tome And Principe
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
Palestine and Kosovo are not recognized by at least one Schengen member state. If you are Palestine or Kosovo national, please inquire at your nearest Schengen consulate for visa requirements for your passport.
Minimum passport validity required to enter the Schengen area
Passport must be valid for at least 3 months from your planned departure from Schengen area.
Example: If your trip is from Mar 10 to Mar 20, your passport must be valid at least until Jun 20.
Schengen visa application process
Check if you need a tourist visa to travel to the Schengen area in the “Visa requirements by nationality” section above. Alternatively, you can check your visa eligibility and requirements at any of your nearest Schengen member state consulates.
Schengen tourist visa applications can be submitted up to 180 days in advance. Visa application is a 4 step process
- Fill your Schengen visa application form 14076-02 (online or offline)
- Schedule an in-person appointment (at the consulate or visa agent such as VFS Global)
- Appear in person to submit your visa application and documents
- Pick up your original passport with approved visa
Validity of Schengen visa
The Schengen tourist visa is usually valid for 90 days. But if you are applying for your Schengen visa for the first time, you may likely be issued the visa valid for exactly the number of days you have asked for.
Example: If your itinerary is 12 days, you may be issued the visa valid for exactly 12 days.
As a first-time visa applicant, I suggest adding a few extra days to your itinerary so you will get a few extra days on your visa validity. That way, you can have some flexibility in your travel plans.
If you are applying for your Schengen visa for the second or third time, you may likely get the visa valid for 90 days.
Rules for obtaining Schengen visa valid for 1, 2 or 5 years
- To obtain a 1 year Schengen visa, you must have obtained and used 3 Schengen visas within the last 2 years
- To obtain a 2 year Schengen visa, you must have obtained and used a 1 year Schengen visa within the last 2 years
- To obtain a 5 year Schengen visa, you must have obtained and used a 2 year Schengen visa within the last 3 years
Where to apply for your Schengen visa?
Most tourists plan to travel to more than one country during their Europe trip. Since the Schengen visa is valid for 26 countries, you must first determine your Schengen country of application. This helps you greatly in avoiding visa delays and refusals.
Follow the below guidelines to determine your Schengen country of application.
- If you plan to visit only one Schengen country, you must apply for your Schengen visa at the consulate of that particular country.
- Example: If you are traveling to Spain only, then you must apply for your Schengen visa at the consulate of Spain in your city.
- If you plan to visit several Schengen countries, you must apply for your Schengen visa at the consulate of the country of your main destination (the country where you will be spending most days).
- Example: If your itinerary is 10 days of which 4 days in Spain and 6 days in France, then you must apply for your Schengen 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 your Schengen visa at the consulate of the country of your first point of entry.
- Example: If your itinerary is 10 days of which you will be spending 5 days in the 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 the Netherlands will be your first port of entry.
Documents required for Schengen visa
The following documents are required for your Schengen visa.
- Filled and signed Schengen visa application form (online or downloadable from the consulate page)
- Original passport
- Copy of the visa/residence permit if applying in a third country.
- Example: If you hold an India passport and applying in the US, you must provide a copy of your US visa
- One recent passport size photo
- Round trip flight reservation
- Hotel bookings for the entire duration of stay
- Proof of health insurance
- Last 3 months bank statement
- Last 3 months salary slips
- Original signed employment letter
- Cover letter with a detailed itinerary
Schengen visa photo requirements
The photo must be 4.5cm x 3.5cm. That is, 4.5cm high and 3.5 cm wide. The face must be 3.2 to 3.6cm or 70-80% of the photo.
Travel health insurance for Schengen visa
It’s MANDATORY to submit travel medical insurance for Schengen visa. You must attach a certificate of travel health insurance in the 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, hospitalization, 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 your visa is denied. You must request a denial letter from the consulate and submit it to the provider for a refund.
A few insurance providers and aggregators
- Insure my trip (For travelers from the US and worldwide
- Insurance pundit (For travelers from India)
Schengen visa fee
The Schengen visa fee is approximately €80 EUR. This fee must be paid in the form of a bank money order. The visa fee is non-refundable and it will not be returned if the visa is not granted or withdrawn.
Schengen visa processing time
Schengen tourist visa processing can take from 15 calendar days to 45 calendar days.
You must apply for your Schengen visa no later than 15 days prior to your travel. Otherwise, your application will not be accepted.
You can apply for your Schengen visa up to 6 months in advance. So, apply as soon as you can to avoid delays, refusals and disappointments.
Apply in person
There is a plan to implement online systems of Schengen visas. But as of now, the Schengen visa can only be applied in person.
Filling the application form can be online or offline depending on the Schengen country. After this, you must schedule an appointment via the consulate website to submit your visa application and documents.
Apply through visa/travel agency
You can apply for the 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.
Entry and exit procedure at the airport
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 the Schengen area.
- Stays in EU countries that are NOT part of the 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 the 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 the Schengen area for a continuous period of 90 days allows you for a new stay of 90 days.
Starting your trip
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.
Entering the Schengen country
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.
The immigration officer will stamp your passport with arrival airport. The number of days you are allowed to stay will not be marked in your passport.
Exiting the Schengen country
You must go through passport control on exiting the Schengen area. You will not be asked any questions unless you have overstayed your visa. Passport control is fairly quick, about 10-15 minutes depending on the airport.
Europe is usually the first choice for most first time international travelers. It’s a dream for most people to visit Europe at least once in their lifetime. Europe has such an impeccable beauty, history, art, and cuisine.
Schengen tourist visa requirements are clear and fairly easy to understand. An appointment can be made online but application submission must be done in person. Applications can be submitted up to 180 days in advance.