As new Schengen visa rules taking effect from February 2020, here is what you need to know about Schengen visa if you plan to visit countries within the Schengen area
What is it?
The Schengen visa enables its holders to travel between 26 European countries on a single visa. First signed in 1985, the Schengen Agreement was designed to open up Europe’s borders, making it easier to travel between countries on the continent.
Today, Schengen visa holders can travel to any or all 26 countries that are part of the border-free Schengen area. Internal border controls between the member countries have for the most part stopped – making it similar to travelling from one US state to another. Having said that, Schengen countries have the right to reintroduce temporary border control in response to current events.
Who is it for?
The Schengen visa is for everyone who requires a visa before visiting a European country within the Schengen territory.
For example, if you hold a passport from China and you intend to visit Germany for five days, France for two days and Italy for three days. Instead of getting a visa from each of the countries, you only need to apply for a Schengen visa at the German embassy (because Germany is your main destination of travel).
If you hold a Singapore passport and you intend to visit Germany and France, you don’t need to apply for a Schengen visa because these countries allow Singapore passport holders to visit without a visa at present. This will change from January 2021, however, as the Schengen territory looks to introduce ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) for visa-waiver countries. For more information on this, please click on this link to read about ETIAS.
Types of Schengen visas
Choose the type that is best suitable for you, depending on the purpose of your visit:
1. Tourist visa
This allows you to visit countries within the Schengen territory for a maximum of 90 days within a six-month period for tourism purposes. To apply, you will need to submit:
- Visa application form
- A valid passport with at least two blank pages and valid for at least three months from the visa application date
- Two recent photographs
- Confirmed round trip itinerary, including flight itinerary and proof of accommodation
- Travel insurance
- You may be asked to submit proof of financial means and employment status
From February 2020, you can apply for a Schengen visa six months before your trip.
2. Transit visa
This allows you to transit at an airport within the Schengen area and continue your journey to a non-Schengen destination country. Please note that if you need to go through more than one airports with the Schengen area, you would need to apply for a tourist visa (as opposed to a transit visa).
If you hold a valid visa or valid residence permit for Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Saint Eustatius or Saint Maarten, you do not need a transit visa.
3. Business visa
As the name implies, this is for business purposes and it allows you to visit countries within the Schengen territory for a maximum of 90 days within a six-month period.
Other types of Schengen visa include:
- Visa for visiting family
- Visa for culture and sport activities
- Visa for official visits
- Visa for medical reasons
Nationals that need to apply for a Schengen visa
As of January 2020, citizens of the following countries need to apply for a Schengen visa: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Northern Mariana’s, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Where can you go?
The Schengen visa is currently available for travel between the following countries:
In addition to these 26 countries, there are three countries – Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City – who are not part of the Schengen member or European Union but have opened their borders to visitors with a valid Schengen visa.
How much does it cost?
From February 2020, Schengen visa costs €80 for a type ‘C’ tourist Schengen visa. The price for children aged 6 to 12 is €40 each.
How to apply
Applications for Schengen visas must be lodged at the relevant embassy or consulate in your country of residence. If you plan to visit one Schengen country, apply for a visa at the embassy or consulate of that country. If you’re visiting several countries, apply to the embassy or consulate of your main destination (if you don’t have a main destination, apply to the embassy or consulate of your first port of entry).
Working days required
Visa processing will vary, sometimes dependent on nationality. They can take anywhere from one day to 10 weeks to process.
Did you know?
The name Schengen originates from the small town in Luxembourg where the agreement was first signed.
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This article was initially published in June 2018 and updated on 07/01/2020.