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What is a Schengen Visa and Do I Need One?

Melanie Danko | Apr 11, 2022

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If you’re visiting multiple countries in Europe, you may need a Schengen visa. A Schengen visa is an authorized document necessary for residents of some countries to have when traveling within the Schengen Area. Keep reading to learn more about the Schengen Area and if a Schengen visa is required for you.

What Is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area was established as part of the Schengen Agreement, signed in 1985. It paved the way towards abolishing internal national borders and allows free movement throughout what is now the 26 European countries that make up the Schengen Area.

The 26 countries that make up the Schengen Zone today are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Who Needs a Schengen Visa?

Whether you need a Schengen visa depends more on your country of residence than your destination. 

  • If you are a citizen of a Schengen Area member country, you’re able to cross the international borders without any border checks as if it were just one country.

  • If you are a U.S. citizen with a U.S. passport traveling to the Schengen countries for tourism or business, you will not need a visa as long as you spend 90 days or less in these countries. Under this agreement, you may enter the Schengen area as long as your stay does not exceed 90 days within a six-month period.

  • Residents of other countries should check this list to see if they are required to get a Schengen visa. It’s important to note that you may need an airport transit visa to change planes in an airport in a Schengen Area country.

Even if you are not in need of a Schengen visa, your passport must be valid for at least three months past your date of departure if you are planning on entering one of the 26 European countries in the Schengen Area.

Most countries assume all travelers will stay the entire three months permitted for visa-free visitors. It is recommended that U.S. citizens traveling to these countries:

  • Have at least six months’ validity remaining on their passport whenever they travel abroad.

  • Check the expiration date on their passport carefully before traveling to Europe.

  • Carry their passport with them at all times.

How Do I Apply for Schengen Visa?

You must apply for a Schengen visa at the appropriate embassy or consulate of the country you intend to visit. If you plan to visit more than one country in the Schengen Zone, apply at the consulate of the country where you will spend the most time.

Additionally, there are a few different types of Schengen visas that can be issued, such as a Uniform Schengen Visa, limited territorial validity visas, and national visas. You can read more information here about the different Schengen Visa Types.

To apply for a Schengen visa, you are required to have a valid passport, recent photograph, a completed and signed visa application form, and additional documents related to your stay such as evidence of accommodation. Make sure you have everything you need by contacting the embassy or consulate, or by reviewing this list of required documents and fees for a Schengen visa.

Do I Need Travel Insurance to Visit the Schengen Area?

Anyone required to obtain a Schengen visa must have travel insurance in place while traveling in one of the Schengen member countries.

Insurance requirements for traveling to the Schengen Zone

  • Coverage for urgent medical attention and/or emergency hospital care or death.
  • Benefits for repatriation for medical reasons.
  • A plan maximum of at least 30,000 euros (approximately $50,000 USD depending on currency variations).
  • Valid for the entire Schengen Area and effective throughout the entirety of your stay.

Confirm with the embassy or consulate through which you are applying for your visa about specific travel insurance requirements.

Questions About Travel Insurance

To learn more about travel insurance for your international trip, check with your travel insurance agent, or contact our sales team at sales@sevencorners.com or 1-800-335-0611. You can also learn more about required travel documents, visas, and eVisas through our partner, sherpa

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