Our guidelines to help you understand who needs a Schengen visa and how to obtain it.

What is a Schengen visa?

A Schengen visa is an official document necessary for some non-European citizens to visit the Schengen area.
Here are a few guidelines to help you understand who needs a Schengen visa and how to obtain it.

Who needs a Schengen visa?

Most citizens of non-European countries -including Russia, Africa, India and China- need a Schengen visa to visit the area.
However, some countries such as the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Japan have signed visa waiver agreements with the European Union. Their citizens do not require a visa to visit Europe if their stay doesn’t exceed 90 days. Starting 2021, they will need to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver to travel.
Residents of these countries who are not yet citizens need to apply for a Schengen visa to enter the area if they are originally from countries which haven’t signed a visa waiver agreement. Your need for a Schengen visa depends on your nationality not your place of residence.

What is the Schengen area?

The Schengen area is composed of 26 countries which have agreed to abolish their common border controls.
These countries - 22 are part of the EU and 4 are members of the EFTA (the European Free Trade Association)- are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

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What are the different types of Schengen visas?

There are several types of Schengen visas depending on the purpose and duration of your stay:

  • The Category A visa or Airport Transit visa to transit through a Schengen country without leaving the international zone of its airport.
  • The Category C visa - the short stay visa to visit the Schengen area for maximum 90 days over a 180-day period. It is the most common, usually issued for tourism, visiting family or friends or business purposes.
  • The Category D long-stay visa to stay longer than 90 days for work reasons or other.

How to obtain a Schengen visa?

The Schengen visa application process is either handled by the embassy or consulate of the Schengen country you wish to visit or by an official visa application center. You will need to hand in an application file complete with all the documents required by the consular authorities of the said country.


What are the documents required with your application?

Hereinafter is a list of the basic mandatory documents (original + copy) required with your Schengen visa application. You may be asked for additional documents.

  • A completed and signed visa application form
  • Your passport. Its expiration date should be minimum 3 months beyond the date when you will leave the Schengen area
  • At least one passport type photograph
  • A Schengen health & travel insurance certificate proving that your insurance covers your medical costs for a minimum of €30,000 in case of health emergencies (hospitalisation, repatriation). It must be valid for the entire duration of your stay in the Schengen area and in all Schengen countries even if you have no plans to visit them.
  • Your confirmed returned ticket (roundtrip)/travel reservations
  • Proof of accommodation: confirmed hotel reservations for every night of your stay, official letter of invitation by friends or family, booking confirmation for cruise ship travellers.
  • Proof of your means of subsistence: recent bank statements or letters of sponsorship showing you have the financial means to support yourself during your entire stay.
  • Proof of your social and professional status: a signed letter of employment, proof of self-employment or business ownership, proof of enrolment for students, unemployment document, retirement statement.
  • A letter explaining the purpose of your stay with the documents proving this purpose
  • The 80€ visa Fee
  • Travel insurance single trip

How much does a Schengen visa cost?

The fee for a Schengen visa is 80€ for visitors aged 12 and over, 40€ for children ages 6 to 12. The Schengen visa is free for children younger than 6 years old.

How long does it take to obtain a Schengen visa?

Depending on the Schengen country where you are applying, your personal situation and the time of year, processing time can take from 2 weeks to a few months.
It is strongly recommended to apply 6 weeks prior to your departure date. Schengen visa applications can be submitted at the earliest 3 to 6 months before the scheduled date of your trip and 15 calendar days at the latest before your trip to the Schengen area.

How long is a Schengen visa valid?

The validity period of your Schengen visa is indicated on your visa sticker. It is generally calculated using the following formula: scheduled entry date + duration of the stay + a 15 day “grace period”.

Can I visit several Schengen countries with my visa?

Yes, you can. If you wish to visit more than one Schengen country, you only need to apply at the embassy or consulate of the first Schengen country you will enter or the one where your stay will be the longest. 

Disclaimer: This article provides a broad summary of benefits and is intended solely for informational purposes. To learn about the specific coverage, exclusions, and benefits included in your personal travel insurance policy, please refer to your individual certificate of insurance or local IPID document. If you have any questions or concerns, we recommend reaching out to one of our local travel insurance store for further assistance. Prices, cover types & guarantees at the moment of publication may vary depending on your country. Local Terms & Conditions apply. Please download T&Cs from your local store for more information.

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