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Schengen Visas

You’ve arrived in the UK and fancy travelling to a few other European destinations? Of course you do – you wouldn’t have clicked on this page otherwise. So let’s tell you about the sometimes dreaded Schengen visa, the nifty little fellow that allows you to travel Europe using just one visa (if you’re from one of 100-odd countries where you need one that is).

What is the Schengen visa? 
In simple terms, it allows those wishing to visit certain countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) (and Switzerland) to travel between these countries using only one visa.  
The purpose of the visit must be leisure, tourism or business. Nothing else.

Do I need a Schengen visa?
Antipodeans don’t need it, but visitors from places like China, India, South Africa and Nigeria do, and, essentially, there are three types of Schengen:

  1. The short stay or travel visa. This allows a visit of up to three months in any six-month period.
  2. The airport transit visa allows the traveller to transit through the international transit zone/area of an airport of a Schengen member state, but not to exit this zone/area before they fly on to their next destination.
  3. The transit visa enables a traveller to pass through the territory of one or more Schengen countries on their way to another country outside the Schengen space and can be issued for a maximum of 5 days.

What are the Schengen countries?
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Where do I apply for one?
If visiting just one Schengen country, you need only apply to the embassy of that country, but if you’re visiting several you should apply to the embassy of whichever country is your “main destination” (that’s basically the country you’ll be spending the most time during your trip).
If you don’t have a “main destination”, you should submit an application to the embassy of the country where you will first enter the Schengen space. 

How do I apply for a Schengen visa?
Visa fees, eligibility criteria and documentation required vary, according to which type of visa you need and the country you are applying to. 
Check the website of the relevant embassy, or contact them to check what needs to be submitted with your application (and you will have to fill in an application form). 

What documents are needed when applying?
You’ll need completed application form (which you can usually download online), your passport or official travel document, recent photographs (the exact number required varies between countries), valid medical insurance, evidence of sufficient funds, and proof of purpose of the visit. 
Beware that the process may take time and you should start making arrangements as early as possible. 
Bookings and reservations for accommodation or tours may need to be shown.

Visa fees
The visa fees charged by the different embassies vary and they generally don’t accept cheques or credit cards (it’s usually cash or postal order only).

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