What is meant by "Schengen Countries"?
The following countries are known as Schengen countries:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
These countries are so called because they are bound by an agreement known as Schengen agreement. The Schengen agreement was signed in the town of Schengen in Luxembourg in the year 1985.
What is a Schengen visa and who needs it?
A Schengen visa is the visa that you require, on tour, in order to stay in a Schengen country for a pre-stated span of time. It has the added advantage in comparison to a general visa that with this visa one can seamlessly cross borders of Schengen countries without other formalities, as long as one's visa has not expired. In other words, the whole of the Schengen area may be considered as an integrated entity with respect to visa requirements.
Of course, conditions prevailing at individual countries, sometimes, apply and have to be followed.
A person planning to visit any number of the Schengen countries requires a Schengen visa.
UK and Ireland are not covered under this visa.
What are the requirements for a Schengen visa?
Depending on what kind of Schengen visa you are applying for, whether you are a service man or a business man or what is the purpose of your trip, you will be asked to submit some or all of the following documents:
Duly filled application form with two number of passport size photographs.
A copy of your valid national passport. You will also be asked to show the original document for verification. .
Documents pertaining to medical insurance cover for the entire trip including to and fro journey. The insurance must cover at least € 30,000.
Documents proving your financial capacity for the trip.
A letter from you describing why do you intend to visit the Schengen area, with your full address for any kind of communication that may be required.
In case of first time visit, you may be asked to show income tax details of last three years. Proof of employment and proof showing validity of your employer may also be required.
If you are a business man you may be required to show your business registration, tax return papers and your latest bank statements.
In case you are visiting relatives or friends,
(a)If you are paying, a proof of your paying capacity and (b) if your relative or friend is paying, a formal obligation signed by a competent Aliens' authority.
Formal invitation letter/s from your friend or relative.
In case of training programs, study tours, seminars and other research oriented representations, necessary documents proving invitation and participation attested by competent authorities are required.
Conditionally, the following also may be required:
Your airline tickets to destination country and the necessary return tickets thereof.
A detailed plan with itinerary of stays and bookings in Schengen area.
How to apply for and get a Schengen visa?
Act in accordance with the following steps to get the Schengen visa:
First find out the local embassy or consulate which will issue this visa. Generally, the Schengen visa application is made to the consulate of the country of first entry in the Schengen or the main destination country, i.e. the country where you are going to spend maximum time. For example, in India one can apply for Schengen visa to local French consulate if he/she is on a visit to Schengen area and wants to spend maximum time of the tour in France.
Download or get from the concerned consulate the latest Schengen visa form and fill up completely. Submit to the proper consulate with complete set of compulsory and conditional documents as asked for by the authorities. The documents required have been explained above.
You will be required to appear in an interview by the concerned embassy or consulate. In the interview you will be interrogated about your intention for the trip, self-funding capacity, your would-be belongings on tour, your itinerary on tour etc.
Once the concerned consulate is completely satisfied with your documents, interview is a mere formality. But still one should be prepared for it.
Also note that:
It takes about 2 to 10 working days to get a Schengen visa issued.
You may also get an appointment with the concerned consulate only after 2-3 weeks. So it will be in your own interest to plan for the visa with sufficient time at hand.
Schengen visa is issued either as a small sticker on the passport or as an endorsed travel document.
Types of Schengen visa:
Short-stay visa: This is the form of visa which most travellers apply for. It is of two types :(i) Single-entry : Stay at a stretch is allowed for the number of days permitted on visa, the upper ceiling being 90 days. if the visa holder wants to extend his/ her tour, only a maximum grace period of 15 days can be allowed.(ii) Multiple-entry: A traveller is allowed multiple stays, the sum of which must not be more than 90 days in any duration of 6 months starting from the first day of entry in the Schengen area. The stay may be availed at a stretch or intermittently during the period of validity which is generally granted for 6 months to 5 years depending on conditions. All consulates do not allow multiple Schengen visa.
Transit visa: This visa is issued for the travellers who are on move from non-Schengen to non-Schengen area through a Schengen area. It may be issued for many or single transits and the validity is generally for the time required for passing through the concerned Schengen area.
Airport transit visa: Generally a visa is not required to pass through an international transit area but for certain category travellers ATV is required
Overstaying the visa:
'Unwanted Alien' is the status of travelers overstaying Schengen visa. There is every possibility that you will be detected as a visa violator since on way back, your visa will be checked. Two types of punitive measures are taken:
A fine will be imposed on you which you will have to pay immediately.
Violation information is inserted in SIS (Schengen Information System). This system is consulted for granting Schengen visa to the travelers and so your chances of getting future visa are reduced. It also affects your credibility to get visa to even some non Schengen countries.
Apart from all these, if you are detected as overstaying, the authorities will see to it that you are deported out of the Schengen at once and at your own expenditure.
Schengen visa has been one of the best things to have happened after the unification of Europe. Travelers to Europe have definitely been benefitted by way of not having to pass through the monotony of all the checks again and again while crossing the borders of European countries. But at the same time one must remember that each individual Schengen country has the authority, if the need be, to check and recheck all the details. Even while you are inside the Schengen area, you may be asked to show all the documents in transport or street checks. There are huge differences in laws and severity in adhering to these laws from country to country in the Schengen area. So it is wise to understand and follow the Schengen laws and act quite in advance in case of all the time bound matters. Learn as much as you can, about the Schengen countries on your tour list and much before you set off.
Useful links for Schengen visa.
If you are not completely satisfied with this brief knowledge of Schengen visa , you may browse the following links to have a detailed knowledge