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All about the Schengen area

  1. What is the Schengen area?

Nowadays, the Schengen Area encompasses most European countries, with the exception of the United Kingdom and countries that are soon to join, such as Romania, Bulgaria and Ireland. Even though they are not members of the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein are also part of the Schengen zone and benefit from the same freedom of movement policy as the others. Regardless of the purpose of travel, visitors (citizens of non-EU countries) to any Schengen zone country are allowed to stay for a maximum of 90 days or three months every six months.

2. Visa type

The Uniform Schengen Visa is a type of permit issued by a Schengen Area Member Country, which allows the holder to transit or reside in the desired territory for a specific duration of up to 90 days within a six-month period, starting from the date of entry. The Uniform Schengen Visa enables travel to the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

According to the purpose of traveling the Uniform Schengen Visa applies to all of the two categories, “A” and “C”.

  • “A” category stands for the Airport Transit Visa which allows its holder to travel through the international zone of the Schengen Country Airport without entering the Schengen Country Area. Airport transit visa is mandatory for the citizens travelling from one non-Schengen state to another non-Schengen state through a change of flights in a Schengen Country airport.
  • “C” category stands for a Short-term visa which allows its holder to reside in a Schengen Country for a certain period of time depending on the visa validity. This particular category, according to the holder’s purpose of the travel can be obtained in a form of:
  • Single-entry visa allows its holder to enter a Schengen country only once for the certain period of time. Once you leave the certain Schengen country you entered, the visa validity expires, even if the time period allowed to stay in the country is not over yet.
  • Double-entry visa applies for the same policy as above mentioned, however you are allowed to enter the Schengen country twice, meaning that for the certain period of time permitted by your visa you can enter the Schengen country, leave and enter again without any problems. Once you are out of the country for the second time the visa expires.
  • Multiple-entry visa allows its holder to go in and out of the Schengen country as pleased. However, this visa allows its holder to stay in a Schengen Zone for maximum 90 days within half the year, starting from the day one crosses the border between a Schengen member country and the non-Schengen member country.

3. General Requirements for the Schengen Visa

  1. Passport and Photos: When applying for a visa, make sure that your passport is valid for at least three months after the visa’s expiration date. Additionally, your passport must have a minimum of 2-3 blank pages, depending on the country’s requirements that you plan to visit. You also need to attach one or two recent color photos, taken against a white background, wearing dark clothes.
  2. Schengen Travel Insurance: To obtain a Schengen visa, you must have travel insurance that covers the costs of repatriation and emergency medical expenses during your stay in the Schengen Area. The insurance must be valid for all Schengen states and have a minimum coverage of 30,000 EUR. You must present the insurance certificate when applying for the visa. If your visa is refused, ask the Embassy or Consulate for a document that proves their refusal to cancel your travel insurance policy and get your money back.
  3. Flight Itinerary and Proof of Accommodation: When applying for a visa, you need to provide proof of your round-trip reservation or flight itinerary with dates and flight numbers that specify your entry and exit from the Schengen Area. Some countries may ask for a prepaid plane ticket. You also need to provide proof of accommodation or hotel booking for the entire duration of your intended stay in the Schengen Area. A confirmed reservation may be enough, but some countries require a paid-in-advance hotel booking.
  4. Invitation Letter: If you are applying for a business visa, you need to obtain an invitation letter issued by the company that is inviting you.
  5. Application Form: You must complete and sign the application form when applying for a visa.
  6. Residence Card: You may be asked to provide a residence card to prove that you will return to Romania. The card should be valid for three months after your return to Romania.
  7. Work Contract or Employment Certificate: You may need to provide a work contract, addendum, employment certificate, or declaration from your employer, depending on the country you plan to visit.
  8. Bank Statements: You need to provide bank statements for the last three months to show that you have sufficient means of support while traveling to the Schengen Area. Some countries have established a specific amount of money you need to have per person, per day in your bank account.

*Note: These requirements may vary depending on the country you plan to visit, so it’s essential to check the specific requirements for that country before applying for a visa.

4. Example of questions you may be asked at the visa interview

  • Which countries in the Schengen are you planning to visit?
  • Do you have any family member or friends living in the Schengen area?
  • What is the purpose of your visit?
  • Who will pay for your visit?
  • Are you married? If yes, what does your spouse do? For how long have you been married?
  • Do you have any children? If yes, how old are they, what do they do?
  • How long are you going to stay?
  • Where are you going to stay?
  • What is your educational qualification?
  • Which company do you work for?
  • What does your company do?

5. FAQ and Answers

  1. If I plan to travel to multiple Schengen countries, where should I apply for a Schengen Visa?

While a Schengen visa permits travel throughout the entire Schengen area, the visa application process is standardized across all Schengen countries. However, there are specific rules and regulations regarding which embassy or consulate an applicant must apply to for a Schengen visa, depending on their desired destination(s).

If an applicant plans to visit only one Schengen country, they must apply at the appropriate embassy or consulate of that country.

If the applicant intends to visit two or more Schengen countries, it is advisable to apply for the visa at the embassy or consulate of the country where they will spend most of their time, known as the main destination.

If there is no main destination and the visit includes random travel to several Schengen countries, the applicant must apply for the visa at the embassy or consulate of the first Schengen country they will enter, based on the itinerary.

Once the appropriate embassy or consulate has been determined, the applicant must apply at the embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over their place of residence.

2. It is common for the embassy/consulate to request additional documents in addition to the mandatory ones when applying for a Schengen visa. The type of visa being sought may determine the specific additional documents required by the embassy/consulate.

3. It is recommended to buy the plane ticket after the visa has been issued. It is important to have a copy of the reservation of the return ticket for the intended travel period. It is not advisable to purchase the ticket before obtaining the visa, unless it is necessary. Some Consulates may require the ticket to be purchased in advance, so it is best to consult with a visa expert to determine the specific requirements.

4. Can I travel to more countries with the same visa?

Certainly! With a valid Schengen visa, you can travel to multiple Schengen countries as long as your stay does not exceed the duration specified in your visa. The Schengen regulations apply only to stays of up to 90 days, and rules for stays longer than 90 days are determined by the national law of the member states involved.

5. How long can I stay in the Schengen area?

The duration of your stay in the Schengen area is based on the type of Schengen visa issued to you. A Schengen visa is a short-term visa and is represented by a sticker affixed to your travel document. You are allowed to stay for a maximum of 90 days within any period of 180 days. The specific length of your visa’s validity is indicated on the visa sticker under “Duration of visit.” If you have a single-entry visa, you can only enter the Schengen area once, as noted on the visa sticker under “Number of entries” with the number “1”. A two-entry or multiple-entry visa, on the other hand, allows for two or more entries during the visa’s validity period. This information can be found on the visa sticker under “Number of entries,” with “02” or “MULT” as the indication.

6. In addition to your travel document with the Schengen visa, you may be required to present additional documentation at the Schengen external borders. This is because the short-stay visa does not automatically guarantee entry into the Schengen area. At border controls or other checks, you may be asked to provide additional documentation, such as proof that you have sufficient means to cover your stay and return trip. Therefore, it is recommended that you carry copies of the documents you submitted when applying for the visa, such as letters of invitation, travel confirmations, and other documents related to the purpose of your stay.

7. Can my visa be extended?

If you wish to extend your visa, you will need to demonstrate that it is impossible for you to leave the territory of Member States before the expiration of your visa or the authorized period of stay due to force majeure, humanitarian reasons, or serious personal reasons. Generally, visas can only be extended if you have stayed in the Schengen area for less than 90 days in the past 180 days and if your current visa has not yet expired.

8. In general, you would not be able to apply for a visa if your passport is set to expire within two months. The requirement is that your passport must be valid for at least three months after your planned return from the Schengen State. However, in some emergency situations, the consulate may make exceptions to this rule.

9. You can apply for a visa no earlier than three months before the start of your intended trip. It is recommended to submit your application at least 15 days prior to your planned visit. However, you should also consider any national holidays in the Schengen State you intend to visit and the country where you are applying for the visa. If you hold a multiple-entry visa that is valid for at least six months, you can apply for a new visa before the current visa expires.

10. Typically, the visa procedure for a Schengen visa takes about 15 calendar days. However, this period can be extended to up to 30 or even 60 days in certain cases.

11. You are required to obtain a Schengen visa to travel to any country of the Area because Romania is not a member of the Schengen Area. While the Romanian Residence Card allows you to legally reside and work in Romania, it does not grant you permission to travel within the Schengen Area. Additionally, it is important to note that the Schengen Agreement is separate from the European Union and each country has the choice of whether or not to apply the agreement. However, there is a separate decision made by the European Parliament that applies to Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus regarding the validity of the Residence Card, Long-Stay Visa, and Short-Stay Visa. If you possess one of these documents, you may travel in these countries without the need for an additional visa for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days.

12. In order to obtain a visa from a country, you must not already have any other valid Schengen visas. In some emergency or exceptional cases, the country that issued the visa may cancel it, but this is a lengthy process. It is important to ensure that you do not have a visa before applying for another one.

13. Keep in mind this example:

You asked for a visa from 1.08.2017-31.08.2023 in Germany. Your passport expires on 1st October. You travel until 27 august 2017 and you enter in Romania on 28 August. You must have your passport valid 3 more months from 28 August but your passport expires on 1st October.

In this case, you CANNOT apply for a visa.

14. Consult this list to confirm if you need a visa or not.

About Me

I am Anca Șalaru and I am part in Expart Consulting. As a legal advisor with a focus on Romanian immigration, Schengen visas, and foreign visas for Romanians, I have developed a strong understanding of the legal complexities and requirements involved in these areas. Having worked as a project manager in the IT industry, I have honed my skills in project management and problem-solving, and now bring these skills to my work in immigration law.

Through my extensive network of legal, financial, and immigration specialists, I can ensure that your case is handled with the utmost professionalism and expertise. Whether you are a foreigner seeking to immigrate to Romania or a Romanian looking to travel abroad, I am here to help you achieve your goals and make your dreams a reality.