Legally bound to join
|Description||Free travel area|
|Policy of||European Union|
The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries that have abolished passport and immigration controls at their common borders. It functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. The Area is named after the town of Schengen in Luxembourg where the Schengen Agreement, which led to the Area's creation, was signed. Joining Schengen entails eliminating internal border controls with the other Schengen members, while simultaneously strengthening external border controls with non-Schengen states.
Twenty-two of the European Union (EU) member states and the four European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states participate in the Schengen Area. Of the five EU members that do not form part of the Schengen Area, three – Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania – are legally obliged to join the area, while the other two – Ireland and the United Kingdom – maintain opt-outs. Four non-members of the EU, but members of EFTA – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland – participate in the Schengen Area while three European microstates – Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican – can be considered as de facto parts of the Schengen Area as they do not have border controls with the Schengen countries that surround them. The area currently covers a population of over 400 million people and an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres (1,664,911 sq mi).
The Schengen Area was established outside of the then European Community, when consensus could not be reached among all of its member states on the abolition of border controls. However as more EU member states signed up to join the Schengen Area, agreement was reached on absorbing it into the EU, which was done by the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999.
The Schengen Agreement was signed on 14 June 1985 by five of the then ten EU member states. It led to the creation of the Schengen Area on 26 March 1995. The Agreements and the rules adopted under them were entirely separate from the EU structures, until they were incorporated into the mainstream of European Union law by the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997.
The Schengen Area currently consists of 26 states, including 4 which are not members of the European Union (EU). Two of the non-EU members, Iceland and Norway, are part of the Nordic Passport Union and are officially classified as states associated with the Schengen activities of the EU. Switzerland was subsequently allowed to participate in the same manner in 2008. Liechtenstein joined the Schengen Area on 19 December 2011. De facto, the Schengen Area also includes three European micro-states, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City, that maintain open or semi-open borders with other Schengen member countries. Two EU members – Ireland and the United Kingdom – have negotiated opt-outs from Schengen and continue to operate the Common Travel Area systematic border controls with other EU member states.
Before fully implementing the Schengen rules, each state needs to have its preparedness assessed in four areas: air borders, visas, police cooperation, and personal data protection. This evaluation process involves a questionnaire and visits by EU experts to selected institutions and workplaces in the country under assessment.
|Date of first
|Austria||83,871||8,414,638||28 April 1995||1 December 1997|
|Belgium||30,528||11,007,020||14 June 1985||26 March 1995|
|Czech Republic||78,866||10,535,811||1 May 2004||21 December 2007b|
(excluding Greenlandd and the Faroe Islandsd)
|43,094||5,564,219||19 December 1996||25 March 2001|
|Estonia||45,226||1,340,194||1 May 2004||21 December 2007b|
|Finland||338,145||5,391,700||19 December 1996||25 March 2001|
(excluding overseas departments and territories)
|674,843||65,821,885||14 June 1985||26 March 1995|
|Germany||357,050||81,799,600||14 June 1985||26 March 1995c|
|Greece||131,990||10,787,690||6 November 1992||26 March 2000|
|Hungary||93,030||9,979,000||1 May 2004||21 December 2007b|
|Icelanda||103,000||318,452||19 December 1996||25 March 2001|
|Italy||301,318||60,681,514||27 November 1990||26 October 1997|
|Latvia||64,589||2,245,357||1 May 2004||21 December 2007b|
|Liechtensteina||160||36,010||28 February 2008||19 December 2011|
|Lithuania||65,303||3,207,060||1 May 2004||21 December 2007b|
|Luxembourg||2,586||511,840||14 June 1985||26 March 1995|
|Malta||316||417,608||1 May 2004||21 December 2007b|
(excluding Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands)
|41,526||16,703,700||14 June 1985||26 March 1995|
|385,155||4,993,300||19 December 1996||25 March 2001|
|Poland||312,683||38,186,860||1 May 2004||21 December 2007b|
|Portugal||92,391||10,647,763||25 June 1992||26 March 1995|
|Slovakia||49,037||5,440,078||1 May 2004||21 December 2007b|
|Slovenia||20,273||2,048,951||1 May 2004||21 December 2007b|
(with special provisions for Ceuta and Melillaf)
|506,030||46,030,109||25 June 1992||26 March 1995|
|Sweden||449,964||9,415,570||19 December 1996||25 March 2001|
|Switzerlanda||41,285||7,866,500||26 October 2004||12 December 2008|
|Schengen Area||4,312,259||419,392,429||14 June 1985||26 March 1995|
a. ^ EFTA states outside the EU that are associated with the Schengen activities of the EU, and where the Schengen rules apply.
b. ^ For overland borders and seaports; since 30 March 2008 also for airports.
c. ^ East Germany became part of the Federal Republic of Germany, joining Schengen, on 3 October 1990. Before this it remained outside the agreement. Despite some media reports, Heligoland is not outside Schengen; it is only outside the European Union Value Added Tax Area.
d. ^ Greenland and the Faroe Islands are not included in the Schengen area, although there might be relaxed checks in the Faroe Islands for flights from Scandinavia, thanks to the Nordic Passport Union; thus a passport is still recommended. A Schengen visa issued by a Schengen state will not allow the holder access to either territory, only a Danish visa stamped with either "Valid for the Faroe Islands" or "Valid for Greenland", or both.
e. ^ However, Jan Mayen is part of the Schengen Area.
f. ^ The full Schengen acquis applies to all Spanish territories, but there are border checks on departure from Ceuta and Melilla to Spain or other Schengen countries, because of specific arrangements for visa exemptions for Moroccan nationals resident in the provinces of Tetuan and Nador.
While Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, is legally bound to join the Schengen Area, implementation has been delayed because of the Cyprus dispute. According to Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Lillikas, "strict and full control based on Schengen will create a huge tribulation on a daily basis for the Turkish Cypriots", and it is unclear if this control is possible before the resolution of the dispute. The Sovereign Base Areas, which are outside the EU, will also need "other handling and mechanisms". As of March 2011[update] no date has been fixed for implementation of the Schengen rules by Cyprus.
While Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU in 2007, are also legally bound to join the Schengen Area, implementation has been delayed. Bulgaria's and Romania's bids to join the Schengen Area were approved by the European Parliament in June 2011 but rejected by the Council of Ministers in September 2011, with the Dutch and Finnish governments citing concerns about shortcomings in anti-corruption measures and in the fight against organised crime. Concern has also been expressed about the potential influx of illegal immigrants through Turkey to Bulgaria and Romania and then to Schengen countries. Although the original plan was for Schengen Area to open its air and sea borders with Bulgaria and Romania by March 2012, and land borders by July 2012, opposition from the Netherlands has deferred the two countries' entry to the Schengen Area until 2013 at the earliest. The deal is pending approval of the European Council on the recommendation of its president Herman van Rompuy. The planned debate on the agreement at the March Council meeting was postponed, likely due to the ongoing protests in Bulgaria.
Croatia, which will join the EU on 1 July 2013, will be also legally bound to join the Schengen Area.
|Flag||State||Area (km²)||Population||Signed or opted in||Prospective implementation date|
|Bulgaria||110,994||7,364,570||1 January 2007||No earlier than end of 2013|
|Croatia||56,594||4,290,612||1 July 2013||accession in 2013; target is by 2015Sometime after|
|Cyprus||9,251||1,099,341||1 May 2004||Cyprus dispute; target is by 2016Partly dependent upon|
|Romania||238,391||19,042,936||1 January 2007||No earlier than end of 2013|
There are territories of member states that are exempted from the Schengen Agreement and most of these are outside Europe (or remote islands in Europe).
The French overseas departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion, and the overseas collectivities of Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin are part of the European Union but do not form part of the Schengen Area. A fifth French Overseas Department, Mayotte, was created on 31 March 2011 when its status was changed from being an overseas collectivity. It is due to become part of the EU as an EU outermost region on 1 January 2014. The EU's freedom of movement provisions apply, but each territory operates its own visa regime for non-European Economic Area (EEA), non-Swiss nationals. While a visa valid for one of these territories will be valid for all, visa exemption lists differ. A Schengen visa, even one issued by France, is not valid for these territories. A visa for Sint Maarten (which is valid for travelling to the Dutch side of the island of Saint Martin) is also valid for the French side. France also has several territories which are neither part of the EU nor the Schengen Area. These are: French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, New Caledonia, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna.
Only the European territory of the Netherlands is part of the Schengen Area. Six Dutch territories in the Caribbean are outside the Area. Three of these territories – Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (collectively known as the BES islands) – are special municipalities within the Netherlands proper. The other three – Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten – are autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. All islands retain their status as Overseas countries and territories and are thus not part of the European Union. The six territories have a separate visa system from the European part of the Netherlands and people travelling between these islands and the Schengen Area are subjected to systematic identity checks.
Svalbard is part of Norway and has a special status under international law. It is not part of the Schengen Area. There is no visa regime in existence for Svalbard either for entry, residence or work, although it is difficult to visit Svalbard without travelling through the Schengen Area, although there are charter flights from Russia. In 2011 the Norwegian government imposed identity checks on individuals wishing to enter and leave Svalbard, with the border between Svalbard and the rest of Norway being treated as an external Schengen border. A Schengen visa must be multiple entry to allow returning to Norway. There is no welfare or asylum system for immigrants on Svalbard, and people incapable of supporting themselves may be sent away.
The Danish territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland are neither part of the European Union nor the Schengen Area, though the Faroes are part of the Nordic Passport Union. Visas to Denmark are not automatically valid in the Faroe Islands and Greenland. A passport or an acceptable identity card must be brought and is needed both for the identity check at boarding and for the check at the arrival airport.
Mount Athos, a province of Greece, is part of the Schengen area, though a special permit may be required for entry and women are not allowed in any case.
Ireland and the United Kingdom were the only EU members which, prior to the 2004 enlargement, had not signed the Schengen Agreement. Both countries maintain a Common Travel Area with passport-free travel for their citizens between them and the three British Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, which are outside of the European Union.
The UK declined to sign up to the Schengen Agreement, one argument being that, for an island, frontier controls are a better and less intrusive way to prevent illegal immigration than other measures, such as identity cards, residence permits, and registration with the police, which are appropriate for countries with "extensive and permeable land borders". Ireland does not share Britain's view that free movement without border checks should apply only to EU citizens, but did not sign up to the Schengen Agreement because it "would not be in the interest of Ireland to have a situation where the common travel area with Britain would be ended and Ireland would impose both exit and entry controls on persons travelling between here and Britain and, in addition, on the land frontier".
When Schengen was subsumed into the EU by the Treaty of Amsterdam, Ireland and the UK obtained an opt-out from the part of the treaty which was to incorporate the Schengen rules (or acquis) into EU Law. Under the relevant protocol, Ireland and the United Kingdom may request to participate in aspects of the Schengen acquis but this is subject to the approval of the Schengen states.
The UK formally requested to participate in certain provisions of the Schengen acquis – Title III relating to Police Security and Judicial Cooperation – in 1999, and this request was approved by the Council of the European Union on 29 May 2000. The United Kingdom's formal participation in the previously approved areas of cooperation was put into effect by a 2004 Council decision that came into effect on 1 January 2005.
In contrast while Ireland initially submitted a request to participate in the Schengen acquis in 2002, which was approved by the Council of the European Union, that decision has not yet been put into effect. In February 2010 the Irish Minister for Justice, in response to a parliamentary question, said that: "[t]he measures which will enable Ireland to meet its Schengen requirements are currently being progressed". As a step forward, but outside the Schengen treaty Ireland modified the 2004 Inmmigration Act, letting travel to Ireland without a visa since 1 November 2012, direct family members of EU citizens living legally in the EU. A valid residence family card issued by another member state, together with his non EU passport is considered a valid travel document.
A previous 1999 report by the European Union Select Committee of the House of Lords recommended "full United Kingdom participation" in all the various four Titles of the Schengen Implementing Convention.
Liechtenstein is, since 2011, a full member of the Schengen Area. However, Liechtenstein does not issue visas, and recommends visitors to apply for a visa in another Schengen country, e.g. Switzerland.
The other four microstates are not parties to the Schengen Agreement, cannot issue Schengen visas and, with the exception of Monaco, are not part of the Schengen Area. San Marino and the Vatican City are both landlocked states surrounded by Italy. As they both have open borders, they can be considered as being de facto within the Schengen Area. San Marino and Vatican City do not perform border checks for arrivals from outside Schengen, but these are not needed since neither of them have any airports or seaports. Helicopters are not permitted to go from outside Schengen or a ship, directly to San Marino or the Vatican City.
Andorra retains border controls with both France and Spain. Citizens of EU countries require either their national identity cards or passports to enter Andorra, while anyone else requires a passport or equivalent. Schengen visas are accepted, but those travelers who need a visa to enter the Schengen Area need a multiple-entry visa to visit Andorra, because entering Andorra means leaving the Schengen Area.
Monaco has an open border with France. Schengen laws are administered as if it were a part of EU. Both French and Monégasque authorities carry out checks at Monaco's seaport and heliport.
The Vatican City has an open border with Italy. The microstate has shown an interest in joining the Schengen agreement for closer cooperation in information sharing and similar activities covered by the Schengen Information System. Very exceptionally, Italy has allowed people to visit the Vatican City, without being accepted for an Italian visa, then being escorted by police between the airport and the Vatican.
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Before the implementation of the Schengen Agreement, most borders in Europe were patrolled and a vast network of border posts existed around the continent, to check the identity and entitlement of people wishing to travel from one country to another.
Since the implementation of the Schengen rules, border posts have been closed (and often entirely removed) between participating countries. The Schengen Borders Code requires participating states to remove all obstacles to free traffic flow at internal borders. Thus, road, rail and air passengers no longer have their identity checked by border guards when travelling between Schengen countries, although security controls by carriers are still permissible.
A Schengen state is permitted to reinstate border controls with another Schengen country for a short period where there is a serious threat to that state's "public policy or internal security." When such risk arise out of foreseeable events, the state in question must notify the European Commission in advance and consult with other Schengen states. In April 2010 Malta introduced temporary checks due to Pope Benedict XVI's visit.
When travelling by air between Schengen countries or within a single Schengen country, some airlines request identification (usually a passport or a national ID card) at the airport check-in counters or when boarding. This practice is not a form of an official border control, but is used to establish the identity of the passengers. However, certain flights between Schengen countries are considered as non-Schengen flights. For example, travellers flying on LAN between Madrid-Barajas Airport and Frankfurt Airport are required to go through Schengen exit checks upon departure in Madrid and Schengen entry checks upon arrival in Frankfurt, because the route operates from Santiago (Chile) and the German authorities would have no way of differentiating between arriving passengers who boarded in Santiago and those who joined in Madrid.
According to the Schengen rules, hotels and other types of commercial accommodation must register all foreign citizens, including citizens of other Schengen states, by requiring the completion of a registration form by their own hand. This does not apply to accompanying spouses and minor children or members of travel groups. In addition, a valid identification document has to be produced to the hotel manager or staff. The Schengen rules do not require any other procedures; thus, the Schengen states are free to regulate further details on the content of the registration forms, and identity documents which are to be produced, and may also require the persons exempted from registration by Schengen laws to be registered. Enforcement of these rules varies by country.
The European Union constitutes a customs union and a Value Added Tax area. The effect of these provisions is to prohibit systematic tax, customs controls or any administrative processing of goods at borders between EU member states. In consequence the borders between EU, Schengen states have become largely invisible. However not all Schengen states or all of the territory of Schengen states are part of the customs union or VAT area, so some controls on goods entering or leaving the customs union and/or VAT area are inevitable. To avoid customs controls becoming the new passport controls on internal Schengen borders, the Schengen Borders Code prohibits systematic customs and tax controls.
Movement across internal borders of Schengen countries is free of checks on any person by the authorities, except for the controversies below. However, this does not affect the right of airline companies to carry out identity checks within a commercial framework, i.e. when the passenger checks in, with a view to ensuring the person is the one indicated on the ticket or that he/she is entitled to certain discounts. In addition, carriers are allowed to undertake checks for security reasons. Such checks can be conducted through the verification of a passport or an identity card. In the case of an EEA family member third-country national, the airline will usually require a valid passport and valid Schengen State residence permit. The person does not need to be accompanied by, nor joining, the EEA national since the airline is not performing an immigration check.
Although travellers within the Schengen Area are no longer required to show documents at an internal border (except for the controversies below), national laws still require them to carry identity documents. Thus, foreigners with a valid residence permit in a Schengen State and carrying valid documents can travel within the territory and do not need any special permission to do so. It is the obligation of everyone travelling within the area to be able to show a fully valid form of personal identification approved by other Schengen States.
In July 2011, Denmark tightened its customs controls in what the Danish government claim is a measure designed to counter illegal immigration and organised crime. This has been criticised by Germany and the EU commission who argue that the Danish move is contrary to the principle of freedom of movement.
EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström wrote in her blog in May 2011 that the Danish measures could be in breach of EU law. In July 2011, Malmström blogged as follows: "We are currently assessing all the information submitted by Denmark concerning their plans to reinforce customs controls at the borders. But the final decision on whether the Danish rules are in line with EU law will also depend on how they are put in practice. This is why, in agreement with the Danish authorities, I have today decided to send Commission experts to Denmark tomorrow to asses [sic] how the measures have been implemented." Later in July 2011, Malmström expressed her concern that the mission of experts "did not give us the clarifications we were hoping for."
Following the Tunisian revolution of 2010–11, the government of Italy gave six-month residence permits to some 25,000 Tunisian migrants. This allowed the migrants to travel freely in the Schengen Area. In response, both France and Germany threatened to impose border checks, not wanting the Tunisian refugees to enter their territory. In April 2011, for several hours, France blocked trains carrying the migrants at the French/Italian border at Ventimiglia.
At the request of France, in May 2011 the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström proposed that more latitude would be available for the temporary re-establishment of border control in the case of strong and unexpected migratory pressure, or the failure of a state to protect the external borders of the EU.
On 25 July 2011, in delivering the European Commission's final assessment on the measures taken by Italy and France, the Home Affairs Commissioner said, "[f]rom a formal point of view steps taken by Italian and French authorities have been in compliance with EU law. However, I regret that the spirit of the Schengen rules has not been fully respected." Ms. Malmström also called for a more coherent interpretation of the Schengen rules and a stronger evaluation and monitoring system for the Schengen Area.
The European Commission is expected to unveil revised rules governing the possible temporary re-establishment of internal border controls in September 2011.
Despite Brussels opposition, the European Union nations in a landmark move on 7 June 2012 agreed to enable Schengen countries to reimpose (internal) border controls for six months, renewable for another six, "when the control of an external border is no longer ensured due to exceptional circumstances".
Participating countries are required to apply strict checks on travellers entering and exiting the Schengen Area. These checks are co-ordinated by the European Union's Frontex agency, and subject to common rules. The details of border controls, surveillance and the conditions under which permission to enter into the Schengen Area may be granted are exhaustively detailed in the Schengen Borders Code.
All persons crossing external borders – inbound or outbound – have to be subject to at least a minimum check, although travellers who are neither EU, EEA or Swiss citizens nor their family members enjoying the right of free movement must, in general, be subject to a thorough check. The only exception is for regular cross-border commuters (both those with the right of free movement and third-country nationals) who are well known to the border guards: once an initial check has shown that there is no alert on record relating to them in the Schengen Information System or national databases, they can only be subject to occasional 'random' checks, rather than systematic checks every time they cross the border.
In 'exceptional' and 'unforeseen' circumstances where waiting times become excessive, external border checks can be relaxed on a temporary basis.
Border guards carry out the following procedures when checking travellers who cross external borders:
|Procedure||Minimum check||Thorough check
|Checking the traveller's identity based on his/her travel document||Yes
(The check must be 'rapid' and 'straightforward')
|Checking that the travel document is valid and has not expired||Yes
(The check must be 'rapid' and 'straightforward')
|Checking the travel document for signs of falsification or counterfeiting||Yes
(The check must be 'rapid' and 'straightforward')
|Checking the travel document for signs of falsification or counterfeiting using technical devices (e.g. UV light, magnifiers)||Optional
(The check must be 'rapid' and 'straightforward')
|Checking the travel document against the list of stolen, misappropriated, lost and invalidated documents in the Schengen Information System and other databases||Optional
(The check must be 'rapid' and 'straightforward')
|Consulting the Schengen Information System and other databases to ensure that the traveller does not represent a threat to the internal security, public policy, international relations of Schengen Member States or a threat to the public health||Optional
(on a strictly 'non-systematic' basis where such a threat is 'genuine', 'present' and 'sufficiently serious')
|Recording the traveller's entry/exit in a database
(Note that, as of February 2013, only 11 Schengen Member States—Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain—record travellers' entries and exits in their national databases, but data is not exchanged between the national databases of these countries, nor is there a Schengen-wide centralised database tracking entries and exits in all 26 Schengen Member States.)
|Stamping the travel document||No||Yes
(with some exceptions)
(with some exceptions)
|Checking that the traveller has the appropriate visa/residence permit (if required)||No||Yes||Optional|
|Checking the authenticity of the visa (if required) and the identity of the visa holder by consulting the Visa Information System||No||Yes||Optional|
|Examining entry and exit stamps in the travel document to ensure that the traveller has not exceeded the maximum duration of authorised stay||No||Yes||Optional|
|Verifying the traveller's point of departure and destination||No||Yes||No|
|Verifying the traveller's purpose of stay||No||Yes||No|
|Verifying any documents/evidence to support the traveller's purported purpose of stay||No||Optional||No|
|Verifying that the traveller has sufficient funds for his/her stay and onward/return journey (or that he/she is in a position to acquire such means lawfully)||No||Yes||No|
As shown by the table above, because many procedures are optional, border guards have discretion in deciding how rigorously they check travellers at external border crossing points. As a result, the length of time taken to perform checks differs between Schengen countries. For example, an entry check for an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen takes around 5 seconds on average in Italy, whilst in Norway, on average it takes around 1-minute. The disparities in checks on third-country nationals are even greater. For example, an entry check for an Annex II national takes around 15 seconds on average in Greece, whilst it takes 3–5 minutes on average in Slovakia. Similarly, an entry check for an entry check for an Annex I national on average lasts around 30–60 seconds in The Netherlands, whilst in Latvia, it lasts around 2–5 minutes on average.
When carrying out checks at external borders, border guards are, by law, required to respect the dignity of travellers and are forbidden from discriminating against persons based on their sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
External border controls are located at roads crossing a border, at airports, at seaports and on board trains. Usually, there is no fence along the land border, but there are exceptions like the Ceuta border fence, and some places at the eastern border. However, surveillance camera systems, some equipped with infrared technology, are located at some more critical spots, for example at the border between Slovakia and Ukraine, where at some points there is a camera every 186 metres (203 yards). Along the southern coast of the Schengen countries, coast guards make a substantial effort to prevent private boats from entering without permission.
At many external border crossing points, there are special lanes for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens (as well as their family members) and other lanes for all travellers regardless of nationality. Although Andorran and San Marinese citizens are not EU or EEA citizens, they are nonetheless able to use the special lanes designated for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens.
At the following external border crossing points, automated border gates are available for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens aged 18 or over holding biometric passports:
Sometimes, external border controls are located on non-Schengen territory. For example, France operates border checks at juxtaposed controls on travellers departing the United Kingdom for the Schengen Area before they board their train or ferry at St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International railway stations, as well as at the Port of Dover and Cheriton Eurotunnel terminal.
The Schengen rules require that all passenger carriers across the Schengen external border must check, before boarding, if the passenger has the travel document and visa required for entry. This is to prevent persons from applying for asylum at the passport control after landing within the Schengen Area.
The rules applicable to short-term entry visas into the Schengen Area are set out in EU regulations which contain two lists: a list of the nationalities (or classes of travel document holder) which require a visa for a short-term stay (the Annex I list) and a list which do not (the Annex II list).
Being listed in the visa-free list will sometimes but not always exempt the listed nationality or class from the requirement to obtain a work permit if they wish to take up employment or self-employed activity during their stay; business trips are not normally considered employment in this sense. Schengen states may establish, with respect to entries and stays in their own territory, additional visa requirements or waivers for persons holding diplomatic, official, or other special passports.
The uniform visa – i.e. the "Schengen visa" – is granted in the form of a sticker affixed by a Member State onto a passport, travel document or another valid document which authorises the holder to cross the border. However, the holder of a visa may still be denied entry at the border if he or she fails to meet the requirements for admission to the Schengen Area (see below).
Normally, an individual has to apply for a Schengen visa in his/her country of residence at the embassy, high commission or consulate of the Schengen country which is his/her main destination. It is possible, exceptionally, to obtain a single-entry Schengen visa valid for up to 15 days on arrival at the border if the individual can prove that he/she was unable to apply for a visa in advance due to time constraints arising out of 'unforeseeable' and 'imperative' reasons as long as he/she fulfils the regular criteria for the issuing of a Schengen visa. However, if the individual requesting a Schengen visa at the border falls within a category of people for which it is necessary to consult one or more of the central authorities of other Schengen States, he/she may only be issued a visa at the border in exceptional cases on humanitarian grounds, on grounds of national interest or on account of international obligations (such as the death or sudden serious illness of a close relative or of another close person).
A Schengen visa or a visa exemption does not, in and of itself, entitle a traveller to enter the Schengen Area. The Schengen Borders Code lists requirements which third-country nationals must meet to be allowed into the Schengen Area. For this purpose, a third-country national is a person who does not enjoy the right of free movement (i.e. a person who is not an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, nor a family member of such a person who is in possession of a residence permit with the indication "family member of an EU citizen" or "family member of an EEA or CH citizen").
The requirements for entry are as follows:
However, even if the third-country national does not fulfil the criteria for entry, admission may still be granted:
Border guards are required to stamp the travel documents of third-country nationals when they cross external borders at all times, even in extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances, including when checks are relaxed. However, nationals of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City are exempt from this requirement, as are heads of state, whose visits were announced through diplomatic channels, and holders of local border traffic permits and residence permits. Certain exemptions also apply to the crews of ships and aircraft. Third-country nationals who otherwise fulfil all the criteria for admission into the Schengen area must not be denied entry for the sole reason that there is no remaining empty space in their travel document to affix a stamp; instead, the stamp should be affixed on a separate sheet of paper.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Schengen zone passport stamps|
Exit stamp for air travel issued at Prague airport.
Exit stamp for rail travel, issued at Bad Schandau train station.
Exit stamp for road travel, issued at Korczowa border crossing.
Exit stamp for sea travel, issued at Helsinki port.
For stays in the Schengen Area as a whole which exceed three months, a third-country national will need to hold either a long-stay visa for a period no longer than a year, or a residence permit for longer periods. A long-stay visa is a national visa but is issued in accordance with a uniform format. It entitles the holder to enter the Schengen Area and remain in the issuing state for a period longer than three months but no more than one year. If a Schengen state wishes to allow the holder of a long-stay visa remain there for longer than a year, the state must issue him or her with a residence permit.
The holder of a long-stay visa or a residence permit is entitled to move freely within other states which comprise the Schengen Area for a period of up to three months in any half-year. Third-country nationals who are long-term residents in a Schengen state may also acquire the right to move to and settle in another Schengen state without losing their legal status and social benefits.
Asylum seekers who request international protection under the Geneva Convention from a Schengen member state are not issued a residence permit, but are instead issued, within 3 days of the application being lodged, an authorisation to remain on the territory of the member state while the application is pending or being examined. This means that, whilst their application for refugee status is being processed, asylum seekers are only permitted to remain in the Schengen member state where they have claimed asylum and are not entitled to move freely within other states which comprise the Schengen Area. Successful applicants who have been granted international protection by a Schengen member state are issued residence permits which are valid for at least 3 years and renewable, whilst applicants granted subsidiary protection by a Schengen member state are issued residence permits valid for at least 1-year and renewable, unless there are compelling reasons relating to national security or public order. Family members of beneficiaries of international or subsidiary protection from a Schengen member state are issued residence permits as well, but their validity can be shorter. Applicants who have been granted temporary protection by a Schengen member state (as well as their reunited family members) are issued residence permits valid for the entire period of temporary protection.
However, some third-country nationals are permitted to stay in the Schengen Area for more than three months without the need to apply for a long-stay visa. For example, France does not require citizens of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City to apply for a long-stay visa. In addition, Article 20(2) of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement allows for this 'in exceptional circumstances' and for bilateral agreements concluded by individual signatory states with other countries before the Convention entered into force to remain applicable. As a result, for example, New Zealand citizens are permitted to stay for up to 90 days in each of the Schengen countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) which had already concluded bilateral visa exemption agreements with the New Zealand Government prior to the Convention entering into force without the need to apply for long-stay visas, but if travelling to other Schengen countries the 90 days in a 180-day period time limit applies.
The right of entry into the EEA (includes Schengen countries except Monaco) without additional visa was extended to the third-country family members of EEA nationals exercising their treaty right of free movement who hold a valid residence card of their EEA host country and wish to visit any other EEA member state for a short stay up to 90 days. This is implied in Directive 2004/38/EC, Article 5(2) provided that they travel together with the EEA national or join their spouse/partner at a later date (Article 6(2)). If the non-EEA family member has neither an EEA residence card nor a visa, but can show their family tie with the EU national by other means, then a visa must be issued at the border for free and entry permitted. However, this requirement has been incorrectly transposed into Belgian, Latvian and Swedish law, and not transposed at all by Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Lithuania and Germany.
Five member states (as of December 2008), do not follow the Directive to the effect that non-EEA family members may still face difficulties (denial of boarding the vessel by the transport company, denial to enter by border police) when travelling to those states using their residence card gained in another EU country. A visa or other document(s) may still be required.
For example, the UK interprets "residence card" in Article 5(2) of the Directive to mean "UK" residence card, and ignores other cards, instead requiring an "EEA family permit" contrary to the Directive. Showing the family tie with the EU national by other means (as mentioned above) should circumvent this. Denmark and Ireland do not prescribe that a valid residence card will exempt non-EEA family members from the visa requirement. Spain only permits residence cards from Schengen countries, therefore cards from the UK, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus are not allowed. The Spanish legislation is not in conformity with the Directive. Austria, somewhat like the UK, seems to require a permanent residence card issued by the Austrian authorities to enter without visa.
Schengen states which share an external land border with a non-EU member state are authorised by virtue of the EU Regulation 1931/2006 to conclude or maintain bilateral agreements with neighbouring third countries for the purpose of implementing a local border traffic regime. Such agreements define a border area which may extend to a maximum of 50 kilometres (31 mi) on either side of the border, and provide for the issuance of local border traffic permits to residents of the non-Schengen side of the border area. Permits may be used to cross the external border within the border area, are not stamped on entry or exit of the Schengen Area and must display the holder's name and photograph, as well as a statement that its holder is not authorised to move outside the border area and that any abuse shall be subject to penalties.
Permits are issued with a validity period of between one to five years and allow for a stay within the Schengen side of the border area of up to three months. Permits may only be issued to lawful residents of the border area who have been resident in the border area for a minimum of one year (or longer if specified by the bilateral agreement). Applicants for a permit have to show that they have legitimate reasons to cross frequently an external land border under the local border traffic regime. Schengen states must keep a central register of the permits issued and have to provide immediate access to the relevant data to other Schengen states.
Holders of local border traffic permits are able to spend up to 3 months every time they enter the border area of the Schengen country which has issued the permit (this time limit is far more generous than the '90 days in a 180 day period' normally granted to third-country nationals visiting the Schengen Area).
Before the conclusion of an agreement with a neighbouring country, the Schengen state must receive approval from the European Commission, which has to confirm that the draft agreement is in conformity with the Regulation. The agreement may only be concluded if the neighbouring state grants at least reciprocal rights to EEA and Swiss nationals resident on the Schengen side of the border area, and agrees to the repatriation of individuals found to be abusing the border agreement.
As of July 2012[update] seven local-traffic agreements have come into force. Three of them are Hungary-Ukraine in January 2008, Slovakia-Ukraine in September 2008 and Poland-Ukraine in July 2009. As an EU member, in anticipation of its admission into the Schengen Area, Romania has agreed an local-traffic agreement with Moldova which entered into force in October 2010. The fifth is the one between Latvia and Belarus, which began to operate in February 2012. Agreements between Poland and Russia (Kaliningrad Area), and Norway and Russia are also in effect.
In late 2009, Norway began issuing one-year multiple-entry visas, without the usual requirement of having family or a business partner in Norway, called Pomor-Visas, to Russians from Murmansk Oblast, and later to those from Arkhangelsk Oblast. Finland is not planning border permits, but has issued over one million regular visas for Russians in 2011, and many of them multiple-entry visas. The EU is planning to allow up to 5-year validity on multiple-entry visas for Russians
There is an exception to these rules in the case of citizens of Croatia. Based on the pre-Schengen bilateral agreements between Croatia and its neighbouring EU countries (Italy, Hungary and Slovenia), Croatian citizens are allowed to cross the border with only an ID card (passport not obligatory). Many people living near the border cross it several times a day (some work across the border, or own land on the other side of the border), especially on the border with Slovenia, which was unmarked for centuries as Croatia and Slovenia were both part of the Habsburg Empire (1527–1918) and Yugoslavia (1918–1991). Since Croatia will join the EU on 1 July 2013, an interim solution, which received permission from the European Commission, was found: every Croatian citizen is allowed to cross the Schengen border into Hungary, Italy or Slovenia with an ID card and a special border card that is issued by Croatian police at border exit control. The police authorities of Hungary, Italy or Slovenia will then stamp the special border card both on entry and exit. Croatian citizens, however, are not allowed to enter any other Schengen agreement countries without a valid passport, although they are allowed to travel between Hungary, Italy and Slovenia.
These arrangements will be discontinued on 1 July 2013 when Croatia will become an EU member state. As of then, Croatian citizens will be able to enter any member country using only an ID card. During June 2011 Croatia began with implementation of the projects and reforms required to join the Schengen Area by 2015.
Citizens of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia can enter the Schengen Area without a visa. On 30 November 2009, the EU Council of Ministers for Interior and Justice abolished visa requirements for citizens of the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, while on 8 November 2010 it did the same for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The former took effect on 19 December 2009, while the latter on 15 December 2010.
Citizens of Kosovo holding Kosovo passports as well as people living in Kosovo holding the biometric Serbian passport still need a visa to travel to the EU. Serbia created the Serbian Coordination Directorate to facilitate this process. However, a visa liberalisation road-map for Kosovo is expected to be announced and negotiated in the near future.
Visa liberalisation negotiations between the EU and the Western Balkans (excluding Croatia and Kosovo) were launched in the first half of 2008, and ended in 2009 (for Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia) and 2010 (for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina). Before visas were fully abolished, the Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia) had signed "visa facilitation agreements" with the Schengen states in 2008. The visa facilitation agreements were, at the time, supposed to shorten waiting periods, lower visa fees (including free visas for certain categories of travellers), and reduce paperwork. In practice, however, the new procedures turned out to be longer, more cumbersome, more expensive, and many people complained that it was easier to obtain visas before the facilitation agreements entered into force.
To counter the potentially aggravating effects of the abolition of border controls on undocumented immigration and cross-border crime, the Schengen acquis contains compensatory police and judicial measures. Chief among these is the Schengen Information System (SIS), a database operated by all EU and Schengen states and which by January 2010 contained in excess of 30 million entries. The Schengen Agreement also permits police officers from one participating state to follow suspects across borders both in hot pursuit and to continue observation operations, and for enhanced mutual assistance in criminal matters.
The legal basis for Schengen in the treaties of the European Union has been inserted in the Treaty establishing the European Community through Article 2, point 15 of the Treaty of Amsterdam. This inserted a new title named "Visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to free movement of persons" into the treaty, currently numbered as Title IV, and comprising articles 61 to 69. The Treaty of Lisbon substantially amends the provisions of the articles in the title, renames the title to "Area of freedom, security and justice" and divides it into five chapters, called "General provisions", "Policies on border checks, asylum and immigration", "Judicial cooperation in civil matters", "Judicial cooperation in criminal matters", and "Police cooperation".
The Schengen Area originally had its legal basis outside the then European Economic Community, having been established by a sub-set of member states of the Community using two international agreements:
On being incorporated into the main body of European Union law by the Amsterdam Treaty, the Schengen Agreement and Convention were published in the Official Journal of the European Communities by a decision of the Council of Ministers. As a result the Agreement and Convention can be amended by regulations.
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