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Schengen Visa  

A guide on Schengen Visa application: what documents are needed, costs and processing time.

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If you are a non-EU national in need to travel in the territory of the Schengen States for a period of max. 90 days in 180, you may need to apply for a Schengen visa before travelling. Schengen visas are released for different purposes and a specific set of documents must be submitted for a successful application. 

Schengen visa

The Schengen visa corresponds to a sticker stamped on your travel document and allows you to visit the Schengen area for short-term. It can be applied for purposes like family visits, business visits, tourism, study or medical visits

Can I enter any country with Schengen visa?

With this type of visa, you can enter any country that is part of the Schengen area.  

The Schengen area covers most of European countries – and some non-European ones – that decided to adhere to the so-called Schengen Acquis. The Acquis regulates the abolishment of the internal border controls within the Schengen area, granting a free movement principle. However, controls at external borders still apply.  

Will I need a visa to travel to the EU?

Nationals of some countries are privileged with entering the Schengen area for short-term stays and they do not need a visa, while others need to apply for a visa before travelling.  

Can I get a Schengen visa on arrival?

If you are a visa free national, you don’t need to apply for a visa before you travel, as you are eligible for visa on arrival. A visa on arrival consists of an entry stamp made by the frontier authorities on your passport, after they checked you meet the entry conditions.  

Nevertheless, Europe has announced they will implement a new requirement for visa-exempt nationals travelling to European countries: the so-called ETIAS. It will be a travel authorization linked to a traveler’s passport, valid for up to three years. However, it won’t guarantee entry, as frontier guards will anyway check the traveler’s passport and their documents.  

As of today, ETIAS is currently not yet in operation.  

How many countries does Schengen visa cover?

As a general rule you can freely move among internal borders with a visa issued by a Schengen country.  

To make a practical example: you can enter Germany or France with an Italian Schengen visa.   

Can I work with Schengen visa?

The Schengen visa allows applicants to travel for specific purposes only, among them business travels. However, it does not allow applicants to take up employment.  

For applicants who wish to remain in a Schengen country for longer than 90 days and work there or establish their residence in that country, a Schengen is not appropriate. A long stay visa is needed instead.   

Schengen visa application

Where do I send my Schengen visa application?

If you are not a visa free national, you will have to lodge the visa application at the consular representation of the country that you intend to visit. You must apply for the visa at the local Consulate or Embassy with territorial competence in the country where you legally reside.  

In case you need to visit more than one Schengen country, you will have to select the consular representation of the country of your primary destination (i.e. the main purpose of stay or the longest stay). If you wish to visit several Schengen countries and stay in each one for an equal length, you must apply at the consular representation of the country whose external borders you will cross first.

If you are unsure about your case, feel free to contact us for a consultation. 

Schengen visa processing time

How long does it take for a Schengen visa to be approved?

Once you lodged your application to the Consulate or Embassy, a decision is usually taken within 15 days. You can then show up to collect your original passport stamped with the visa, or your passport will be delivered to you – according to the procedure applied by the specific diplomatic representation.  

The decision timing might be extended to up to 45 days or even longer, in some specific circumstances.  

Which country is fastest to apply for Schengen visa?

Some countries may be quicker than others to issue the visa, but that will depend on incidental factors which cannot be truly predicted.  

How far in advance can you book Schengen visa appointment?

As a general rule, it is not possible to submit application more than 6 months before the start of your intended trip and not later than 15 days before it. However, exceptions may apply.  

It is also advisable to book changeable flight tickets, to be able to post-pone the travel if, for some reasons, the visa is not obtained by the intended date.  

What is the “90 180 rule” in the Schengen area?

The Schengen visa is valid for short stays, which are defined as stays of 90 days in any 180 days period, intended as a rolling time frame.  

The exact length of validity of your visa is indicated on it, as well as the number of entries allowed, to be found usually under the heading “number of entries”.  

If you are a visa-free national and you don’t have a visa sticker on your travel document, you must calculate how much time you will spend in the Schengen area, in order not to overstay. To help travelers, the European Commission has published an online calculator which can help you to count the days remaining.  

Can I extend my 90 days in Schengen?

Generally speaking applicants should stick to the authorized period of stay.  

In fact, it is usually not possible to extend a Schengen visa except in some rare cases of force majeure. In such a case, you must provide documents showing that for humanitarian reasons or for serious personal reasons it is not possible for you to leave the Schengen area before the expiry of your visa.  

Schengen travel visa cost

How much does it cost to get a Schengen visa?  

The general visa fee for Schengen visa applications is €80, to be paid when you submit the application. Instead, the visa fee for children from the age of 6 years and below the age of 12 is €40. 

Is Schengen visa free?

The visa fee is waived in some cases such as:  

  • children under 6 years;  
  • school pupils, students, postgraduate students and accompanying teachers who undertake stays for the purpose of study or educational training;  
  • researchers from third countries travelling for the purpose of carrying out scientific research;  
  • representatives of non-profit organizations aged 25 years or less participating in seminars, conferences, sports, cultural or educational events organized by nonprofit organizations;  
  • family members of EU/EEA citizens, falling under Directive 2004/38.  

Please note that each member State may decide to apply different rules such as other visa fee waivers. 

Schengen visa requirements

The visa does not automatically grant entry.  

In fact, the border control authorities have a right to request additional documentation such as information on your financial means to cover your stay and return trip. Therefore, it is advisable to carry copies of the documents used for the visa application, to show in case of check at the border controls.   

What supporting documents do I need for a Schengen visa?

A specific set of documents must be submitted, including: 

  • Your valid passport with at least two empty pages, valid for at least 3 months beyond the date on which you intend to leave the Schengen territory;
  • The visa application form completed and signed – for children under 18, a parent or legal guardian must sign it;
  • The visa fee to be paid; 
  • A travel medical insurance covering emergency medical costs including hospitalization and repatriation, with a minimum cover of €30.000,00 and valid for the entire Schengen area; 
  • Documents relating to the purpose of your stay (i.e. invitation letter), evidence of means of support during your stay and evidence of accommodation.  

The complete list of documents can be found on the website of the specific consulate. During the application the consulate can ask to submit additional documents or information or invite the applicant for an interview.  

What can be used as a proof of accommodation?

A hotel reservation can be used as a proof of accommodation. 

Alternatively, if you are staying at a property you own, a deed of purchase or a rental contract in your name will be required. Alternatively, if you are hosted by someone, an official invitation letter will be required.  

What are the requirements for invitation letter? 

The invitation letter must be signed by the inviting party and must usually include:  

  • Applicant’s full name and personal details;
  • Dates of the planned trip and purpose of the trip (i.e. tourism, business, family visit); 
  • Details of the accommodation;
  • Name and contact information of the person or business inviting the applicant and relationship between the applicant and the sponsor;
  • Means of support during the stay (i.e. in case of business trip, confirmation that the inviting company will cover all costs). 

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Regulatory Framework

Regulation EC/2009/810 - as last amended by Regulation EU/2019/1155 ("Visa Code")


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