Schengen visas are provided to foreigners for access to the Schengen Area of Europe. The Schengen Area includes 26 countries that have agreed to allow their citizens to travel freely across internal country borders.
These countries include all of the European Union except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, and the United Kingdom. In addition, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are members of the Schengen Border Agreement.
3 Main Types of Schengen Visas
- Uniform Schengen Visa (USV)
- Limited Territorial Validity Visa (LTV)
- National Visa
The embassy or consulate of your Schengen destination country issues&;#160;the appropriate visa depending on the nature of your travel. Specific visas that fall under the above visa categories include tourist visas, business visas, student visas, working visas, and transit visas.
1. Uniform Schengen Visa (USV)
Uniform Visas enable you to travel and reside in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days each six month period, which starts from your date of entry.
USV's apply to three different categories:
Category "A" (Airport Transit Visa) — Necessary visa for individuals traveling from one non-Schengen country to another through a Schengen country airport
Category "B" (Transit Visa) — Allows individuals to travel through multiple Schengen countries to a non-Schengen country by car, coach, or plane, as long as travel lasts no more than 5 days
Category "C" (Short-term Visa) — Can be provided for single entry, double entry, or multiple entry, depending on the purpose of your travel
Discover whether you're eligible for a multiple-entry visa.
2. Limited Territorial Validity (LTV) Visa
Limited Territorial Validity (LTV) Visas permit you to travel only within the Schengen country that has issued your visa or in the countries you specify when applying for the visa. The visa will not be valid in any other Schengen Area countries.
This type of visa is generally only issued for international obligations or for humanitarian reasons. It is considered an exception to a Uniform Visa.
3. National Visa
National Visas ("D" category visas) are granted to individuals who are studying, working, or residing permanently in a Schengen Area country. These visas are valid for those residing in a specific country for a specified period of time (with plans to return home once the visa expires), but you may also acquire a multi-entry visa to travel to other countries in the Schengen Area.
To qualify for a multi-entry visa, you must meet one of the following requirements:
Be an international student in a program that grants Schengen visas, or be about to start full-time studies in a Schengen country.
Be teaching at a higher education institution or research center in a Schengen country.
Be a professional traveling to a Schengen country with the purpose of sharing your expertise.
Be traveling in the Schengen Area and experience an emergency, such as a medical condition, that prevents departure at the end of your National Visa.
When applying for a Schengen visa, it is best to apply at the embassy of the country in which you will be spending the majority of your time.
What to Bring to Your Schengen Visa Appointment
You will need to apply for your Schengen visa in the country where you are a permanent resident. To apply, schedule a Schengen visa appointment at the consulate of the Schengen country where you will be spending the majority of your trip. (If spending equal amounts of time in two countries, apply at the consulate of the country you will enter first.)
At your appointment, you must have the following documents:
A valid travel document such as a passport
A completed visa application form
Two passport photos
Proof of accommodation
Proof of means of subsistence
An itinerary or round-trip ticket reservations
A travel health insurance policy that covers you in the Schengen Area
In addition, supporting documentation — including the purpose of your trip and a letter of invitation — can help you obtain a visa. Check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country where you are required to apply for specific application requirements.
See examples of supporting documents for your Schengen visa or check out this 12-step walkthrough of the Schengen visa application process.