Your ultimate guide to applying for a Europe visa

Europe visa

Chinese, USA and Shengen European visas in passports – adventure background

Europe is a wonderful holiday destination that is on everyone’s bucket list. Visas may be one of many things striking your mind when visiting Europe. Get your European visa well ahead of time to eliminate all gaps in your trip without any hitches. For example, European borders have eliminated an individual visa like Italy to travel within the Schengen countries. In addition, certain nationals need not apply for a visa to travel to Europe. But, for most travelers, a European visa is an absolute must before even thinking about their holiday itinerary. We bring you the ultimate guide to applying for a Europe visa to help you plan your holiday, covering all essential checkpoints. 

Who needs a Europe/Schengen visa while traveling to Europe?

There has been a mutual agreement between various European countries to determine where you do not need a visa to travel. For example, you may not need an Italy visa to travel to Italy; a single European visa can help you navigate through the Schengen countries, with almost 60 nations exempt from getting a short-term visa for Europe. The following countries are visa-exempt for traveling to Europe: the United States of America, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan. However, you may need an airport transit visa even if you are transiting within European countries. Check for your specific country requirements to determine if you need a visa or not. 

What is a European visa?

Also referred to as the Schengen visa, this visa permits you for a short stay within the Schengen countries within 90 days. One of the biggest positives of the Schengen visa is that you do not have to go through the visa formalities while crossing the borders of the member countries. As a result, Schengen nationals can easily work, live in other member states, and move freely within their visa time frame. But, of course, always carry your passport to validate your entry.

26 countries are part of the Schengen agreement: Austria, Denmark, France, Belgium, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Greece, Finland, Switzerland, Slovenia, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Germany, Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, and the Netherlands. On the other hand, a few European countries like Cyprus, Romania, Croatia, Ireland, and Bulgaria are not part of the Schengen countries. Hence, travel across these countries will vary slightly as per the procedures. 

Which countries accept the Schengen visa?

For all the successful Schengen visa holders, you may be allowed to travel to the following countries: Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Kosovo, Serbia, Belarus, North Macedonia, Herzegovina, Romania, and Montenegro. The Vatican City, Monaco, and Andorra are not considered part of the Schengen agreement but are considered ‘de facto’ members because there are no border restrictions for entering the respective countries. Beyond Europe, a Schengen visa permits travel to Antigua, Columbia, Sao Tome, Principe, and Mexico. Of course, the visa requirements would differ from country to country, so the specifics should be checked before traveling to the respective country. 

European countries that do not come under the Schengen agreement?

Many European countries accept the Schengen visa as a unified travel document. However, European countries like the United Kingdom, Ireland, Ukraine, and Moldova do not accept Schengen visas to enter their country. Therefore, you should check with the respective countries’ authorities if you plan to travel to the countries listed above. 

Process for applying for a Schengen visa

All the citizens traveling from a third country that requires a visa for tourism and leisure will apply for a European visa to enter the Schengen countries. However, you do not need a separate visa like Italy visa to enter Italy. A Schengen visa will take care of your entry formalities for all 26 countries under the Schengen agreement. 

Firstly, you should finalize the visa type you intend to apply for. For example, a tourist visa is applicable only for visiting family or friends or for tourism and leisure. However, if you are traveling for business, culture, sport, or studying, you will have a different type of visa. 

Secondly, you should apply for a European visa directly from the designated Consulate or Embassy in the country of residence. You can also choose the designated representatives in your country to apply for a European visa. Start the process by highlighting all the places you will be entering, whether you are landing or in transit. 

  • If you are traveling to only one country, you should apply for a visa in the Embassy or Consulate of that respective country.
  • If you are traveling to two or more Schengen countries, apply for the visa where you will spend maximum time.
  • If you are spending equal time across multiple Schengen countries, you can apply for a visa in any of the Schengen countries. For e.g., If you are entering Italy first, apply for the Italy visa or the Schengen visa at the Italy Embassy or Consulate. 

The European visa can be applied for six months before your travel, with the last date for entry limited to 15 days of your travel. However, due to the unpracticable travel environment and the processing time involved in visa processing, we recommend you apply a minimum of three weeks before traveling to Europe. 

Book an interview appointment in the Schengen country’s Embassy or Consulate. Many countries request an in-person appointment, while some allow you to make appointments over the phone or online. The guidelines laid down by each country can vary accordingly.

You should bring along two copies of your completed European visa form, original passport, two visa-size photographs, and additional supporting documents like a place of accommodation, travel insurance, flight itinerary, and confirmed reservation.   

Certain Embassies or Consulate would also request for biometric data to be collected along with a photograph in your system. Once collected, the data will be retained in the system for five years. Hence, you may not have to submit your biometric data again by reapplying.  

Supporting documents for non-EU nationals

A valid passport with a minimum of three months validity from the date of return travel and issued within the last ten years is the bare minimum supporting document you may be required to submit. 

Depending on the country you have applied for the Schengen visa, they may request additional documentation like proof of accommodation and a return ticket. But, again, the process and documentation vary for each country. 

Schengen visa cost

The Schengen visa would cost you eight pounds per applicant. This is a flat and non-negotiable fee set by the member countries under the Schengen agreement. 

All successful visa applicants receive a sticker that contains their photo, a unique visa ID number, validity dates, and countries they can enter, which needs to be placed on their passport. In addition, if you have applied for all the Schengen countries, it would state the entry regions as “Schengen States/Etats Schengen.” 

From 2023, the Schengen authorities are initiating a new concept and process named the European Travel Information and Authorization System. As a result, all travelers traveling to Europe or the Schengen area without any visa will need to complete an online visa form where they will have to pay a seven-pound fee per applicant. 

Important points:

  • Visa scams are very common globally, where people use the Embassy or Consulate name stating that they would guarantee a European visa to the candidates. 
  • The Schengen or Italy visa photo requirements have been stated, and any photo submitted outside the requested specifications can lead to a delay or rejection of your European visa.       

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Article Author Details

Thomas Leonard