Frequent travelers to the Schengen Zone – whether tourists, students, businesspeople, or something else entirely – general have firsthand knowledge of the Schengen Area visa and what it entails. This visa doesn’t limit you to a single country, but rather all countries than fall within the borders of the Schengen Zone.
There are several types of Schengen Zone visas; the type you’ll get depends upon the length of your stay, the reason for your visit, and any other factors that might be considered important. During the course of this article we will explain the various types of Schengen visa and their associated costs and requirements.
What is a Schengen Visa?
As previously mentioned, a Schengen visa is one that permits travel to or through any of the various European countries that are part of the Agreement. Schengen Zone members have, upon unanimous agreement, abolished border controls and permit freedom of movement between the member states. Upon its inception in 1985, there were a mere 5 member states. This has expanded today to 27.
If you have a Schengen visa, the benefits are obvious. You can generally travel freely between member states, so long as you do not exceed the duration of your visa. The only other real stipulation is that you enter via the country which issued the visa to you.
Which Countries Require a Schengen Visa?
As previously mentioned, there were only 5 member states when the Schengen Agreement came into existence in 1985. This has now expanded to 27.
It’s worth remembering that ‘Schengen Zone’ is not synonymous with ‘the EU’. There are countries that are Schengen Zone members but not EU members, and vice versa. This means that a Schengen Zone visa does not necessarily guarantee you access to EU countries. So, which countries are in the Schengen Area? Watch the video to find out.
Some states require their own national visas in addition to a Schengen Zone visa, and for some countries (like Croatia, Belgium, Romania, Andorra and Cyprus) you can use a Schengen Zone visa to enter, but not to exit. It’s therefore important that you check the visa situation before you depart.
Schengen Visa Types
Before applying for a Schengen visa, you need to figure out exactly which one you’ll need. At present, there are three types of visa – A, C and D. For more information on this, please see our guide here.
Schengen Visa Fee
Administrative fees are required for all Schengen visas, and they vary depending on your nationality. For instance, if you are a Russian national, then you can expect to pay 35 euros for a type-C visa. The cost of your visa does not change depending on which Schengen Area country you’re applying to. This means that if you’re applying via the Croatian embassy, it will cost no more or less than applying at the Romanian embassy.
A type D visa – which is for a longer duration than a type C – is more expensive, and varies according to the subtype. A student visa will cost 50 euros, while a work visa will run you 116 euros.
If applying via a Visa Application Center, there will probably be other administrative costs. Service fees and courier costs may apply, to the tune of around 30-35 euros. There may also be optional costs – for instance, if you rented a VIP lounge during registration, if mobile biometrics were obtained, or if extra documents/assistance were necessary.
Certain individuals are exempt from Schengen visa fees. These include the following:
- Children aged 6 or under;
- Relatives of residents of EU countries or Switzerland;
- Members of government delegations;
- Representatives of federal or regional governments, including parliamentarians and judges;
- Students of schools or universities who are accompanied by teachers or sent for official studies or internships;
- Disabled persons accompanied by caregivers;
- People who require urgent medical treatment;
- Athletes participating in international competitions.
There may be other exemptions depending on individual countries. Possible exemptions include scientists, figures of cultural import on exchange programs, and persons visiting sick relatives. Refer to the embassy/consulate of the country through which you’re applying for more details.
Conditions of Visa Issuance
Since 2020, the cost of obtaining a type C multi-entry visa has increased to about 80 euros for most people. Some countries may also impose additional requirements, such as having visited that state previously. Others still may be completely closed to nationals or representatives of certain countries.
Here are a few examples of countries with special requirements:
|Country||Who Can Apply||Special Conditions in 2023|
|Greece||Anyone||A negative Covid PCR test|
|Estonia||Anyone||Proof of vaccination against Coronavirus|
|Austria||Anyone||Proof of vaccination against Coronavirus OR a negative Covid PCR test OR submission to quarantine requirements|
|Hungary||Anyone||A negative Covid PCR test|
|Slovenia||Anyone||Proof of vaccination OR a negative Covid PCR test|
|Norway||Anyone||Must submit to a PCR test and undergo mandatory quarantine|
|Finland||Foreign nationals who previously applied for a multi-entry visa of a duration longer than 2 years||None|
|Portugal||Anyone who previously applied for a 2-year Schengen visa prior to 2020||May only visit the island of Madeira|
|Spain||Anyone who previously applied for a Schengen visa prior to 2018||Proof of Covid vaccination required|
Application Processing Time
Application and issuance times vary from country to country. Typical issuance times for certain Schengen countries can be found below:
|Country||Time Needed From Application To Issuance|
|Greece||2 days (excluding day of application)|
|Spain||Up to 15 calendar days|
|Estonia||Up to 10 working days|
|Italy||Within 7-15 working days|
|Austria||Up to 10 working days|
|Portugal||Up to 15 calendar days|
|Hungary||Up to 10 calendar days|
|Finland||15 calendar days|
|Slovenia||15 calendar days|
|Norway||10-30 business days|
Where Can You Apply for a Schengen Visa?
There are only 3 places you can apply for a Schengen visa – a visa application center, a consulate, or an embassy. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of each option.
Visa centers can be found in almost any major city, which makes that extremely convenient. It’s also possible to hire specialists to help you along every step of the way – such specialists can help you file your application and arrange for the documents to be sent or returned. You can also have the employees of the centers themselves help you for a small fee. Some other benefits include extensive and detailed instructions every step of the way and the possibility of obtaining mobile biometrics.
Embassies and consulates may be harder to come across than visa centers, but they’re cheaper because there are no extra fees. Do bear in mind that embassy/consulate appointments must be made weeks – if not months in advance.
Documents Required for Schengen Visa Applications
When it comes to applying for a Schengen visa, there are inevitably several documents that you’ll need to present. The documents required depend on the reason for your trip; documents for a business visa will, of course, be very different to those required for a tourist one.
Whichever visa you’re applying for, you’ll likely be doing so online. When doing this, it’s important to bear in mind the following:
- You must use the Roman alphabet;
- Date formats are always year/month/day;
- You must provide your signature at three separate points: in paragraph 35 of p.5, and in two separate designated places on pp.6-7;
- All information provided must be true.
In addition to the application itself, you will need to provide the following documents:
- Your original passport;
- Photocopies of all passport pages;
- A copy of a health insurance policy for at least 30,000 euros for the Schengen Area;
- (If applicable) a copy of any internal passports you hold in your home country;
- Proof of residence in the destination country (hotel booking, letter of invitation etc.);
- Proof of flights in and, where applicable, out of the host country;
- Proof of your ability to support yourself financially in the host country (bank statements etc.);
- (If applicable) a certificate of employment.
In addition, each applicant must consent to the processing of all of their information.
We hope that you found this article informative, but remember that it’s important to always check with the visa center, consulate or embassy before proceeding with your application. Although we strive to provide up-to-date information, it’s always possible that individual member states have updated or amended their requirements, and so always check with them before proceeding.
Best of luck with your visa application, and happy traveling!
Josh is our resident content wizard! With his encyclopedic knowledge of travel and visa regulations, Josh shares his expertise on site's pages with travelers around the world.