For many people, one of the many advantages of moving to the UK is its close proximity to mainland Europe.
And who can blame them? Europe is right next door and it’s a vibrant continent filled with different cultures and languages. As well as iconic capital cities drenched in history.
Then there is the EU and the Schengen Area, which is a traveller’s dream of borderless movement (most of the time anyway). As long as you have the right visa.
That’s right. Most non-Europeans will need a visa to explore the Schengen Area. Unfortunately, a UK visa is not enough.
But first let’s find out a bit more about the Schengen Area before taking a closer look at the application process for the Schengen Visa.
The Schengen Area is a group of 26 countries in Europe without border controls. This allows for the unrestricted movement of people within those countries.
The name Schengen comes from the name of the small village in Luxembourg where the agreement for cooperation was signed in 1985. Then, in 1995, the implementation of the Schengen agreement started.
However, not all EU member states are part of the Schengen Area, including many Eastern European countries. On the flip side, some non-EU member countries, such as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are part of the Schengen Area.
You can find a full list of the Schengen Area countries here.
The Schengen Visa is an official document that allows non-Europeans to travel freely across borders throughout the 26 countries in the Schengen area.
The most common type of Schengen Visa is the short stay category. It allows visa holders to spend a maximum of 90 days in the Schengen Area during a six month period.
For example, if you’re working in the UK and are planning a few trips to mainland Europe, then keep track of how many days you spend in the Schengen Area. That way, you will avoid overstaying the visa.
Then there is the Schengen Airport Transit Visa for people with a connecting flight in a Schengen zone country. The visa only allows for transit though, which means you cannot leave the airport.
And finally, there is the National Long-stay Schengen Visa for people that want to stay in a Schengen Area country for more than 90 days (and up to one year) to study, work and live.
To apply for a Schengen Visa you can submit the application yourself or pay for a third party visa processing service to do it for you. If you use an agency, just make sure they are fully authorised to process visa applications.
The application process is quite simple:
However, there is some bureaucracy involved and you will need to submit the following documents for the application:
The advice for people applying for the Schengen Visa in the UK is to submit the application at least 15 days before you plan to travel. But not earlier than six months before the trip.
The reason for this is that it usually takes a maximum of 15 days for visa applications to be processed. In some case though, it can take up to 30 days.
There are a couple of exceptions when the application could be processed faster:
The cost of the visa application can vary slightly depending on the exchange rate, but the prices below should offer a guide:
When applying from the UK, you can only pay in British pounds.
One of the best times for exploring Europe is during the summer months. Especially for Mediterranean countries like Italy, Spain and Greece where you can visit bustling cities, beautiful beaches and idyllic islands.
However, the most popular times are also the busiest times for Schengen Visa applications. So, if you’re planning to visit during peak season in summer or winter, allow for a little extra processing time for the visa. Just in case.
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