Schengen countries are countries in Europe that have joined the Schengen Agreement, which enables people to travel freely from one Schengen country to another with no requirement to present a passport, visa, or proof of identity at every border crossing. Originally established by a mere five countries in 1985, the Schengen Area today includes 27 member states, 23 of which are also members of the European Union (EU)—in fact, the Schengen Agreement was incorporated into EU law in the Amsterdam Treaty, which went into effect in 1999. Only a handful of countries in Europe are non-Schengen countries.
Complete List of All 27 Schengen Countries:
- Czech Republic
Non-Schengen Countries with Open Borders:
Also noteworthy are three nations which have not signed on to the Schengen Agreement, but which nonetheless have open borders and welcome travelers from Schengen countries:
Non-Schengen/Non-European Countries that Allow Entrance with a Schengen Visa:
There are also 17 non-Schengen nations, many of which lie outside of Europe, that allow entrance to travellers in possession of a Schengen visa—though some of these countries include certain restrictions.
|Antigua and Barbuda||Georgia||Montenegro||Sao Tome and Principe|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Kosovo||Northern Cyprus||Turkey|
_Note: Kosovo and Northern Cyprus are unrecognized as sovereign states by the United Nations and therefore are typically classified as territories rather than countries. _
History of the Schengen Agreement
Signed in the year 1985, the original Schengen Agreement contained the signatures of five member states: Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany, all of which belonged to the European Economic Community (EEC), a predecessor of the European Union. The Schengen Area was established as a collective region with no internal border checks for travelers wishing to pass from one Schengen country to another. The Schengen Agreement included measures such as reduced-speed vehicle checks and the allowance for residents who lived in border areas to cross the borders at places far away from designated checkpoints. Visa policies would also be aligned under the agreement.
The Schengen Agreement was further supplemented by the Schengen Convention in the year 1990. This law proposed the abolishment of systematic internal border controls and suggested the creation of a common visa policy. The agreements and the rules adopted under the Schengen Convention led to the creation of the Schengen Area in 1995, which remains in effect today. The Schengen Area operates as a single unified state, eliminating border chokepoints and enabling travelers to move between countries more freely and quickly.
Schengen visas and movement in and out of the Schengen Area
External border controls still exist for anyone entering or exiting the Schengen Area. Also, visitors from beyond the twenty-six Schengen countries must still carry and present a valid visa in order to travel to and from any and all Schengen nations. In total, citizens of exactly one hundred and five countries must have a visa on their person in order to enter one of the Schengen member countries, let alone leave through a Schengen border control point.
It is not necessarily difficult to obtain a Schengen visa, though applications are taken quite seriously due to the freedom enabled by a Schengen visa. Like any official document, the application process, as well as the waiting period after applying, can take significant time to complete. That said, there are ten countries in particular whose residents have the easiest path toward obtaining a Schengen visa.
The Top 10 Easiest Countries in Which to Get a Schengen Visa:
- Czech Republic
The countries listed above have the lowest rates of rejection, as well as shorter waiting times and a higher chance of receiving a long-term visa, as opposed to permission for short-term travel. The longest amount of time an individual can expect to be permitted to remain in a country other than their country of origin is no more than ninety days, and all travel must take place within six months of receiving the acceptance letter for one's Schengen visa application.
There is a very slight difference between a Schengen visa and a traditional visa not tied to a particular area in Europe. The Schengen visa enables free travel within the Schengen Area, but only for 90 days; while a regular visa enables visits of a longer duration but is more country-specific.