We know that organizing a first trip to Europe is not easy, and apart from all the doubts of traveling here, another one arises … What documents and requirements are needed to fulfill to travel to Europe and enter the territory without problems? We have all heard stories of people who got sent back to their countries because they did not have some of the necessary papers; and of course, we do not want that to happen to you. We have prepared this article to help you understand perfectly what you need to travel to Europe and what are the requirements that you must meet, specifically in the Schengen Area.
- 1 Europe vs European Union vs Schengen Area.
- 2 The Schengen Area for tourism.
- 3 How long can I stay the Schengen Area?
Europe vs European Union vs Schengen Area.
We want to start by clarifying this, because not all countries are part of the European Union, nor are all part of the Schengen Area.
Europe is the continent and the European Union is a group of European countries that have achieved a treaty of free circulation of workforce and trade between them.
On the other hand, the Schengen Agreement includes most of the countries of the European Union, but not all are part of the agreement, nor are all those that are part of the agreement part of the European Union.
Within the Schengen agreements, the one that matters most to us as tourists and travelers is the liberation of borders and controls between the countries. Once you enter the space, you do not have to go through immigration again to travel between countries.
Currently, the agreement includes a list of 26 countries, among which are: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland. San Marino, Vatican City, and Monaco are also added; who have opened their borders but are not officially part of the Schengen Area.
The Schengen Area for tourism.
As we mentioned, part of the agreements of these countries is to open the borders for the free movement of people and commerce. You can enter by any airport or border control and move freely through them if you meet the entry conditions for foreigners, which are the requirements to enter the Schengen area.
Requirements to enter the Schengen area as a tourist
Visa-free entry to the Schengen area will depend on your nationality.
Countries that do NOT need a visa to enter the Schengen Area:
- Albania (only with a biometric passport)
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (only with a biometric passport)
- Brunei Darussalam
- Costa Rica
- Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (only with a biometric passport)
- Holy See
- Hong Kong s.a.r. (only with passport of ‘Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’)
- Macao s.a.r. (only with passport of ‘Região Administrativa Especial de Macau’)
- Montenegro (solo con pasaporte biométrico)
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- Serbia (only with a biometric passport)
- South Korea
- St Kitts and Nevis
- Taiwan (your passport must have an identification number)
- United States of America
Countries that do need a previously approved visa to enter the Schengen Area:
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Cote d’Ivoire
- Democratic republic of Congo
- Dominican Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- Marshall Islands
- North Korea
- Palestinian authority
- Papua New Guinea
- São Tomé and Principe
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- The Comoros
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
If you need a visa, go directly to the embassy of the country you wish to visit that is in your country and ask for the necessary papers to obtain it. Here you can find a post with tips to obtain your Schengen Visa.
If you do not need a visa, you will have to carry a series of documents with you that will be reviewed at the entry border (they are required in any of the Schengen countries where you decide to enter).
It is extremely important that you have these documents printed. In recent years, the control of tourists entering has become much more thorough due to the big number of immigrants arriving on the continent. Do not risk being deported before leaving for your trip to the Schengen area.
1. Valid Passport:
At the time of entry, one of the requirements to travel to Europe is that your passport must have a minimum of 6 months remaining validity on your passport and must also have 3 months of validity after your departure from the space. Both requirements are necessary and not mutually exclusive.
2. Departure ticket:
You must be clear about how long you intend to stay in the Schengen Area and how and when you will get out of it. They can ask you to show the departure ticket from any of the countries in the space to another country that is not part of the treaty.
3. Economic solvency:
To enter you will be asked to prove your economic solvency, with a minimum of 65 euros for each day of stay. (It is, therefore, necessary to know when you will leave).
It is not necessary to show the cash, you can show your account status of the bank, credit card quota or even traveler’s checks.
4. Accommodation reservations:
They need to make sure that you do not come to find a place to live or stay. At least you need to have reserved the first days of your stay in the Schengen Area. Knowing where you are going to sleep is one of the main requirements to enter Europe.
If you don’t like to travel with everything booked, you can always book something in booking with free cancellation and save the reservation vouchers before canceling them. These will serve as proof of reservation.
If you are going to stay in the house of a relative or through Couchsurfing, you must show an invitation letter that shows clearly the information of who will receive you and the address of where you will be staying. This letter of invitation must be obtained through the official channels and can be rather cumbersome for the person who invites you.
5. Medical insurance or travel assistance:
This is one of the most important requirements to enter these countries of Europe, and even if they did not ask for it, you should always travel with one. It is required that this insurance cover every day of your stay in Europe and have a minimum coverage of 30,000 euros.
I know someone that was not asked for any of this document, why should I take them?
Well… the answer is simple … just as there are those who have not being asked for anything, there are others who have been asked for everything.
If you have bad luck and the officials ask you for all the papers and documents and do not have it, they will simply send you back from where you came. And you will have to face the cost of the departure tickets of the country.
Sometimes you can be asked for one or two papers, others they will only ask you things verbally and other times they will require to check all the documents necessary to enter Europe.
It will depend on the immigration police who attend you and your level of security when talking with him. Many are also guided by the rates of immigrants from your country of origin to decide what to ask for.
How long can I stay the Schengen Area?
Because there are no borders, time is measured as the total that you have left in all the countries that make up the treaty. The maximum stay, if you have not paid for a longer visa, is 90 days within 180 days.
For example, if you go to countries like England or Cyprus between visits or others that are in the treaty, it does not mean that when you return you will “renew” your 90 days as it happens in other countries. Here your account gets frozen and continues once you return. Once 180 days have passed, the countdown begins again.
Staying longer than allowed may lead to you being fined per day exceeded and suspending your right to enter any of the countries of the Schengen Area for years, being also on the blacklist if someday you want to work or live in Europe.