Who Needs and Who Doesn’t Need Schengen Visa for European Travel?

Who needs a Schengen visa?

Depending upon your country of citizenship, permanent residency, and whether you hold visas from certain other countries, it can be determined whether you need Schengen visa or not.  In some cases, a Schengen country specific rule may be applied as well.

Schengen Visa Required

The citizens of the following countries are required to obtain a Schengen visa to enter any of the Schengen countries:

AfghanistanGabonNorth Korea
AlgeriaGambiaNorthern Mariana Islands
AzerbaijanGuinea-BissauPapua New Guinea
BeninIranSao Tome and Principe
BhutanIraqSaudi Arabia
BotswanaJordanSierra Leone
Burkina FasoKazakhstanSomalia
Burma/MyanmarKenyaSouth Africa
BurundiKosovoSri Lanka
Cape VerdeLaosSwaziland
Central African RepublicLebanonSyria
Cote D’ivoireMalawiTogo
Dem. Rep. of CongoMaliTunisia
Dominican RepublicMongoliaTurkmenistan
Equatorial GuineaNamibiaVietnam

Airport Transit Schengen Visa

The citizens of the following countries are required to have Airport Transit Schengen visa, even if they are just changing an airplane at an airport in any of the Schengen countries:

Democratic Republic of CongoIranSomalia
EritreaIraqSri Lanka

However, the citizens of the abovementioned countries do not require airport transit visa, if any of the following requirements are met:

  • They already hold a national long-stay visa or a residence permit issued by a Schengen country.
  • They have a valid residence permit issued by Andorra, Canada, Japan, San Marino, or the USA guaranteeing the holder’s unconditional readmission.
  • They hold a valid Schengen visa or a valid visa for one of the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), as well as Canada, Japan or the US, even if they are returning from those countries after using their visa.
  • They hold diplomatic passports.
  • They are a close family member of an EU citizen.

Schengen Visa Exempted Countries

The citizens of the following countries don’t need Schengen visa to enter the Schengen area for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days:

Albania*Hong Kong S.A.R***Saint Kitts and Nevis
AndorraIsraelSaint Lucia
Antigua and BarbudaJapanSaint Vincent
AustraliaMacao S.A.R***Serbia*
BarbadosMarshall IslandsSingapore
Bosnia and Herzegovina*MauritiusSolomon Islands
BrazilMéxicoSouth Korea
ColombiaMontenegro*Trinidad and Tobago
Costa RicaNauruTuvalu
DominicaNew ZealandUkraine
El SalvadorNicaraguaUnited Arab Emirates
GeorgiaNorth Macedonia*United States of America
Holy See (Vatican City State)ParaguayVenezuela

For the list above, the following restrictions apply:

  • Citizens of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Serbia can travel without Schengen visa only if they have biometric passports.
  • Taiwan passport holders can travel visa-free to Schengen area only if their passport contains an identity card number.
  • Hong Kong: the visa exemption applies only to holders of a “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” passport.
  • Macao: the visa exemption applies only to holders of a “Região Administrativa Especial de Macau” passport.
  • The following British citizens who are not nationals of the United Kingdom are exempted from the Schengen visa requirement:
    • British Nationals (Overseas)
    • British Overseas Territories Citizens
    • British Overseas Citizens
    • British Protected Persons
    • British Subjects

In any case, the visa free entry is only for business or tourism purposes for a stay not to exceed 90 days in any given 180 days. Such visa free stay is not meant for studying or working in Schengen countries. They must have a valid passport, have documents that prove the purpose and intended duration of their stay, and have a return ticket or evidence of enough money to buy one.

If you are a citizen of multiple countries, you must enter the Schengen area on the passport of the country that allows visa free travel.  If for some reason, you choose to enter on a passport that requires the Schengen visa, you must get the visa first.

Europe Travel Insurance

Even though the citizens of the visa exempt countries are not required to have a travel insurance in order to travel to the Schengen area, it is highly recommended to purchase one, easily available online. The cost of healthcare in most parts of Europe is very high, and the national healthcare systems of European countries would not cover the visitors. In case of serious injury or accident, emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains coverage are very helpful.  Additionally, if you plan to do skiing or other hazardous activities, make sure that the travel insurance covers them (many times, at an additional premium).

Diplomatic, Official, or Service Passport Holders

The rules regarding such passport holders are not consistent across the Schengen countries. Therefore, you should check with the Schengen embassy or the consulates for your main Schengen destination to determine whether you need a Schengen visa or not for a short stay.

Residence Permit

Different rules apply for residence permit holders, as described below:

  • If you are EU/EEA citizen or a person with a residence permit issued by a Schengen country, you don’t need Schengen visa.
  • However, if you have a residence permit issued by a non-Schengen country in the European Union, you need a Schengen visa.

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