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Europe Visa Complete Guide: Information, Types, Requirements & More
6 min read
Updated on May 14, 2024

Europe is one of the few places you can get a visa that applies to more than one country at a time. Here’s everything you need to know about European visa options, such as the Schengen visa, and how to apply.

From its rich history, cultural diversity, and natural beauty, the EU and Schengen zone has a lot to offer. So it's no surprise that it has been a well-loved tourist destination over the years.

Depending on the purpose of your visit to Schengen countries, there are certain documents you will need for a visa in this territory. These requirements are relatively similar throughout the area. In this article, we break down everything you need to know about types of European visas and how to obtain them, such as the Schengen visa and the new ETIAS visa waiver.

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What is a European visa?

Before jumping into what a European visa is, it’s important to understand the difference between the European Union (EU) and the Schengen zone.

The EU is an economic and political union of 27 European countries, while the Schengen Area is a travel zone consisting of 26 European countries (Ireland is the only EU member that is not part of the Schengen Zone). The Schengen zone allows citizens of countries in the zone to travel freely without a passport or a visa.

For those planning to visit Europe from outside the Schengen area, you will need a Schengen visa. The visa grants entry to any country in the Schengen Area for 90 days within a 180-day period.

Remember, the purpose of your visit determines the kind of visa you require. You may not work on a tourist visa, for instance. Some EU countries also offer retirement visas.

Different types of European visas

Traveling within Europe is safe and convenient. However, if you’re not from one of the member countries or a visa-exempt country, you will need either a national visa, Schengen visa, or an ETIAS approval.

Schengen visas

The Schengen Visa is a short-stay visa enabling travelers to enter any country in the Schengen zone without border control. It is the most common visa in Europe. There are various types of Schengen visas available: Type A transit visa, Type C tourist visa (which can be a single entry visa, double-entry visa, or multiple entry visa), and Type D long stay visa for foreign nationals.

National visas for a non-Schengen country

If you are visiting a non-Schengen European country, you may need to apply for a visa from the consulate or embassy of the country you are visiting. This type of visa is known as a national visa and only enables you to visit specific non-Schengen member countries.

ETIAS visa waiver

Launching in November 2023, ETIAS, which stands for the European Travel Information and Authorization System, is an online system created to strengthen external border controls and improve security in the Schengen Zone.

When you apply for this document, you’ll be subjected to the ETIAS screening rules, and your criminal records in the databases of local and international authorities will be checked. Travelers that fail the background check will not be allowed to enter the Schengen area. ETIAS will not replace the Schengen visa, but rather works alongside it.

Difference between Schengen and ETIAS

The European Commission’s ETIAS travel authorization system is an attempt to protect and strengthen border control. It aims to identify possible risks associated with visitors traveling in the Schengen area countries.

In contrast, a Schengen visa is a standard requirement to travel to any of the 26 member states of the Schengen area. If you plan to visit two or more Schengen member states, you need to apply for a Schengen visa from each country separately.

Schengen Visa requirements

There are some countries that have the privilege of entering the Schengen zone visa-free. Most countries need to meet specific requirements and do interviews to get a Schengen visa to enter the Schengen Area.

Do I need a visa to go to Europe?

There are quite a few countries of which its citizens are required to obtain a Schengen visa to enter any country within the Schengen Area. If you’re not sure, please check our convenient visa checker.

Countries that can enter Europe without a visa

There are more than 50 countries that are not on the list of countries needing a visa to travel to Europe and the Schengen Area. Visa-free countries still require an ETIAS to enter, despite having a visa-free agreement with the EU.

However, please note that not all European member countries are part of the Schengen zone. The Republic of Ireland, for instance, is not a Schengen member country. Check each country's specific requirements for your specific nationality before you travel.

How long can you stay in Europe without a visa?

Those with a valid U.S. passport may stay up to 90 days in every 180-day period in Europe without a visa if they are traveling for tourism or business. You need to wait an additional 90 days before applying to re-enter the Schengen area. If you plan to stay longer than 90 days, you will need to apply for a visa.

Apply for an EU Schengen Visa

Anyone traveling to any of the 26 countries in the Schengen area from a country without a visa waiver agreement must apply for an EU Schengen Visa. Use the iVisa Checker widget to determine if you require a visa based on your nationality. If you do, here is everything you need to know about the process.

Required documents for an EU Schengen Visa Application

To apply for an EU Schengen visa once it becomes available online, iVisa will need you to provide:

  • A visa application form that is filled out and signed. It must be completed by each traveler.
  • Valid passport that was issued within the last 10 years and is valid for at least 3 months after the date of departure from the Schengen area. Attach older passports with stamped visas.
  • Digital photo that is 35×40 mm, clear, and in color. You must have a neutral expression. It needs to be taken in the last 6 months. You can use our passport photo service if you do not have one.
  • Complete reservations or itinerary of your trip this includes air tickets with a reservation code, flight routes within Europe, and departure and arrival dates.
  • Travel insurance policy certifying that you have medical insurance covering the entire Schengen State. It should have a minimum coverage of EUR 30,000 and meet the criteria of the visa application form.
  • Proof of accommodation. This could be a hotel reservation, a Letter of invitation from the host of the house you plan to visit, or a travel itinerary confirmation from a tour operator.
  • Proof of financial means showing you have sufficient funds for your stay in the Schengen area; this can be a bank statement no older than three months or a Sponsorship letter if you have no financial means and someone else is funding your trip. The person that signs the letter must present a bank statement no more than three months old.
  • Valid email address. Remember to keep an eye on your spam folder
  • Credit or debit card for payment.

Costs of the EU Schengen visa application

Obtaining the EU Schengen Visa generally takes 15 to 20 days. In some cases, it can be even longer. If you need to process your visa in a shorter time, you can do it through iVisa. We offer different prices based on the processing time you need. Here is a breakdown of options:

  • Standard Processing Time: This option requires some time for visa processing. It is the best one if you are not in a hurry to travel.
  • Rush Processing Time: This option allows you to process your visa faster than the standard processing time.
  • Super Rush Processing Time: If you require your visa urgently, this is the fastest option.

Questions about the European visa process?

Ready to jump into the process and get your European visa? Or do you still have questions? Simply contact our expert customer service team via chat or email at [email protected].

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