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Should I apply for a Schengen Visa

Since the outbreak of Covid 19 and Brexit, combined with changes to the UK’s immigration system, it can be difficult to understand the best options you have when travelling to the UK for work or for leisure. For those looking to do the latter, there’s a handy option available for tourists looking to travel within the Schengen Area.

The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries made up of EU and Non-EU states, and the Schengen visa, allows a holder to travel freely within them. There are a few variations of this visa so it can be useful whether you’re planning a short trip, or a longer term tour of countries that fall within the area, especially one that might require passing through the same country more than once.

If this sounds like the right visa for you, then you’ll want to start by submitting an application to the Embassy or Consulate of the country you’re planning to travel to. If you’re looking to take that longer journey, then submit the application to the relevant embassy of the country you intend to arrive in first, or the one in which you intend to spend the most time depending on your plans.

When submitting your application, you’ll need to make sure you’re leaving enough time for it to be processed properly. Although some people may plan holidays on short notice, and indeed the minimum time required to process a Schengen visa is 15 days before the start of travel, there is no guarantee that the application will be completed in this time. In some cases, the visa can take up to 60 days, and the maximum time before you travel that you are able to submit your application is 3 months (90 days). As such you should attempt to make as much use of the time available to you as possible. This should ensure that you avoid any issues with the visa not being processed before

As I said before, there are a few different versions of the Schengen visa available, and which one you need will depend on how much you intend to travel and through how many countries.

The single entry Schengen visa will allow you to enter a Schengen area country once during the term of the visas validity. You can use this visa to enter multiple Schengen countries, but once you have left them, you are unable to re-enter the same country using that visa. If you require a visa that allows you to enter the same country or countries multiple times during your journeys, then you need to obtain a double or multiple entry visa. As the names imply, a double entry visa will allow you to enter any Schengen visa country twice with the same visa, and the multiple entry will offer the most flexibility, allowing you to move between countries as many times as you require while the visa is valid.

Schengen visas can be obtained for a 1, 3 or 5 year period and they allow travel within Schengen area countries during these periods for up to 90 days of any given 180 day period. This means it’s important to thoroughly plan your travel, so that you can best understand which level of entry, and which timescale you will need when you submit your application. This should then ensure that you don’t find yourself requiring entry that wasn’t covered by your initial application. It’s worth noting that if your travel plans involve you changing flights, you may need to apply for an Airport Transit Schengen visa. This visa will cover the time you spend waiting within airports located within Schengen area countries. This will only be required if you’re travelling from one of the below countries.

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Somalia
  • Sri Lanka

There are a few requirements that you’ll have to meet in order to be able to apply for a Schengen visa. You must have a passport which will remain valid for 3 months after you plan to leave the Schengen zone, and it must have at least 2 blank pages. Secondly, you’ll need to provide evidence of travel insurance with a value of at least €30,000, with cover valid across the period of time you’ll be travelling within the area.

In summary, you’ll need to choose from the different entry levels and time periods of Schengen visa in order to cover the needed of your journey. Which one is best for you will heavily depend on what the routes and timescales of your travel plans are. While you are able to apply on relatively short notice for a Schengen visa, you may benefit from applying as early as the timescales allow so that your visa is approved in time for you to travel.

As with any visa, you may run into additional complications and require elements that aren’t presented in this short guide. In which case you may wish to contact an immigration lawyer who can assist you with your application such as the Immigration Advice Service. This can help you to avoid running into any unnecessary delays when processing the application or providing the relevant documentation.

Imogen Loveday is a writer for the Immigration Advice Service.

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