The Schengen Area

Free movement within Schengen countries

The Schengen Area

Citizens of Schengen countries can cross the internal borders of EU member states without passport checks. A visa granted by a country of the Schengen area entitles the holder to visits of up to 90 days every 6 months in the entire Schengen area.

The parties to the Schengen Agreement are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

History and Development of the Schengen Agreement

In 1985 the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed the Schengen Agreement (Schengen being a place in Luxembourg) on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders. In 1990 the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement was signed. Its key points relate to measures designed to create, following the abolition of common border checks, a common area of security and justice. Specifically it is concerned with:

  • harmonizing provisions relating to entry into and short stays in the Schengen area by non-EU citizens (uniform Schengen visa);
  • asylum matters (determining in which Member State an application for asylum may be submitted);
  • measures to combat cross-border drugs-related crime;
  • police cooperation (hot pursuit);
  • cooperation among Schengen states on judicial matters.

Key Points of the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement

  • Citizens of countries implementing the Schengen Agreement can cross the internal borders of the implementing countries at any point without checks.
  • A visa with no territorial restrictions (visitor's or business visa allowing the holder to stay up to 90 days per six-month period, transit or airport visa) granted to a third-country national by one implementing country entitles the holder, for the same purpose and for the duration of the visa's validity, to enter without border checks other implementing countries as well.
  • Any third-country national with a residence permit valid in one implementing country may travel on a valid passport, without requiring a visa, for up to 90 days per six-month period to other implementing countries.
  • Harmonized visa policies of Schengen countries (common list of third countries whose nationals require visas).
  • External border checks according to a common Schengen standard.
  • Access by all Schengen countries to the Schengen Information System (SIS) providing personal identity and other data throughout the Schengen area.
  • Close police and judicial cooperation.
  • Joint efforts to combat drug-related crime.

Further reading

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