Schengen Area—An Insight into World’s Largest Visa Free Zone

Introduction

Schengen Area is a borderless, passport-free zone comprising 26 countries of Europe. The Schengen Area remains the world’s largest visa-free zone in the world. Member states of the Schengen Area have abolished their internal borders to facilitate unrestricted movement of their citizens within the member states for controlling external borders, curbing corruption and organized crimes through common police and judicial cooperation.

UK, Ireland, Romania, and Bulgaria—despite being member states of European Union—are not part of the Schengen Agreement whereas Norway, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and Iceland are non- EU members of the Schengen Area.

The applicant requires a Schengen Visa for entering in the Schengen Area.

Schengen Area States

In the outset, five European countries—Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and West Germany—inked agreement aimed at gradual elimination of national borders and border controls. The agreement was signed on the Princess Marie-Astrid boat on the river Moselle near the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, where the territories of France, Germany, and Luxembourg meet.

The agreement proved to be a great economic and political success and soon other states also joined the bandwagon.

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland are the 26 members of the Schengen Area.

All of these countries are located in Europe, from which:

22 members fully implement the Schengen Aquis.

Four of them – members of the EFTA, implement Schengen Aquis through Specific Agreements related to the Schengen Agreement.

Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein are associate members of the Schengen Area but are not members of the EU.

Demography and Population

Schengen Area—world’s largest Visa Free Zone—spans over an area of 4,312,099 square kilometers and is inhabited by 419392429 citizens of member states.

Its external borders cover a distance of 50,000 km. The 80pc of the Schengen Area is comprised of water whereas land makes 20pc of the area.

If you possess a Uniform Schengen Visa, you can travel to all 26 countries of the Schengen Area.

Below is the brief introduction of Schengen states:

Austria

Characterized by mountain villages, baroque architecture, Imperial history and rugged Alpine terrain, the German-speaking country in Central Europe is one of the richest states in terms of per capita income in the world and ranked fourth in Europe. It borders eight countries.

It has an area of 83,871 km2 and is inhabited by 8,712,137 residents.

As the seat of about 40 international organizations, about 320 bilateral and multilateral diplomatic representations with about 3,800 diplomats and more than 6,000 international officials, Vienna—the capital of Austria—is a hub of international diplomacy and hence remains one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Austria entered the Schengen Agreement in 1995 while implemented it in 1997.

Read Also: Austrian Schengen Visa Application Requirements

Belgium

Famous for its medieval towns and Renaissance architecture, the Western Europe state is among the pioneers of Schengen Area back then in 1985.

The country has per capita income of $42658 and enjoys highest life expectancy in the world.

Brussels is the capital of Belgium. The city is also the administrative capital of the European Union, and hence, often referred to as the capital city of EU.

Belgium is among five pioneer members of the Schengen Area. The country started implementation of Schengen Agreement in 1995.

Read Also: Belgium Schengen Visa Application Requirements

Czech Republic

A relatively modern Central European state formed in 1993 after peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic is a landlocked country famous for its ornate castles, native beers, and long history.

The country spans over an area of 78,866km2 and is home to 10.6 million residents.

The country entered Schengen club in 2003 but implemented it in 2007.

Prague—its capital—is home to grand 9th-century Prague Castle, a preserved medieval old town and statue-lined Charles Bridge.

Read Also: Czech Republic Schengen Visa Application Requirements

Denmark

World’s least corrupt country along with New Zealand, Denmark—the southernmost European state—spans over an area of 43094 km2 and is home to 5.7 million people.

Denmark entered Schengen club in 1996 and implemented it in 2001.

Copenhagen is the capital of the Nordic country. Denmark’s residents have one of the highest standards of living in the whole world.

Read Also: Denmark Schengen Visa Application Requirements

Estonia

Formerly part of mighty Soviet Union, the tiny Northern European country declared independence on 20th of August, 1991 during a coup attempt in Moscow.

It spans over an area of 45,226 km2 and is home to 1.36 mln people. Blessed with rich history, the tiny state is dotted with castles, churches and hilltop fortresses.

The government signed the Schengen agreement on 16 April 2003 and started its implementation on 21 December 2007.

Estonia enjoys a moderate per capita income of USD 31000.

Read Also: Estonia Schengen Visa Application Requirements

Finland

Being the happiest and most eco-friendly country in the world, Finland is home to the 18th-century sea fortress Suomenlinna, the fashionable Design District, and diverse museums. The Northern Lights can be seen from the country’s Arctic Lapland province, a vast wilderness with national parks and ski resorts.

Finland has an area of 338,145 km2 and is inhabited by 5.5 million people.

The Scandinavian country entered Schengen club in 1996 and started its implementation in March 2001.

Read Also: Finnish Schengen Visa Application Requirements

France

Medieval cities, alpine villages and Mediterranean beaches make France most visited country in Europe. Paris—the capital city—is nothing less but the only fashion capital of the world.

It is the third largest country of Europe in terms of size with an area of 551,695 km2 and is home to 67.12 million people. France is also among the five pioneer members who founded the Schengen Area in 1985.

It implemented the agreement in 1995.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for France

Germany

Germany—Europe’s biggest economy and most populous nation— encompasses an area of 357,386 km2. Economic prowess lands Germany’s passport on the third spot in the category of most powerful passports in the world. Officials started issuing German Schengen Visa in 1995.

The Western Europe state is rich with a landscape of forests, rivers, mountain ranges, and the North Sea beaches.

Its capital Berlin dates back to 13th century and is known for its art scene and modern landmarks like the gold-colored, swoop-roofed Berliner Philharmonie, built in 1963.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Germany

Greece

Greece—often dubbed as the cradle of the Western Civilization—is located in Southern and Southeast Europe. The country is home to 11 million people.

The country is termed as the birthplace of democracy, western literature, historiography, political science, Olympic games, etc.

The Hellenic Republic joined Schengen Area in 1992 and started implementing the agreement in 2000. Despite that, none of its immediate neighbors has joined the same landmark agreement yet.

Greece’s unique cultural heritage makes it an ideal destination for tourism as it is the ninth most-visited European country with nearly 22 million tourists traveling every year to explore the rich history and scenic beauty.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Greece

Hungary 

A landlocked country situated in Central Europe, Hungary is known for its capital Budapest which is dissected by Danube River.

The modern state came into being after a split of Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I. It is the world 57th largest economy in term of nominal GDP.

Hungary joined Schengen Area in 2003 but started implemented it in 2007.

The country has an area of 93,030 km2 and is home to 9.7 million people. Hungary is also famous for medical tourism.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Hungary

Iceland

Dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and lava fields define the tiny Nordic state which is home to just 348,580 people.

The country spans over an area of 103,000 km2. It is the most sparsely populated country in Europe.

The tiny state entered Schengen club first in 1996 but signed another agreement in May 1999 while annulling the first one.

Iceland finally started the implementation of the agreement on 25 March 2001. The country received the least number of visa application among European states.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Iceland

Italy

Once home to mighty Roman Empire, Italy has left an undeniable mark on both ancient and modern Western civilizations. The country is located at heart of Mediterranean Sea and spans over an area of 301,338 km2.

Italy is home to 60.57 million people. It is the fourth largest economy of the European Union.

Italy—during its renaissance period—became the leader of Europe in the art with astounding achievements in music, literature, painting, sculpture, and philosophy. Though Rome is the capital of modern Italy, Venice remains the top tourist destination of the country. Transportation within Venice happens on boats only. The city encompasses over 100 islands and does not have even a single road.

Italy entered Schengen Area in 1990 but started abolition of borders in 1996.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Italy

Latvia

Latvia is a small European state located on the Baltic Sea and spans over an area of 64,589 km2. The country is home to just 1.95 million people.

The tiny Baltic state restored its independence in 1991.

Its capital Riga is home to many museums and concert halls. The country entered Schengen Area in 2003 whereas it started abolishment of its land and sea borders in 2007 whereas abolished airport border controls in 2008 under Schengen Agreement.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Latvia

Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is a landlocked German-speaking microstate spanning over a territory of 160 km2. It has a population of 37,800 people.

Liechtenstein is the last country to join the Schengen Area. It entered the Schengen club in 2008 and abolished its border in 2011. The country has the highest per capita income in the world.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Liechtenstein

Lithuania

Modern Lithuania emerged from the ashes of the former mighty Soviet Union in 1990. The country spans over a territory of 65,300 km2 and is home to 2.84 million people.

The Human Development Index of the United Nations lists the tiny Baltic state as ‘very high human development’ country.

The country joined Schengen bandwagon in 2003 and subsequently abolished its national borders in 2007.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Lithuania

Luxembourg

What makes this tiny European country special is the historical fact that the Schengen Agreement has been named after one of its town ‘Schengen’, a small wine-making area and commune in the far south-eastern country. This makes Luxembourg one of the five founding members of the Schengen area.

Luxembourg is a territory of 2,586 km2 inhabited by 575,747 residents. Despite being such a tiny nation, the country is the second richest country in terms of per capita income whereas it has the highest minimum wages in Europe.

Malta

Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast. It’s a nation known for historic sites related to a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of Saint John, French and British.

It has an area of just 316 km2 with a population of just 429,362 residents. The country became part of Schengen Area in 2003 and started implementing the agreement in 2007.

Despite being such a small country in terms of both population and size, the country received mammoth 37,881 visa applications in 2017.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Malta

Netherlands

The literal meaning of the Netherlands is ‘lower countries’. The word refers to low land and flat geography.

The country has an area of 41,500 square kilometers, yet it is being inhabited by 17.25 million people making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

This northwestern European state is famous for Tulips, windmills, cheese, beer, bicycles, and canals.

Apart from being the founding member of Schengen Area, the country is also the founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G10, NATO, OECD, and WTO.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for the Netherlands

Norway

Norway is a Scandinavian country encompassing mountains, glaciers, and deep coastal fjords. Oslo, the capital, is a city of green spaces and museums. Preserved 9th-century Viking ships are displayed at Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum. Bergen, with colorful wooden houses, is the starting point for cruises to the dramatic Sognefjord.

Norway is also known for fishing, hiking, and skiing, notably at Lillehammer’s Olympic resort.

Norway became a signatory to the convention in 1996. The country inked a second agreement in 1999 after annulling the first one. The implementation started in March 2001.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Norway

Poland

Poland is the eighth biggest country in the European Union in terms of population. The country covers an area of 306,230 square kilometers and is home to 38.1 million people. Poland became a member of Schengen Area in 2003 whereas it started issuing Polish Schengen Visa in 2007.

Warsaw is the sprawling capital of Poland. Its widely varied architecture reflects the city’s long, turbulent history, from Gothic churches and neoclassical palaces to Soviet-era blocks and modern skyscrapers.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Poland

Portugal

Portugal, best known for being home to iconic footballer Christiania Ronaldo, was once one of the largest and long-lived colonist empires in the modern history and existed for almost six centuries. During its peak, the country has conquered whole Brazil and Canada among other countries in Asia and Africa.

The westernmost European country is a territory of 92,391 km2 and is home to 10.3 million residents.

The coastal and hilly city Lisbon is its capital. It has been recognized as an alpha-level global city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Study Group.

The country entered the Schengen club in 1991 and started its implementation in 1995.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Portugal

Slovakia

Modern Slovakia emerged on the map of the world after peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993. This central European state is known for its breathtaking landscape and historical sites.

Slovakia has an area of 5.43 million residing over an area of 49,035 square kilometers. Bratislava is its capital.

The country singed Schengen Agreement in 2003 and implemented it in 2007 after the abolition of borders.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Slovakia

Slovenia

This tiny state, spreading over an area of 20,273 square kilometers, is located in Central Europe and is home to 2.07 million people.

The country joined the Schengen Area on 16 April 2003 and started the full implementation of the convention four years later on 21 December 2007.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Slovenia

Spain

For almost nine centuries, Spain remained part of the Umayyad Dynasty. However, modern Spain includes 17 autonomous regions with diverse geography and cultures. Its area of 505,992 square kilometers makes it the fourth largest country of Europe. Spain is the sixth largest economy of the region.

Spain is also the second largest country in Europe in terms of population and is home to 46.3 million people.

The country often makes headlines due to football clubs and bullfights.

Madrid is the capital of Spain and is also home to world’s richest football club Real Madrid.

Spain signed the Schengen Agreement in 1991 and started its implementation in 1995.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Spain

Sweden

Sweden is a Scandinavian nation with thousands of coastal islands and inland lakes, along with vast boreal forests and glaciated mountains.

The country has an area of 449,964 km2 and is home to 9.8 million Swedes.

Stockholm is its capital city encompassing 14 islands and more than 50 bridges on an extensive Baltic Sea archipelago. The cobblestone streets and ochre-colored buildings of Gamla Stan (the old town) are home to the 13th-century Storkyrkan Cathedral, the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum, which focuses on the Nobel Prize.

Sweden entered the Schengen Agreement in 1996 while started its implementation in 2001.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Sweden

Switzerland

This landlocked non-EU country is amongst the richest countries in the world in terms of per capita income. The economic superiority gives its residents one of the highest living standards in the world.

The country is best known for its ski resorts and hiking trails. Banking and finance are key industries whereas Swiss watches and chocolate are world renowned.

It is a territory of 41,285 km² which is inhabited by 8.4 million people.

It became part of Schengen Area in 2004 while borders were abolished in 2008.

Read Also: Schengen Visa Application Requirements for Switzerland

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