Currently, Schengen Area consists of 26 member countries. All of these
countries are located in Europe, from which:

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  • 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.
  • Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City have opened their borders with, but are not members of the visa free zone.
  • The Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands are special members of the EU and part of the Schengen Zone even that they are located outside the European continent.
  • There are six more EU members, that have not joined Schengen zone: Ireland and United Kingdom – that still maintain opt-outs and Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus – that are seeking to join soon.

The external borders of the Schengen Zone reach a distance of 50,000 km long, where 80% of it is comprised of water and 20% of land. The area counts hundreds of airports and maritime ports, many land crossing points, an area of 4,312,099 km2, and a population of 419,392,429 citizens.

Note: Although most of the Schengen countries are in the European Union, you should not confuse the Schengen Area with the EU.

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Freedom and security for travellers

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The Schengen provisions abolish checks at the Union's internal borders, while tightening controls at the external borders, in accordance with a single set of rules. These rules cover several areas:

  • a common set of rules applying to people crossing the EU external borders, including the types of visa needed and how checks at external borders have to be carried out
  • harmonisation of the conditions of entry and of the rules on visas for short stays (up to three months)
  • enhanced police cooperation (including rights of cross-border surveillance and hot pursuit)
  • stronger judicial cooperation through a faster extradition system and transfer of enforcement of criminal judgments
  • establishment and development of the Schengen Information System (SIS)
  • documents needed for travelling in Europe.

Schengen Area as of 1/7/2013

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Free movement in Europe

Originally, the concept of free movement was to enable the European working population to freely travel and settle in any EU State, but it fell short of abolishing border controls within the Union. A break-through came in 1985 when cooperation between individual governments led to the signing, in Schengen (a small village in Luxembourg), of the Agreement on the gradual abolition of checks at common borders, followed by the signing in 1990 of the Convention implementing that Agreement. The implementation of the Schengen Agreements started in 1995, initially involving seven EU States. Born as an intergovernmental initiative, the developments brought about by the Schengen Agreements have now been incorporated into the body of rules governing the EU. Today, the Schengen Area encompasses most EU States, except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom.
However, Bulgaria and Romania are currently in the process of joining the Schengen Area. Of non-EU States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined the Schengen Area.

Conditions for joining the Schengen Area

Joining the Schengen Area is not merely a political decision. Countries must also fulfil a list of pre-conditions, such as be prepared and have the capacity to:

  • take responsibility for controlling the external borders on behalf of the other Schengen States and for issuing uniform Schengen visas
  • efficiently cooperate with law enforcement agencies in other Schengen States in order to maintain a high level of security once border controls between Schengen countries are abolished
  • apply the common set of Schengen rules (the so-called "Schengen acquis"), such as controls of land, sea and air borders (airports), issuing of visas, police cooperation and protection of personal data
  • connect to and use the SIS.

Applicant countries undergo a "Schengen evaluation" before joining the Schengen Area and periodically thereafter to ensure the correct application of the legislation.

Visa Information for Schengen countries

A holder of a Uniform Schengen visa can travel to all 26 member countries of the Schengen Area:

Denmark ETIAS Application for Travel To Finland France
Belgium Estonia Czech Republic