Heading to Europe in 2024? Here are the latest updates
EU nationals can live and travel within the Schengen area freely without any restrictions. Although certain social security and tax requirements will be necessary, EU citizens do not require a visa. Non-EEA nationals can travel to the Schengen Area with a Schengen visa, however, they cannot stay for longer than 90 days within a 180 period. Although this may seem straightforward and simple, there are complexities that non-EEA citizens should consider.
This article will highlight some of the key considerations for travelling to the Schengen area in 2024.
What is the Schengen Zone?
The Schengen area is a border-free zone between several EU countries. Although almost all EU countries are included within this zone, there are some exceptions that do not permit visa-free travel. Countries that do not currently belong to the Schengen area but are hoping to join include:
NB: Starting from January 1, 2024, citizens of Kosovo have been granted visa-free travel to European Union (EU) countries for stays up to 90 days within a 180-day period. This reciprocal arrangement also permits EU citizens to visit Kosovo without a visa. This policy is part of a wider initiative involving the Western Balkans aimed at facilitating visa-free travel to the EU for the region’s residents.
Beginning March 31, 2024, Bulgaria and Romania will partially join the Schengen Area, allowing for smoother air and sea travel to other Schengen countries without border checks. However, land border controls will remain in place for these countries until further discussions by the European Council. Additionally, starting April 1, 2024, Bulgaria and Romania will start issuing standardized Schengen C visas, as per recent EU directives.
Some other EEA states are already members of the Schengen area. These include:
Citizens who belong to countries within the Schengen zone may travel and spend as much time in those countries as desired. For foreign nationals, a Schengen Visa is in place, which they can apply for to travel within the Schengen zone for up to 90 days.
What does the 90 180-day rule entail?
The rule means that non-EEA nationals, including British citizens (post-Brexit), cannot spend more than 90 days within a 180-day period within the Schengen zone. If non-EEA nationals intend to spend more than 90 consecutive days in the Schengen zone on a Schengen visa, then applicants will be required to apply for a different visa type.
The rule is, however, a little more complex, as there are limits to how the 90 days can be spent. Once non-EU citizens have spent their quota of 90 days, they may not return to the Schengen area for another 90 days. This means only a maximum period of 90 days within a 180-day period is possible. Third-country citizens are advised to count backwards from the 180-day period to ensure they successfully meet the 90 180-day rule. Non-EU citizens who plan to re-enter an EU country can calculate their exit date by using a calculator tool to double-check the time they spent in the Schengen zone.
How do non-EEA citizens apply for a Schengen visa?
A Schengen visa is required for a short trip lasting fewer than 90 days, which is part of the Schengen Area of European countries that have ended border controls. Permissible activities include:
- Attending meetings.
- Visiting clients or trade fairs.
- Meeting or training at a business unit.
- Purchase and sale of products, business transactions and tenders.
- Attending an exhibition, conference, or seminar.
- Taking part in a cultural or sports event.
- Diplomatic visit (diplomats).
- Political visit.
Certain steps need to be followed to apply for a Schengen visa successfully. Applicants must submit their application for a Schengen visa at the Consulate of the country that they intend to visit, or – if they intend to visit more than one Schengen State, the Consulate of the country of their primary destination (i.e. main purpose of stay or longest stay). The procedure to apply includes:
- Fill out the Business Schengen Visa Application form.
- Correctly complete the business visa application on the correct website. The application form contains questions for basic information such as your name, date of birth, country of birth, passport number and nationality. Make sure to check the box that says “business” at the question regarding the purpose of your journey. You may be required to answer questions regarding your purpose of visit.
- Complete the file of documents.
- The individual should ensure that all the relevant documents, application forms and fees are collected and correctly completed.
- Book an appointment
- Anyone who plans on entering the Schengen zone must make an appointment for an interview at his/her local embassy or consulate. The appointment booking can be made via the embassy or online and should be done 6 months prior to leaving for the latest and 2 weeks at the earliest.
On the day of the appointment
- Make sure to be at the interview on time. Any delays could lead to the cancellation of the interview.
- The process will involve the scanning of the applicant’s fingerprints if they have never obtained a Schengen visa previously.
- After the verification of the application, the application form information will be entered into the online system of the consulate or embassy, and they will receive a printed copy of your application. This process usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes.
If you or your employees intend to conduct business in only one country of the Schengen member states, then they will have to apply for a Schengen visa for Business at the embassy of that country in your or their home country. When visiting 2 or more countries when entering the Schengen zone for business purposes, then the individual should apply at the embassy of the country he/she plans to remain in the longest.
All individuals/groups who are not eligible for visa-free entry into the Schengen area are required to present the documents, which include:
- A passport which is certified and valid.
- A completed visa application form.
- A recent picture meets the requirements (it can’t be older than 6 months, must be clear, etc.).
- The individual should have sufficient funds to cover Schengen visa travel insurance and the costs to cover the visa application fee.
- The individual must submit a letter of invitation (which should be provided by the host company).
- There should also be no objection certificate.
- A clear criminal record.
- Show proof that they have relevant accommodation for the duration of the stay.
- Proof of payment of the required visa application fee.
The visa application process usually takes 7-15 working days to complete. However, it could be extended to 30 days or more due to delays.
Update: The EU Is Launching New Entry Requirements.
The European Union (EU) plans to introduce two separate but interconnected schemes affecting non-EU citizens travelling to most EU countries. These are:
- The EU Entry/Exit System (EES) is an automated system for registering travellers from the UK and other non-EU countries each time they cross an EU external border.
- The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is a travel authorisation system to enter the EU for citizens of non-EU countries that do not require a visa to enter the EU.
Applications for an ETIAS authorisation will be made online or via a mobile app. Applicants will be checked against EU information systems for borders and security. According to the European Commission, a travel authorisation will be issued within minutes in most cases. However, some applicants may require further checks, which could delay authorisation for up to 30 days.
The ETIAS authorisation will last for three years (after which it will need to be renewed for future visits) or until the holder’s passport expires (whichever is sooner). It will cost €7 for people aged 18 to 70. However, it will be free for under-18s and over-70s.
UK nationals and their family members who have rights to reside in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement (i.e. they were residents in an EU Member State at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020) are exempt from ETIAS. They can travel to other EU/Schengen countries without an ETIAS authorisation if they hold documents proving their status.
Other non-EU nationals are exempt if they hold resident permits for any country using ETIAS.
According to the European Commission, the system will apply when entering 25 EU countries (all Member States apart from Cyprus and Ireland) and four non-EU countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein) that are part of the border-free Schengen area along with most EU Member States.
The system will apply to all nationals of countries not in the EU or Schengen when travelling to the 29 countries operating EES for short stays. Non-EU citizens who are legal residents or have long-stay visas to live in an EU Member State will be exempt from EES.
If you require you require advice about the 90/180 rule or any assistance with submitting a visa application for a Schengen visa, please do not hesitate to contact us.