Schengen Visa: Travel to EU from UK

IN THIS SECTION

In this guide, we look at the Schengen visa rules, providing practical guidance for those travelling from the UK to EU Schengen member states, including what activities this type of visa will allow and what countries are included, to how to submit a Schengen visa application.

 

What is a Schengen visa?

If you are a national of a country which has not yet reached a visa-liberalisation agreement with Schengen member states, you will need to obtain a visa before travelling to Europe from the UK. A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa that allows overseas nationals to travel to any country in the Schengen Area for a period of up to 90 days for permissible purposes, such as going on holiday, or visiting friends and family, or for business-related reasons.

As such, the Schengen visa is the most common visa for European travel. This is because it enables the visa-holder to enter, and to freely travel within, and then leave the Schengen Area from any one of the Schengen member countries. There are no border controls within the Schengen Area, where this visa-free area now covers most European countries.

A list of those countries whose citizens need a Schengen visa to go to Europe, as well as who can travel visa-free, can be found online on the ‘Schengen visa info’ website. Although the UK is not a member of the Schengen Area, British citizens can travel visa-free across Europe for a maximum of 90 days. Further, as from 2014, all British Overseas Territories citizens, British Overseas citizens, British Protected Persons and British Subjects have also been allowed to travel visa-free to the Schengen Area for up to 90 days.

 

What does a Schengen visa allow?

Following the abolishment of internal border checks in a number of European countries under the Schengen Agreement back in 1985 — bringing an end to border control between member countries and with various other European countries signing up since — as a Schengen visa-holder, you will be able to travel across Europe under a uniform visa.

A Schengen visa will essentially allow you to visit any country within the Schengen Area, although it is only designed for short trips, usually no more than 90 days in any 180-day period. It is also only intended for limited purposes, including tourism and business trips.

As such, if you are planning to undertake paid employment or anything more than a short recreational course of study, you may need to apply for a national visa of the European country that you plan to work or study in. Equally, if you are planning to visit Europe for more than 90 days, you may again need to apply for an appropriate national visa.

 

Which are the Schengen countries?

The Schengen Area currently comprises 27 European countries, covering most EU countries, with the exception of Ireland, but with Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus soon to become Schengen member states. Although not members of the European Union, countries like Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Lichtenstein are also part of the Schengen Area.

In addition, there are countries that do not form part of the Schengen Area, but still allow citizens of non-Schengen countries to enter and stay in their territories by showing a valid double or multiple-entry Schengen visa. These include Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. The Azores, Canary Islands and Madeira are also special members of the EU and part of the Schengen Area, even though these are located outside the European continent.

 

How do you get a Schengen visa from the UK?

Not every overseas national living or temporarily residing in the UK will be required to obtain a Schengen visa when travelling from the UK to a European country. Equally, not every UK resident is eligible to apply for a Schengen visa while living in the UK. However, for those thinking about travelling to any one or more of the Schengen member states, there is a useful online eligibility checker to determine if a Schengen visa will be needed. This can also be used to check if an application for a visa can be made from the UK.

For example, an American citizen living in the UK can usually travel to the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period without obtaining a Schengen visa. In contrast, a US citizen who has previously been denied entry to the Schengen Area will be required to obtain a Schengen visa. However, they will only be able to apply from the UK if they have a UK residence permit that will be valid for at least 3 months on their return from the Schengen Area. If they are not residing in the UK or do not have a permit that will be valid for 3 months, they would need to apply for a Schengen visa from the USA.

In contrast, an Indian citizen living in the UK cannot travel to the Schengen Area without first obtaining a Schengen visa. This is because they are not from a country that has a visa liberalisation agreement with the EU. However, provided an Indian citizen holds a legal residency permit in the UK for a minimum of 3 months after returning from the Schengen Area, they will be eligible to apply for a Schengen visa from the UK to travel to Europe.

As with the example above, if the Indian citizen is not a legal resident in the UK or will not have sufficient time left on any residency permit on their return to the UK, they would need to leave the UK and apply for a Schengen visa from their home country.

 

Where do you make a Schengen visa application?

To apply for a Schengen visa from within the UK, you have to be a UK resident. Any nonresidents, such as tourists and travellers, cannot submit their visa application from the UK. Instead, they will need to apply for a Schengen visa at a Schengen embassy or consulate in their home country. Equally, for those living in the UK but whose residence permit will not be valid for at least 3 months beyond the date they plan to leave the Schengen Area, will again need to make an application from their home country, unless they are able to apply to extend their stay in the UK before applying for a Schengen visa.

However, for those overseas nationals living in the UK who are eligible to make a Schengen visa application from the UK, they will need to apply to the appropriate Schengen embassy or consulate. All of the Schengen states are represented in the UK by embassies and consulates where, depending on your purpose and proposed length of stay, there are certain specifications to help clarify at which embassy or consulate within the UK you should apply.

For example, if you are visiting only one Schengen country, you will need to apply to the embassy or consulate for the country of destination. However, if you are visiting more than one Schengen country, you should apply at the embassy or consulate for the country where you plan to stay the longest, ie; your main destination. In cases where you will be visiting more than one Schengen country for equal lengths of time, you must apply at the embassy or consulate representing the Schengen country that you will physically enter first.

 

How to apply for a Schengen visa

Before applying for a Schengen visa, you will first need to determine whether you need this type of visa, depending on the purpose of your travel and your nationality. Having established the need for a Schengen visa, before applying you will next need to decide on your travel plans, calculating the number of days you plan to be in the Schengen Area, the countries you are going to visit, if more than one, as well as the country or countries from which you will enter and exit. You can then begin the process of setting up an appointment at the right Schengen embassy or consulate, either in the UK or your country of residence.

In March 2023, EU Member States confirmed agreement to a new digital application process for the Schengen visa, with the aim of fully digitalising the EU visa procedure. The development of the platform is expected to start in 2024 and could potentially become operational in 2026, with all EU Member States using the platform by 2031. In the meantime, travellers are required to apply through the existing process.

To apply for a Schengen visa, you will need to book an in-person appointment at the embassy or consulate of your selected destination country. You will also need to pay the relevant fee and download a visa application form on which you must set out your reasons for visiting the Schengen Area and other details regarding your trip. You will need to submit your completed application form and supporting documents to the consular officer when you attend for your interview, where your application must be submitted at least 15 days before the start of your planned journey but cannot be lodged earlier than 6 months.

When making a Schengen visa application from the UK, you will need to provide various documents in support. This documentation must include a valid passport, a valid UK residence permit, a passport photo in the appropriate format, a cover letter explaining the purpose of your visit, proof of travel arrangements to and from the Schengen Area, proof of valid travel insurance, as well as proof of accommodation and financial means. You will also need evidence of employment, self-employment, retirement or studies in the UK.

 

How much does it cost to apply for a Schengen visa?

The cost of applying for a Schengen visa from the UK is £73 or €80 for an adult, and £36.50 or €40 for a child aged between 6 and 12 years. For children under 6, it is free.

 

How long does a Schengen visa last?

A Schengen visa will allow you to visit any of the Schengen countries during the same trip within the validity period of your visa. However, depending on the reason and frequency of your visits, you will be issued with either a single-entry, double or multiple-entry visa. The validity of any single-entry visa will depend on the number of days you wish to be in the Schengen Area as stated on your visa application form, although the decision as to the period of validity will rest with the issuing Schengen embassy or consulate.

 

When is ETIAS due to take effect for visa-free travel?

There are currently over 60 countries that are not in the European Union but whose citizens can enter the Schengen Area for the purposes of tourism or business for up to 90 days without needing a visa. However, with a view to making its borders more secure, citizens of countries entitled to enter the Schengen Area visa-free will soon need to obtain authorisation under the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

This is a new form of electronic travel authorisation to monitor all visitors from countries who do not need to obtain a visa to enter the Schengen Area. Once ETIAS becomes fully operational in November 2023, this system will be used to screen travellers, cross-checking various databases to ensure that these people do not pose a security threat. When ETIAS comes into effect, this will resemble the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which serves a similar security-related purpose for those travelling to the States.

 

Schengen visa FAQs

Is UK still part of Schengen visa?

The UK is not a part of the Schengen Area, where overseas nationals living in the UK may need a Schengen visa to travel to Europe. However, British citizens can still travel across Europe visa-free for up to 90 days.

What are the 4 types of Schengen visas?

The 4 types of Schengen visa include the Type A airport transit visa, the Type B transit visa valid for 5 days, the Type C visa for short stays or the Type D national visa issued only in special cases.

Which countries are eligible for Schengen visa?

If you are a national of a country which has not yet reached a visa-liberalisation agreement with the Schengen member states, you will need to obtain a Schengen visa before travelling to Europe for a holiday or short business trip.

Which is the Schengen countries?

The Schengen Area currently comprises 27 European countries, covering most European Union (EU) countries, with the exception of Ireland. Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein also form part of the Schengen Area, although they are not members of the EU.

Do I need a Schengen visa after Brexit UK?

Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, British citizens can travel across Europe’s Schengen Area without a visa for up to 90 days. Some overseas nationals living in the UK can also travel to Europe visa-free.

Is it easy to get Schengen visa in UK?

It is easy to get a Schengen visa in the UK if you have not previously been denied entry to the Schengen Area and your UK residence permit will be valid for at least another 3 months on your return.

Last updated: 30 March 2023

Author

Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Contact DavidsonMorris
Get in touch with DavidsonMorris for general enquiries, feedback and requests for information.
Sign up to our award winning newsletters!
We're trusted