The name "Schengen" originates from a small town in Luxembourg. In June 1985, seven European Union countries signed a treaty to end internal border checkpoints and controls. More countries have joined the treaty over the past years. At present, there are 15 Schengen countries, all in Europe.
As of 21 December 2007, 24 states and Monaco (treated as part of France) had abolished border controls on persons among themselves, an increase from 15 on 20 December 2007. Any non-Schengen traveller having a valid Schengen visa has been allowed to travel throughout these 25 countries from their accession. These states all entered the EU three years previously, they had to upgrade their border checks with non-Schengen states before border controls would be dropped with them. Cyprus, which entered the EU along side these other states, did not meet the criteria and thus has requested a delay for a year, while Romania and Bulgaria, who only joined the EU in 2007, are still bringing their border controls up to the required standard.
The Schengen Visa has made traveling between its 15 European member countries much easier and less bureaucratic. Traveling on a Schengen Visa means that the visa holder can travel to any (or all) member countries using one single visa, thus avoiding the hassle and expense of obtaining individual visas for each country. This is particularly beneficial for persons who wish to visit several European countries on the same trip. The Schengen visa is a “visitor visa”. It is issued to citizens of countries who are required to obtain a visa before entering Europe.
The purpose of the visit must be leisure, tourism, or business. Upon the issuance of the visa, the visa holder is allowed to enter all member countries and travel freely throughout the Schengen area. It is strongly recommended to plan your journey within the timeframe of the Schengen Visa as extensions can be very difficult to obtain, thus forcing you to leave to stay in compliance with the Schengen rules and regulations. A Schengen visa allows the holder to travel freely within the Schengen countries for a maximum stay of up to 90 days in a 6 month period.
All Schengen countries are in Europe. However, it should not be confused with the EU (European Union). Schengen and European Union are two different agreements between European countries. A total of 30 countries, including all European Union countries (except Ireland and United Kingdom) and three non-EU members (Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland) have signed the Schengen agreement. However, only 15 countries have implemented the common border control and visa provisions.
Applications have to meet the requirements of the individual country as well as the additional regulations that the countries have agreed to as part of the Schengen agreement. Visa officers are therefore very thorough in their examination of documents and most precise when considering whether or not they are satisfied that requirements and regulations have been met. Please note that if for any reasons the Schengen visa is rejected, the reason of rejection will NOT be given under any circumstances by any of the Schengen states consulates in whose jurisdiction the visa was rejected.
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