This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel.
If your business travels take you to Europe, there’s a good chance you’ll visit the ‘Schengen Area’: a network of 27 countries that share open borders, including popular destinations such as France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
This means you won’t go through passport control when travelling across internal borders: only when you first arrive in the Schengen Area, and when you depart for a country further afield, which makes flying between Schengen countries much like a domestic flight.
Here’s what you need to know about visiting the world's largest visa-free zone on your next business trip.
The Schengen Area: which countries are included?
Not all countries that belong to the European Union are part of the Schengen Area, while several countries outside the EU do take part – here’s the full list:
Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
For example, Switzerland is not an EU member country but does belong to the Schengen Area, so traveling between Switzerland and Italy – both Schengen Area countries – does not have passport control.
However, some EU member states like the United Kingdom and Ireland are not party to the Schengen Area, so taking a flight from Frankfurt to London would see you clear outbound passport control in Germany when you leave the Schengen Area, and separately, inbound UK passport control upon your arrival.
Three countries also share open borders with the Schengen Area but don’t technically belong, these being Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. So, if you’re travelling between, say, France and Monaco, you’d only know you’d crossed the border by looking on a map or spotting a sign by the road.
The Schengen Area: do you need a travel visa?
If you're a citizen of a non-EU/Schengen country and plan to travel to the Schengen Area for business, tourism, or other short-term purposes, you may be required to apply for a Schengen Visa.
This visa is widely considered the go-to option for Europe, as it allows individuals to travel freely within the Schengen Area for up to 90 days per 180-day period.
It applies to visitors from over 100 countries, including popular destinations such as China, India and Turkey; however, some countries, such as Australia, are exempt from the visa requirement, and can enjoy the same benefits as visa holders without needing to apply for one.
The cost of the standard Schengen Visa fee for adults is €80 (AUS$126), but there are certain categories of applicants who may be eligible for a reduced fee based on factors such as age, nationality, and purpose of visit.
If you travel frequently to Europe, there's also the possibility to apply for a 5-year multiple-entry Schengen Visa. However, this doesn't grant unlimited stay within the Schengen Area, with holders still subject to the 90/180 rule.
The Schengen Area: travel documents required for non-EU nationals
If you are a non-EU/Schengen country national, you will need to present several documents on arrival in order to be granted entry.
These documents include:
- A valid passport issued within the last 10 years and valid for at least three months beyond the date you plan to leave the EU
- A Schengen Visa if you're a citizen of one of the non-EU/Schengen countries requiring one.
In addition to these documents, EU/Schengen border officials may also request other information to verify your eligibility, such as proof of sufficient funds, travel insurance, a round-trip airline ticket, an invitation letter, or the purpose and duration of your visit.
The Schengen Area: visiting with an Australian passport
Aussie travellers can spend up to 90 days in the Schengen Area within any 180-day period for business or leisure, measured from the day you enter the Schengen Area until the day you depart, with no visa required.
That counter applies across all Schengen Area countries, so if you’ve spent 60 days in Germany over the past 180 days, you can only spend a further 30 days in the Schengen Area visa-free, with any additional travel only possible when enough time has passed for that count to reset, or at least, for your tally to be reduced.
Realistically, unless you’re spending more than half your time in the Schengen Area throughout the year, that limitation shouldn’t be an issue: but if you are planning to stay in one of the Schengen countries for longer than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a national visa of that European country, which will also be valid for the rest of the Schengen Area.
When visiting the Schengen Area, you’ll only receive passport stamps when you enter and when you exit – not when you travel between Schengen Area countries.
For instance, if you arrive in Germany, continue you trip in Italy and Switzerland and then depart for London, you’ll receive an entry stamp in Germany and an exit stamp when leaving Switzerland, with no passport control between Germany and Italy or between Italy and Switzerland.
The Schengen Area: FAQs
Is a multiple-entry Schengen Visa more expensive than a single-entry one?
No, regardless of whether you're granted a single-entry Schengen Visa or a multiple-entry one, the cost remains the same.
How can I apply for a Schengen Visa?
To apply for a Schengen Visa, simply put together all the required documents (you can find the complete list here), set up a visa appointment at one of the Schengen consulates in your country and you’re all set.