What the 'Schengen Area' means for your European business trip

By Chris C., October 16 2018
What the 'Schengen Area' means for your European business trip

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.

Read: Skip those London passport queues with a UK Registered Traveller card

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.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2014

Total posts 51

Worth noting that just because there's no passport control doesn't mean that you can just leave your passport in one country and pick it up again when you leave the EU, as you may be required to have it for ID for other purposes.

Also, individual countries can suspend Schengen rules for certain reasons - for example, France currently imposes passport controls for all flights since the last spate of terrorist incidents.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

Regarding additional passport checks: while I've found that can be the case, I've also found that even where it says online that country-specific border checks are taking place, they aren't always taking place at every border, or on every day.

For example, I've previously visited France during the country's 'state of emergency' where these were apparently also implemented, but faced no border checks at all when flying in from Italy.

Similarly, it's reported online that Germany is also currently implementing some border checks, but I faced none when flying from Frankfurt to Rome recently.

You'll generally need your passport to be able to check-in for your flight (and later, your hotel) anyway, so in that respect, you certainly wouldn't leave it in one country while you visit another.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Sep 2012

Total posts 236

Interesting article. As you've both alluded to, there are still ad-hoc checks made on intra-Schengen passenger traffic and this sometimes involves profiling as well at the arrival gate. I've lived in Europe for several years now and see it often but there is no obvious pattern. Nevertheless, travel intra-Schengen is still fairly seamless.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 584

anyone who leaves their passport in another country is just asking for trouble

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 517

My post might be coming a bit late but for what it's worth it's very much relevant both to pre and post Covid travel within Europe. Foreigners from outside the EU should always carry their passport with them, which may or may not be inspected within the EU zone, outside of hotels and banks. Some European countries I believe make it mandatory to have ID on you, so Australians should carry their passports. EU/Schengen member countries can carry an ID card in lieu of a passport, which of course also applies to Aussie/Schengen country dual citizens.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Mar 2017

Total posts 29

Some Shengen countries have separate arrengements with Australia over and above the standard 90 days in any six month period. Germany for example, offers Australian travellers an additional three months after the initial 3 months in Shengen. This year, I spent 4 months in Shengen on an Australian passport - all quite legally. I entered France June and spent one month travelling around France and Italy. Then I flew to London for a week and then to Berlin, where I spent 3 months - all quite legally. I got it in writing from the German embassy before I left Australia - in case I had any trouble. I flew out of Berlin in October and the immigration guy noted that I had spent a month in Europe, prior to my arrival in Berlin for three months. I was about to reach for my letter, but he just smiled and stamped my passport and said 'Gute Reise'. I believe there are a few other Euro countries that have these special agreements with Australia also - Austria, Spain, France and Denmark that I know of. But best to check with their respective embassies to be sure. The thing is, in my case, the embassy stressed that I had to fly out of Germany at the end to qualify. If I had flown out of another Shengen country, after these three months in Germany, I may have had an overstay problem.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 May 2018

Total posts 69

Hi Chris

I have found that they are more interested in swiping your passport.. then stamping it.. and that applies to plane/train/ship.

haven't have any problems re timing..etc

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

20 Jan 2018

Total posts 39

Same with me. I spent 6 months working in arctic Norway. I was counting the days carefully, because I didn't want trouble on departure. I had 3 trips back to Australia in that time as my brother was dying. I kept a detailed Excel spreadsheet of days in Schengen and days outside. In the end, it's exactly as Racala described.....all they wanted was to stamp the passport, no questions at all!!

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