Countries in the Schengen Area

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The Schengen Area is an area made up of 29 European countries that have officially abolished border controls at their mutual borders. As an element within the wider area of freedom, security, and justice policy of the European (EU), it mostly functions as a single jurisdiction under a common visa policy for international travel purposes. The area is named after the 1985 Schengen Agreement; the Schengen Agreement was signed on June 14, 1985, and was a treaty that abolished national borders to participating countries.  

There were signed by five countries, to abolish borders and create a passport-free travel zone for their citizens. Schengen is however the name of a small village in Luxembourg, on the border with Germany and France, where the Schengen Agreement and Schengen Convention were signed in 1985 and 1990 respectively. As of March 2024, the Schengen Zone expanded to include 29 European Countries. 

In this article, we will be exploring :

  • The countries in the Schengen area
  • Benefits of being in the Schengen area 
  • How do countries join the Schengen area
  • Benefits of a Schengen Visa

The Countries in the Schengen area

Today, the Schengen area covers over 4 million square kilometers with a population of almost 420 million people and includes 29 countries. The Schengen Area consists of 29 countries, including four not members of the European Union (EU). Two of the non-EU members. Below are the countries in the Schengen area and when they joined.

Countries in the Schengen area - Globus Education Systems

Of the 29 countries within the Schengen area, most are physically located within mainland Europe and are also members of the  European Union (EU). For instance, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and the Netherlands are among the more popular travel destinations in the Schengen and the European Union.

However, the Schengen area does not include two EU countries geographically within Europe ( Cyprus and Ireland) and two outside of it. These four countries, therefore, have separate border controls from their Schengen neighbors. In other words, they require you to apply for a national travel visa.

Cyprus while outside of the Schengen area is legally obliged to join as a member of the European Union eventually. They are currently in the process of fulfilling the necessary conditions to do so.

Meanwhile, The Republic of Ireland is an official member of the EU. However, while playing an active role in certain Schengen Agreement policies, it is not officially included in the Schengen Area.

Benefits of being in the Schengen area

The Schengen area allows more than 400 million people to travel freely between member countries without going through border controls and to promote the principle of the Schengen agreement is to promote political, economic, societal, and international cooperation.

Some benefits however are;

  • Abolition of border checks: Without the Schengen Agreement, the border crossing between neighboring countries would require hundreds or thousands of border check stations to process interstate travel. Therefore, the termination of border checks benefits Schengen countries by encouraging travel between nations, thereby inviting more economic and cultural exchanges that uplift Europe.
  • Fast Trading speed; The long hours spent at border patrol checks are cut down as services and goods are shipped back and forth between member states without hindrance, thus making them more competitive over non-Schengen regions.
  • The Schengen Agreement doesn’t just benefit European citizens from participating countries; foreigners can also see more of Europe thanks to the Schengen Agreement. A key benefit of the Schengen Agreement is its unified visa for travelers to the Schengen Zone.
  • Passport Free;  Travel between European states may not require passports at all. Air travel between European states has virtually no restrictions on Schengen Area participating nations; citizens from the Schengen Zone do not need their passports to travel between Schengen states.

How do countries join the Schengen area

Joining the Schengen Area is not merely a political decision of the joining nation. The countries must fulfill a list of conditions

  • They must apply the common set of Schengen rules (‘Schengen acquis’), regarding border controls, visa issuance, police cooperation, and protection of personal data
  • Schengen countries to maintain a high level of security once internal border controls have been abolished
  • They must take responsibility for controlling the external borders on behalf of other Schengen countries and for issuing uniform Schengen visas.

Countries wishing to join the Schengen area must undergo several evaluations to determine whether they fulfill the conditions necessary for the application of the Schengen rules.

Benefits of a Schengen Visa

A Schengen visa is an authorization issued by a Schengen state that allows travelers to enter the Schengen area for an intended short stay (of no more than 90 days within any 180 days), transits, tourism, business, visiting family, medical treatment, studies, training placements or volunteer activities that last under 3 months, or for other non-gainful activities.

The Schengen Visa allows free movement within the Schengen Area, the European Union Schengen members, and the European Free Trade Association Schengen members. The Visa allows eligible Individuals to travel freely within the 26 participating Schengen Area countries. The Visas include Type A Schengen Visa, Type B Schengen Visa, Type C, and Type D.

Individuals Eligible for unrestricted travel in the Schengen Zone

  • Schengen-country citizens
  • Holders of a residence permit issued by a Schengen country
  • EU/EEA citizens
  • Non-EU individuals from eligible countries who are not required to obtain a visa  for travel of 90 days or less
  • Non-EU individuals with a valid visa

The Schengen Agreement remains a cornerstone of the European Union, reflecting the balance between the benefits of free movement and the challenges of ensuring regional security. As we move further into the 21st century, the Schengen Area continues to adapt to changing circumstances, maintaining its commitment to the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, while evolving to tackle emerging security concerns. The resilience of this agreement is a testament to the power of regional integration and cooperation in the face of myriad complexities.

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