Facts about the Schengen Visa

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The common definition of a visa is: an authorization determined by a foreign country that allows an individual's entry to a country or the opposite. The notion takes a wider sense in the EU: the visa allows the stay in a member state ( of the EU ) or in “several member states”. This regime is called the Schengen visa: it is an outcome of the Schengen agreement.

The appellation refers to the first agreement about the invalidation of border control between 5 countries: Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West-Germany. The agreement was signed in 1985 on the river boat princess Marie-Astrid on the river near the town of Schengen.

14 years later, a convention enforced the invalidation of internal borders and established common visa regulations with two opt-outs for Ireland and the UK.

The UK preserves a “half-in, half-out” status



Now, the Schengen agreement is part of the acquis communautaire ( legislations of the European Union Law ) , and it is binding to all the EU members except countries that chose to keep the opt-out. The UK and Ireland are the two main examples. The UK preserves a “half-in, half-out” status: it maintains its own border controls, yet, UK police nationals are given the right to cross the borders to follow suspects. They can also collaborate with the Schengen area police to have access to SIS database, the thing to which the Schengen member states object. Ireland, on the other hand, chose not not be part of the Schengen agreement to maintain its arrangements with the UK.



The Schengen area, covering 26 European countries with over 419 millions persons, operates like one state only requiring authorization on its external borders.

The 26 countries making up the Schengen area fall into two groups: 22 are EU members and 4 are member states of the EFTA (  European Free Trade Association ).

Five micro-states ( Monaco, San Marion, Vatican, Andorra and Liechtenstein) are de facto members of the EU i.e. not officially members but adopting and putting the visa agreement into practice. Other non-EU members joined the Schengen agreement: Norway and Iceland in 1996, and Switzerland in 2009.

Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus are awaiting for their full membership. Romania and Bulgaria were expection their admission to the Schengen area by March 2012, but they were met with rejection due to lack of consensus by Council of Ministers.

Rigid systems to guarantee the security of the area



The EU has established a set of rules that are common to all the Schengen members. Criteria and consular instructions are essentially made to make sure that if a foreigner's application is rejected by one EU member state, the rejection is valid in all other Schengen members. Along with that, visitors intending to travel inside the Schengen area need to have a passport valid for at least 3 months and the duration of their stay, in the overall area, mustn't exceed 3 months.

Those consular instructions are joined with two rigid systems to guarantee the security of the area. First, the white/black list classification : the white list refers to countries whose nationals do not need authorization/visa for entry, the black one refers to “risky countries” whose nationals require visa when intending to cross the external borders of the area. The classification has been updated twice: in 1999 the black list comprised 101 countries and was altered in 2000 to include 131 countries. In the first, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania were part of the negative list. Only Bulgaria and Romania made it to the white list.

Second, a network system was enacted, called the SIS ( Schengen Information System). Its basic function is to detect and ban people, refereed to as “risky people”, from entering the area. The system is deemed “blurry” since it does not set clear procedure of exclusion. Most of individuals accused of being risky are non- Western nationals belonging to the “third country”. 

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 Nidhal Chemkhi