Schengen Fact Sheet
Travel to European Countries in the Schengen Area
Check the expiration date on your passport carefully before traveling to Europe. Entry into any of the 26 European countries in the Schengen area for short-term tourism, a business trip, or in transit to a non-Schengen destination, requires that your passport be valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure. If your passport does not meet the Schengen requirements, you may be refused boarding by the airline at your point of origin or while transferring planes. You could also be denied entry when you arrive in the Schengen area. For this reason, we recommend that your passport have at least six months’validity remaining whenever you travel abroad. You can find passport validity requirements for your destination country, along with other important information, on our Country Specific Information pages. To ensure that your travel plans are not disrupted, plan ahead to renew your passport before traveling. Visit our passport website for more information on applying for a new or renewal passport.
The European countries that make up the Schengen area are enforcing the requirement that short-term tourism or business visitors’ passports be valid for at least three months beyond the intended date of departure from the Schengen area, though adherence varies from country to country. Some Schengen countries assume all travelers will stay the full three months allowed for visa-free visitors, meaning you may not be admitted unless your passport is valid for at least six months, regardless of the duration of your stay. This requirement may also apply if you are transiting a Schengen airport for several hours en route to a non-Schengen destination.
If you are a U.S. citizen with a valid U.S. passport traveling for tourism or business, you can apply to enter the Schengen area without a visa for a period of three months within each six-month period. If you spend three months in the Schengen area during any six-month period, you must wait another three months before you can apply to enter the Schengen area again without a visa. If you do not meet these conditions, or plan to stay in the Schengen area longer than three months, contact the embassy of the country where you plan to spend the majority of your time to apply for a visa.
When you first cross any external border of the Schengen area and present your passport for entry, an immigration official will determine if you qualify for entry into the Schengen area. You may be denied entry if the officer determines you do not qualify for entry. When moving from one Schengen country to another, you do not need to show your passport until you exit the Schengen area. Ensure your passport is stamped upon entry and exit. For additional information on traveling to and within the Schengen area, see our FAQ below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Schengen Borders Agreement?
The Schengen Borders Agreement permits people to travel freely within the Schengen area (consisting of 26 European countries – see list below), if the traveler otherwise qualifies to enter the Schengen area, by crossing an official external border during regular hours of operation and obtaining an entry stamp in the passport.
How does the Schengen Agreement affect my travel to Europe?
- If you are a qualified visitor for tourism or business with a valid U.S. passport, you can apply to enter the Schengen area without a visa for a period of three months within each six months period. Please check our Country Specific Information page for passport validity requirements for your destination country.
- You can travel freely from one member country to another without presenting your passport at each country’s border within the Schengen area.
- Note: A country may reintroduce border controls at internal borders temporarily when facing a serious threat to public policy or security.
Can I enter the Schengen area without a visa?
- Yes, if you are a U.S. citizen with a valid U.S. tourist passport (blue passport) traveling for tourism or business for up to three months.
- If you do not meet these conditions, contact the embassy of the country where you plan to spend the majority of your time.
How does the agreement work?
- When you first cross any external border of the Schengen area, present your passport for an entry stamp.
- Immigration officials will decide if you qualify for entry into the Schengen area.
- Note: Be sure to ask the official to stamp your passport since you are responsible for proving you have legally entered the Schengen area.
- When moving from one member country to another, you do not need to show your passport until you exit the Schengen area, which must be no more than three months after your initial entry.
- During each six months period, you will have three months of visa-free travel within the Schengen area.
- When you leave the Schengen area after three months, you must wait another three months before you can apply to enter the Schengen area again without a visa.
- Ensure your passport is stamped upon exiting the Schengen area.
Does the Schengen Borders Agreement apply to students, interns, or workers?
- Before you travel, contact the embassy of the country where you want to study, work, or do an internship to determine if you will need to apply for a visa for the type of activity you wish to pursue.
- Wait to receive the visa, if required, before traveling to any country in the Schengen area.
- Find out beforehand all entry requirements for each country you will visit or transit en route to your destination.
What do I need to enter the Schengen area?
- A U.S. passport (with applicable visas, if needed), valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure from the Schengen area.
- A justifiable reason for your travel.
- Proof of sufficient financial resources to support yourself during your stay.
- Compliance with any other entry requirements for each country you will visit or transit.
What happens if I am denied entry?
- You are subject to the foreign country’s laws and regulations.
- You are financially responsible for returning to your place of origin outside the Schengen area.
- You may contact the embassy of the country you wish to visit to learn more about its entry requirements and to find out whether you need a visa to enter the Schengen area.
How can the U.S. government help me if I am denied entry?
- We can give you contact information of foreign embassies of the countries you wish to visit.
- We can provide information regarding hiring an English-speaking foreign attorney overseas if you choose to do so.
- We cannot influence a foreign government’s decision whether to permit your entry, nor can we intervene in another country’s criminal or administrative procedures.
What countries are members of the Schengen Borders Agreement?
- All European Union countries, except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom, are members of the Schengen Borders Agreement.
- In addition, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are also members of the Schengen Borders Agreement (but they are not European Union members).
Learn About Your Destination
Sign your passport, and fill in the emergency information. Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.