Schengen visa – a document that allows you to visit any country from the Schengen area, which includes 26 countries. These are the main European countries, with the exception of the UK. If you have received a visa in any country that is part of the Schengen zone, then you can freely move around all countries in this zone.

Today the Schengen area includes Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, France, Czech Republic , Sweden, Switzerland and Estonia. De facto, the Schengen area includes three more European micro-states – Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican.

In addition, with an open Schengen visa, you can visit Croatia, Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Andorra and the British territory of Gibraltar.

Is it possible to get Schengen at the consulate of one country, and go to another

This is a rather subtle point. If you do not yet have a Schengen visa, and you are going to fly, for example, to Italy, then the documents must be submitted to the Italian consulate or visa center. This point is clearly spelled out in the EU Visa Code: for a visa, you must apply to the consulate of the country that is the main purpose of the trip.

That is, you should not, for example, plan a trip to Germany, and get a visa to Greece. The Greeks will have questions, and if, out of the kindness of their soul, they still issue you a visa, difficulties will begin in Germany: you may simply not be allowed into the country at passport control (and sometimes they are not put on a plane back in Russia). Remember a simple rule: to avoid problems at the border, get a visa at the consulate of the country you are going to. Got Greek – plan a trip to Rhodes or Athens.

Yes, there are times when border guards are loyal to non-compliance with this rule. Everyone has stories about how someone got a visa to Greece, and entered Berlin with it and talked to the officer at the border. But you don’t want to hit someone very principled and end your journey that way, do you?

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An important addition! If your passport already contains a Schengen visa left over from a previous trip, then you can enter any country in the Schengen area with it. For example, the kind Greeks gave you Schengen for a year, from September 2017 to September 2018. In the fall you flew to Crete on it, and in the spring you want to see Berlin. In this case, you do not need to get a new Schengen in Germany.

Photo: Italy

I want to visit several countries, do I need to get a visa to each?

If these are not countries of the Schengen agreement, then yes, a visa must be obtained in each country (with the exception of countries where Russians are allowed visa-free entry). For example, if you are flying around the world and plan to stay in Germany, Great Britain, the USA, Mexico and Japan, then you need to obtain a visa to each of the listed countries.

With the countries of the Schengen area, everything is a little simpler: one visa is enough. The question remains, in which country to issue it, and here the EU Visa Code comes to the rescue again: a visa must be issued at the consulate of the country where you plan to stay the longest. Are you going to stay in each country for 2-3 days, that is, for an equal time? Then apply for a visa at the consulate of the country you will enter first.

That is, the plan is this: if you are traveling to Germany, but want to go to neighboring Austria and the Czech Republic for a couple of days, apply for a visa to Germany. If you are planning a trip by car from Moscow to Paris via Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany – and stop everywhere for one or two days, no more – apply for a Schengen at the consulate of the country where you will cross the border for the first time – that is, Latvia. But if you plan to stay in Paris for a week, you need a French visa.

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Most importantly, before the trip, print out all hotel reservations and tickets so that the border guards have no questions.

Photo: Greece

I want a Schengen visa for three years! Where to contact?

Plan your trip to the country that is most willing to issue visas to Russians. In 2017, of the Schengen countries, these are Greece, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic and France. In these countries, the likelihood that you will be issued a Schengen for a year (and under some conditions, even three) is the highest.

What are the conditions? If your passport already contains two or more Schengen visas over the past 3 years, and there are no problems with documents, then in the consulates of these countries you will most likely be given a multivisa from 1 to 4 years.

In addition, if your passport already contains an expired visa of the country to which you want to get it again, it is important that the previous visa is correctly opened. This means that, having received a visa to France, you entered France with it at least once. If this condition is met, the chances that you will again be issued Schengen at the French consulate without any problems, but for a longer period, increase.

The least eagerly to issue Schengen visas are the consulates of Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal – here you are more likely to get a visa only for the dates of your trip. In addition, over the past few years, visa documents have been more thoroughly checked at the consulates of Finland – this is due to the increased flow of tourists from St. Petersburg.

Photo: France

Which visa should be indicated in the application form – single or multiple?

To begin with, we note that visas differ in the number of visits to countries: they can be single-entry, double-entry and multiple-entry (the latter are also called multivisa). Everything is simple: with a single-entry visa you can enter the country only once, and if you were given a “cartoon”, you can ride to the Schengen countries as many times as you like – until the visa expires, of course.

When filling out the application form, always indicate the multiple-entry visa! There are cases when people with a large number of Schengen visas in their passports receive a visa only for the dates of travel due to the fact that they requested a single-entry visa in the application form.

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Photo: Norway

How long can I stay in the Schengen countries if I have a multiple entry visa?

Each visa has a column called Duration of stay – this is the number of days that you can stay in the Schengen countries. Usually in multiple visas it is 90 days, and that is how long you can stay in the Schengen countries for 6 months. That is, if you were issued a multivisa for 4 years, then every year you can stay in the Schengen countries for 180 days in total, but no more than 90 days within six months. For example, go to Italy for a week in six months, then to France for the weekend and spend a couple of weeks in Greece. The main thing is that the total number of travel days in six months does not exceed 90.

The term starts from the beginning of the visa validity – the date can be viewed on the stamp in the “From” column. For example, you have received the Italian Schengen, which is valid from October 10, 2017 to October 9, 2019. This means that the countdown of the first half of the year began on October 10.

It is important that these 90 days every six months cannot be carried over or added up. For example, in the first six months of the validity of the visa, you did not go anywhere, but in May you are planning to leave for Italy for the whole summer and still capture October. Such a trip will turn out to be longer than 90 days, which means that you cannot make it – at the latest in July you will need to return to your homeland. Moreover, having used all 90 days of stay in Italy, you will not be able to enter other Schengen countries until the end of the six months.