Which countries have open borders
Schengen Area - The largest visa-free zone in the world
The Schengen area is an area where 26 European countries have abolished their internal borders for the free and unrestricted movement of people, in accordance with the common rules for the control of external borders and the fight against crime, by strengthening the common judicial system and police cooperation.
The Schengen area covers most of the EU countries with the exception of Ireland and the countries that are about to join the zone; Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus. Although not a member of the EU, it includes countries such as; Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein also join the Schengen zone.
Which countries belong to the Schengen area?
The 26 Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The Schengen area currently consists of 26 member states. All of these countries are in Europe, of which:
- 22 members fully implement the Schengen acquis,
- Four of them - members of EFTA - implement the Schengen acquis through specific arrangements related to the Schengen Agreement.
- Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are associated members of the Schengen area, but not members of the EU.
- Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City have opened their borders but are not members of the visa-free zone.
- The Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands are special members of the EU and part of the Schengen area, even if they are outside the European continent.
- There are five other EU members that have not yet joined the Schengen area: Ireland - which continues to grant opt-outs - and Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus, which are about to join.
The external borders of the Schengen zone reach a length of 50,000 km, of which 80% are water and 20% are land. The area includes hundreds of airports and seaports, many border crossings, an area of 4,312,099 km2 and a population of 419,392,429 people.
Visa information for Schengen countries
A Schengen visa holder can travel to all 26 member states of the Schengen area:
Map of Schengen countries and the EU countries
One of the richest countries in the world, measured by GDP per capita, has an area of 83,871 km2 and is inhabited by 8,712,137 people. The country signed the Schengen Agreement on April 28, 1995. However, implementation began more than two years later on December 1, 1997.
Austria lies in Central Europe and is bordered by 8 countries, more than most other European countries. The capital Vienna is still one of the most popular European travel destinations for tourists.
In 2017 alone, the Austrian embassies worldwide received 304,556 visa applications.
Belgium is one of the first five countries to sign the Schengen Agreement on June 14, 1985 and to start implementing it on March 26, 1995. It is a small and densely populated country with an area of 30,528 km2 and a population of 11,358,379.
The country, located in Western Europe, borders France, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg. The capital, Brussels, is the administrative center of the European Union, which is often referred to as the capital of the EU.
A number of 231,437 travelers from around the world applied for a visa to Belgium in 2017.
Also known as the Czech Republic, the country was only founded in 1993 with the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia. The Central European country has an area of 78,866 km2 and borders Germany in the west, Austria in the south, Slovakia in the east and Poland in the northeast.
It has a population of 10,610,947, of which 64.3% are Czech while the rest are Slovak, Moravian, Ukrainian and other nationalities. The country has a substantial income from tourism, with Prague being the fifth largest city on the old continent.
The Czech Republic signed the Schengen Agreement on April 16, 2003 and began implementing it years later, on December 21, 2007.
Last year, 623,255 foreigners applied for visas at Czech embassies around the world.
Denmark is the southernmost country of the Scandinavian countries. It has an area of 43,094 km2 and is located in the southwest of Sweden and in the south of Norway. In the south it borders on Germany.
The Danish government signed the Schengen Agreement on December 19, 1996 and began implementing it on March 25, 2001. However, Denmark is currently one of the six Schengen countries in which border controls have again been carried out due to the security situation in Europe.
The Nordic country has 5,785,864 inhabitants who have one of the highest standards of living not only in Europe but around the world.
In 2017, 152,467 visa applications were received. Figures show that Denmark took in around 1 million tourists in 2017 compared to 2014.
The land of inventions and innovations and the second most visited Schengen country, Germany, consists of an area of 357,386 km2 and 16 federal states. The most populous EU member state is also the European country that borders most of the other countries.
It borders Western and Central Europe with Denmark in the north, Poland and the Czech Republic in the east. It has Austria in the southeast, Switzerland in the southwest, France, Luxembourg and Belgium in the west and with the Netherlands in the northwest.
The German passport is one of the three most powerful passports in the world, as its 81,914,672 residents can visit 188 countries without a visa.
Germany is one of the five founding countries of the Schengen Agreement, which was signed on June 14, 1985. Implementation began a year later on March 26, 1995.
The northern European Republic of Estonia borders the Baltic Sea in the west, Latvia in the south, the Finnish Sea in the north and the Peipus Sea and Russia in the east. With an area of 45,338 km2 and 1,312,442 inhabitants, it is one of the least inhabited countries in Europe. This lowland also consists of 2,222 islands and islets in the Baltic Sea.
Over the centuries, what is now Estonia has been ruled by the Danes, Swedes and, more recently, the Soviet Union. The government signed the Schengen Agreement on April 16, 2003 and began implementing it on December 21, 2007.
In 2017, the country received 138,249 visa applications. However, figures show that 3.54 million foreigners have entered Estonia, 6.6% more than last year.
The Nordic country known as the Republic of Finland is bordered by Norway to the north, Sweden to the northwest, and Russia to the east. It is famous for its education system and one of the safest and most environmentally friendly countries in the world. Its 5,503,132 inhabitants populate the happiest country in the world.
Finland has an area of 338,145 km2. It signed the Schengen Agreement on December 19, 1996 and began implementing it on March 25, 2001.
It remains one of the most visited Schengen countries since it received 827,520 visa applications in the past year alone. Statistics show that of around 3.1 million tourists who entered Finland in 2017, 1.5 million came from EU countries.
France is the most visited country in Europe. Known for its fine wine, diversity, cultural heritage and luxurious ski resorts, the country attracted 85.7 million foreign tourists in 2013, the highest number ever.
The 551,695 km2 country borders eight European countries: Belgium and Luxembourg in the northeast, Germany and Switzerland in the east, Italy and Monaco in the southeast, and Andorra and Spain in the south and southwest.
64,720,690 inhabitants live here, who can move freely in the Schengen Zone, since the country was one of the five founding countries of the Schengen Area on June 14, 1985. Implementation of the agreement in France began on March 26, 1995.
The cradle of western civilization, Greece is at the crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa. The Hellenic Republic is considered the birthplace of democracy, Western literature, historiography, political science, the Olympic Games and much more.
Despite the fact that the borders have changed during the year, Greece today borders Albania in the northwest, North Macedonia and Bulgaria in the north, and Turkey in the northeast. Greece signed the Schengen Agreement on November 6, 1992 and started implementing it on January 1, 2000, but none of its neighbors have yet joined the area.
The country has an area of 131,990 km2 and 11,183,716 inhabitants. Greece has a unique cultural heritage, beautiful islands and beaches, which makes it a popular destination for many tourists.
In 2017, 1,029,564 visa applications were received from travelers worldwide. This makes it the fifth Schengen country in which the most applications have been received.
The Nordic island country is located in the North Atlantic and is volcanically and geologically active. It has a population of 348,580, two thirds of whom live in the capital Reykjavik and the surrounding area. The country has an area of 103,000 km2.
Ecotourism and whale watching are among the main tourist attractions in Iceland. However, in 2017 the country received 7,610 visa applications, the fewest of all other states.
She signed the Schengen Agreement for the first time on December 19, 1996. She signed a second agreement, which replaced the first on May 18, 1999, after the agreement was transposed into EU law by the Treaty of Amsterdam. Iceland finally started implementing the agreement on March 25, 2001.
The sovereign state of the Italian Republic lies in the heart of the Mediterranean. It has an area of 301,318 km2 and borders France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino and the Vatican City. With 59,429,938 inhabitants, it is the fourth most populous EU member.
Italy is the successor to what is known as the vast Roman Empire, which left a rich history and many cultural attractions and made Italy one of the top travel destinations in Europe. Italy is also the country that gave the world some of the world's most famous scholars, artists and polymaths such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Galileo and Machiavelli.
The implementation of the Schengen Agreement began on October 26, 1997, after it had been signed on November 27, 1990.
In 2017, it was the third Schengen country to receive the most visa applications (1,850,260).
The Republic of Latvia borders Estonia in the north, Lithuania in the south, Russia in the east and Belarus in the south-east. The 64,589 km2 country has 1,970,530 inhabitants.
Latvia is currently a member of the European Union, NATO, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the CBSS, the IMF, the NB8, the NIB, the OECD, the OSCE and the WTO. It signed the Schengen Agreement on April 16, 2003 and started implementing it on December 21, 2007. This made it part of the cross-border European territory.
The capital Riga is known for its architecture, multicultural heritage and the old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Riga was named the European Capital of Culture in 2014.
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked country in the German-speaking area in Central Europe. With an area of only 160 km2 and 37,666 inhabitants, it is the fourth smallest European country.
Liechtenstein borders Switzerland to the west and south and Austria to the east and north. The country is predominantly mountainous and therefore a tempting winter sports destination.
It is the last country to join the borderless Schengen area after signing the agreement on February 28, 2008 and starting its implementation on December 19, 2011.
The 65,300 km² country borders on Latvia in the north, Belarus in the east, Poland in the south and the Kaliningrad region (a Russian exclave) in the south-west. It has a population of 2,908,249 people and uses the euro as its currency.
Lithuanian is one of the oldest languages in the world today. And besides Latvian, it is also one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family. There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lithuania.
Lithuania signed the Schengen Agreement on April 16, 2003 and later began implementing it on December 21, 2007.
In 2017 Lithuania received 413,966 visa applications, more than in countries like Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark or Norway.
Luxembourg is a country with 2,586 km2 and 575,747 inhabitants. It is one of the founding states of the Schengen Agreement, which was signed on June 14, 1985 in Schengen, Luxembourg. The capital Luxembourg is one of the three official capitals of the European Union.
Luxembourg is the second richest country in the world in terms of GDP. It has the highest minimum wage in the EU and is also one of the safest countries in the world.
The motto of the country is "me wëllebleiwewatmirsinn ", which does ______________ mean "We want to stay what we are".
The southern European island country consists of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea with an area of 316 km2 and a population of 429,362 inhabitants.
Despite its small area, the country received a number of 37,881 visa applications in 2017. In terms of tourism, it is best known for its sun, sea and beaches. Some of the most alluring destinations for travelers are also ancient wonders like the 5,000 year old Hagar Qim or the 4,000 year old Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.
Malta signed the agreement on April 16, 2003 and started implementing it on December 21, 2007.
The Netherlands is best known for the colorful tulips, the numerous windmills and the delicious cheese and consists of twelve provinces. The country borders Germany in the east, Belgium in the south and the North Sea in the northwest. It has an area of 41,526 km2 and 16,987,330 inhabitants.
It is a founding member of the EU, the Eurozone, the G10, NATO, the OECD and the WTO. It is also one of the five founding states of the Schengen Agreement signed on June 14, 1985.
The largest port in Europe and the largest port in the world outside of Asia, the Port of Rotterdam is located in the Netherlands. The Western European country has the highest level of English language skills in the world and is the second largest beer exporter in the world after Mexico.
The land of the midnight sun, Norway, has an area of 385,155 km2. It has a population of 5,254,694 residents. It borders Finland and Russia to the northeast, the Skagerrak Strait to the south, and Denmark on the other side.
The country draws visitors mainly for its breathtaking fjords and Viking heritage. In 2017, the Norwegian embassies worldwide received 196,082 visa applications.
Norway signed the Schengen Agreement on December 19, 1996. A second agreement, replacing the first, was signed on May 18, 1999, after the Amsterdam Treaty was transposed into EU law. Norway started implementing the agreement on March 25, 2001.
It is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun as certain areas of the country receive 24 hours of sunlight for part of the summer.
Poland is an EU country in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative districts and has an area of 312,683 km2. The country has 38,224,410 inhabitants and borders Germany, Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Belarus.
The most famous and most visited cities are Warsaw, the medieval cities of Malbork, Lublin, Torun, Krakow and Poznan. Poland is also known for the Tatra National Park and the Bialowieza Forest. Figures show that most of the visitors come from Germany, followed by the British and Russians.
In 2017, Poland received 823,101 visa applications. This makes Poland the seventh country to receive the most applications. The country signed the agreement on April 16, 2003 and began implementing it in late 2007.
The westernmost European country, Portugal, shares the borderland only with Spain in the north and east. It has an area of 92,391 km2 and 10,371,627 inhabitants.
It is the oldest state in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the oldest in Europe.Known for soccer, beautiful beaches, and historical sites, the country attracts many visitors all year round. The most visited Portuguese places are the capital Lisbon, the subtropical island Madeira, the second largest city Porto, the small fishing village Ericeira and Óbidos, which is known for its many medieval castles.
Portugal signed the Schengen Agreement with its only neighbor Spain on June 25, 1991 and began implementing it on March 26, 1995.
Slovakia is a landlocked country in Central Europe with an area of 49,037 km2. Its 5,444,218 residents are known as Slovaks who speak the Slovak language. The country borders Poland in the north, Ukraine in the east, the Czech Republic in the west, Hungary in the south and Austria in the southwest.
Slovakia became an independent country after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia on January 1, 1993. Ten years later, on April 16, 2003, she signed the Schengen Agreement. On December 21, 2007, the implementation of this Convention began.
Slovakia has the highest number of castles and palaces per capita in the world. The Spiš Castle, which is on the UNESCO list of world cultural and natural heritage, is one of the most famous.
Slovenia has a territory of 20,273 km2 and a population of 2,077,862. It borders Italy in the west, Austria in the north, Hungary in the northeast, Croatia in the southeast. Slovenia is the smallest Schengen state after Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Malta. The country joined the Schengen area on April 16, 2003 and began fully implementing the Schengen Agreement four years later on December 21, 2007. Slovenia is known for the picturesque Lake Bled, Postojna Cave, Triglav National Park and its many castles. In 2017, Slovenian embassies and consulates worldwide received 29,257 visa applications.
Spain has an area of 510,000 km2 and borders France, Andorra and the Bay of Biscay to the north and northeast and Portugal to the west and northwest. It is the second largest country in the EU bloc with 46,347,576 inhabitants.
The Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona are some of the cities that attract the most foreign visitors to Europe. Bullfights, La Tomatina Festival and Ibiza's parties are some of the most famous and most visited events in Spain.
Spain jointly signed the agreement with Portugal on June 25, 1991, and both began implementing it on March 26, 1995.
Sweden is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. It has an area of 449,964 km2 and borders Norway and Finland. The country is connected to Denmark by a bridge tunnel over the Öresund, a road on the Swedish-Danish border.
Sweden signed the agreement on December 9, 1996 and later began implementing it on March 25, 2001.
In 2017, Swedish embassies around the world received and processed 248,347 visa applications.
The non-EU country Switzerland joined the Schengen area after signing the Schengen Agreement on October 26, 2004 and starting its implementation on December 12, 2008. The country is enclosed between Italy in the south, France in the west, Germany in the north and Austria and Liechtenstein in the east. It has an area of 41,285 km and four national languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh.
Switzerland has one of the most powerful economies in Europe and, with 8,401,739 inhabitants, one of the highest standards of living in the world.
In 2017, Switzerland received 517,010 visa applications. This makes it the tenth Schengen state that receives the most applications, although the area is smaller than most of the other Member States.
Hungary is located in Central Europe and has an area of 93,030 km2. 9,753,281 people live here. It borders Slovakia in the north, Ukraine in the northeast, Austria in the northwest, Romania in the east, Serbia in the south, Croatia in the southwest and Slovenia in the west.
A large number of travelers visit the country each year. In 2017, 263,940 visa applications were received. Hungary is one of the most important medical tourism destinations in Europe. For dental purposes alone, the proportion is 42% in Europe and 21% worldwide.
It signed the Schengen Agreement on April 16, 2003 and started implementing it on December 21, 2007.
Features of the Schengen area
The abolition of borders between European countries has resulted in:
- Citizens of any world country are allowed to cross the internal borders of the nationals in the Schengen area free of border controls.
- Common standards for crossing external borders.
- Harmonized entry and short stay visa conditions for all nationals.
- Improved cooperation between the police in the member countries.
- Privileged judicial cooperation between members, including faster extradition of offenders and easier relocation for the execution of crimes.
- An expanded common database that helps member countries to quickly exchange information about people and goods with one another, which the SIS enables.
- Despite the extent of the freedom guaranteed by the Schengen Area, the police may, under certain circumstances, carry out controls at internal borders and in border areas, but this is not considered to be border control. The police can request information from people at internal borders about their stay in the Schengen area and additional related questions.
- If complete internal security is lacking due to a serious threat, a Member State can temporarily reintroduce border controls at its internal borders, but for no longer than 30 days.
Criteria for membership in the Schengen area
Many European countries have a determination to be part of or join the Schengen area, but not all can essentially do so immediately. As there are some prerequisites or criteria that candidate countries need to deal with or that require further preparation, as follows:
- In order to be able to control the external borders of the area and to issue uniform Schengen visas on behalf of other member countries,
- have the competence, after the abolition of border controls between the Member States, to be able to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities of other Member States to achieve a higher level of security,
- You must be able to apply the "Schengen acquis" or rules for the control of land, sea and air borders, the issuing of visas for short stays, police cooperation and the protection of personal data,
- Be ready to join the Schengen Information System (SIS) and get it up and running.
* Note: Before joining the visa-free area, the emerging country is vulnerable to a Schengen assessment. A member country is then regularly evaluated to ensure the correct application of the Schengen acquis.
Which EU countries are not Schengen member states?
The European countries that are not members of the Schengen Agreement and therefore not part of the Schengen zone are: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the Vatican City.
frequently asked Questions
Is the UK part of the Schengen area?
No. The UK is not part of the Schengen Zone. Therefore, you are not allowed to enter the UK on a Schengen visa.
What is the Schengen Border Agreement?
The Schengen border agreement allows people to move freely within the Schengen area if the traveler is otherwise entitled to enter the Schengen area by crossing an official external border during regular business hours and receiving an entry stamp in the passport.
Can I travel within the Schengen area with the residence permit?
With the residence permit, you can freely travel to the entire Schengen area without additional documents. The residence permit is in your passport. However, you must notify the authorities if you intend to travel in and out of the Schengen area.
Can I travel to more than one member country with the same Schengen Visa?
Yes, as soon as you have received the visa, you can travel freely within the Schengen area as long as you do not exceed the time limit set for your visa.
Last Updated on May 12, 2021
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