The Schengen Area, a cluster of 26 member nations that act as one country when it comes to a uniform visa code, is one of the primary destinations in the world for tourists, businessmen and students. Statistics released by the European Commission in 2016 revealed that 15.2 million applications were lodged at the consulates of different Schengen states, with 14 million visas being issued that year. This was reported by the Migration and Home Affairs Department of the European Commission. In USA alone, a total of 126,231 visa applications were filed, of which 121,777 visas were issued, according to visa statistics released by the European Commission.
Do You Need Schengen Visa for US Citizens?
If you are a citizen of USA, i.e., you hold a valid US passport, also called a blue passport, then you can travel to the Schengen Area for a period of 90 days without the need to apply for a visa. However, you should make sure that your passport is valid for at least 3 months from the date you leave the Schengen area.
If you are not a US citizen, but possess a valid US visa (such as an H1B work permit), or a permanent residence card with 3 months validity from the date of return from your trip, then you can apply for a Schengen visa on US soil. Please note, if you are a holder of a B1/B2 visitor visa in USA, it is preferable that you apply for a Schengen Visa in your home country.
Documents Needed to Apply for Schengen Visa from USA
- A passport with at least two blank pages, valid for 3 months after your return from the Schengen Area.
- An original, valid US alien registration card (residence permit aka green card) or valid US resident visa (if you are not a US citizen), valid for at least three months after your planned departure from the Schengen area.
- Completed visa application form.
- A cover letter that explains your purpose of visit, with the entire travel plan.
- Travel documents, including tickets both ways, the exact entry and exit dates of the countries you want to visit, and also the mode of travel within the Schengen Area.
- Passport-size photos, showing you face clearly against a light backdrop.
- Travel health insurance documents, with coverage of at least €30,000 or approximately $50,000, valid for all Schengen states.
- Proof of accommodation, including hotel booking vouchers, letter from your host in the Schengen country, their ID proof and passport. Be sure to check with your embassy for more details regarding this. For instance, if you are visiting the Netherlands, the form is called the Proof of Private Accommodation and/or Sponsorship, which the host needs to have certified at the Dutch City Hall.
- Proof of financial sources, including traveler’s checks, bank account statements, payslips for the last three months.
- In case you are going for business purposes, you need a letter of intent, both from the company hosting you and your own company. The host company should mention if they are paying for your trip, and providing you accommodation.
- If the applicant is a minor, the parents would have to sign the application form and also provide letters of consent, along with copies of their own passport.
- For students, enrollment documents from the home institute and certifications from the receiving institute, stating your purpose, accommodation and length of stay.
Schengen Visa Application Process
Now that you have all the documents in place, decide on the consulate you want to apply to, based on your travel plan. The country where you will be staying for the maximum duration of your trip or the country that will be your entry point for the Schengen area is the one whose embassy you need to apply for a visa at. In many embassies, like that of Germany, you need to book an appointment to submit your visa application in person. Check this out before you start the process.
If you are travelling on a short trip, the appointment must be made no more than 90 days prior to the departure date. This rule doesn’t apply to applicants for a long-term visa.
It usually takes up to 72 hours for this process to be completed, although it can take up to 14-21 days for certain citizens to be granted a visa. If you are travelling to the area for the first time, you will be needed to give fingerprints at the consulate. Pay your application fees, which should be about €60 per person or €35 per child aged 6 to 12 years. A long stay visa could cost up to €99 per person.