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Obtaining a Visa to Live, Study and Work in: Schengen Area

17 July, 2012 12:02  EasyExpat EasyExpat

immigration control © TMAX - Fotolia.comThis is the fifth in a series of articles concerning visa options. We cover the different types of visas and how to apply. The other regions in the series are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the United States. Get ready to go abroad!

If you've ever wanted to live or work (legally) in Australia, you've come to the right place. Below you will find information on visa regulations for long-term visitors, students, and individuals moving to Australia to work or to join spouses, partners or other family members. This is the third in a series of five articles: in the coming weeks there will be installments that investigate visa requirements for permanent residents, students, workers and certain other visitors to the United States and the Schengen Area of western Europe. Each article will focus on how to meet the requirements for obtaining a visa and/or work permit for the country or region. 

Every effort has been made to provide accurate information. However, you should consult with the appropriate consulate or embassy to obtain the most recent information and to discuss your specific circumstances. You should also be aware that although there is considerable overlap between the European Union and the Schengen Area, the two are not the same. The information below only applies specifically to the Schengen Area unless otherwise indicated. Additionally, fees have been deliberately omitted because this information often becomes outdated very quickly.

Countries within the Schengen Area

Do You Need a Visa?

Citizens or permanent residents of countries outside the Schengen Area but which are within the European Union or the European Economic Area do not need a visa to travel to the Schengen Area. Borderless travel within the Schengen Area also means that EU and EEA citizens and permanent residents need only to show a passport or identification card once upon entering the region at any point, and again upon leaving. Citizens and permanent residents of the EU and EEA may also relocate to any country within the Schengen Area to attend school or work without obtaining a visa.

Citizens and permanent residents of many countries outside the EU and EEA (including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, among others) may also visit the Schengen Area without obtaining a visa, and remain for up to 90 days within a six-month period. Borderless travel also allows citizens of visa exempt countries to move freely throughout the Schengen Area after showing a valid passport once upon entering the region and again upon leaving. However, citizens and residents of some countries may require an airport transit visa if they have a stopover within the Schengen Area, even if they do not intend to spend any time in the region. If you plan to travel outside the Schengen Area, you may need to obtain additional visas. Consult with the consulate or embassy of any country you are considering visiting before you begin your trip.

Schengen Visas

If you are a citizen or permanent resident of a country located outside the EU or EEA which does not enjoy visa exemption with the Schengen Area, you will need to obtain a Schengen Visa before traveling to the region. A Schengen Visa allows unlimited travel within the area for a period of up to 90 days within a 6-month period, but cannot be extended. If you plan to visit more than one country within the Schengen Area, you must apply for the Schengen Visa through the embassy or consulate of the country where you plan to spend the most time during your visit. You must provide the original and one copy of each item of required documentation along with your application, which must be made in person. Allow sufficient lead time for processing. Depending on your country of citizenship or residency, processing time may vary from a few days to more than a month. However, you may not apply for a Schengen Visa more than three months before your planned departure date.

Required Documentation:

  • Application for a Schengen Visa (PDF)
  • Proof of residence within the service area of the embassy or consulate processing the application
  • Proof of legal residence within the country where you file your application
  • Passport (valid for at least 3 months after your planned visit, and with at least 2 blank visa pages)
  • Passport photo meeting photo requirements (PDF)
  • Parental Authorization for Minors, if applicable (PDF)
  • Proof of employment (including self employment), student, spouse or retiree status
  • Proof of sufficient financial support for your entire visit
  • Proof of medical insurance
  • Round-trip flight itinerary
  • Documentation of accommodations for your entire stay
  • Letter from personal, family or business sponsor, if applicable
  • Visa application fee

Long-Term Visitors

There is no uniform Schengen Visa for visits longer than 90 days. If you wish to remain in any country in the region longer than 90 days, you must apply for a residence, work or student visa directly through the embassy or consulate of the country where you wish to settle. However, the Single Permit Directive allows immigrants who are legal residents of an EU country and those who are seeking residence permits to apply for a residence and work permit for that country through a single application process.

Depending on your chosen country and your personal circumstances, you may need to apply for a long-term visa before traveling to the region. However, once you have obtained a long-stay visa for one country within the Schengen Area, you may travel to any of the other countries within the Schengen Area for up to 90 days within a 6-month period without applying for another visa. Once you have resided in one country within the EU continuously for at least five years, you may be eligible to apply for long-term resident status, which carries similar rights as those enjoyed by EU citizens, including access to social services as well as the right to travel and work freely within the EU.

Each Schengen Area country within the EU, along with Norway, Switzerland and Iceland has specific regulations for permanent residents, students and individuals traveling with or wishing to join family members that are not included in this guide.


Students who wish to study in one or more countries within the Schengen Area of the EU must obtain residence permits if their course of study is for longer than three months. Visa holders are able to work part-time - at least 10 hours per week. You may also travel to another Schengen Area country within the EU to study in an area related to your original program.

You should be able to bring your immediate family members, including an opposite-sex spouse and dependent minor children. You may be able to bring a same-sex spouse or an unmarried partner, depending on your country of citizenship or residence and the regulations of the country where you wish to study.

Required Documentation:

You will need to provide the following documentation to obtain a residence permit for your period of study. If your program is at least a year long, your residence permit will be for one year. If your program is less than one year long, your permit will be for the length of your program. In both instances, you may renew your permit if circumstances warrant your staying longer.

  • Proof of academic program admission
  • Evidence of sufficient financial resources to support yourself (and any dependents) during your program
  • Passport or other acceptable travel document
  • Parental consent (for minors)
  • Proof of health insurance, if applicable
  • Receipt for residence application fee payment

Family Members

If you hold a residence permit valid for at least one year for a country in the Schengen Area within the EU, you may apply to have your family join you. However, some countries require you to wait two or three years before allowing family members to join you. You must also demonstrate stable and sufficient income to support yourself and your family, along with evidence of health insurance coverage. Once your family members have arrived, they may be eligible to work, attend school or receive work-related training. They may also be eligible to apply for their own long-term residence permits after five years.

Eligible family members include your opposite-sex spouse, your minor children, including adopted children, and any minor children you or your spouse had through a prior relationship, as long as you or your spouse have custody. If the country where you reside recognizes same-sex marriage, your same-sex spouse and his or her minor children may also be eligible to join you. In some countries your unmarried or registered same-sex or opposite-sex partner may also be eligible to join you. Other family members who may be eligible to join you include your parents, your spouse's or partner's parents and adult unmarried children unable to care for themselves.


Highly skilled and well-educated workers may pursue a streamlined work permit application process through the Blue Card Directive. Holders of the EU Blue Card enjoy favored status for applications to have family members join them, as well as enhanced freedom of movement to pursue work throughout the EU. Each Blue Card is valid for one to four years, depending on the country of issue and other factors. After 18 months, Blue Card holders may move to another country within the EU. After two years, Blue Card holders hold equal status with citizens and long-term residents of the EU in regard to access to well-paid jobs.

The EU is considering a Directive on Seasonal Workers, designed to protect low-wage migrant workers from outside the EU from exploitation by unscrupulous employers. The directive would provide a streamlined application process for unskilled agricultural and other seasonal workers. The directive would also enhance record-keeping to minimize the number of migrants who overstay their visas.

Researched by Audrey Henderson
-- freelance writer based in Chicago



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