The Schengen area comprises of 26 European countries which are all covered by one visa – the Schengen visit visa. If you are travelling to one or many of the 26 Schengen member states, you must apply for a Schengen visit visa before you travel.
The 26 Schengen states include:
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, Switzerland.
It is important to note that although all of these 26 countries fall under 1 travel visa, namely the Schengen visitor visa, each Schengen state has their own visa application process and different processing times.
Please note: New Visa system for the Schengen Area
Visa applicants submitting on or after 6 June 2013 would need to appear IN PERSON where their fingerprints and a facial image will be scanned.
VIS (Visa Information System) is an IT system that allows Schengen States to exchange visa data. The main purpose of the VIS is to simplify the visa issuance process, facilitate checks at external borders and to enhance security for everyone involved, including applicants.
Finger scans that are stored in the VIS can be re-used for further visa applications within the following five years, so further applications at a later stage do not have to be made in person.
When travellers enter the Schengen area, the border authorities are thus able to verify their identity by accessing the VIS.
Categories of applicants exempt from the requirement to give fingerprints:
If you are only visiting one of the Schengen states then you must apply with that country’s consulate in South Africa. If you are visiting numerous countries within the Schengen area, then you must apply for a Schengen visit visa with the consulate of the country of your point of first entry or, if you have one country as your main destination where you will be spending most of your time, you should apply with that consulate.
For example, if you are spending 3 days in Italy, 3 days in France and 3 days in Spain, you should apply with your first entry country. Or if you are visiting all 3 countries, but you will be spending most of your time in Italy, you must apply with the Italian consulate.
In peak travel season it is strongly advised to start your Schengen visit visa application at least 3 months prior to departure. With Italy, you should apply about 4 months prior to departure. Consulates experience very high volumes of applications during peak travel season which creates heavy backlogs for appointments. Provisions cannot be made for emergency applications unless there is a family emergency.
The Schengen states require all accommodation, flights etc. to be confirmed and booked before applying. There are very specific requirements for visa applicants with regards to supporting documentation so it is advised that you contact Visa Box to assist you with this information and the application process.
Short stay visit visas are valid for 90 days from date of issue and are for multiple entry. Even though you may have a set itinerary, once you have your Schengen visitor visa you may come and go amongst any of the Schengen states, within your visa validity period.