If you’re planning business travel to any of the 26 European countries which are part of the Schengen area, you may need to get a visa before you head off.
The Schengen agreement means that people can travel reasonably freely within this group of countries, with one visa usually covering a trip to several different places. There’s a full list of the Schengen countries below for guidance. However, it’s good to know that the exact process, including where you apply for your visa may vary depending on your itinerary.
It’s worth checking the visa types and terms, and the process you’ll need to follow to get a Schengen business visa, well in advance of your business trip. Here’s a handy guide to get you started.
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Schengen area visas are usually issued for 90 days, for either tourism or business visits. You’ll be able to choose either a single entry visa, or a multi entry option.
Once you have a Schengen visa you can travel freely between the Schengen countries. That means that with a single entry visa you could actually visit several different countries as long as you don’t pass out of the Schengen area in transit¹.
Schengen multi entry visas usually allow holders to enter the Schengen area as often as they like over a period of 180 days - however the total amount of time you can actually stay in the Schengen countries is still capped at 90 days. This visa type might be needed if you’re planning on visiting a few countries including places which aren’t part of the Schengen Agreement, such as the UK¹.
The Schengen Agreement covers 26 countries, most of which are in the European Union (EU). However not all EU countries are in the Schengen area, so it’s wise to double check the visa requirements before you confirm your travel plans. The Schengen area currently covers the following countries, although others are set to sign up to the agreement in time²:
- Czech Republic
A normal Schengen business visa is issued for 90 days. This will usually be taken in one block if you have a single entry visa. However the 90 days could be spread over several individual visits within a 180 day period if you have a multiple entry visa¹.
If you arrive in the Schengen area and decide you’d like to stay longer than planned you might be considering getting a visa extension.
Unfortunately, it’s very tricky to have a visa extension approved after your 90 day stay is up. You’ll have to apply under one of a limited range of qualifying reasons, including the following³:
- Late entry - applicable if you arrived in the Schengen area after your 90 day visa became valid
- Force majeure - such as a natural disaster or war which might prevent you from travelling home
- Humanitarian grounds - to receive medical treatment or following the death of a relative for example
- Important personal reasons - such as an unexpected family emergency
If you think you’ll need to extend your Schengen business visa for any reason it’s a good idea to ask a skilled visa agent to help you prepare your application.
If you’re a third country national planning a visit to any of the 26 countries listed above for business purposes, you may need a visa to do so. The requirements vary, depending on your own citizenship, and whether you have a relative (usually only spouse or minor child) within the EU/EEA.
Before you book any travel, it’s a good plan to double check the requirements for your own situation.
If you’re required to apply for a Schengen business visa you’ll need to prepare an application and supporting documents including⁴:
- Completed and signed application from, including 2 passport photos
- A current passport with at least 3 months left to run after the planned end of your trip
- Details of your itinerary, including hotel reservations, flights, and travel insurance details
- Evidence that you can pay for yourself during your trip - either proof of savings, or a letter from a sponsor or employer is usually used
- Cover letter which explains the purpose of your business visit
- Invitation letter from the company you’re visiting
- Letter from your employer confirming the visit is for work purposes. For self employed people, it may be necessary to provide further details proving your income and tax registration
- Proof that you have paid your visa application fee
Schengen visas cover 26 different countries. However each individual country manages their own visa applications, so the exact process used will depend a little on where you’re headed.
You’ll need to apply for your visa at the embassy or consulate in your home country. This is simple enough if you’re only headed to one destination within the Schengen area. However, if you’re planning on travelling between several different countries you’ll have to do some calculations to see which embassy you need to visit to apply. The rule of thumb is to apply at the embassy of the country you’ll spend most time in. If you’re spending an equal amount of time in several countries, you’ll have to apply to the embassy of your first destination instead⁴.
In general terms, you’ll have to take the following steps⁴:
- Identify the embassy or consulate you need to go to
- Check the process and evidence needed to support your application, and gather your documents
- Make an appointment, and attend the embassy in person for an interview and to give biometric information
- Pay your fee
- Wait for a response
Depending on the policy of the embassy you visit, you may need to pay your visa fee in the local currency wherever you are, or the currency of the place you’re visiting. If you’re making an overseas payment, you can avoid high international bank fees by using a specialist in cross border payments like TransferWise.
With TransferWise all payments are processed using the mid-market exchange rate, and for just a low upfront fee. Payments are covered by bank level security, so you know you’re getting a fast, convenient and safe service. Then you can get back to planning your trip.
Most applications for a Schengen business visa will be processed in around 10 working days, assuming you provide all the relevant information and there’s no issue with your application. You can apply as early as 3 months before your trip, and it’s advised to not apply later than 15 days before you’re planning on arriving to the Schengen country of your choice⁴.
The fee for Schengen visa applications is usually EUR60, although the payment currency may vary depending on where you’re paying⁵.
For citizens of a select group of countries, including Russia, Georgia and Kosovo, Schengen visa processing fees are priced at EUR35 ⁵.
Getting a Schengen business visa should not take too long once you've gathered all of the documents you need to apply, and started the process. You’ll need to pay a fee, and attend a meeting to confirm your application, but could hear back in just a few days.
Don’t forget to look for the most convenient and cost effective way to pay your visa fees, so you don’t spend more on your visa than you need to. If you have to make an international payment to cover your visa costs, traditional banks can charge more than specialist services such as TransferWise, and might not offer the best exchange rate out there. To get the best deal, have a look at the costs of your international payment via your regular bank, and compare it with a modern alternative such as TransferWise, to see if you can save.
Sources used for this article:
*All sources checked on April 2, 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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