The Schengen Area

Dr . Antoine Saliba Haig | 17 Jul 2017

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The Schengen Area is made up of 26 European countries who have decided to abolish their internal borders to create one single country for travel purposes. Not all of the European Union Member States form part of the Schengen Area, and in fact the United Kingdom, Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are not part of this bloc. 

History of the Schengen Area

The name Schengen derives from the town of Schengen in Luxembourg where this agreement was first signed by five European Economic Community (EEC) members on the 14th June 1985. This agreement was formalised seperately from the EEC,  since there was no consensus between all the members on the abolition of border controls. This agreement was subsequently complemented by the Schengen Convention which led to the creation of the Schengen Area on the 26th of March 1995. 

Members of the Schengen Area

One must be careful not to confuse the European Union with the Schengen Area since these are two different zones, and not all members of the European Union are part of the Schengen Area. In fact, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom opted out of this agreement. 

The 26 countries forming part of the Schengen Area 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.

Of the six EU countries, that are not part of the Schengen Agreement the following countries are considered to be candidate or prospective countries ::

  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Romania

Apart from these countries, the following micro-states although not members of the Schengen Area, still have open borders with this area ::

  • The Vatican City
  • San Marino
  • Monaco

Benefits of Schengen Residency

Citizens from the Countries forming part of the Schengen Area are permitted to travel within this area without the need of a visa since internal borders have been abolished. This benefit also extends to residents of these Countries who are not EU nationals. Such residents are permitted to travel within this area without the need of a visa, however are allowed to reside in another Schengen Area for three months in every six month period. 


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