What is a Schengen Visa?
The Schengen Visa is a short-stay visa that allows its holder to travel to the Schengen zone and stay for up to 90 days in any 180 days period.
The zone covers 26 countries that are otherwise called Schengen member states. Those countries do not have border controls between them, though they can institute internal border controls and entry restrictions if there is a serious threat, security, or issues like a pandemic.
Citizens of the Schengen member states, the European Union, and countries with visa facilitation agreements with the EU don’t need a Schengen visa to enter the Schengen zone.
With a short-stay visa, you can explore any Schengen country and travel freely from one country to another.
Do South Africans need a Schengen visa?
South African citizens require a Schengen visa to enter the Schengen zone. The exception is if you have a visa from the specific countries you plan to enter or a passport from another country with a visa liberalisation agreement with the area.
Suppose you hold dual citizenship with one of the Schengen countries or a country with a visa waiver agreement with the zone. In that case, you can travel with the passport of the Schengen-visa-exempt country rather than your South African passport without needing to apply for a visa.
Residents of South Africa that have a permanent or temporary residence permit can also apply from within South Africa if they do not meet the above visa requirements for visa-exempt travel.
What is the Schengen area?
26 countries signed the Schengen agreement to allow citizens of member countries to travel freely within the zone without passing through control at the internal borders. Those countries are:
Also, some countries that are not within the zone allow holders of a Schengen visa to enter their country with it. Those countries are:
|Albania||Antigua and Barbuda||Belarus|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Bulgaria||Colombia|
|Montenegro||Romania||Sao Tome and Principe|
Some of the above countries only allow citizens of specific countries to enter their territory with a Schengen visa.
Uniform Schengen Visa
A Uniform Schengen Visa permits its holder to stays in or transit to the Schengen zone for up to 90 days within a six month period starting from your entry date.
It applies to all airport transit that stops at an airport in a Schengen member state to change flights when travelling from non-Schengen countries and your main destination will be outside the Schengen zone. Also, it applies to short stays in the Schengen area. In that case, the Schengen consulate may issue you a uniform single, double-entry or multiple-entry visa.
- Single-entry visa: This allows you to enter the Schengen area only once within the validity period. Once you leave the territory, you will have to apply for another visa even if the duration of your stay hasn’t expired.
- Double-entry visa: This allows you to enter the Schengen area twice. So, if you enter and leave once, you can go in one more time as long as you haven’t exceeded the number of days you are permitted to stay in the zone and European Union.
- Multiple-entry: This allows you to go in and out of a Schengen area as often as you need to as long as you do not stay for more than 90 days within a 180 day period each time.
Limited territorial validity visa
You may be able to obtain an LTV if you will be travelling to a specific country in the area for humanitarian reasons, under international obligation, or you don’t have travel documents yet but must be in the Schengen zone.
LTVs are valid for only the Schengen state that issued the visa or, in some cases, the Schengen countries you specifically mentioned when applying for the visa. With this visa, you cannot enter or travel freely through other Schengen countries you aren’t specifically approved to enter.
Applicants who are studying, working or permanently residing in a Schengen member state may obtain a national visa. It can be multiple or single entry.
You may be eligible for a national visa if you are one of the following in a Schengen member state:
- An international student studying a full course
- Undertaking pedagogical work at a research centre or higher institution
- A professional sharing your expertise, such as a sportsman and artist
- Unable to leave the Schengen area when you should have because you are undergoing medical treatment due to an emergency
What can you do with this visa?
The Schengen visa permits entry into a Schengen country for the following reasons:
- Business purposes
- Visiting friends and family residing in the Schengen area
- Visiting for pleasure – tourism, sightseeing, and holidays
- To participate or facilitate cultural and sport events
- Sea & air port transit on your way to your main destination
- Official visits
- Medical care
- Short-term study at an educational institution
- Research purposes
Your visa must suit your purpose; if you need to do business, you should apply for a Business Schengen visa rather than a tourist visa.
What are the requirements to get a Schengen visa?
To apply for a Schengen visa in South Africa, you must have the required documents to submit to the embassy or external service provider of the country you apply to.
Those documents include:
- A completed visa application form
- A valid South African passport or other travel documents
- Proof of accommodation in the Schengen member countries
- National ID card or any proof of legal residence in South Africa
- Two photographs that were taken within three months from your application
- Proof that you can support yourself financially while in the Schengen area
- A cover letter with all the details on your visa, including why you wish to enter, the countries you plan to visit, and the time you will spend in each.
- Flight itinerary showing round flight reservations. Any planned internal flights that you need to take from within South Africa before travelling must be included as well.
- European travel insurance that covers any medical emergency in the entire Schengen territory and repatriation in the case of death. The minimum cover should be €30,000
- Evidence of employment status
- Birth certificate and signed parental consent (for children)
Also, you may need to provide additional documentation depending on the type of visa you apply for. For example, if you need to apply for business purposes, you must provide a letter from your employer and an invitation from the partner company in a country within the Schengen zone.
Visa application process
To apply for a Schengen visa from South Africa, you must first figure out what visa you want. That is tied to your purpose of coming to the European economic area. If it’s tourism, then a Tourist Schengen visa is appropriate.
You can apply for a Schengen visa at most 3 months before you plan to travel. You cannot apply at any Schengen member country’s embassy, consulate, visa application centre (VAC), or an external service provider. Where you apply depends on where you will be going and if it’s more than one country.
If you will be visiting one of the Schengen countries, submit your application to that country. If you will be visiting and spending an equal number of days in more than one country, apply to the country you will visit first. If you are to spend an unequal time in two or more Schengen countries, apply to the country you will spend more days.
Also, you need a visa appointment at the application centre. Depending on the embassy/VAC you apply from, you may be able to do this online, over the phone, or in person. Attend the interview with the required and supporting documents, and pay the visa fee.
How much does it cost to get a Schengen visa?
The Schengen visa fee for South Africans is €60 for applicants above the age of 11. For children between the age of 6-11, the visa application fee is €35. The visa application is free for children below 6 years.
How long does a Schengen visa take in South Africa?
After the visa interview, you will typically wait for about 15 days to get a decision. That is why you must ensure that you start your application at least 15 working days before you travel to prevent delays.
If approved, you can travel to the countries you were approved for. If denied, you can re-submit your application or appeal.
Duration of Stay
Depending on the restriction and type of visa you obtain, you may be granted up to 5 years, especially if you are a frequent traveller to the European Union.
Note that the 5-year validity period does not rule out the 90 days within 180 day period rule or the restrictions that come with your visa. Suppose you are granted a 5-year multiple entry visa. In that case, you can enter Europe multiple times within that 5 year period as long as you don’t exceed the 90/180 rule.
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Foreign citizens can obtain this visa through the normal visa application process.
To get a short-stay visa, you must prove that you have used Schengen visas previously. To apply for a one-year short-stay visa, you must prove that you have used three Schengen visas within the last two years.
For the 3-year period, you must have previously used a visa that allowed them to enter multiple countries within the last two years.
To obtain the 5-year visa, you must have obtained and used a previous visa with a validity period of at least two years within the last three years.
With any of the durations for the short-stay visa, you must have not stayed more than 90 days within a 180-day period previously. Also, you must not have broken any laws, show proof of the purpose of your visit, and travel documents to prove that you travelled to the Schengen zone.