Schengen Area visa changes go into effect: frequent travellers can receive long term Schengen visa for up to 5 years

Effective from 2 February, Schengen Area (also called Schengen zone) visa applicants making an application are subject to the Schengen Visa Code amendments adopted by the Council of the European Union in June 2019. The amendments establish clearer provisions for multiple entry travellers and support up to five years of validity dependent on an applicant’s visa and travel history. What follows is key information regarding the Schengen Visa and the recent amendments.

Overview of the Schengen visa

The Schengen visa enables passport holders from non-Schengen countries to enter, freely travel within and leave the Schengen Area from any of the Schengen member countries. Stays are permitted up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.

The Schengen Area was first launched by the Schengen Agreement signed in Luxemburg on 14 June 1985 between five countries of the European Union (“EU”). Currently, the Schengen Area consists of 26 member countries, which allow free and unrestricted movement of people within the Schengen Area. The countries 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, and Switzerland.

Reasoning behind the Schengen visa amendments

The Schengen Visa Code, Regulation (EC) No. 810/2009 (“Visa Code”), adopted in 2010, regulates application procedures, processing and issuance of short-stay visas to the Schengen Area. The Council of the European Union amendments serve to better facilitate visa procedures for frequent travellers to the Schengen Area. What’s more, a new mechanism will be introduced under which the conditions for processing visa applications can be adapted depending on the third countries’ cooperation on readmission of irregular migrants.

Key changes for visa applicants

  • Travellers will be able to submit their applications up to six months in advance of their planned trip (instead of the current three months), and no later than 15 days before the trip.

  • Where available, travellers will be able to complete and sign their visa application form electronically.

  • Frequent travellers with a positive visa history can receive a multiple-entry visa valid for a period from one year up to five years. 

  • The fee for a short-stay visa will increase from EUR 60 to EUR 80 for adults, and from EUR 35 to EUR 40 for 6-12-year olds.

  • Applicants, who have previously obtained and lawfully used three visas within the last two years, may apply for a multi-entry visa of one-year validity.

  • Applicants, who have previously obtained and lawfully used a multiple entry visa with a one-year validity in the last two years, may apply for a multi-entry visa of two years validity.

  • Applicants, who have previously obtained and lawfully used a multiple entry visa with two-years validity in the last three years,  may apply for a multi-entry visa of five years.

Among the most significant of aspects of amended Visa Code is that it obliges Schengen member countries to outsource visa admission to other Schengen member countries, or visa processing centres in third countries, where they do not have a presence. In other words, applicants no longer need to enter another Schengen country first, if their destination Schengen member country is not represented in their home country. Rather, the applicant can apply via another Schengen member country, or visa processing centre.

Schengen Area visa and the coronavirus epidemic

For Chinese travellers to the Schengen Area, from 1 February 2020, all Schengen member states, with the exception of France, have closed all visa centres located in the People’s Republic of China. The scheduled reopening date is 17 February 2020, whilst the opening time of Visa Application Centres in Wuhan will be announced separately.

If you have questions or concerns related to the Schengen Area Visa or other travel visa related matters, please contact Horizons at to schedule a consultation session. From RMB 1,500 per session, Horizons can provide insight, expertise and the right solutions for you. 

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