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Getting a Schengen Visa from the U.S.

More and more people are traveling from the U.S. to Europe these days than ever before. And if you plan to be one of them, chances are you’ll be visiting one (or more) of the 27 countries in the Schengen Area. Whether you’ll need a Schengen Visa to do so depends on your particular situation. So to save you some time and make your future Eurotrip as carefree and enjoyable as possible, AXA has everything you need to know about how to apply for a Schengen visa from the U.S. below.

Do I need a Schengen Visa as a U.S citizen?

As a U.S. citizen, you won’t need a visa to visit the Schengen Area — provided that your trip is fewer than 90 days, within a 180-day period, and before 2024*.

You will, however, need your U.S. passport. And that’s important — because, statistically speaking, only about a third of U.S. adults say they have a valid (and unexpired) U.S. passport. While roughly another third admit to never even having had one at all.

Your passport will need to have been issued no more than 10 years before your entry into the Schengen Zone and be valid for at least three months after your planned date of exit. So make sure to check those expiration dates too.

Also be aware that if you spend three months in the Schengen area during any six-month period, you must wait another three months after the last date of departure (from the Schengen area) before you can apply to enter the Schengen area again without a visa.

Meanwhile, if you’re planning on staying for longer than 90 days, you’ll need either a long-stay national visa or a residency permit.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: Starting in 2024, however, to travel to Europe in general U.S. passport holders will need to apply for a visa waiver through the EU’s European Travel Information and Authorisation System (aka ETIAS). In theory, obtaining said waiver should be relatively quick and painless though — it can be done online and will cost you 7€ (i.e., a few cents more or less than 7 bucks, inflation pending).

What if I’m a U.S. permanent resident or Green Card holder?

A Schengen visa from the USA for non-U.S. citizens and/or Green Card holders may be mandatory if you are a citizen of a state that doesn’t have visa-free travel arrangements with Schengen countries.

These states include India, China, Russia, and all African nations, among many others. But you can see the full lists of both countries that are exempt and that need a visa — courtesy of the European Commission — here. Depending on which of these lists your home country is in, you might indeed need to apply for a Schengen visa to visit Europe.

How can I apply for a Schengen visa from the U.S.A.?

The Schengen visa application process is universal and fairly straightforward. You should apply by scheduling an appointment at the embassy or consulate of the country* you wish to travel to — and, in the U.S., you can easily find these online.
If you live in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, or Washington D.C — you can also apply via one of the VFS Global centers there.

After scheduling an appointment, you will be called in for an in-person interview. During this interview, your biometric data — i.e., fingerprints and scanned photos — will be collected, and you will be asked to pay the visa application fee.

*NOTE: If you plan to visit more than one Schengen country, you should apply at the embassy or consulate of the country where you’ll be staying the longest. And if you’re staying in several countries for an equal amount of time — apply at the embassy or consulate of the country you’re entering first.

When should I apply?

Your Schengen visa application should be submitted no earlier than six months and no later than 15 days before your departure date. But you should also give yourself plenty of time — i.e., at least a month or two — to prep all the documents (see below).

What are the requirements for a Schengen visa application?

The specific documents* required to apply will depend on a number of factors. But, generally speaking, here’s what you’ll need:

  • a Schengen Visa application form
  • two passport photos (taken within the last three months)
  • your passport (issued less than 10 years ago, valid for at least three months after your planned date of departure from the Schengen territory, and with at least two blank pages)
  • a photocopy of the passport page (or pages) with biometric data (if applicable)
  • travel and medical insurance (covering you up to costs of €30,000)
  • your full travel itinerary
  • Proof of paid visa fee (IMPORTANT: your application will not be processed if you don’t include the receipt from the required visa fee)
  • proof of sufficient financial means (for your entire stay in the Schengen area)
  • proof of accommodation (if applicable)
  • a letter of invitation (if applicable)

U.S. Green Card holders may also need to provide proof of employment and/or business ownership.

Meanwhile, foreigners studying in the U.S. may be asked to provide an I-20 form, as well as a reference letter from their educational institution.

Bring some extra A4-size copies of everything just in case. But DO NOT staple any documents.

*NOTE: AXA is always doing its best to provide the most reliable and up-to-date information. However, Schengen embassies/consulates may modify their visa rules and regulations at any time. AXA can, therefore, not be held accountable for such changes. So make sure you double-check with your destination country’s official embassy/consulate website as to the latest requirements.

What is the cost of a Schengen visa?

Schengen visa costs are universal. So a Schengen visa for one adult in the U.S. will cost €80 (i.e., around $80).

For children between the ages of 6 and 12, the fee is €40.

And children under 6 can get a Schengen visa for free.*

*In certain cases, the visa fee may also be waived for:

  • participants in certain seminars, conferences, sporting, cultural, and/or educational events (25yo or under);
  • students/teachers on study and/or training trips;
  • certain professionals traveling for the purpose of scientific research.

NOTE: You will also likely have to pay some extra administrative and/or service fees associated with your visa center and/or the respective officials. Visa fees are not reimbursed if your visa is refused.

How long is a Schengen visa valid for?

That depends on the type of visa you choose.

For example, the most common type of Schengen visa is the short-stay (aka Type C) visa. And that allows travel to all 27 Schengen countries for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

Meanwhile, if you’re just passing through — an airport transit (aka Type A) visa allows citizens of non-Schengen states to transit through or wait for a connecting flight in the airport of a Schengen country.

On the other hand, if you want to take all of Europe in — a “long-term” (aka Type D) Schengen visa allows for stays longer than three months. It can be valid for up to 5 years. However, how “long-term” it actually is will depend on your destination country/countries, whether you plan to work, study, or maybe even live in Europe — and so on. .

You can learn more about the specific Schengen visa types (and their length of validity) here.

Can I travel to all European countries on a Schengen visa?

So this part is a bit tricky, especially if it’s your first Eurotrip from the U.S. Because even though most nations in mainland Europe are part of the Schengen Zone (as well as the European Union) — not all of them are. And a handful of European nations, therefore, will have their own particular visa requirements. But AXA can help you learn more about the technicalities — and point you in the right direction — here.

How can AXA help?

AXA can also help with another crucial step in your Schengen Visa application process from the U.S. And that’s by providing affordable and comprehensive travel insurance for your upcoming trip to Europe. Because — as stated above — travel insurance is mandatory when applying for a Schengen visa.

Fortunately, AXA’s Schengen travel insurance plans meet all the requirements for obtaining a Schengen visa from the U.S.

The AXA travel insurance certificate is accepted by all 27 Schengen countries’ embassies and consulates.

An AXA plan can be purchased online in a matter of minutes from anywhere in the world.

And the AXA certificate can be downloaded (and/or printed) online instantly.

Moreover, if your visa application from the U.S. is rejected — AXA will refund your travel insurance fees in most circumstances. We’ll only ask that you provide official documentation explaining why your visa was refused (from the relevant embassy, consulate, or visa application center).

And — last but in no way least — an AXA travel insurance plan will help guarantee your Eurotrip is as safe as possible.

How to apply for a Schengen visa in other countries:

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How long does it take to process a Schengen visa?

In general - the wait time for your Schengen Visa to be processed is at least 15 days. However, in some cases- embassies can take between a month or two to process a visa. It will depend on your particular situation.

How long does it take to get a Schengen visa for Green Card holders?

Schengen visa processing times in the USA (and the rest of the world) are universal. The same 15-day wait time - therefore -  generally applies to non-citizen U.S. residents and/or Green Card holders too.

Can I extend my Schengen visa?

You can - but only in exceptional circumstances. AXA can tell you more about that here.

Can I work or study with a Schengen visa?

The tourist (or TypeC) allows visitors to enter the Schengen Zone for a short business trip - a holiday - or to visit family members. However - it cannot be converted into a work or study permit. But you do have other options and AXA can tell you more about that too.

What if my Schengen visa application is rejected?

You usually have two options — apply again, or write a letter of appeal. You can learn more in the EU’s Article 32(3) of the Visa Code of the Schengen Agreement. But the outcome of your appeal will ultimately depend on your destination country