Which European countries are not part of the Schengen area?

The European Union is a political and economic union consisting of 27 countries. And most of them are located within Europe itself. Coincidentally, the Schengen Zone currently also consists of 29 countries, and most of them are also located in Europe. However, the EU and the Schengen Zone are not one and the same — and neither are the 27 respective countries that comprise them. Naturally, the math here can get a little confusing. So if you’re planning a trip to the EU, the Schengen Zone, or both — below is a simple breakdown that should help clear things up.

Which EU countries are not in the Schengen Zone?

Out of the 29 countries within the Schengen Zone, most are physically located within mainland Europe. And most are also members of the EU. For example, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and the Netherlands are among the more popular travel destinations both in the Schengen and the EU.

However, the Schengen Zone does not include two EU countries geographically within Europe — and two outside of it. These four countries, therefore, have separate border controls from their Schengen neighbors. In other words, they require you to apply for a national travel visa.

The two non-Schengen EU countries* are:

  • Cyprus
  • Ireland

*Cyprus —while outside of the Schengen Zone — is legally obliged to join as member of the European Union eventually. They are currently in the process of fulfilling the necessary conditions to do so.

Meanwhile, The Republic of Ireland is an official member of the EU. However, while playing an active role in certain Schengen Agreement policies, it is not officially included in the Schengen Area.

How about the UK? Is it part of the Schengen area?

No. The U.K. has never been a member of the Schengen Agreement, having opted out of joining it in 1999 (more on that below). Furthermore, due to Brexit — as of January 31st, 2020, the U.K. is also no longer a member of the EU.

And while, policy-wise, the U.K. has always been associated with the Schengen in certain ways, it very much has its own travel and visa regulations. So if you plan to travel to England, Scotland, North Ireland, and/or Whales, you can learn more about their specific visa regulations here.

What are other non-Schengen countries?

Most nations geographically located in mainland Europe are included in the Schengen 29. Still, not every European state is by definition a Schengen state either.

The majority of nations not included in the Schengen agreement are Eastern European states. While they are still generally associated with (and — for the most part — geographically within) Europe, their border checks have not yet been abolished. There are 11 of them, and they are:

  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Serbia
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom

Russia — while geographically part of Europe — is not a member of either the Schengen or the EU. It, therefore, imposes its own border controls and travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, the microstates of San Marino, Monaco, and Vatican City are also not official members of the Schengen Zone. However, these three are considered ‘de facto’ inside the area — and, therefore, do not impose border controls.

Are the French and Netherlands overseas territories part of the Schengen zone?

Overseas European territories are technically not considered as being the Schengen Zone.

The specific visa policies between the overseas territories of France (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, St Pierre and Miquelon, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, and Wallis and Futuna Islands) and the Netherlands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St Eustatius and St Maarten) are, therefore, subject to bilateral arrangements between the countries concerned. You can learn more about the visa requirements for visiting overseas French territories here and for the Netherlands' overseas territories here.

Which non-EU countries are part of the Schengen area?

There are also four non-EU countries that are members of the Schengen Zone. Three of them are within Europe itself, geographically speaking, one is not. They are:

  • Switzerland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Iceland

Why are some EU countries not in the Schengen Area (and vice versa)?

The answer naturally depends on the particular nation in question, as the history of the Schengen and the EU is a long and somewhat complicated one. But here’s the general idea.

In 1985, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands signed the first official Schengen Agreement. The treaty was signed in Luxembourg near a town called Schengen (hence, the name), and it was aimed at generally abolishing internal border checks for these five countries.

Meanwhile, the European Union (as we know it today) was formed in 1993. And all five original Schengen countries — along with Italy — were original members of the EU too. However, the original Schengen treaties and the rules adopted under them operated independently from those of the EU for a number of years.

Then in 1999, the Amsterdam Treaty incorporated the Schengen Treaties into European Union law, unifying the Schengen and the EU on many levels. The only two EU states that opted out of the Schengen at the time were Ireland and the U.K. (as they remained physically outside the area). And in 2020, the U.K. would also opt out of the EU.

Today, the Schengen is an integral part of EU law. Moreover, all EU member states without an opt-out are legally obliged to join the Schengen Zone when they meet the necessary technical requirements.

Meanwhile, the non-EU countries of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland have been included in the Schengen area through special association agreements.

What are the visa requirements for non-Schengen countries?

Each non-Schengen country will have its own visa requirements, yet many will share the same basic principles. These include proving you have a valid passport, providing biometric data, a legitimate reason to visit, the means to support yourself during your stay, an itinerary, and valid travel or medical insurance.

However, while countries outside of the Schengen area generally impose border checks on travelers coming from the Schengen Zone, many of them have visa-free travel arrangements as EU members (and/or countries that have signed visa-free travel agreements with the Schengen states).

So it’s always best to double-check the visa rules and regulations of the specific country (or countries) you plan to visit ahead of time.

How can AXA help if I am traveling to a non-Schengen country?

Fortunately, AXA’s Schengen Europe Travel insurance and Multi Trip annual insurance offer extended coverage within the entire Schengen Area and beyond. The countries covered by these two plans include:

  • all Schengen Area member states;
  • all 27 European Union member states;
  • the U.K.;
  • the microstates of San Marino, Andorra, Monaco, and Vatican City.

Meanwhile, AXA’s Low Cost option covers travel within the four microstates above, as well as all 27 Schengen member states. And we’ll also provide you with the mandatory travel insurance certificate needed for a Schengen Visa — which you can download and/or print instantly.

In other words, whether you’re planning a Euro trip of epic proportions or just a quick stop in the EU and/or the Schengen — chances are AXA got you covered.


Related articles on Schengen

Can I travel to an EU country that is not within the Schengen Area on a Schengen Visa?

No. You must apply for a visa there and meet their visa requirements to enter a non-Schengen country.

Can I apply for a visa to a non-Schengen country in addition to my Schengen Visa

Yes. You can - although you must apply separately to the authorities in the non-Schengen country and check if you want to re-enter the Schengen Area that you have a multiple-entry visa.

What will happen if I enter a non-Schengen country on a Schengen Visa?

You will be refused entry if you do not provide the correct documentation to travel to that country - and may face further sanctions.