How to apply for a Schengen visa from the U.K.

NAME : Axel Strauss
DATE: Oct. 19, 2023

At 11 pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on January 31st, 2020, the United Kingdom made a historical splash by officially leaving the European Union. And with Brexit came a whole new wave of questions about the future of both entities. Many of these questions largely remain unanswered because — to quote British punk rocker Joe Strummer — “the future is unwritten.” Fortunately though, if you have any questions about getting a Schengen Visa from the U.K. — AXA has all the answers you need below.

Is the U.K. part of the Schengen?

Nope. And it never has been. Because — while the European Union and the Schengen Zone share many similarities — they are not one and the same.

Before Brexit, the U.K. spent nearly half a century as one of the more influential members of the EU (and its predecessor the European Economic Community). However, the U.K. is not — and has never been — a member of the Schengen Zone. And it also never switched to the Euro either.

Why did the UK not join Schengen?

Well, it’s kind of a long story. But here’s the short version of the facts.

The Schengen Agreement was originally signed in 1985 with the purpose of abolishing internal border checks for a number of countries in continental Europe. The modern version of the European Union, meanwhile, was formed in 1993 — primarily for economic purposes.

In 1999, the Amsterdam Treaty incorporated the Schengen Treaties into European Union law, unifying the Schengen and the EU on many levels. At that time, the only two EU states that opted out of the Schengen Agreement were Ireland and — you guessed it — the U.K. And the most common explanation for their decision was their geographical location outside of continental Europe.

Do UK residents need a Schengen visa after Brexit?

No. Despite Brexit, according to the U.K. government’s official website, U.K. nationals still do not need a visa for short trips to either the EU or the Schengen area. That’s so long as you’re:

  • staying for no longer than 90 days (in a 180-day period);
  • visiting as a tourist;
  • traveling for business (to attend a business meeting or conference for your U.K. employer, for example);
  • there for journalism or other media activities;
  • getting medical treatment;
  • and/or studying short-term.

But the website also recommends that you check the specific entry requirements of whatever country you’re visiting — as does AXA. And to help do that, you can even sign up to get emails with the latest info about a staggering 226 countries (including the 10% of them that are in the Schengen Zone).

What about U.K. residents who are not U.K. nationals?

If you are a resident of the U.K. but not a citizen, then whether you need a Schengen visa or not depends on whether the country where you hold citizenship has signed a visa-free travel agreement with the Schengen Area.

For example, countries like Australia, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and the U.S. all have their own visa-free arrangements with the Schengen Area. So if you’re a citizen of one of these, your U.K. residence permit and your passport should be enough for you to go to Europe.

On the other hand, countries like Algeria, Bangladesh, China, India, Tunisia, and a whole array of others (all of Africa, for example) have not signed visa-waiver agreements with the Schengen Area. And this means that — even if you have a residency permit in the U.K. — you’ll likely still need to apply for the Schengen visa.

While AXA can help you figure out whether you need a Schengen Visa or not, it’s also best to check with the official website of the European Union (including their full lists of the countries above). And to make sure you have all the latest necessary info, we recommend you consult with the UK Government’s Official Website, the official website of the government of your destination country of choice, and that of your home country too. As you can never be too informed when it comes to traveling to Europe.

Can U.K. visitors apply for a Schengen visa in the U.K.?

Generally speaking, no. That is, if you are visiting the U.K. as a tourist (and don’t have a U.K. residence permit), you cannot apply for the Schengen visa while you are in the UK. You have to make the application from your home country.

However, some permanent U.K. residents (such as Indian passport holders, for example) can generally apply from within the U.K.

Whereas if you have a U.K. Student Visa (aka Biometric Residence Permit, aka a BPR), whether you can apply for a visa in the U.K. or not will depend on a number of different factors.

Again, it all basically comes down to your particular situation. So check those links above, ask questions, and make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you book that flight.

Do they check the passport in Schengen?

Technical speaking — no. That is, according to the EU’s official website, “any person, irrespective of nationality, can travel between Schengen countries without going through border checks.” However, they do add that “national authorities can carry out police checks at borders between these countries and in border areas.”

Moreover, to fly from the U.K. to Europe you will need a passport (and, if applicable, a residence document issued by your EU country of residence). And the same rules apply to your non-EU family members who are covered by the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement.

AXA’s advice is basically this: if you’re getting on a plane — make sure you have that passport. But you can also learn more here.

How much does a Schengen visa cost in the U.K.?

The costs of the Schengen Visa are universal. The standard fee is €80.

If you’re between the ages of six and twelve, it’s €40.

And children under the age of six can get a Schengen visa for free.

What are the requirements for a Schengen visa in the U.K. (and how do I get one)?

What you’ll need may vary depending on your nationality and the purpose of your trip. But, generally speaking, for Schengen visa applications from the U.K., you should have:

  • Your passport (issued within the last 10 years, with a validity of more than 3 months after the planned date of exit from the Schengen area)
  • A Schengen visa application form (duly completed and signed).
  • Two recent passport photos
  • Your itinerary
  • Travel insurance certificate (IMPORTANT NOTE: Travel insurance is mandatory and must meet several criteria in order to be accepted with your visa application — more on that below)
  • Proof of sufficient funds (if applicable)
  • Proof of the purpose of the trip such as a letter of invitation (if applicable)
  • Residence permit and/or resident card (if applicable)
  • Proof of accommodation (if applicable)
  • Proof of socio-economic and professional stability (if applicable)
  • For minors — certified parental or guardian authorization

If you’re going for work and/or studies, you also might need:

  • a signed letter of invitation from your business/school (and maybe a schedule of your stay)
  • a no-objection letter from your U.K. employer and/or school (if applicable)
  • other documentation linked to your business operations (if applicable)

But make sure to double-check with your destination country’s consulate, embassy, and/or visa application center (more on those below) as to the latest documents required.

Where and when should you apply?

You should apply at the embassy/consulate of your destination country. The European Commission’s official website provides a helpful “list of consular presence and representation” — plus a list of links to each Schengen member state’s official website — here.

For multiple countries, apply at the consulate of the country where you will spend the most time. And if you’re spending an equal amount of time in two or more Schengen states — apply at the embassy/consulate of the country you’re entering first.

In the U.K., you can also apply via the VFS Global company, which has centers in Birmingham, Edinburgh, London, and Manchester.

Your application must be submitted to your embassy, consulate, or visa center no later than 15 days and no earlier than six months before the start of your intended journey. You may have to book an appointment before lodging the application.

PRO TIP: Keep in mind that while you can start to apply for a Schengen visa from the U.K. online, your physical presence will be required to complete the process (for an in-person interview and biometrics collection, at the very least). So start gathering that paperwork, booking those appointments, and clearing your calendar early.

What are the 4 types of Schengen visas?

The four basic types of Schengen Visa are business, work, student, and short-stay.

The latter (aka the Type C) is a Schengen tourist visa from the U.K. It’s the most common one, allowing you to travel to and between all 27 Schengen countries for up to 90 days (in any 180-day period from the date of entry into the Schengen zone).

To stay in the Schengen zone for more than 90 days, you’ll need a national (or Type D) visa. If you’re planning more than one trip, you can also opt for a multiple-entry visa.

And can learn more about visiting a partner living, working, and/or studying in the Schengen zone here.

Is a Schengen visa easier to get than a U.K. visa?

It depends. Generally speaking, the processes for both visas are similar — and can both get quite tedious.

However, U.K. visas do tend to have shorter waiting times, more readily available appointments, and more options in general (such as the “keep my passport” one).

If you’re looking to apply for a U.K. visa, the visa application center VFSGlobal has some useful tips.

How long does it take for a Schengen visa to be approved in the U.K.?

The general processing times for a Schengen visa — in the U.K. or anywhere else in the world — are 15 days. However, the actual time will also depend on your particular case (and destination country). But AXA can tell you more about that here.

Can I get a fast-track Schengen visa from the U.K.?

No. Even with Brexit and all, there’s really no way of speeding up the process. However, you can avoid delays by making sure all your ducks are in a row well beforehand.

Why are there no slots for Schengen visas?

Your guess is as good as ours. Meanwhile, here’s what VFS Global has to say on the matter: “Appointments are allocated as per directives from the client governments we serve on a first-come-first-serve basis. You can schedule a new appointment or reschedule an existing one as per the process stipulated on the country-specific website.

We have experienced an unprecedented demand for international travel post lifting of Covid-led travel restrictions, causing delay in visa processing as well as availability of application slots. While Embassies are trying to accommodate as many applicants as possible, we request you to keep checking for available slots at regular intervals.

In other words — keep calm, keep your head up, and keep trying.

Can I go to VFS without an appointment?

Technically speaking, no. You have to book an appointment online via their website. But the website also states that “if you need to travel urgently, miss your pre-booked appointment, or simply cannot book an appointment at your preferred date and time, the Walk-in Without Appointment service, available for select countries, allows you to submit your visa application on a day you choose.

AXA’s guess is that the U.K. is among these select countries. However, VFS Global goes on to say “Please check with the Visa Application Centre if this service is suitable for your application.”

In other words, it might be worth the try (but don’t quote us on that!).

Which Schengen visa has the lowest rejection rate?

Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Malta often rank as countries having the lowest Schengen visa rejection rates. But AXA can tell you more about the easiest countries to obtain a Schengen visa for too.

Do I need travel insurance for my Schengen visa in the U.K.?

Well, this one is a definite yes. Having the proper travel insurance is one of the basic requirements for getting your Schengen visa — and that’s from anywhere in the world.

Not only that, but you’ll need a plan with a minimum coverage of €30,000 in case of medical care, hospitalization, and/or medical repatriation. The insurance must also be accepted by all 27 countries within the Schengen zone and be valid for the entire duration of your trip/stay.

Fortunately, AXA offers three comprehensive travel insurance plans — Low-Cost, Europe Travel, and Multi-Trip — that meet all the requirements above. They can be purchased online (i.e., without any in-person interviews or biometrics collection) with practically zero waiting time.

Our plans have no age restrictions, and our travel insurance certificate (i.e., the one you’ll need for your visa appointment) is accepted by all Schengen embassies and consulates and can be downloaded online (and printed) instantly.

In short, AXA can not only bring you one huge step closer to getting your Schengen visa in the U.K. — but we can also help ensure that your trip to your now-second home (at least economically speaking) is a safe one. And, hopefully, thus make your yet-to-be-written future in Europe just a little bit brighter too.

What about ETIAS?

As for ETIAS for U.K. nationals — the future still remains unwritten here too. The new system of requirements for entering Europe (commonly known as ETIAS, and less commonly as the European Travel Information and Authorization System) is something the EU keeps working on — but also repeatedly postponing. The latest online estimates say it should go into effect in 2025. But AXA can help you learn more about ETIAS here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: AXA continues to do our best to bring you the latest news regarding travel requirements to Europe from the U.K. and anywhere else. But it’s still best to double-check with your destination country’s official consulate/embassy website. And remember to consult the official website of the European Union just in case too.

How to apply for a Schengen visa in other countries

And, finally (and just in case), here’s a list — in alphabetical order — of how to apply for a Schengen visa from a bunch of other countries too:


What if I want to travel to the Schengen Area - return to the U.K. and then go back to the Schengen Area?

You will need to apply for a multiple-entry Schengen Visa. These can come in double or triple-entry visas or longer-term ones that allow you to make multiple trips over a period of one or three or five years.

Do I have to attend my visa interview in person?

Yes - except in exceptional circumstances - as officials will need to check your documents and collect biometric data.

Do I need ETIAS in 2023?

No. ETIAS only goes into effect in 2025.

Which EU countries are exempt from ETIAS?

The only country currently in the EU that will not require ETIAS approval is Ireland. However - this might change by the time ETIAS is implemented.

Is ETIAS the same as a visa?

No. ETIAS authorization is not a visa. Unlike Schengen Visas - ETIAS authorization will be valid for an unlimited number of entries - for example.

Can I change my visa type (or residency status) once I’m in the Schengen?

No. You cannot make any changes to your Schengen Visa type after you arrive in Europe

Are there any COVID restrictions for entering the Schengen Zone?

No. As of 2022, all travel restrictions implemented to control the spread of COVID-19 have been lifted in the EU (and the Schengen).