News & Insights

The Schengen Shortfall

For those who require immigration permission to enter Europe, record waiting times for Schengen visas may be a cause for concern…

A Schengen visa grants the holder the right to enter and freely travel within the Schengen zone – the world’s largest free travel zone, made up of 27 European countries. A Schengen visa is required whether you are visiting for business or tourism, provided your stay is for no more than 90 days – longer stays will require national work or residence visas, as appropriate, for the country in question.

Of course, residents of Schengen member states do not need a Schengen visa, and neither do British citizens. However, citizens of various other countries, including India, China, Russia, and Turkey, do require a Schengen visa to enter the Schengen zone, even if they are only visiting for a few days as tourists. The full list of who does and does not require a Schengen visa can be found here.

It should be noted that, even if you have immigration permission to be in the UK, on a Skilled Worker or Student visa for example, this does not give you the same rights to enter the Schengen zone as a UK citizen – an Indian citizen with a Skilled Worker visa in the UK would still need to apply for a Schengen visa to enter the Schengen zone.

Applications for Schengen visas are made by booking an appointment at an embassy, consulate, or visa centre. If you are only visiting one Schengen Zone country, then the appointment must be with the embassy, consulate, or visa centre for that country. However, if you will be visiting multiple Schengen Zone countries during a single trip, then you must book your appointment with the embassy, consulate, or visa centre for the country that you plan to spend the most time in.

However, on average, applicants are currently having to book their Schengen visa appointments 6 to 8 weeks in advance, due to high demand and a lack of availability. In some cases, applications are having to wait as long as 3 months for their appointments. These wait times are unprecedented for the Schengen visa and have caught many applicants off guard.

On top of this, the average processing time for a Schengen visa application – following the appointment – is 15 working days. This means that an applicant could very easily have to wait almost 4 months from booking their appointment to receiving their Schengen visa.

These considerable waiting times will make it harder for nationals of certain countries to easily visit Europe on short notice, whether on holiday or for business purposes. Individuals who are planning on travelling to the Schengen Zone in the foreseeable future may want to begin looking into the Schengen visa process at the very least, to ensure that they have all their ducks in a row and their Schengen visas (if required) to hand in good time for their trip.

The unprecedented delays should also be taken into account by employers who are looking to send staff to Europe for business meetings, trade fairs, and other work-related events. If you are planning on sending an employee to Europe in the near future, then steps should be taken as soon as possible to determine whether the employee requires a Schengen visa and, if they do, to ensure that an appointment is booked well in advance of the intended travel date, in order to mitigate the risk of unforeseen delays in processing.

If you are looking to have employees visit Europe for business purposes, and would like advice on whether they need a Schengen visa and the application process, please get in touch at [email protected]