The Schengen Agreement

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Schengen Agreement MapIf you have ever checked Visa requirements for a European country, you have likely seen the phrase “the Schengen area.”  The following 26 countries are members of the Schengen area: 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.  These 26 countries have mutually agreed to eliminate passport and immigration controls at their joint borders, meaning within the Schengen area, the citizens of these 26 countries are free to travel in and out of this area as one country sharing equal international travel rights.  The name of the agreement is taken from the village in Luxembourg where the Schengen Agreement was first signed in 1985.

What this means for U.S. citizens is that they can travel to the Schengen area without a visa for a period of three months within each six-month period.  You will need a valid passport, which must be valid for at least ninety days past your intended date of departure from the Schengen area.  If your passport doesn’t meet these requirements, you may be refused boarding by the airline at your point of origin, or while transferring planes, or upon arrival in the Schengen area.  It is best to have at least six months’ validity on your passport whenever traveling internationally (State Department’s Schengen Fact Sheet).

If you are planning for depositions in Europe, you will want to check entry and exit requirements at the State Department’s website.  In general, you will need your U.S. passport, meeting validity requirements mentioned above, and two blank passport pages for entry stamps.  Some countries may require proof of return or onward travel from the Schengen area.  A court reporting firm experienced in scheduling for depositions in Europe can help familiarize you with these and any other requirements.

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