Schengen Borders Agreement Information

February 09, 2017


Schengen is the town in Luxembourg where the Schengen Borders Agreement was signed in 1985. This treaty allows people to travel freely within the Schengen area; internal borders are abolished in lieu of a single external border. Entry requirements for stays of 90 days or less, including visas, have common rules and procedures. Explore the countries that have signed the Schengen Borders Agreement to date. To assist you in calculating the total number of days spent in the Schengen area during a six-month period, you may use the Schengen Calculator Tool.

Are the European Union (EU) and the Schengen States one and the same?

No. While the Schengen Borders Agreement has been wrapped into European Union law, not all EU members have signed or implemented the agreement and not all signatory countries are members of the EU.

  • Countries that are not EU members but have signed the Schengen Borders Agreement: Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
  • Countries that are EU members but have not signed the Schengen Borders Agreement: Bulgaria, Ireland, Romania, and the United Kingdom.

What is the difference between a Schengen visa and a national visa?

A Schengen visa is for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. As stated above, the Schengen Borders Agreement created common rules and procedures for entry requirements within the Schengen area.

For stays of more than 90 days, each Schengen country retains the right to set entry requirements, called a “national visa.” National visa requirements are listed on the individual consulate or embassy’s website for your jurisdiction.

Who needs to get a Schengen visa for study?

Students traveling on a U.S. passport to study less than 90 days in a Schengen country (or multiple Schengen countries) are not required to apply for a Schengen visa. Students who are citizens of certain other countries may need to obtain a visa prior to departure and this can be easily checked on the website of the nearest consulate or embassy of that country.

All students, including U.S. passport holders, whose primary purpose for traveling to a Schengen country is research or short-term employment must inquire about visa requirements. It may be necessary to apply for a visa to work, intern, research, or volunteer in a Schengen country.

Note: Students who intend to study in multiple Schengen countries will work with the consulate or embassy of the country in which they will spend the longest period of time.

May international students studying in the United States apply for a Schengen visa or national visa in the United States?

Yes. The application may be submitted to the consulate or embassy with jurisdiction over the state in which the college/university is located. Please be aware that as of March 2013, new Schengen visa rules require that international students have a valid visa to return to the United States at the time of application. The visa must be valid for at least three months beyond the intended departure from the Schengen area.

Is there a Schengen office to contact with questions about visa procedures?

Schengen rules are interpreted by each of the countries that signed the agreement.  Therefore, questions may be directed to the consulates of the country in which the students will study.


1. My U.S. student will study in a Schengen country in a program lasting 85 days and, therefore, does not need to apply for a visa. He would like to travel in Europe in the Schengen area for an additional 14 days. May he do so?

No. The rules are very clear and strict. He may remain in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. Hefty fines have been imposed on individuals who overstayed and some have been barred from returning to the Schengen area for a year and up to 10 years.  

May the student apply for a national visa to be able to stay the extra time?

No. National study visas are for study terms of more than 90 days so the student will not qualify for the visa.

2. My U.S. student will participate in two study programs in two different Schengen countries. The first program is in September and is four weeks long, and the second program begins in October and is 10 weeks long. Can my student enter the Schengen area on a tourist visa for the first program and apply for a national visa for the second to be able to remain in the Schengen area for more than 90 days?

No. Each program is less than 90 days so it is not possible to apply for a national visa. Together, the two program lengths are more than 90 days, which is in violation of the Schengen short-stay time limit. The student may only participate in one of the programs.