The Schengen Area, with its 26 member countries, functions as a single state for international travel by having a common visa policy. The countries in the area have abolished internal borders amongst themselves and strengthened the external borders with non-Schengen countries. I realized this can make things a little confusing for first-timers, given that it did for me. The Schengen visa is like no other visa, not only because you need only one visa to visit all the nations within the Schengen area but also because depending upon your plan, the countries you want to visit, duration of stay and intent of your visit, you need to apply for different types of Schengen Visas.
More info on Schengen Visa here – Visit Visa Guide
Uniform Schengen Visa (USV)
This type of visa will allow you to travel and stay in any Schengen member country for a maximum duration of 90 days, every six months; starting from the date of arrival or entry in the Schengen zone. There are further 3 sub-categories of this visa:
- Category A (Airport Transit Visa): You can travel from a non-Schengen country to another non-Schengen country, via a Schengen country’s airport, without setting foot on Schengen soil. Maximum validity of this visa is 120 hours.
- Category B (Transit Visa): You are allowed to use overland transport, such as trains, buses and cars, of a Schengen country, to travel to a Non-Schengen country. This period of transit cannot exceed 5 days.
- Category C (Short Term Visa or Visitor Visa): You can stay in a Schengen member country for a period of 90 days within any 180-day period. That means that on the 91st day, you have to return. You cannot renew your visa and cannot re-enter, in case you have left the country, without issuance of a new visa. This type of visa has 3 further sub-types:
a) Single Entry Visa – You can enter the Schengen area once within the stipulated period. In case you leave that country, the visa expires immediately, even if the time period hasn’t lapsed.
b) Double Entry Visa – Within a certain time period, you can enter a country, leave and then enter again. Following the second exit, the visa will expire.
c) Multiple-Entry Visa – This allows you to freely travel within the Schengen Area, making multiple entries and exits within a certain time period.
Different countries have different rules regarding the validity of the visa. Your start date could be the date of your arrival in the country, date of entry in the Schengen zone or date of issuance of the visa. Make sure you check this out with the respective embassy in your country before setting out on your travels.
Limited Territorial Validity Visas (LTV)
A variant of the USV, this visa allows you to travel to and within the country that has issued your visa or in the countries you specify when applying for the visa. The visa will not be valid in any other Schengen Area countries.
Also known as Category D visas, these are granted to any individual studying, working or staying permanently in the Schengen area. The visa has a stipulated time period, and one can choose from single entry or multiple entry options, depending on the countries that you will have to travel to, just like the visitor visas. National Visas come under the jurisdiction of the issuing state, and are not Uniform Schengen Visas. They are required in case you are staying for more than 90 days in any member state. Students, employees working on-site, visiting faculty members of colleges are some examples of people who apply for this type of visa.
Please note that a national visa cannot be preceded by a visitor visa and vice-versa. Once your time period is over, you will have to leave the country until you get a new visa.