Travel in Europe has never been easier. Thanks to the Schengen Agreement (pronounced SHEN-ghen), a single visa will allow you to access the 25 members of the Schengen Area — Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia (and includes by default, the micro states of Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City).
Not everyone needs a Schengen visa to travel in Europe (see this map of exempted countries to find out if you are required to have one). If you do need a Schengen visa, you will need to apply at the embassy or consulate of the country where you will spend the majority of your time) or the point of entry for your visit. Here is a list of Schengen visa requirements you will need when applying:
• Two completed and signed application forms with passport sized photographs (separate applications, photos, and birth certificates are required for children)
• Valid passport and one copy (validity must extend until at least 3 months after the end of the planned journey)
• Copy of itinerary with confirmed reservation (airline ticket must be presented prior to issuance of visa) and if applicable, a letter from your company giving details about your business trip
• Proof of sufficient financial means of support (e.g. bank statements, proof of income or an invitation letter and sponsorship declaration from your relatives or friends in a Schengen country)
• Proof of health insurance cover for your stay in the Schengen area to be presented prior to issuance of visa
• Visa fees (please contact the Embassy or Consulate where the application is to be lodged)
Minors traveling by themselves will need to contact the respective Embassy or Consulate for further requirements. Be sure to note that you need proof of compliant travel medical insurance. Schengen visa insurance requirements for several countries include (a) the insurance company must have a representative office in Europe, (b) medical evacuation/repatriation coverage of at least US $37,500, and (c) insurance must be valid for the duration of your stay in the Schengen states.
There are several insurance companies that offer the medical coverage you need. Most of them, do not require a medical exam, and when you purchase it online, the coverage is applied instantly. Their website also covers the Schengen visa insurance requirements in greater detail to make your application as smooth as possible. Always remember to leave plenty of time when applying for a Schengen visa, as it may take more than six weeks to process your request and return your visa. As a rule of thumb, you should apply more than two months prior to your visit, and it may be wise to schedule an appointment with the necessary consulate in advance.