Schengen Visas are named after the Schengen Convention in Luxembourg which took place as far back in time as 1990. The Schengen Convention gave rise to the birth of the “Schengen Agreement” and this in turn defined the “Schengen Area” which was actually created five years later in 1995.
The Schengen Area is a zone of twenty-six European countries which have agreed to abolish border controls at their common boundaries or internal borders with other member countries who belong to the Schengen Agreement. In addition to the relaxation of internal border controls, the countries that are party to this agreement, have also strengthened their external border controls if they share a boundary with a country that is not part of the “Schengen Area”.
The current membership of the Schengen Area of twenty-six countries, includes four that are not members of the European Union, namely, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. There are also two notable opt outs from the Schengen Agreement and they are the Republic of Eire and the United Kingdom both of which wanted to maintain their border controls and do so under the Common Travel Area border control policy in conjunction with other European countries. The Schengen Agreement will eventually be extended to include Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania.
The purpose of the Schengen Agreement and the Schengen Visa is to allow free movement between the countries in the Schengen Area so that people can travel with ease across the designated borders to live and work freely via the implementation of a common visa policy. So essentially, there are no border checks. However, notwithstanding the remit of the Schengen Agreement, if a security issue does arise, the appropriate authorities of a member country are still permitted to conduct a check at the border, of which the check may be to a lesser level than a standard border check. And a Schengen Area member country does have the right to reinstate full border controls where there is a threat to their national security or due to an issue of public policy, for example, disease or suspected terrorist acts.
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