What is Schengen Area or visa?
Schengen area is free zone area (passport/visa) free zone in Europe and it is largest free travel area in the world. Schengen states have common rules for tourists, travelers.
Schengen states apply common rules for people entering the EU, including rules on documents checks and visa requirements. But they’re also required to maintain close police and judicial relations with each other to avoid criminals exploiting the system. National police in the Schengen states, for example, can cross into other countries in hot pursuit.
Police cooperation also extends to the Schengen Information System, a common database and alert system for suspect persons or objects, which members are required to use.
Twenty two out of 28 EU countries are now Schengen members, along with four non-EU countries: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. Of the six EU countries outside Schengen: The U.K. and Ireland chose not to enter, while Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus still have to adopt the host of rules required for entry.
History of Schengen
The Schengen Agreement — named after the wine-making village in Luxembourg where it was signed — kickstarted the process that gradually erased internal borders and allowed freedom of movement across much of the EU.
European freedom of movement dates back the 1956 Treaty of Rome, the EU’s founding agreement. But Europe was almost as fractured then as it is today and countries were deeply divided on whether to loosen restrictions on border crossings.
The 1985 Schengen Agreement was signed as a standalone agreement outside EU competence by only five of the then 10 member states — Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany. It proposed cooperation to limit border restrictions.
But the commitment to freedom of movement was bolstered in 1990 with the signing of the Schengen Convention, which almost fully removed border controls and established a common visa policy for the Schengen Area — effectively allowing complete freedom of movement across the bloc.
Countries signed on one by one until in the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam Schengen was formally codified in EU law, obliging all member countries to sign up.
The U.K. and Ireland received opt-outs, preferring to maintain control of their borders and preserve their own freedom of movement agreement, the Common Travel Area.