The Schengen Area
The Schengen Area is the name given to a region of Europe where there are no border checks between countries.
Ireland is not part of the Schengen Area, which means that if you travel to the Schengen Area from Ireland, you pass through an immigration checkpoint and have to show your passport or national identity card.
The following European Union countries are not part of the Schengen Area:
The United Kingdom is also not part of the Schengen Area.
The Schengen Area was created following the Schengen Agreement, named after the village in Luxemburg where it was signed in 1985. The Schengen Convention, which followed in 1990, set out more details on the operation of the borderless area.
Ireland takes part in some of the policing co-operation agreements that are part of the Schengen Agreement. This includes SIS II, which is the second generation of the Schengen Information System - see ‘Policing and security’ below for more information.
Visas and borders in the Schengen Area
There are no border checks between the Schengen countries. You only pass through border checks at the external border of the Schengen Area.
For example, if you are traveling from Romania (which is outside Schengen) to Hungary (which is inside Schengen), you will be checked by border officials at the border. You could then travel from Hungary to Austria, and on to Germany and France without passing through another border check, because those countries are all within the Schengen Area. If you then travel from France to Ireland, you would pass an immigration checkpoint, because you are leaving the Schengen Area.
The Visa Information System (VIS) allows Schengen member states to share visa information. Each Schengen country has the same rules about entry and short stay visas.
If you are not a citizen of an EEA member state (The EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein), you may need a visa to travel to Ireland, even if you have a Schengen visa.
If you are a non-EEA citizen and you currently live in Ireland, you may need a Schengen visa to travel to the Schengen Area, even if you have a valid Irish Residence Permit (IRP). You should check with the embassy of the country you plan to visit.
Where do I apply for a Schengen visa?
You only need to make one visa application for your visit, even if you plan to travel to more than one country in the Schengen Area. There are rules about which country’s embassy you should make your visa application to:
- If you are visiting one country in the Schengen Area, you should apply to the embassy of the country you plan to visit
- If you are visiting more than one country, you should make your application to the embassy of the country where you plan to spend the most time
- If you are spending the same amount of time in more than one country, you should apply to the embassy of the country where you are going first
Free movement of people
The Schengen Agreement does not affect the rights of EEA citizens to live and work in other EEA countries. This is covered by EU directives and regulations on the free movement of people.
You should note that many countries in the EEA require their own citizens and visitors to carry some form of identification. You should carry your passport or national identity card as you could be asked to prove that you have a legal right to be in the Schengen Area.
Visa waiver scheme from November 2023
A visa waiver programme is due to be introduced from November 2023. This means that people from countries outside the EU and EEA who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area, will need to get a visa waiver before they travel. This system will be similar to the ESTA system for travelling to the United States.
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will cover travel to the Schengen Area and to:
If approved, your ETIAS is valid for 3 years or until your passport expires. You can move freely within the Schengen Area (and to the countries above) after your arrival, for up to 90 days.
Applicants will need to pay a fee and apply online giving some basic personal information.
Policing and security
The Schengen Agreement also means that member states co-ordinate security and policing activities. These include:
- Cross-border surveillance
- Hot pursuit
- The Schengen Information System (SIS)
The European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) is used by Schengen member states (and Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia) to co-ordinate and exchange information. It aims to stop cross-border crime.
Under the Schengen Agreement, police who are in active pursuit of a criminal can continue their pursuit into a neighbouring country provided that country is also in the Schengen Area.
Schengen Information System (SIS)
EU member states use the Schengen Information System (SIS) to share information about security and border management. Countries can issue a SIS alert about a person or object, which also includes information about what to do if that person or object has been found.
Ireland is connected to SIS II, which is the second generation of the Schengen Information System. This means that Ireland can send and receive alerts on people and objects. These alerts are used to help trace missing people, people who are wanted by the police in a member state, and/or objects that are missing or stolen.
You can get more information about SIS on garda.ie. You can get information on the right to access your personal information held on SIS from the Data Protection Commission. You can read more about these rights on the website of the European Data Protection Board.
Asylum seekers and people with international protection status
Asylum seekers cannot move freely within the Schengen Area. This is because they must stay in the country where they have lodged their application for international protection. The Dublin III Regulations set out the rules on where a claim for international protection asylum should be made within the European Union.
Refugees and subsidiary protection
If you have refugee or subsidiary protection status, you can move freely within the Schengen area and stay for up to 90 days. If you wish to live in another country in the Schengen area (or another part of the EEA), you have to make an application for residence to that country’s embassy before traveling there. You may also need a work permit if you want to take up employment.
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