Schengen Area – The World’s Largest Visa Free Zone
Schengen Area, signifies a zone where 26 European countries, abolished their internal borders, for the free and unrestricted movement of people, in harmony with common rules for controlling external borders and fighting criminality by strengthening the common judicial system and police cooperation.
Schengen Area covers most of the EU countries, except the UK, Ireland and the countries that are soon to be part of: Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus. Although not members of the EU, countries like: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are also part of the Schengen zone.
Schengen Area Countries
The 26 Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Currently, Schengen Area consists of 26 member countries. All of these countries are located in Europe, from which:
22 members fully implement the Schengen Aquis,
Four of them – members of the EFTA, implement Schengen Aquis through Specific Agreements related to the Schengen Agreement.
Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are associate members of the Schengen Area but are not members of the EU.
Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City have opened their borders with, but are not members of the visa free zone.
The Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands are special members of the EU and part of the Schengen Zone even that they are located outside the European continent.
There are six more EU members, that have not joined Schengen zone: Ireland and United Kingdom – that still maintain opt-outs and Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus – that are required to and are seeking to join soon.
The external borders of the Schengen Zone reach a distance of 50,000 km long, where 80% of it is comprised of water and 20% of land. The area counts hundreds of airports and maritime ports, many land crossing points, an area of 4,312,099 km2, and a population of 419,392,429 citizens.
Note: Although most of the Schengen countries are in the European Union, you should not confuse the Schengen Area with the EU.