Landlocked in the heart of Europe, and bordered by Austria to the east and Switzerland to the west, Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest European country, with a population of under 40,000, and the sixth smallest in the world.
Regarded as a microstate, Liechtenstein is a principality ruled over by royal members of the House of Liechtenstein. Predominantly a German-speaking country, Liechtenstein is probably best known for its banking and financial services but it is also a centre for business enterprises, education and (more recently) wine production. Mainly mountainous, Liechtenstein is also a popular tourist destination with skiing and mountain sports the main attractions for visitors.
Alongside Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, Liechtenstein is part of the Schengen Area although not a member of the European Union. Due to a reciprocal agreement between Schengen and EU member states, holders of EU or Schengen passports do not require any form of visa to enter, travel through or visit Liechtenstein. However, nationals of countries outside of the EU and Schengen areas (or not on a list of approved visa-exempt countries) require a Schengen Visa and which type of visa is needed will depend upon the main reason for visiting Liechtenstein and how long a visitor wishes to remain in the country.
Intending visitors to Liechtenstein who do not qualify for visa-free travel are deemed to be “world travellers” and will require some form of Schengen Visa to enter the country for any reason. As is the case with all Schengen member states the type of visa required will depend on:
- The reason for the visit
- The length of stay in Liechtenstein
- Whether Liechtenstein is the only Schengen country being visited
- Where most time within the Schengen Zone will be spent
These are the principal reasons for seeking a visa but not the only ones. There are a range of visa types to choose from and it is important to select the correct visa type before proceeding with the application process. Choosing the wrong visa type at this stage will most likely end in confusion, delays and possible refusal. To confuse matters further, Liechtenstein does not issue any visas of any kind and intending visitors must instead apply for a Swiss Schengen visa.
Choosing the Correct Visa Type
Firstly it is important to know that Liechtenstein does not issue any type of Schengen Visa. As there is no recognised border control between Liechtenstein and neighbouring country Switzerland, all visa applications are handled by Swiss authorities and any visa (once issued) is valid for both countries.
For most types of Schengen Visa, regardless of which country, there are a number of standard required documents and conditions which will apply. These include:
- Completed, dated and signed visa application form
- Valid, current passport (with a minimum of three months validity after last date of visit)
- Passport must contain a minimum of two blank pages for affixing the visa
- Two identical, recent, passport photographs
- Proof of sufficient travel insurance coverage
As well as these documents and photos, applicants will also need to produce:
- A letter outlining the principle reason for the visit
- Proof of adequate finances for the trip (e.g. recent bank statements)
- Details of accommodation booked
It may also be necessary to show any airline tickets or travel bookings held in order to demonstrate an intention of leaving the country on the date stated. A personal interview at the relevant Swiss embassy, consulate or designated visa processing centre will also need to be arranged at which payment in full for the visa must be made and fingerprint samples given as part of the security process.
Which Visa Type?
All applicants for a Schengen Visa must specify the main purpose of the visit and the duration of the intended stay. These factors (among others) will determine which type of visa best fits the applicant’s requirements.
Among the most common Schengen Visa types sought for Switzerland (and Liechtenstein) are:
This is required by world travellers who are simply using an airport to make an onward connection but not staying in the country. An Airport Transit Visa is not required in all cases and will depend on the traveller’s nationality.
A Transit Visa applies to the use of seaports rather than airports and is usually required by seamen and ship workers.
In all likelihood, a Tourism Visa will be the one required by holidaymakers and short-term visitors.
Visiting Family or Friends
Visitors with friends or family members residing in Liechtenstein should probably apply for this form of visa. The application should be accompanied by an invitation letter as well as a brief description of the relationship between the resident and the visitor.
Although business people can probably get by on a Tourist Visa, applying for a Business Visa can be quicker and easier and the personal interview is usually also a faster process. Journalists and members of the press can also apply for a special Journalists and Reporters Visa.
Members of official delegations visiting Liechtenstein should possess an Official Visit Visa. Applications must be accompanied by an invitation letter from the hosts and documentation outlining the business being covered at any meetings as well as locations and dates.
World travellers undergoing surgery or medical treatment in Liechtenstein require a Medical Purposes Visa. Details of the procedures being undertaken, medical centre being attended and the applicant’s medical records are among just some of the documentation required to qualify.
Short-term study courses of less than three months are covered by a Study Visa. Applicant’s must provide details of the course, confirmation from the educational establishment concerned and demonstrate sufficient funding to cover the entire duration of the course.
Other visa types
These are the most commonly applied for types of Schengen Visa but there are other, more specific types including religious, sporting and artistic reasons for the visa. If an applicant’s purpose of visiting Liechtenstein does not match any of the available choices then the “other” option should be selected and the reason clarified in a short summation on the form.
All Schengen Visas, regardless of the type, only allow the holder to remain within the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period. The ninety days can be consecutive or broken into any number of smaller visits as long as the 90/180 rule is not broken.
The final step in the visa application process is to arrange for a personal interview at the Swiss embassy, consulate or approved visa centre. Making an appointment is the applicant’s responsibility and NOT that of the Swiss officials concerned.
The appointment should only be made after ensuring all the correct documentation has been collected and the form double-checked for possible errors or omissions. It is easy to make mistakes as there is so much to be considered, collected and checked and many people find it worthwhile to hire professional assistance to ensure all the paperwork is in order.
The interview can be arranged no more than three months in advance of the intended visit but it is advisable to wait until about four to six weeks before the date of travel. This should allow enough time to deal with any issues that may arise with the application and make any corrections necessary.