The Schengen Area and European Union are often (mistakenly) assumed by many to be the same thing but this is not the case. Although a vast majority of EU countries are also signed up to the Schengen Agreement there are five that are not. The five are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland.
Conversely, there are four European countries that are solely members of Schengen and these are Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
The premise of the Schengen Agreement was to facilitate the transit of goods and people through countries which shared a border by removing the time-consuming process of having to be cleared through every border crossing point. Having shown the right documentation and ID at an external border and entered the the Schengen Area it should not be necessary to do so again until leaving the zone.
By agreement, all holders of European Union member country passports are not required to possess a Schengen Visa to come and go but this is not the case for visitors from outside the EU. These visitors, for whatever the purpose or length of the visit, must hold the correct Schengen Visa for the country they are visiting.
The Czech Republic
Landlocked in the centre of Europe, the Czech Republic (also called Czechia) joined Schengen in 2007. It is a very popular tourist destination and the capital city of Prague consistently ranks in the top five most visited European capital cities.
Czech embassies and consulates around the world handle more than 600,000 Schengen Visa applications per year and the visa is necessary for many of the world’s citizens.
The only visitors who do NOT require a Schengen Visa are:
- Citizens of an EU country
- Citizens of a Schengen country
- Citizens of approximately 60 countries on a visa liberalisation list
- All other nationalities who do not fall into one of these three categories are termed world citizens and must have applied for and received the correct form of Schengen Visa before arriving in the Czech Republic.
The Correct Visa
Most world citizens will only require a Tourist Visa for a short holiday and this is by far the most frequently issued form of visa but it is not the only option available. When applying for a visa many factors must be taken into consideration including:
- Purpose of the visit
- Duration of stay
- Onward travel to another Schengen country
- Number of entries required into the Czech Republic
Once these questions have been answered the next step is to select the correct form of visa for the intended visit to the country.
The type of visa required will depend on the reason for visiting the Czech Republic. Once the main purpose for the trip has been established the applicant has the following options:
- Tourist Visa – This is for a short-stay holiday and permits the holder to enter and leave the Czech Republic.
- Airport Transit Visa – Required if the sole purpose of the visit is to transit through a Czech airport.
- Visiting Family/Friends Visa – Specifically for the purpose of visiting friends or members of the family who reside in Czechia.
- Business Visa – Aimed at business people attending meetings, seminars or other business-related events.
- Official Visit Visa – Solely for foreign delegates attending official meetings.
- Medical Visa – For visitors who require medical treatment in a Czech hospital or other recognised medical centre.
- Study Visa – For study courses at a Czech college or university lasting no longer than three months. Also applies for internships.
- Cultural, Sports and Film Crews Visa – Specifically for people involved in the arts, media or sport who wish to attend an event or activity.
Schengen Visa rules allow for a stay in a Schengen member state for a maximum of up to ninety days in a six-month period. This rule applies to all of the above forms of visa. Should a visitor have reasons for staying any longer then a Czech National Visa will be required.
Applying for a Schengen Visa for the Czech Republic
Having chosen and received the appropriate visa application, the next step is to fill it out and gather the required documentation that must accompany the application form. This can be a lengthy, involved and frustrating exercise but a necessary one as failure to supply what is requested will invariably end in a rejection.
Requirements for even the basic short-stay tourist visa are:
- Completed application form, signed and dated.
- Two recent, identical passport photographs
- Valid passport no older than ten years old with an expiry date at least three months beyond the last date of the visit to the Schengen Area (not just the Czech Republic). Passport should also contain at least two blank pages where the visa will be affixed.
- Copies of any previous visas are also required.
- Proof of inbound and outbound flight schedule including flight details and dates.
- Sufficient medical health insurance (minimum coverage €30,000) for any unexpected emergencies while abroad.
- Accommodation details including copies of confirmed reservations at hotels, guest houses etc.
- Proof of sufficient funding to cover the entire length of the visit. Currently this is approximately €42 per day.
- Certificate of civil status which can include marriage certificate, births of any children, death of a spouse etc.
Not only are all of the above necessary but the interviewing consular representative will also require a letter outlining the reason for the visit, duration of the stay and any planned excursions or sightseeing trips.
Completing the list of necessary documentation above is a daunting enough challenge but even more may be required depending on the applicant’s current status regarding employment.
What additional paperwork is required will depend on whether the applicant is employed, self-employed or retired but could include some of the following:
- Bank statements for the preceding six months
- Copy of employment contract
- Confirmation of holiday leave from employer
- Copies of income tax returns
- Copy of business registration
- Most recent bank statements
- Income tax returns
- Pension statements for preceding six months
- Students, whether long- or short-stay, may be asked for what is termed a Certificate of No Objection from the college which states the student will return after the set time period expires.
Once all necessary information has been filled out on the visa form and the necessary documentation collected, an applicant has to attend a personal interview where all the paperwork will be handed over and examined. This will take place at a Czech Republic embassy or consulate or, if these are not available, at a visa application centre or at an alternate country’s embassy.
The primary purpose of the interview is to verify a person’s identity while also giving the interviewer a personal insight into the applicant’s suitability. This is done by double checking the supplied information to ensure everything is in order while also getting an overall view of the type of person applying to visit the Czech Republic.
Another reason for a personal interview is to take fingerprints from the applicant which will be added to (and checked) against a biometric database.
The interview is where full payment must be made for the visa. Regardless of which type of visa is being applied for there are standard fees applicable. Currently, this is set at €80 for adults, €40 for children between six and twelve, and younger children are free of charge.