Learn more about the Schengen area and member countries

You mat have heard it mentioned before but what exactly is the Schengen Area and which countries does it include? The Schengen agreement makes it possible for citizens from participating countries to travel easily from one area to another without having to worry about internal border control. Even though there are not any border crossings or guards on duty, travellers should still carry a passport or national ID card with them at all time for identification purposes.

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Currently there are 26 European countries that have singed the Schengen Agreement that was created in 1985 and are a part of the Schengen area. 22 of the 28 European Union member states are included as well as the 4 European Free Trade Association Member states - Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Bulgaria and Romania became EU member states in 2007 and have reached the EU standard border security but are still waiting on their bid to join. Croatia and Cyprus are also part of the EU and are hoping to sign up to the Agreement as well. The United Kingdom and Ireland are both opt-outs meaning they do not have to participate in certain policy areas.

The Schengen Agreement eliminates immigration controls at all joint borders. Under Article 2.2, it is possible for participating countries to reinstate their border controls for a short time if there is believed to be any threat to a state's "public policy or national security".

When entering the Schengen area, those visiting on a tourist visa need to have a passport that is valid for 3 months after your departure date. If you want to return to this area after, you will need to wait at least 3 more months before re-entering the area.

Make sure to get stamped showing that you are legally entering and exiting the area. The airport authorities and law enforcement agencies can only carry out security checks at the borders within the area, not border checks. Make sure to have your passport or national ID card readily available in case of such an event.

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