EU Entry and Travel Requirements

EU Entry Requirements specify the rules that a person traveling to one of the EU or Schengen area member states must follow. These rules may differ for non-EU nationals and EU citizens.

One of the most important documents that a traveler coming from outside the EU must have is a valid passport that must have been issued within the last 10 years. Moreover, its holder must ensure that the passport validity extends beyond at least 3 months from the planned date of exit.

Nationals of the EU also should carry a valid passport or ID card when traveling across the EU and Schengen area. Nevertheless, they don't need to show it to enter a given country unless asked to do so.

According to the EU visa policy, every person coming from outside the EU needs to obtain a Schengen visa. The visa is issued for short-term stays not exceeding 90 days. Moreover, a holder of a Schengen visa can use it only for tourism or business-related purposes.

For any other traveling purposes, or for stays longer than 90 days in one of the Schengen area member states, a non-EU national will need to apply for a national visa for the country they plan to stay in.

Additionally, citizens of visa-exempt countries will soon need to register for ETIAS. The system is planned to be finally launched in November 2023.

Due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU government implemented some additional measures to protect the health of the general public. These measures included, i.a., the introduction of the EU Digital Covid Certificate and digital Passenger Locator Forms.

Nevertheless, amid the improving coronavirus situation and successful vaccination campaigns, the majority of EU countries decided to drop most covid-related restrictions. These restrictions are, however, subject to constant changes. Remember to always consult the latest travel advice for the country of your desired destination.

Read on for more information on current EU entry requirements and prepare best for your travel.

Documents check-list for entering the EU

Non-EU Nationals

To enter any member state of the European Union and Schengen area, non-EU nationals will need to present the following documents:

  • valid passport: required from all non-EU travelers, no matter visa-exempt or not.
  • Schengen visa: issued for tourism and business stays of up to 90-days.

EU or Schengen border officials may also require providing some travel-related information, such as the planned duration of stay in the given country, as well as traveling purposes. Moreover, it may be necessary to present some additional documents, including:

  • sufficient funds covering the entire stay
  • accommodation proof
  • invitation letter
  • travel insurance
  • round-trip flight ticket

Important: Make sure that your passport is stamped upon entering the Schengen area. Failure to do so may result in being fined or even detained.

EU Nationals

As an EU national, you won't be required to show either your national ID card or passport when traveling from one border-free Schengen EU member state to another. Nevertheless, a valid passport or ID card may be necessary to prove your identity, for example, to board a flight.

Please remember that a driving license, post, bank, or tax card cannot be accepted as a document proving your identity.

EU Covid-19 Restrictions

Most of the EU countries have already lifted all Covid-19 restrictions. You should, however, bear in mind that some entry measures can be implemented at short notice amid the still-evolving coronavirus pandemic worldwide.

The latest changes in covid-related entry requirements in some of the European countries include:

  • Luxembourg, France, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Finland, Estonia, Cyprus, Austria, Greece, and Italy dropped all coronavirus travel restrictions for incoming foreigners.
  • Passengers flying to the EU are no longer required to wear masks in airports or onboard. (Some countries, however, are still maintaining mask requirements in place.)
  • Mask mandate was lifted in Spain and mainland Portugal, except on public transport.
  • Travelers arriving in Belgium from outside the European Union no longer must provide any Covid-19 documents to enter the country.

Check our detailed travel advice for the following European destinations:

  • Spain
  • Canary island (Spain)
  • Balearic islands (Spain)
  • Mallorca (Spain)
  • Tenerife (Spain)
  • France
  • Greece
  • Portugal
  • Germany
  • Croatia
  • Switzerland (non-EU member state)

EU Digital Covid Certificate

The system of the EU Digital Covid Certificate was introduced to eliminate differences in public health measures that used to hinder the free movement across the EU member states.

The certificate is electronic proof that a traveler:

  • has recently recovered from coronavirus;
  • has produced a negative test result for Covid-19;
  • has received the full regimen of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The EUDCC can have either a digital form or a hard copy and is recognized in all EU member countries. After registering all required information, the system's user receives a unique QR code. The registration is free of charge, and certificates are issued in a traveler's national language and in English.

The European Commission extended the usage of the EUDCC until June 2023. The Commission agreed on a standard 9-month acceptance period for certificates, i.e., only vaccination certificates issued less than 9 months after receiving the last dose of the primary vaccination regime will be recognized as valid. This 9-month timeframe comprises receiving the booster dose after 6 months, which gives an extra 3-month leeway.

Traveling from the EU

The traveling rules may differ depending on the country you plan to travel to from the EU.

Check the entry requirements of the country(s) of your travel destination as well as the rules of your airline or/and travel provider.

Traveling to the EU

Depending on the visited country in the EU, the entry requirements may differ.

Before starting your trip, make sure you know all the rules that you must follow to enter the given EU member state hassle-free.

Entry Rules for Children

Apart from holding a valid passport or ID card, all minors traveling alone or with adults not being their legal guardians, or with only one parent, may need to have official documents with the signature of their parents, the second parent or legal guardian(s) authorizing them to travel.

There are no common rules established by the EU on this matter. However, each EU member state decides whether a child must have official authorization from a parent or legal guardian. For more details, check the exact rules applicable to the country you plan to visit and travel from.

Important! Although a country may not require underage travelers to provide an official travel authorization, some other countries on their travel list may require the child to show such a document.

Transit through the EU

All travelers arriving from non-visa-exempt countries may need to obtain a visa to transit through the Schengen territory.

There are two types of transit Schengen visas:

  • Airport Transit Schengen Visa: enables transit through the international zone of the Schengen Country Airport without leaving the transit zone;
  • Transit Schengen Visa for Seafarers:enables a 5-day transit through more than one Schengen member state either by coach, plane, or car to reach a non-Schengen country.

The following list includes all the countries whose nationals must hold an airport transit visa when transiting through the international transit zone of any Schengen country airport:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Somalia
  • Sri Lanka

Additionally, most Schengen countries may have added to their lists some extra countries whose nationals need to obtain airport transit visas. For more information, check here.

EU Visa Policy

Schengen Visa

A Schengen visa is a short-term visa enabling its holder to visit any member state of the Schengen Area and stay there for maximally 90 days.

All nationals of third countries which haven't made visa-free travel agreements with the Schengen member countries must obtain a visa before traveling to Europe.

Schengen visa serves tourism and business purposes. A person who plans to study, live or live in one of the Schengen member countries for more than 3 months must, however, obtain a national visa of the given country in Europe instead.

Future changes to EU Visa Policy

The European Union visa policy is to change soon. The planned reform in European visa rules is expected to improve mutual cooperation with non-EU countries and facilitate visa application procedures for travelers arriving from outside the European Union.

The upcoming changes that will be introduced in the EU visa policy comprise the following:

  • launching the ETIAS online registration for travelers from visa-exempt countries
  • making the EU visa application available online
  • making Schengen visa application available for foreigners 6 months prior to their intended visit (now it's 3 months)
  • reducing visa application processing time from 15 to 10 days

European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS)

The European Travel Information and Authorization System can be compared to the US ESTA VISA waiver or Australian ETA. Its introduction, planned for November 2023, is aimed at increasing security on border controls within the entire Schengen Area. ETIAS will be mandatory for all those citizens who are allowed to travel to European countries without a visa.

Once the system is finally implemented, it will influence traveling to Europe to a small extent. Visa-exempt travelers will simply need to register online with the ETIAS system before arriving in any of the EU countries.

An ETIAS applicant will be required to provide biometric passport information as well as some travel details. Moreover, it will be necessary to answer some standard security questions.

The ETIAS application will be an entirely online process involving no consulate or embassy appointments. It will also reduce the bureaucracy upon arrival in a given EU member state since all the incoming visitors will already have been verified when registering their data via the ETIAS system. The approval will be delivered digitally to the applicant's email address.

ETIAS will not affect visa policy for Europe, i.e., citizens of the countries that must obtain a Schengen visa will still need to do so. In practice, its introduction will create an additional entry requirement for nationals of countries who can visit Europe visa-free.

Passenger Locator Forms

One of the protective measures aimed at general public health protection amid the Covid-19 pandemic was the implementation of online health and travel declarations, also known as Passenger Locator Forms. These forms have been mandatory for all incoming travelers, very often even for nationals of the said countries.

Passenger Locator Forms (PLFs) have helped public health authorities trace travelers who may have been exposed to the infectious coronavirus during their travel.

Thanks to the information provided in the PLF, the particular country's authorities can immediately contact an infected traveler and take appropriate measures to prevent the further spread of the virus.

The majority of EU governments already decided to lift the PLF requirements amid the improving general Covid-19 situation and successful vaccination campaigns across Europe and around the world.

Travel Insurance

A travel insurance policy is obligatory only for travelers who wish to apply for a Schengen visa. They are always required to have insurance covering the entire period of their planned stay in Europe, regardless of their traveling purpose.

In order to be approved for a Schengen visa application, the insurance must meet certain criteria, including:

  • cover medical costs of min. 30,000 EUR (29,500 USD);
  • cover all member states of the Schengen Area (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);
  • cover any potential expenses that might arise in connection with medical repatriation, including urgent health attention or emergency hospital treatment, or even death.

Foreigners traveling to Europe who can enter the Schengen zone visa-free aren't legally obliged to purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy. Nevertheless, they are always highly recommended to do so.

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