Schengen Agreement

Caution

Coronavirus: border controls, health measures and entry restrictions
To contain the coronavirus, there are currently border controls, health measures on entry and entry restrictions in the Schengen area. Further information on Entry into Austria and pre-travel clearance can also be found on oesterreich.gv.at as well as detailed information on the individual coutries and current travel warnings under Travel Information on the BMEIA website.

IMPORTANT NOTE ON BORDER CONTROLS:
Certain Schengen countries have temporarily reintroduced border controls.Some Schengen states have temporarily reintroduced border controls. The following applies to Austria:

  • Controls on the borders between Germany and Austria (affected are freeways, federal, state and district roads)
  • From 12 Mai 2021 up to and including 11 November 2021, the borders with Hungary may be crossed by land transport only at border crossing points.
  • From 12 Mai 2020 up to and including 11 November 2021, the border with Slovenia may be crossed in land transport only at border crossing points.

Caution

Detailed information about the current border control posts can be found on the website of the Motorways and Highways Financing Company (ASFINAG).

General information about the Schengen Agreement

When travelling within the Schengen area, citizens are free to cross all borders without undergoing the type of identity checks that are done regardless of whether or not there is a suspicion of wrongdoing. However, you should always carry a passport or ID card as proof of your identity.

The purpose of the Schengen area is to expand the individual freedoms of citizens on the one hand, and to improve security within Europe on the other. The creation of the Schengen area also led to the establishment of a common visa policy. Travellers from outside Europe only need one Schengen visa to enter the EU.

Provisions of the Schengen Agreement

  • Abolition of identity checks at internal borders.
  • Holders of a visa that was issued by a Schengen country and does not have limited territorial validity (type C visa) may move freely within the entire Schengen area during the period of validity of their visa. There are also no checks when crossing internal borders.
  • Third-country nationals holding a national residence permit for a Schengen country may also spend up to 90 days within a 6-month period in the territory of the other Schengen countries during the validity period of their permit. This also applies to holders of a ‘national visa’ (type D visa) issued by a Schengen country.
  • External border controls are carried out in line with a harmonised standard.
  • Member countries are given access to the Schengen Information System (SIS), containing Schengen-wide data on persons and objects, primarily for tracing purposes.
  • Close police and judicial cooperation.

The Schengen countries carry out countervailing measures to ensure that security is not compromised as a result of the lack of checks at the internal borders:

  • reinforced external border controls
  • cross-border police cooperation
  • automated information sharing system for persons and objects (Schengen Information System)
  • data protection rules regarding the exchange of personal data
  • agreement on cross-border judicial cooperation
  • common visa and asylum policy (e.g. introduction of the Schengen visa)

Schengen countries

This table provides information the abolition of border controls in Schengen countries
country Generally speaking, abolition of border controls (see above) since
Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal 26 March 1995
Austria 1 December 1997
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden 1 December 2000
Czechia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia 21 December 2007
Switzerland 12 December 2008 (land borders), 29 March 2009 (air borders)
Liechtenstein 19 December 2011

Holders of a common visa may reside in the aforementioned states during the period of validity of the visa for no longer than 90 days within a 6-month period.

Exceptions to the Schengen Agreement

Switzerland and Liechtenstein

The EU concluded an agreement with Switzerland with respect to its participation in the Schengen area. As a result, Switzerland joined the Schengen area on 12 December 2008. Identity checks at air borders were abolished on 29 March 2009. Liechtenstein joined the Schengen area on 19 December 2011.

Although identity checks are no longer carried out, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are not members of the EU Customs Union and therefore there are still goods checks at the border between:

  • Switzerland and the EU; and
  • Liechtenstein and Austria.

 In such cases, Swiss border control officers often check the person's identity at the same time.

Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom

Specific arrangements are in place for Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Denmark fully applies the Schengen acquis. However, it does have a reservation on the implementation and application of future decisions. Denmark decides on a case-by-case basis whether it wishes to participate in the further development of the Schengen acquis, and whether it wants to apply the resulting Community law at national level. However, when it comes to the common visa policy, Denmark is obliged to comply with certain measures.

Ireland is not party to the Schengen Agreement. It may not apply the Schengen acquis or participate in the further development thereof. Nor can it issue Schengen visas. However, it does participate in police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters as well as with regard to the fight against drugs and the Schengen Information System (SIS). Nonetheless, border controls have not been abolished.

The United Kingdom was not a party to the Schengen Agreement even before the Brexit and behaved like Ireland. The transitional period agreed between the EU and the United Kingdom in the course of the Brexit withdrawal agreement expired on 31 December 2020. This means that the United Kingdom has left the EU single market and the customs union. More detailed information about Brexit and its consequences (→ BKA)German Text can be found on the website of the Federal Chancellery.

Iceland and Norway

Iceland and Norway, neither of which are members of the European Union, fully apply the Schengen acquis.

Together with Denmark, Finland and Sweden, both countries belong to the Nordic Passport Union countries, which have abolished checks at their shared borders.

On 1 December 2000, the Schengen acquis entered into force in all five countries of the Nordic Passport Union. They have fully applied the Schengen acquis since that time.

Andorra and San Marino

Andorra did not explicitly sign the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement (CISA). However, there were already no checks at the borders with its neighbouring countries, Spain and France. There are no checks at the border with Switzerland, but the border traffic is monitored by video camera. San Marino did not explicitly sign the CISA, but there were already no checks at the border with its only neighbouring country, Italy.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, despite being full members of the EU, only partially apply the Schengen acquis. As a result, they do not yet issue common Schengen visas.

In order to adopt the entire Schengen acquis, they must meet certain requirements, which are not yet fulfilled. Only then can border controls be abolished.

History of the Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Agreement (named after a place in Luxembourg) was signed in 1985 by five founding countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and Netherlands. The agreement provided for checks at the internal borders between the contracting states to be abolished, and for a common external border to be created.

In 1990, the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement (CISA), was signed. This set out the practical implementation of the political agreements. It entered into force in 1993, although it was not applied until 26 March 1995 as the necessary technical and legal requirements had to be met first.

In the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997), it was decided to integrate the Schengen Agreement into EU law. This took effect in 1999.

Many areas of the Schengen acquis (the Schengen Agreement and the rules and regulations adopted on the basis thereof) and its further development were transferred to the competence of the European Community.

Being part of the Schengen area brings many benefits for Member States of the European Union. The abolition of internal border controls affords citizens greater freedom and security. Better and more efficient checks are now carried out at the external borders of the Schengen area.

Since 1995, the Schengen area has been extended to cover almost all Member States: Austria joined in 1997, followed by the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden in 2000. In December 2007, the European Council decided to extend it to the new EU Member States: Czechia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.

Legal basis

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 30 June 2021

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