Do you need a visa for Europe?
Whether you need to obtain a visa for your travels to Europe largely depends on which country your passport is from and which European country you're travelling to with a Schengen Agreement in place for 26 countries including Italy, France, Germany, and Spain that allows visa-free travel between them.
Passport holders from over 150 countries will need to obtain a Schengen Visa before arriving in their European destination of choice, however, there are some nationals that don't require a visa at all, just a passport with at least 6 months validity and an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) travel authorisation. These nationals can move between the countries part of the Schengen Agreement for a period of up to 90 days within a 6-month period.
The countries that don't require their nationals to obtain a visa include:
For the full list of countries that do and do not require a visa to travel to Europe, please visit the Online Visa Global Travel Services website.
Passport holders from a country that's part of the Schengen Agreement follow a different set of travel requirements if their final destination is a country that's also part of the agreement. For example, if a national from France is travelling to Germany, they don't need to present a passport at the airport or to immigration officials to be granted access to the country. They can also stay in that country for an unlimited amount of time. You can find the full list of Schengen countries here.
However, it's important to remember that obtaining a Schengen visa or an ETIAS doesn't automatically mean you'll be granted access upon your arrival to your preferred European country. Regardless of the visa requirements, you'll still need to clear immigration once you've landed and it's up to these officials to grant you access to the country.
How to apply for a Schengen visa
Applying for a Schengen visa is relatively straightforward and easy with the best way being to visit an embassy, government office, or consulate of the European country you're arriving into. Make sure you schedule this visit well before your intended arrival in Europe (you can do this online or by calling the embassy/consulate) as it can take up to 3 weeks for the application process to be completed. There are some variations within this time frame - it could take less time or it could take more - so it's always better to leave at least a couple of months between applying and your arrival date to avoid any potential disruption to your travel plans.
Before your appointment, you'll need to download the application form and fill it in. The form will require you to provide your personal information, any background information that might be relevant to your application, why you're requesting a Schengen visa and other details regarding your travel itinerary and country movements.
You'll need to print out two copies of the fully filled-in form and bring them with you to your visa appointment, along with your passport, photos, travel insurance, flight itinerary (including your return flights), proof of accommodation, and proof of financial stability (bank statements).
Once your visa interview is completed, you'll have to pay for the application before it can be processed. The cost of the visa can vary but you can expect to pay around USD$85, however, this fee can be reduced depending on the individual situation. For more detailed information regarding visa requirements, please visit your nearest embassy or consulate.
How to apply for an ETIAS travel authorisation
Obtaining an ETIAS online visa waiver is as simple as applying for a Schengen visa; all you have to do is fill out an online form with your basic personal, passport, and travel information, and answer some security questions, before submitting your application. Once completed, you'll have to pay the application fee with your preferred method of payment. The cost of this fee is subject to change but it's usually no more than USD$7.
Once your payment has gone through, your application will start being processed. This is almost instantaneous and will automatically be linked electronically to your passport, although you will get an email notifying you of this so feel free to print this out and carry it with you on your travels as hard-copy proof.
To start your application, please visit the ETIAS Visa website.