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Americans Traveling to Europe – Schengen Visa Requirements for US Citizens

Do US citizens need a visa for Europe?

Citizens of the United States with a valid U.S. Tourist passport (blue passport) can travel within the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days without having to apply or obtain a Schengen visa for short-term tourism or a business trip.

Note: (Starting January 1, 2021, US citizens will have to apply for an ETIAS visa prior to their travel towards Europe, in order to be allowed to enter the territory.)

What documents Americans need to enter the Schengen area?

  • A U.S. Passport (with applicable visas, if needed), valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure from the Schengen area.
  • A justifiable reason for your travel.
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources to support yourself during your stay in Europe.
  • Compliance with any other entry requirements for each country you will visit or transit.

Which countries can Americans visit in the Schengen Area without a visa?

US citizens can travel without a Schengen visa in the countries listed below:

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Austria
Belgium
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Italy
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Liechtenstein

As a US citizen, how long can I stay without a visa in the Schengen zone?

As a US citizen you can stay 90 days in any 180-day period within the Schengen area.

Please keep in mind that:

  • The date of entry is considered as the first day of stay
  • The date of exit is considered as the last day of stay.

Note: Periods of previous stay authorised under a residence permit or a long-stay visa are not taken into account in the calculation of the duration of visa-free stay.

Is travel medical insurance mandatory for US nationals entering Schengen Area?

Travel medical insurance is not mandatory for US citizens who don’t need a visa to enter the Schengen zone. Nonetheless, it is highly recommended to get one in case of visiting Europe.

How to get a Schengen Visa from USA

Non American citizens applying for a Schengen visa, while in US

All non US citizens who do need a visa to enter the Schengen Area, who have a legal residence status in the United States (e.g. Green Card holders; F1 (I-20), H1B, G1, J1, etc.). with three (3) months validity after returning from the Schengen area are eligible to apply for a Schengen visa while being in the United States. If your US visa has expired, please have it renewed before applying.

Depending on your purpose and/or length of visit – there are specifications that further clarify at which Embassy or Consulate you should apply.

  • If visiting one Schengen country – you must apply at the Embassy or Consulate representing the particular country of your destination.
  • If visiting more than one Schengen country – you must apply at the Embassy or Consulate representing the country of your main destination (the country of longest stay).
  • If visiting more than one Schengen country with equal stay duration – you must apply at the Embassy or Consulate representing the Schengen country you will enter first.
  • If you intend to stay in the Schengen area for over 90 days you must apply for a residence permit, not a Schengen visa. Instructions are on the respective embassy/consulate’s homepage.

The visa-processing period depends on your citizenship. Nevertheless, it is recommended that applicants send their application forms three to seven weeks prior to intended departure/flight.

Please, note that if you are not a resident in the United States you should apply at the appropriate Embassy in your country of residence.

Schengen Visa application documents and requirements for US residents

  • A valid passport or Travel document. Please make sure that:
    • Your passport has been issued (not extended) within the previous 10 years,
    • Your passport has 2 full blank pages, one for the visa stamp and an additional spare page,
    • Your passport will be valid for at least three (3) months after the date you exit the Schengen Area.
  • Original of valid US alien registration card (residence permit aka. Green Card) or valid US residence visa (e.g. type A, E, F plus endorsed I-20 by competent authority, G: H; I; J; plus J1 documents, L, O, R) must be presented.
  • The US residence permit or visa should be valid at least three months beyond the intended departure from the territory of the Schengen Member States.
  • One application form (please see below) filled out completely and signed by the applicant (please read the explanations carefully).
  • One passport format photo that has a light background, is rightly coloured, and shows full face features. The photo must be less than three months old and be glued on the application form. Applications with stapled photographs will be rejected.
  • A cover letter that explains the purpose of the visit to the Schengen zone
  • Proof of travel arrangements: Round trip flight/travel reservations or other proof of intended transport and complete itinerary of your visit to Europe
  • Travel Health Insurance stating that you are covered in case of a medical emergency and repatriation in the whole Schengen zone (minimum coverage of € 30.000).
  • Proof of accommodation in Europe:
  • Proof of financial subsistence:
    • A recent statement of US bank account for the last three months, or
    • Traveller’s cheques

Note: Photocopies of the original documents should also be submitted and documents should not be more than one month old.


The documents listed above are documents required in all cases, regardless of the purpose of your visit in Europe. Depending on your employment status, here is a list of additional documents that are required for your visa application:

For employees:

  • Employment contract
  • Current bank statement of the latest 6 months
  • Leave permission from the employer
  • Income Tax Return (ITR) form or Certificate of Income Tax deducted at the source of salary

For the self-employed:

  • A copy of your business license
  • Company bank statement of the latest 6 months
  • Income Tax Return (ITR)

For foreign students on F1 visas:

  • Valid I-20
  • Reference letter from educational institution (school/college/university)  stating that you are in good standing, your major and the expected date of graduation.

For retirees:

  • Pension statement of the latest 6 months

If unemployed and married to an EU citizen:

  • A recent (less than 3 months old) Confirmation of Employment letter from their spouse’s employer stating the position held within the company as well as the starting date,
  • Spouse’s valid passport
  • An officially marriage certificate.

Requirements for children under the age of 18

Underage children must be accompanied by parents or a an adult guardian at the application center at the Embassy/Consulate General. Also, minors who are granted a Europe visa are not allowed to travel to Europe by themselves. They should be accompanied by an adult during their stay in Europe.

Required documents for visa application for underage children

  • Original birth certificate among others.
  • Signed travel consent from both parents
    • If one parent is not located in the United States they should submit their signed consent to the Embassy/Consulate of their residing country

Visa Application Documents and Requirements for U.S. Citizenship and U.S. Passport holders

*Caution: When applying for a Schengen visa during summer or winter seasons, be cautious and/or plan your visit earlier, as these are the months when the highest numbers of applications arrive in Embassies – consequently, taking longer to complete the visa processing!

Do Green Card holders need a visa to travel to Europe?

All nationals of these countries, holding a Green Card cannot travel to Europe without getting a Schengen Visa.

Americans to apply for EU Travel Authorization starting 2021

US citizens will have to apply for an ETIAS prior to their travel towards Europe, in order to be allowed to enter the territory, starting January 1, 2021.

The ETIAS visa waiver is a European Travel Information and Authorisation System which will require US citizens to apply online for an entry permit for Europe before entering the area, similar to the ESTA that the United States use. This process allows EU authorities to pre-screen all travelers and confirm their status before permitting them entry or even to board a flight thus improving security measures throughout Europe.

All nationals of the countries that benefit from visa-free regime with the EU, aside of the Schengen Area Member States, will be subject to the European Travel Information and Authorization System.

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