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Applying for a Schengen Visa in the US – EU Visa Requirements for US Residents

If you are living in the US, you already have the chance to see some of the top world attractions as Times Square, Walt Disney World and the Japanese Tea Garden, without the need to even have a passport with you when passing from one state to another.

However, statistics show that a very high number of US visitors each year enter the EU visa free zone, which consists of 26 countries.

In 2017 alone, a number of 140,004 applications were received by the Schengen embassies in the US. Taking into account that US passport holders visiting Europe are visa-exempt, the number of visitors is multiple times higher.

According to the Schengen rules, some of the US residents may need a visa to enter the Schengen Area, while some may not.

This article will further explain to you, who does and who does not need a visa to visit Europe.

Who Needs to Apply for a Europe Visa in the US?

The Schengen States have a list of the countries that need a visa to enter any of them, and another for those who do not. There are rules and eligibility criteria regarding to who is permitted to enter visa-free, and who has to obtain a visa prior to their trip in Europe.

The US is among the first countries with which the European Union has established a visa-free regime. Therefore, US passport holders do not need to obtain a visa in order to enter Europe. However, not all of US residents and US citizens can enter Europe visa-free, due to their nationality and their situation. Following, find more information in this regard.

As per the foreign nationals residing in the US on a temporary or permanent residence permit, the following do not need to obtain a visa to enter Europe:

  • Foreign passport holders coming from one of the countries that have established visa-free regime with the EU
  • Foreigners with dual citizenship, one of which is of a country that has established visa-free regime with the EU (These people will have to travel with their EU-visa-exempt-country passport)
  • Foreigners that hold dual citizenship, one of which is of a EU member country (These persons will have to travel with their European passport)

On the other hand, there are still categories of people residing in the United States that have to obtain a visa in order to be permitted to enter Europe.

These categories are as following:

  • Internationals living in the United States, coming from one of the countries that have not established visa-free regime with the EU
  • Internationals living in the United States, coming from one of the countries that have established visa-free regime with the EU, but were previously denied entry to the Schengen Area.

Do Green Card Holders Need a Visa to Travel to Europe?

US Green Card holders, who are also nationals of third world countries that have not established a visa-free regime with the EU, will need to obtain a Schengen Visa, in order to be able to travel to Europe.

If you have read the article so far and you are already convinced that you do not need a visa to enter Europe from US, read about EU entry requirements for US Citizens.

Who Can Apply for a Schengen Visa in US?

The Schengen member states have established their embassies, consulates and visa application centers in the Unites States of America. These are responsible on the admission and procession of Schengen visa applications. However, not everyone can file a Schengen visa application while in the US.

Only the following qualify for visa application submission at the Schengen embassies / consulates / VACs in the US:

  • US passport holders who have been refused entry to Europe
  • Nationals of third-world countries, which are required to obtain a visa to Europe, living in the US under a permanent or temporary residence permit

Please note that if you are in need of a visa to enter Europe, but you are in the US on a visiting visa, you will instead have to apply at the appropriate Schengen embassy in your home country.

Embassies in the US only process visa applications of foreigners residing in the US on a permanent or temporary residence permit.

Schengen Visa Application Requirements for US residents

To apply for a Schengen visa in US, you need to submit the following documents:

  • Visa application form – completely fulfilled with the required information. Try to avoid any mistakes, and give correct and honest information. Here you can find a guide on how to fill up a visa application form! After giving the information you are asked to, print the form twice, and sign both copies at the end.
  • 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 EU.
  • US residence permit. 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 Schengen Area.
  • Photo – taken within the last three months. The photo must be taken according to the photography requirements as set by the Schengen countries.
  • A cover letterIn which you explain the reasons you wish to enter the Schengen Zone, the countries you are planning to visit and the amount of time you wish to spend in each and other details about your trip.
  • Round-trip Flight Itinerary. A booked flight reservation from US to Europe and back. If you will be taking any internal flights, you will have to include those tickets too.
  • Proof of accommodation in Europe: This can be one of the following:
  • Means of Subsistence. A document which proves you have enough money to financially support yourself during your stay in Europe. This document could be:
    • Bank Statement – A recent statement of US bank account for the last three months, as a proof that you have enough money.
    • Letter of Sponsorship – a letter written by another person why is willing to financially support you. A bank statement of the sponsor, no older than three months, has to be attached to the letter, in order for it to be valid.
  • Europe Travel Health Insurance. A document that proves you have purchase travel health insurance that covers the whole territory of Schengen Area, in cases of medical emergencies as accidents and illnesses, as well as repatriation to the United States in case of death, with a minimum coverage of €30.000.

Schengen Visa Requirements for US Residents According to Applicant’s Employment Status

Depending on your employment status in the US, here is a list of additional documents that are required to submit when applying a Schengen visa in the US:

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 foreign students in the US on F1 visas:

  • Valid I-20
  • Reference letter from educational institution (school/college/university) in the US, 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.

Required documents for visa application for underage children

  • Original birth certificate
  • 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

Other specific requirements when applying for a different Schengen visa type in US:

How to Apply for a Schengen Visa in US?

You will have to follow a step-by-step guideline to apply for a Schengen visa. The application procedure for a Schengen visa in the US is pretty similar to that in every other country in the world.

In order to apply for a Schengen visa in US you must follow these steps:

  1. Figure out which Schengen visa type you need. There are different Schengen visa types depending on your purpose of traveling from the United States to Europe.
  2. Find out where you need to apply for a Schengen visa in the US. Pay attention to the embassy / consulate / VAC of which country you need to apply at, as well as under the jurisdiction of which you fall.
  3. Decide when to apply for a Schengen visa in US.
  4. Collect the required Schengen visa documents for US residents.
  5. Appoint an interview at Schengen visa application center in US. Depending on the country, you may make an appointment online, through phone, or on person.
  6. Attend the interview on the day of your appointment. Show up on time and try not to be nervous. Remember that the interview is a crucial part of your visa application.
  7. Pay the visa fee. All Schengen states have fixed and synchronized visa fees. For more information check Schengen visa fees for US residents.
  8. Wait for the processing of your visa. After the interview, you will have to wait for at most 15 days, for a response on your application.

If your Schengen visa is approved

If you get your visa, make sure to understand carefully the labels attached to the visa sticker, including the period it permits you to remain in Europe, otherwise, overstaying in the Schengen Area might have consequences.

The articles How to find cheap flights from US to Europe and What do you need to pack when traveling from US to Europe will help you not just to save money but also to have a more pleasant journey to Europe.

If your Schengen visa gets rejected

If your visa application gets denied, read the reason why didn’t they grant you a visa and try to fulfill it the next time you apply for a Schengen visa in US or if you think that your application was correct, and the decision on its refusal was a mistake, you can always appeal the visa rejection at the embassy/consulate of the Schengen country in the United States.

Where to Apply for a Schengen Visa in US?

Depending on your purpose and/or length of visit in Europe – there are specifications that further clarify at which Embassy or Consulate in the US 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 long-stay visa, not a Schengen visa.

When to Apply for a Schengen Visa from US?

The allowed period to apply for a Schengen visa in the US is as following:

  • The earliest you can file a visa application: three months before you start your planned trip.
  • The latest you can file a visa application: at most 15 working days before you intend to travel.
  • The recommended time to file a visa application: at least three weeks before your trip.

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

Visa Application Documents and Requirements for US Residents and US Passport holders

Schengen Visa Fees for the US Residents

The costs of a Schengen visa application in the United States may vary from $41 for children aged between 6 and 12 to $70 for adults (depending on currency fluctuations).

Schengen Visa Category (by age) Fee in USD* Fee in EUR
Adult $70 60€
Child between 6-12 years of age $41 35€
Child younger than 6 years of age Free Free

* The applicable visa fee in USD (US Dollar) is as per the current exchange rate. It is subject to change without notice.

Aside of these fees, the Schengen members have selected some categories of persons who are exempt from paying the fee,

Categories that will not have to pay any visa fee at all are:

  • Children younger than 6 years old
  • Holders of diplomatic, official or service passports traveling for official purposes
  • Family member of a EU/EEA national
  • Pupils, students and accompanying teachers during a school trip
  • Researchers from non-Schengen countries traveling to the Schengen Area to perform scientific research

Moreover, if you are a US resident but you hold the citizenship of any of the countries: Georgia, Kosovo, Russia or Ukraine, you will need to pay a lower fee of 35€:

Note that a visa application fee is not refundable and does not guarantee that you will be granted a visa to Europe.

Schengen Visa Processing Time for US Residents

As per the time an application takes to be processed, it is estimated that each embassy gives a response on each application within a period of ten days. In special cases, this may be extended to longer periods. At the peak season, June, July August, when the embassies usually receive a lot of applications, the waiting periods may be extended to more than a month.

Which EU Countries Can US Residents Visit with a Schengen Visa?

US residents holding a valid Schengen visa are allowed to visit the 26 Schengen countries:

AustriaHungaryNorway
BelgiumIcelandPoland
Czech RepublicItalyPortugal
DenmarkLatviaSlovakia
EstoniaLiechtensteinSlovenia
FinlandLithuaniaSpain
FranceLuxembourgSweden
GermanyMaltaSwitzerland
GreeceNetherlands

What Documents do US Residents Need to Present at EU Port of Entry?

When you show at the border of the Schengen Area, your residency no longer matters. It is your citizenship that is taken into account. Whether you are a US passport holder or a foreign national, you will still have to present some documents to the border officer. In general, these documents are as following.

  • Passport – that must be valid for at least three more months beyond their intended date of departure from the Schengen Area.
  • Valid visa – affixed to a passport page (if you do not belong to any of the visa-exempt categories)
  • Evidence on their purpose of entry – documents that show why the US resident is traveling to the Schengen Area.
  • Proof of sufficient means of subsistence – Documents that prove the traveler has the financial means to support themselves during their whole stay in Europe. This could be a bank statement issued within the last three months, which confirms the traveler has enough money for their trip in Europe.

You may also need to show additional entry documents depending on the countries you will be traveling to. Be sure to investigate each destination country and any additional paperwork required prior to your trip.

US Resident Visa Application Rejection

In order to make sure your visa application in the US is successful and you get the visa to Europe, you must try hard to avoid some of the common mistakes that cause the rejection of Schengen applications. Please note that the interview is also a very important part of the application process. Many people fail to get a visa because of the mistakes made during the visa interview.

However, if you get rejected from obtaining a Schengen visa, you can still appeal the decision. You can do so by writing an appeal letter for Schengen visa refusal.

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