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A milestone in that long journey was the signing of the Schengen agreement in 1985. The name actually stems from the town in Luxembourg where five of the ten EC member states signed this intergovernmental agreement - at that point, this was therefore an initiative outside the European Community.
For the first time in history, the countries committed to abolish their internal borders and allow free traveling, working, investing and living for their nationals across borders. Today, we know these as the four freedoms of EU citizens. But until that point, a lot more was necessary. Legal disputes and individual challenges remained an obstacle for inter-European movement of goods, services, people and capital. This changed, as more and more countries joined the agreement and opened their internal borders, abolishing visa regulations for Schengen members.
In 1995 the agreement was finally implementing entitling thousands of nationals to enjoy freedom when e.g. visiting neighboring countries or taking up a position in a signature country. As more countries have signed, the intergovernmental agreement became part of the EU formally in 1997 with the Amsterdam Treaty. The Schengen area is comprised of 26 member states, including also non-EU members like Iceland or Norway. The Schengen area is now not a Western project anymore, but became one of the globally known features of the European Union across the world. 400 Million European citizens as well as many third-country nationals with a Schengen Visa are benefiting from the Schengen agreement - a motor for economic growth, social integration and a symbol of freedom on the European continent.
Light blue: Countries with open borders but no formal Schengen members
Grey: Non-Schengen Area
Orange: Legally obligated to join
For Internationals, this freedom is equally possible. The Schengen Visa is offered by and valid in all EU member states as well as the signatory states outside the EU. Holders of this Visa are free to move between the Schengen countries for the time-frame of their visa. Studying in Belgium, but taking up an internship in Poland has never been easier for Internationals. Also, the visa is great for active MUNers, going to your conference in one country and then going on a trip to the neighboring EU countries - this is the way to go!
For your Schengen visa you need:
All documents filled in and send/handed it at the embassy you are applying at
A recent photograph
Proof of Health Insurance valid within the Schengen Area
Proof of capacity to financially provide for yourself during your stay in the Schengen Area
Proof of return before your visa expired, e.g. a return flight ticket
There is different types of visa depending on the nature of your stay, e.g. as a traveler for a MUN or for fulfilling an entire study program in a given Schengen Area state.
More information on all your questions, you can find here.
Make your move to Europe for one of its many MUNs, its international study programs or your internship in a member state!
Do you have experience with the Schengen Area? What do you think about it? Do you consider applying for a Schengen Visa? Share your experiences in the comment section below!