Europe is a great place to visit — there’s a lot to see and it’s easy to get around. If you travel to the UK, it’s only a short hop across the channel to France, which is bordered by Germany. And Spain. And … well, you get the idea. If you want to explore Europe, but you’re not sure which visas you need, you should find all the answers in this episode.
When travelling to Europe, you’ll first need to check if you need a visa. If you live in the EU, you won’t need a visa to travel within the EU or in most other countries in Europe. If you live anywhere else in the world, you might or might not need a visa.
There are many places where you can get by without a visa, using the visa waiver programme. If this is the case — and we’ll tell you when it is — you don’t need anything but your passport.
Although visa waivers exist, you may still be asked about your plans and be asked to provide proof of means or a return ticket at any border control. Border guards in Europe are generally friendly and professional, but remember they have the right to search your belongings, refuse you entry or even arrest you if they suspect something untoward.
If you or one of your parents were born in a country other than the one you have citizenship with, you can probably get a passport from that country. There’s huge advantages to doing this, since you can choose which passport to travel on. If one country requires a visa for entry and the other doesn’t, you can choose to travel on the passport that doesn’t need a visa.
However, there can be issues surrounding having dual nationality. You might have obligations or responsibilities in the second country that you don’t know about – for example, if you’re over 18 and a male Greek citizen, you should perform military service. Other countries have obligatory voting – you have to vote in elections whether you’re in the country or not.
It’s definitely worth looking into getting a second passport if you’re eligible, but look into it closely. Some countries deem it illegal to have two nationalities. Japan, for example – if you are Japanese and get a passport from a second country, you have effectively renounced your Japanese citizenship. However, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the UK and the US allow dual citizenship. Be aware that if you’re American and you have a second passport, you must enter the US on your US passport.
Visa info for the UK
- Visa waiver: Nationals of about half the countries in the world can visit the UK for up to six months without a visa. This includes NZ, Australia, Canada, South Africa and the US, however citizens of some countries require one. Visit www.ukvisas.gov.uk to see if you need a visa and what sort. You cannot work if you enter the UK using the visa waiver programme.
- Ancestry: If your parents were from the UK, apply for a passport. But if you’re a Commonwealth citizen and one of your grandparents was from the UK you can get a four-year ancestry visa. Commonwealth includes NZ, Canada, Australia and South Africa.
- Spouse: If your significant other is a UK citizen, you may be eligible for a spouse’s visa, which allows you to live and work in the UK for two years.
One of the factors that makes travel in Europe more doable is the existence of the Schengen zone — a group of countries that have agreed to share a common border. This means that if you can enter one Schengen country, you can enter them all.
The Schengen zone is not the same thing as the European Union. Most countries in the Schengen zone are also in the EU, but the UK and Ireland are EU members but not Schengen, and Iceland and Norway are Schengen but not EU. And Switzerland isn’t a member of the EU either, despite its very central location, but has recently joined the Schengen zone — it’s implementing changes at the moment. Other countries have expressed an interest in joining the zone, so this list is subject to change.
Visa info for the Shengen zone
Citizens of the USA, Canada or Australia can enter the Schengen zone for up to 90 days in a six-month period without a visa. This is strictly for tourism; no working allowed! You can also enter the UK for up to six months.
New Zealanders are a lucky bunch: they are able to spend up to 90 days in each of the Schengen countries, rather than 90 days in the entire zone.
Work and travel visas
If you want to explore Europe long-term and don’t have the cash to pay for two years of travel, a work and travel (or work and holiday) visa might be what you’re after. They’re usually valid for one or two years, and you can work for up to half of that time (i.e. six months or a year). There are lots of options around, but make sure you check the small print before you apply.
- I’m Canadian–
Canada has working holiday agreements with France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. There are also Young Workers Exchange Programs operating with Austria, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
- I’m Australian–
Working holiday agreements are in place with Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
- I’m a Kiwi–
Working holiday agreements are in place with many countries including Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
- I’m South African–
South Africans can apply for a working holiday visa for the United Kingdom, but I have been unable to find details on any other working holiday agreements currently in place. SASTS is the best website for further information.
- I’m American…
Sorry, working holiday visas aren’t available for European countries for American citizens. However, there are Young Workers Exchange Programs to several countries.
Remember that countries change their immigration policies often, so use this information as a guide only. Check with your embassy for up-to-date visa information. A lot of this information came from Craig’s ebook, Travelling Europe, which is available from http://indietravelguides.com.