The Schengen Area is a group of countries that permits border-free travel within the entire zone. Travelers to countries within the Schengen Area do not have to pass through border controls if they visit neighboring countries also within the Schengen Area. However, travelers do have to pass through border security upon crossing the outermost borders of the Schengen Area. Additionally, American citizens can enter the Schengen Area for up to three months without applying for a visa within a six-month period. It’s very helpful during travel preparations to know if your country of destination is a Schengen member state and what other countries belong to the Schengen area because travel within these states is as easy as hopping on a plane, train, or other form of transportation.
Countries in Eastern Europe that are a part of the Schengen Area follow. These countries have all been a part of the Schengen Area since 2007:Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania are prospective members of the Schengen Area. Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession have been on hold since late 2012 as a result of security and immigration issues raised by the Netherlands, another Schengen member state.
Other countries in the Schengen Area include:
Prior to entry into the Schengen Area, and even after the fall of the Iron Curtain, border controls made travel to the Eastern Bloc countries more difficult and slower. If you travel by car or tour bus through these countries, it is still possible to see old checkpoints that have been stripped of their signage and abandoned.
Checkpoints still exist for Eastern European nations not in the Schengen Area, though visa requirements differ. For example, if you have ever driven from northern Croatia, down the Adriatic Highway, to Dubrovnik, Bosnia—which controls a narrow strip of land on the coast—maintains a checkpoint that cars and buses must pass through onto their way to Croatia’s southern tip.
For stays for longer than three months within a 6-month period, visas are required within the Schengen Area. A long-stay visa is usually not in excess of a year. Long-stay visas are obtained at the embassy for the country in which the applicant will reside. For students or company employees, the respective institutions should provide necessary documents for obtaining a long-stay visa.