Good news for non-European nationals wanting to travel around Europe while holding a long-term visa in one member state – you will be allowed to travel to most other member states for three months in any six-month period under the same conditions as the holder of a residence permit
, under a new regulation approved today by the European Parliament
As it currently stands, long-stay visa holders - for example international students, family members of third-country nationals, and even some EU citizens - are not
allowed to travel to other Member States during their stay, nor
pass through the other states when returning to their country of origin.
So, say you are Chinese student studying at a university in France, as it stands you cannot travel into Germany, not even for the weekend, nor Italy, Spain or Switzerland, not even to enter any of these in order to fly back home at the end of your study period.
But the regulation, which MEPs in Strasbourg today approved with 562
votes in favour, 29 against and 51 abstentions, is set to change all of this when it enters into force in less than a month’s time (5th April 2010
The increased freedom of movement should not pose any extra security risk, thanks to a system of controls and alerts that already exist as part of the Schengen Convention
, but will in any case not apply to the UK, Ireland or Denmark
– because they are not part of this area.
“The fact that a student who is granted a visa to attend a course in Belgium cannot travel to a specialised library in the Netherlands to obtain information for the purposes of writing his thesis or to Barcelona for a weekend visit is simply unacceptable
”, argued Carlos Coelho
(EPP, PT) the author of the report by the Civil Liberties Committee
. "This is an example of how absurd situations can arise.
Under the new legislation, a long-stay visa (for stays exceeding three months) will - as regards the Schengen area (see left) - have the same effect as a residence permit
A non-EU national holding a "long-stay D visa
" issued by one member state could travel to any other member states for a maximum period of three months in any half year, under the same conditions as the holder of a residence permit.
To reflect this increased freedom, long-stay visas will become valid for no more than one year. If a third-country national has been awarded a visa for a period greater than 12 months, the long-stay visa will need to be replaced
before it expires by a residence permit allowing permanent free-travel.
The 25-member Schengen area
includes most EU countries, plus Switzerland, Norway and Ireland. Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus are excluded but are expected to join in the future, while Britain and Ireland enjoy a permanent exclusion from the area. Denmark is also out, but has the choice of taking part in Schengen rules on a case-by-case basis.