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Navigating The World Of European Visas

When the world's early explorers were making their way around all of the continents and countries, they braved strong seas, inclement weather, disease, and unfamiliar terrain. These types of challenges may not stand in the way of current explorers like yourself, but there is one big hurdle that can be quite difficult in its own right: travel visas.

When someone decides to travel anywhere, it's important for countries to know who is in their country and how long they're going to be there. This helps them regulate the flow of persons and helps with all sorts of recordkeeping tasks.

They accomplish this feat by using visas, small stickers that are placed in a person’s passport that allow them to stay in the country for a finite length of time.

This brings us to the first big question: How long will you be staying in the country?

Length Of Stay

When determining which of the different types of visas you need, the first thing you need to figure out his how long you're staying. Generally, this is broken down by whether you'll be staying less than or more than three months.

Three months is used because that's generally a good cutoff for when someone can really consider themselves traveling to a country, and when they'd be better described as living in the country as a resident alien.

Short-Term Stays

Arguably, one of the most convenient visas for short-term stays is one for the Schengen area. This is an area of 22 European countries encompassing most of Europe that have agreed that it's in their best interest to do away with controlled borders and instead allow travelers to freely move between them all.

Given their close proximity, this allows a short vacation that covers multiple countries, spreading the economic benefit around with neighbors so the region as a whole sees a benefit.

If your destination is Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Ireland, or the UK, the specifics for what kind of visa you require are a bit different, and vary based on the country you intend to travel. These countries our outside of the Schengen collective, and thus traveling over their borders requires their own specific visa.

Long-Term Stay

Those looking to stay in a country for more than three months also have some options. Because these stays are often less about traveling or vacationing and tend to look more like living in the country, the bar to clear for getting such a visa is often higher than it is for the short-term visas, with more requirements and more scrutiny on the details.

In fact, depending on the country you intend on visiting, you may also need a residence permit that allows you to formally live in the country in addition to or instead of a visa. These differences often vary by country, but the EU Immigration Portal through the European Commission can help point you in the right direction and give you handy tips and tricks that may apply to the country in which you’re looking to travel or live.

Much like short-term visas, if you hold a long-term visa in one of the Schengen countries, you're free to travel between the different countries as much as you like. If you'd like to travel into or out of this borderless area, you'll need a visa for the Schengen area as well as one for whatever other country or countries you wish to visit.

Following Visa Rules

It's incredibly important that you follow the rules laid out by the country of your visa. If you violate them, such as over-staying the allotted time, you could find yourself in serious legal trouble or even be deported back to your country of origin. That’s why it’s best to gather all of the information you need ahead of time and secure the proper documentation well ahead of your trip, whether it’s for the short-term or the long.

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