The Schengen cooperation
The purpose of the Schengen cooperation is to enable people to move freely between the countries that are a party to it. All who enter or leave the Schengen zone, however, are to be carefully checked. Today 26 countries have become a party to the cooperation.
26 countries take part in the cooperation
22 of the 27 Member States of the EU have become a party to Schengen. Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, who are not EU members, have signed a cooperation agreement, which means that travellers can enter these countries on the same terms as for a Schengen country. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the UK are not a party of Schengen.
Moving freely is the guiding principle
All persons legally present in the Schengen zone can move about freely without having to show passports when crossing internal frontiers. It applies to those with residence permits and visas in a Schengen country and those who do not need visas. The traveller must be able to show their passport or identity card where the nationality is clear. The identity card applies for EU citizens. Asylum seekers can not move about freely between the countries.
Internal frontiers are defined as the national boundaries between the countries taking part in Schengen, together with airports and seaports in the case of traffic to and from a Schengen country. You can cross the internal frontiers wherever and whenever you like without having to undergo personal checks.
The external boundaries of the zone's are the borders with countries that are not a party to the Schengen Agreement. At the external boundaries all travellers are to be carefully checked. The traveller may only cross these borders at special checkpoints and only during predetermined opening hours.
The Schengen Information System, SIS
SIS is a common data system that Schengen countries are using to search for and exchange information. Each SIS member may enter computerised particulars about persons, vehicles or objects that are missing or wanted. The SIS also has a blacklist that allows the participating countries to keep a record of persons they do not wish to see entering the Schengen zone. A person on the blacklist may have committed a serious crime, for instance, or may have been expelled or deported and ordered not to re-enter a country for a specific period of time.
Common visa policy
An important part of the Schengen scheme is its common visa policy. Agreement has been reached on which countries' citizens require visas to enter the Schengen zone. A visa issued in a Schengen country is valid for three months at the most, and usually also for visits to any of the other Schengen countries. In certain exceptional cases, on humanitarian grounds, a Schengen country may grant a visa which is valid only in the country of issue.