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First off I know there a bunch of similar questions on the site - but I'm left very confused even after reading them.

I've see the info on the europa.eu site but I'm not entirely sure how to interpret it.

I'm a UK national - my wife is a Chinese national and we currently reside in China.

I have family in Switzerland who we would like to visit - but how exactly would we go about doing a visa for my wife?

The material online says:

Before travelling, check which these are with the consulate or embassy of the destination country.

Although our goal is to go to Switzerland - being in Europe is quite convenient to travel - so would we need to check with the consulates of every single country we would want to go?

Does being married actually make any difference?!

What visa would we apply for?!

Any ideas at all!?

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You have to make a distinction between the Schengen area on the one hand and the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia on the other hand. All EU countries should grant your wife the right to travel together with you (but not alone) with minimal formalities but those that are not in the Schengen area might still require her to get a separate visa.

For the Schengen area, you only need one visa. So if you want to go to Switzerland (technically Switzerland is not in the EU but for this purpose, it's pretty much the same for the time being), you would apply to the Swiss consulate. With the visa issued by the Swiss consulate you will also be able to travel in most of the EU without any other formalities (but, again, not to the UK, Ireland, etc.)

If you really want to visit all non-Schengen EU countries, then yes, you might need up to 5 or 6 visas (although Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus have some special rules for Schengen visa holders so it might be possible to go there with your wife's Schengen visa as well).

Furthermore, being married should in principle make things easier (at least in the EU proper, not entirely sure about Switzerland, see comments). In your quote, “these” in “check what these are” should be something like a marriage certificate, not the whole documentation package (insurance & financials & itinerary) that other applicants have to provide and the consulates have very little discretion in deciding to issue the visa or not. The visa should also be free of charge (regular Schengen visa fees are currently EUR 60).

Beware, however, all those rules only apply if you are travelling together as they are derived from your right, as EU citizen, to travel freely in the EU. Note that, since you are a UK citizen, these rules also do not generally apply to the UK. Going there might even be more difficult, depending on UK law.

  • Well you certainly do make things clear now, don't you. – user3306356 May 17 '14 at 16:00
  • I was just told by someone who, apparently, represents the Swiss embassy that the only thing we get is free insurance (or we don't need to pay insurance fees or whatever that means). Also, that we need to prepare the same amount of documentation as anyone else would. So....? Any ideas? – user3306356 May 19 '14 at 7:28
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    @user3306356 It's not uncommon for consulates (and especially for outsourcing companies) not to know the rules but Switzerland is a bit of an odd case. I still believe this situation is covered by their bilateral agreements with the EU but it's possible than it's not. Even if it is, it might be more difficult to have your rights recognized as the country is not a full member (e.g. SOLVIT, which would be the next thing to try, does not cover Switzerland). – Relaxed May 19 '14 at 8:03
  • The only thing I can think of is trying to contact the consulate again (if possible, bypassing any outsourcing company) and ask if they are certain that the same rules apply when you are traveling together (insist on that and on the bilateral agreements, perhaps mentioning the EU webpage as well). – Relaxed May 19 '14 at 8:04
  • Incidentally, the bit about insurance is particularly odd, I don't know which insurance would cover you and why you would be exempted if they don't think the rules for EU citizens' spouses apply (regular applicants must prove they have travel health insurance for the duration of their trip). – Relaxed May 19 '14 at 8:06
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To answer the main question first, yes you need a visa. The situation is as follows. If you and your wife would life in a EU country other than your home country (UK) and she has a resident permit there you can travel to other countries without a visa. E.g. You both live in Germany and want to visit Paris. If she has a German resident card and you travel together she needs no new visa. Since you live in China (outside EU) you always need a visa.

Now about the insurance thing. As a spouse of a EU/EEA member she does not need to show proof of financial means including health insurance cover. You might still want to make a travel insurance for other reasons. You also don't need provide accomodation information.

P.S. as a general advice you might want to take an English translation of your marriage certificate, because when you arrive in Switzerland it makes things A LOT easier if you can prove you are a couple on holiday. (Single Chinese woman -> 1000 questions, with EU husband 2 or 3 questions)

P.P.S You need to apply for only one visa in the Schengen area where you arrive first and spend most time (transit does not count). In your case it would be Switzerland.

  • That's a good answer but what “main question” would that be? The OP is obviously well aware his wife needs a visa, he is merely asking if he needs a visa for each country (answer: not in the Schengen area but yes elsewhere), what visa and how to apply for it… Also, technically, travel insurance and financial means are two distinct requirements. – Relaxed May 24 '14 at 5:58
  • I thought the main question was the link he posted which discusses wether or not he needs a visa. And the answer was if he would live in EU (other than UK) no, if he lives outside EU than yes. – Dago May 24 '14 at 6:05
  • P.S. The health insurance and financial means are seperate but the same issue. An EU spouse does not need to prove how he/she pays for anything. So no income is required. As a result they cannot demand you prove how you pay for medical emergencies. You should have one anyway, but all financial questions are off limit. The only thing which matters is to show that you are married to an EU spouse to obtain a Schengen visa. – Dago May 24 '14 at 6:16
  • As I wrote in my answer, spouses of EU citizens are indeed exempted from most of the requirements but insurance and income are still two different things. If you are not a family member of an EU citizen, you could be a millionaire, you would still need insurance. It's a detail to be sure but it's inaccurate to present this as a consequence of some ban on “financial questions”. – Relaxed May 24 '14 at 17:32

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