I found many related questions on this site but I am still not sure about the rules. How can I decide if I need a visa to transit?

Schengen members as of April 2024 are as follows:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark (excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands - but an open border with the Schengen Area is maintained)
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France (excluding overseas departments and collectivities)
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands (excluding Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands)
  • Norway (excluding Svalbard)
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain (except Ceuta and Melilla)
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • 6
    Looking back at this question, I think if it were a new question it would probably be closed as unclear. Especially, it should probably state more clearly what it means by a transit (or layover) in the Schengen area so its scope is clear and other questions are not incorrectly closed as duplicates.
    – fkraiem
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 15:25
  • @fkraiem You're probably right. And then we would close questions about a specific country as too narrow or something.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 8:43

2 Answers 2


It's sometimes difficult to find the right information but everything is somewhere on the EU Commission website. Wikipedia has a good summary as well. Some embassies or government websites from the various Schengen countries also provide useful summaries. Legally, the main source for all this is the Schengen visa code.

Here is a step-by-step guide through the rules to decide if you need a visa:

Are you flying within the Schengen area?

If your next destination is in the Schengen area, you must pass through passport control to get to that flight, so you need a regular Schengen visa unless you qualify for visa-free entry.

If you're going to somewhere within the Schengen area and already have a visa issued by that country, this visa also allows you to enter the Schengen area at a layover point in a different member country.

Can you enter the Schengen area?

If you can enter the Schengen area, you can also transit there. You can enter the Schengen area if you are an EU/EFTA citizen, hold a Schengen visa, a long-stay visa or residence permit from one of the Schengen countries, or are a citizen of a country whose citizens don't need a visa to visit the Schengen area. If any of these apply, you can stop here, you don't need a visa. If none of these apply, read further.

The list of countries whose citizens don't need a visa to enter the Schengen area can be found on Wikipedia. They are also colored green on this map from the EU Commission.

Can you transfer without leaving the international area of the airport?

Many airports in Europe have an international area with transfer/check-in counters, waiting area, sometimes lounges, restaurants, shops or even a museum before the border checkpoint where the police check the passports of passengers entering the Schengen area. Gates for non-Schengen destinations can be accessed from this area, whereas domestic and Schengen-bound flights depart from other parts of the airport.

Whether you can transit without leaving this area will depend on your specific connection (airport/terminal, airline, time). For example, some German airports close at night, so that it's not possible to remain in the international area for an overnight transfer. Luggage belts are typically after the passport check so if your luggage cannot be checked through to a destination outside of the Schengen area, you will also have a problem.

Finally, as passengers' passports don't have to be checked on flights within the Schengen area, if you have two stopovers in the Schengen area (for example Mumbai-Vienna-Frankfurt-Chicago or Nairobi-Zurich-Frankfurt-Chișinău), you will have to leave the international area and go through the border checkpoint to catch your intra-Schengen flight. Same thing if you need to change airports.

If you have to leave the international area to make your transfer, you cannot transit without a visa and you need a full Schengen visa (and not merely an “airport transit visa”). If you can stay in the international area (“transit airside”), read further.

Do citizens of your country require a visa to transit airside?

If you have come so far, it means you come from a country whose citizens require a visa to enter the Schengen area. But there is still a distinction between two categories of countries among them. While most people can transit airside without a visa, citizens of a smaller list of countries need an “airport transit visa” even if they don't want to go through the border checkpoint and enter the Schengen area.

Where things get complicated is that the list of countries whose citizens need an airport transit visa is slightly different from one Schengen country to the other. There is a list for the whole Schengen area (list in Wikipedia, dark red/burgundy on the map) but individual Schengen member states can also add countries to the list. They have to inform the Commission, which keeps a list of all these requirements (current list as PDF, see also the same Wikipedia article).

If your country is not on either of these lists, stop here, you don't need a visa. On the other hand, if your country is on one of the lists (the general Europe-wide list or the one from the country where you are going to transit), you might need an “airport transit visa” but read further as there are some exceptions.

Are there other rules that could allow you to transit without a visa?

If your transfer requires an airport transit visa, there might still be a way to transit without a visa as the Schengen Visa code provides for a number of exceptions for people who hold some other visas or residence permits. Note that those exceptions only apply to the airport transit visa requirement. If you need to enter the Schengen area (see question 2), these exceptions do not apply.

Specifically, you are exempted from the airport transit visa requirement if you hold a valid visa from an EU country (that's the whole EU, not only the Schengen area so also Ireland and Cyprus), Canada, Japan or the United States of America. Germany also recognizes this exemption for travelers returning from any of the above countries even if their visa is expired, but you should check with the country you're actually transiting through, because this exemption is not mentioned explicitly in the Schengen codes.

You are also exempted if you have a residence permit from one of these countries or from Andorra or San Marino. If that's your case, you are exempted even if you are not traveling to this country.

If you hold such a visa or residence permit, you can transit without a visa, no matter your citizenship or your destination. If you don't, you will need a visa.

Furthermore, if you just used the visa (so that it's not valid anymore but expired recently), you can still transit without a visa in the Schengen area for the return trip. This rule does not fit US visas very well because it's possible to stay legally in the US long after your visa expired.

Schengen regulations stipulate that holders of expired US visas can transit in the Schengen Area without a visa if returning from the US after having used the visa; however check-in clerks may exercise an overly cautious interpretation regarding US visas expired by a large amount of time, and consequently deny you boarding.

As such, in this case it is highly recommended to get a written confirmation from the ground handling personnel at the airport of departure well in advance, or apply for an airside transit visa for the Schengen Area.

Can I get this visa on arrival?

No, you cannot. There are provisions for 15-day single-entry visas on arrival in limited cases (mostly seamen, EU citizens' family and emergencies) but it's not regular practice in Europe. If you need a visa, the airline/ground handling personnel at your departure airport will want to see it (they can be fined if they transport you without checking) and they will deny boarding if you don't have the right to transit in the relevant airport(s).

  • Regarding part 4, what's the difference between having a residence permit and staying legally (with an expired visa)?
    – fkraiem
    Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 23:54
  • @fkraiem The difference is that not everybody who stays legally has a residence permit. But if you have a residence permit or green card, you don't really care about the distinction, this is mostly relevant for visitors who entered on a non-immigrant visa.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 0:11
  • So this is a US-specific thing then? (The question was purely academic, I am actually living in Japan, where everybody who's not a tourist is a resident and has a residence card.)
    – fkraiem
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 0:15
  • 1
    @becko How did you confirm that?
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 17:28
  • 1
    @DavidSupportsMonica Apparently all links to this website have been broken, I tried to find new ones, thanks.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 8:42

Transit visa question in Schengen is a very common and frequently asked question here. The answer lies here.

I am referring to the official European union Schengen, Borders & Visas/Visa policy publication, which is precise and clear.

I have connecting flights, with a stop at a Schengen state airport. Do I have to apply for an airport transit visa or a short stay visa?

It is important to distinguish between two situations:

  1. transit through the international transit area of an airport (onward journey where you do not leave the international transit area of the airport)
  2. transit via the territory of a Member State albeit limited to an airport (onward journey where you leave the international transit area of the airport).

An airport transit visa (ATV) authorises you to pass through the international transit zone at an airport located on the territory of the Schengen State and to await a connecting flight to a non-Schengen country. The ATV does not allow you to enter the Schengen territory (to stay at a hotel or to take an onwards flight to another Schengen State, for example). To find out whether you need an airport transit visa, you can consult the overview on our website, click here.

Traveling to a Schengen State via another Schengen State airport is not considered an airport transit neither is travelling to a non-Schengen country via two Schengen state airports. All flights between two or more Schengen States are considered to be «domestic» flights. Depending on your nationality, you might need a short stay visa as you enter the Schengen area – even if the stay only lasts a few hours and you remain in the airport (outside the international transit zone).

List of third countries whose nationals are required to be in possession of an airport transit visa when passing through the international transit area of airports situated on the territory of one/some Member States (November 2022)

Can I enter the Schengen area in country X, while the visa was issued by Schengen country Y?

As a general rule you may cross any Schengen border with visa issued by any Schengen country. However, the short-stay visa does not automatically entitle you to enter the Schengen area. See FAQ no 16 on checks at the external borders.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .