I am planning to travel to Portugal to attend an academic conference and in that regard needed a short-stay Schengen visa. The visa application has a field "Purpose of Travel" with the following options:

    - Business
    - Sports
    - Cultural
    - Other
    - Study
    - Visiting family or friends
    - Medical reasons
    - Official visit
    - Transit
    - Airport transit
    - Tourism

I am attending the conference to present the research I am conducting as a part of my PhD. So "Study" is the closest in my opinion. But I don't want the Embassy to misconstrue that it is for studying at a university in Portugal. In that case, would "Business" be the right option to choose?

  • 9
    Schengen does not have an 'Academic' category, 'Business' is the correct choice; the fact that it's pursuant to a course of study outside of Schengen is 'justification' and you should explain it as such.
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 21:34
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    When you say "conference" in a general setting, be sure to say "academic conference" if that's what you mean. Businesses hold conferences, too, and they're a completely different thing. Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 9:04
  • "The field" - is that on a visa application form? Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 9:27
  • 2
    @hippietrail Yes, it's part of the standard Schengen visa application form (annex I of the regulation cited in my answer).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 12:05
  • I'll add it to the question and tag accordingly then. Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 12:08

6 Answers 6


Annex II of the Schengen Visa Code (EU regulation 810/2009) includes a non-exhaustive list of “supporting documents” that sheds some light on the categories. Here are the most relevant bits:

  1. for business trips:

    (a) an invitation from a firm or an authority to attend meetings, conferences or events connected with trade, industry or work; […]

    (c) entry tickets for fairs and congresses, if appropriate; […]

    (e) documents proving the applicant’s employment status in the company;

  2. for journeys undertaken for the purposes of study or other types of training:

    (a) a certificate of enrolment at an educational establishment for the purposes of attending vocational or theoretical courses within the framework of basic and further training;

    (b) student cards or certificates of the courses to be attended;

  3. for journeys undertaken for the purposes of tourism or for private reasons: […]

  4. for journeys undertaken for political, scientific, cultural, sports or religious events or other reasons:

    invitation, entry tickets, enrolments or programmes stating (wherever possible) the name of the host organisation and the length of stay or any other appropriate document indicating the purpose of the journey;

Those are just examples but it's clear that “study” is definitely out, it means something quite different and you won't have any of the documents listed. Both “business” and “cultural” could fit, the former seems pretty safe especially if you are employed by the university where you are pursuing a PhD (do submit documents to that effect).

If you are still unsure, you could also simply check “other” and write “academic conference” to prevent any misunderstanding. It's important to be forthcoming about your purpose and to submit as much relevant documentation as possible but, unlike some other countries, the Schengen area does not have strictly defined visa categories. The category is there to help processing, your visa will not mention “business” or “culture” and it won't be checked at the conference or anything (this does happen in some other places like Colombia).

  • 6
    "Study" usually involves applying to and enrolling in a school--not attending conferences. Back when I taught in Cambodia, I went in on a "business" visa even though I wasn't involved in commerce.
    – miltonaut
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 4:08

I am a working scientist who has followed a link to this question from academia.stackexchange.com.

The correct Schengen visa type for attending a scientific meeting is "Business." This is a short interaction for professional purposes (graduate students are considered professionals as well), and thus falls into that category. If you hold a passport from a waiver country or qualify for one of the other exemptions, you can be automatically granted a visa of this type. Otherwise, you need to follow the full process.

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    If you are from a country whose citizens don't require a visa then you won't be granted a visa, automatically or otherwise, you will simply enter without one.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 15:24

All of the reasons except Business and Study are clearly and obviously not applicable to your case. Let's ignore them.

Is your main reason for attending to present, or to attend? If you're there to present, saying "study" is deceptive - you aren't there to learn anything. If you were already graduated, and employed (in academia or in private industry) I think you would check Business. Money doesn't have to change hands for something to be a business trip. For example, when I travel to attend a conference and learn about new things, it's a business trip for me. When I travel to meet people and discuss ways my company can help them in the future, it's business even though I don't charge for that conversation. And so on.

It's not like this single word is the only explanation you are able to provide, is it? You're going to be asked for a little more detail, surely? So go with Business, and explain what you're doing and why.

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    Often, in academia, you actually go to conferences to attend and mingle but you need to present to get monies for travel. What's one to do in this case? ;-)
    – Relaxed
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 22:19
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    "you aren't there to learn anything"!!! This is not how academic conferences work at all. Learning what other people are doing is just as important as telling them about what you're doing. Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 9:06
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    Learning that X is working on Y is not at all the same as learning to do Y, or studying Y, which is my point. Obviously some sort of knowledge (X is amazing, Y is going to transform our field, Z is horrible) happens at conferences or no-one would go. But you are not being taught material as you would be if you were attending for the purposes of study. Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 11:35
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    @KateGregory: at least in my field (mathematics), one absolutely is learning new material at conferences, not just learning who-works-on-what and the like! Fully agreed with your general answer, but I think it’s a little less black-and-white than you suggest: it includes aspects of both study and business, with business usually the predominant one, for the reasons you describe.
    – PLL
    Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 12:24
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    @PLL: Maybe it depends a lot on one's personal "learning type". I personally cannot say I have ever been "learning" at any of the CS conferences I have attended; for me, they have exclusively served as a way to quickly get an overview about what new ideas exist out there. But then, I personally learn best from written texts, attending presentations has never done much for me. If your learning preferences are different in that respect, your impression of what a conference serves for may well be different. Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 13:00

I had to apply for a short stay visa for attending a developer conference in The Netherlands and I selected "Other" as none fit the description. This is different than a "professional conference" (some certifications require you to attend a certain number of professional conferences a year).

During my interview process I explained that I was attending a conference, and I provided the following documentation:

  1. Invitation letter from the organizers of the conference.
  2. Travel ticket
  3. Hotel reservation
  4. Letter from my employer stating my employment status and salary (proof of funds)

I had no issues and my visa was granted. I was not presenting at the conference though, and if I were, this would only help the visa process.


It might differ between countries but for Italy, as an international graduate student in USA, I was told by the consulate that for attending a conference, it has to be tourism not business. I originally chose business and followed the document check-list for business stay. However unlike the tourism, the business check-list doesn't mention lodging confirmation so I didn't bring it to my appointment. Fortunately they just told me to email them the confirmation later and still accepted my application. Hope that this might be helpful for who will travel to Italy.


Are you being paid to present at the conference? If so business would make sense. However, if not, this is definitely a trip that is part of your studies.

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    I disagree. I present at conferences without pay regularly. I still call it business. What it isn't is work - and that's important. Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 21:04
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    'Study' is the wrong choice unless the course originates within Schengen.
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 21:37
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    Actually, even tenured professors aren't typically paid (other than by their own university) when going to an academic conference. PhD candidates are exactly in the same situation.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 22:07
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    @user22996: Why can't one's job include opportunities for furthering one's educational requirements? I'd say that sure is the case in places where PhD candidates are employed by universities and paid for the research they do, which at the same time is beneficial for their education (moving toward the PhD). Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 13:11
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    In my experience, when tenured professors go to conferences, doing so counts as part of their job duties (they certainly don't have to spend vacation time on it) -- which makes it business. Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 17:56

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