My wife is an Indian national with an Indian passport. She holds an indefinite leave to remain in the UK (permanent residence card). Does she need to apply for a Schengen visa before travelling to France or any other Schengen countries?
Your non-EU spouse, (grand)children or (grand)parents do not need to get a visa from the country they are travelling to if:
They have a residence permit or visa from another country in the border-free Schengen area (see list below) and the country they are travelling to belongs to that area.
They have an EU family member’s residence card issued under EU rules by any EU country (except the country you are a national of), and they are travelling together with you or travelling to join you in another EU country. The residence card should clearly state that the holder is a family member of an EU national.
I haven't been able to ascertain how, or whether, the UK issues a residence permit under these rules, so I won't go into it further right now. One web site I read states that the UK does not issue residence permits under these rules, meaning she would need a visa even if travelling with you.
For EU residents outside the Schengen area, such as the UK, she does need to apply for a visa, but the visa should be issued within 15 days and be free of charge.
If your non-EU family members need an entry visa, they should apply for one in advance from the consulate or embassy of the country they wish to travel to. If they will be travelling together with you, or joining you in another EU country, their application should be processed quickly and free of charge:
- Countries which are members of the border-free Schengen area should issue visas within 15 days, except in rare cases, when the authorities should provide an explanation of their decision.
It is also possible to get a visa on arrival under these rules, but this entails proving - at the border - that she is a family member of an EU national, and you may encounter an immigration officer who is unfamiliar with this procedure.
It is always best for your non-EU family members to be well informed in advance and have all the necessary documents before starting their journey.
However, if they arrive at the border without an entry visa, the border authorities should give them the opportunity to prove by other means that they are your family members. If they manage to prove it, they should be issued with an entry visa on the spot.
Your wife will need a visa in any case. Being a UK resident does not open any right to enter the rest of the EU (except perhaps Ireland). The relevant rules are described on the website of the Consulate General of France in London.
There are two scenarios:
- If she is travelling alone, your wife will need a regular Schengen visa (which means providing documentation about her itinerary, finances, health insurance, etc. and paying the visa fee).
- If she is travelling with you, she would also need a visa but it should be issued quickly and free of charge. In that case, she would only need to prove that she is indeed your wife and that you are a British citizen, the other requirements do not apply.
For the sake of completeness, note that slightly different rules apply to the relatives of citizens from other EU countries residing in the UK (and to British citizens residing elsewhere in the EU). But they don't apply to British citizens and their family in the UK, unless they used something like the Surinder Singh route. In that case, your wife would hold a “residence documentation” that would look like that instead of a regular residence permit.
You can find more details on that on the EU commission website. Note that there are some issues with how these rules are implemented by various member states (and in particular by the UK) but I don't think it would make a difference here.