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I am applying for a Schengen Visa and intend to backpack and hike through the Alps in Europe. Since I'm hiking and camping, I may not have hotel reservations.

This is my first time applying for the visa. Will the limit of 90 days be valid whatever I do, i.e. if I show flights to-and-fro 45 days apart, will the visa validity be 45, or will it be 90?

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The procedure in this case is that you apply for a 46 day visa. It is then up to the consulate whether they (a) reject your application, (b) issue a 46 day visa, or (c) issue multiple-entry 90-days-presence-out-of-X-days-validity visa. It is not under your control whether (b) or (c) happens. It is not uncommon that frequent travelers who have a history of sticking to the rules are issued visa with a long validity without asking for them in order to allow them to be more flexible.

However, the consulate should normally not issue visa that covers less than the period that you apply for. So you could apply for the full 90 days. Doing so does increases the probability of visa refusal, however - especially if you can't provide them with a good reason for what you need the 90 days for.

So the rule of thumb is: Just apply for what you need and be happy about it if you get more validity than you need. However, don't apply for more than you need, as it increases the risk of a visa refusal.

Note that it arrival and departure are 45 days apart, you actually need a 46 day visa as partial days spent in the Schengen area count fully.

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  • Note that I wrote this answer as the one by downhand doesn't include an answer to the question what determines whether it will be 45/46 days or 90 days.
    – DCTLib
    May 26 '15 at 8:10
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It depends on the visa you actually obtain. If you get a multiple-entry long term visa with 90 days stated as the maximum time to spend in the Schengen region, then yes, it will be valid for 90 days out of 180. This being your first time comes into play into the chances of obtaining such a visa, which is very slim. In case of getting the visa, it doesn't make any difference whatsoever how many times you've already been in Schengen.

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