that is the question!
the schengen region is a group of 25 european countries that have aligned themselves together for several purposes, including "visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to free movement of persons". Its complicated so you can read more about it by following this link:
what is important to us as canadian travelers is that we can freely move through the schengen countries without a visa. the stipulation is that we can only be in these countries for 90 out of 180 days. the map below highlights the schengen countries in green and the most recent additions in yellow.
as you can see, most of the countries on our european leg are part of the schengen region. we were planning on being in europe from august to december which is 120 days not the 90 we are allowed. so either we make our trips outside of the region longer or we apply for a special visa that allows us to stay as a tourist for longer. after spending a few hours investigating how to apply for a schengen visa i think we've decided to keep our travels in the area to 90 days.
the application process of a schengen visa is long and thorough or at least it is through the german consulate. to apply for the visa you need to determine what your main destination is or if you are traveling through many countries like we are, what your first country will be. we've decided to fly from london to berlin to start our european tour. i contacted the german consulate office in winnipeg and was directed to the toronto embassy's website for forms & instructions. the document list to submit was quite long and included: a visa application form, a declaration, passport photos, valid passport, flight reservation, proof of health insurance, ref. letter from employer, proof of hotel reservation, proof of travel itinerary, current bank statement & $100 cash. my first reactions were...we're unemployed, we'll be couchsurfing or hosteling, we don't know our itinerary past going to berlin, and our bank account looks dismal until we get our house money! also, the time for processing was posted as 15 working days or longer if you have to send the paperwork to toronto...which we would. we leave in 30 days (ie. 20 working days) and that may be cutting it a bit close considering we have few of the documents prepared.
i dunno, sounds like a hassle. so what this means for us is more time in morocco, croatia & turkey. i think with some diligence we should be able to keep track of how long we've spent in the schengen area and keep it to 90 days. so we can just travel to europe with our canadian passport and not have to jump through hoops just as we are panicking to get our stuff sold & packed. sounds good to me!
so one might say...why are you only finding out about this now? well, for one thing i think we've done some of this planning in the wrong order. we had the idea/dream, we sold our house, we quit our jobs, and then we looked into the details. some people might prefer the dream, the planning and THEN selling and quitting. heh heh. well. that would be the prudent route. but also, i don't think that many canadian travelers worry about the enforcement of the schengen visa. its a borderless area after all and most travelers will be on a train or hitchhiking from country to country. there isn't much chance of being stopped or checked. but i would hate to be that one traveler that does get stopped, unable to prove that i'm under 90 days and kicked out or fined.
does anyone have any experience with the schengen agreement/visa? let us know. its been a small source of worry in the back of our minds.
oh. on a side note...when i called the german consulate in winnipeg i recognized the voice...last summer i designed his kitchen. gotta love winnipeg ;p