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Schengen Visa: How to Apply, Countries, Requirements and Fees

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If you’ve been traveling the world or wish to start, you’ve probably heard of the Schengen Area. Schengen is the EU passport-free zone that covers 27 European countries. It is the largest free travel zone in the world and is perfect for digital nomads!

The Schengen Area has its unique visa that allows travelers to visit these 27 countries for short stays. It is the perfect opportunity for digital nomads who wish to explore multiple European countries without worrying about acquiring multiple visas.

In this article, we’ll give you a complete guide on how to get a Schengen visa. We’ll help you understand the Schengen visa application process, the requirements, the fees, and everything in between.

What Is Schengen Visa?

The Schengen Visa is a type of visa that allows you to travel to any country in the Schengen Area for tourism or business purposes.

Keep in mind that the Schengen visa allows you to stay for 90 days in a 180-day period. That means that for every 90 days you spend in the Schengen area, you must spend 90 days outside of it. If you wish to study, work, or live in one of the countries for longer than 90 days, you’ll need to apply for a national visa from that European country instead of the Schengen visa.

This is the most common type of visa in Europe because it allows you to move between 27 countries passport-free. There is no border control in these countries, so you can move back and forth as you please.

However, recent security concerns have created the need for better management of who is entering EU borders. That is why the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) was created. The ETIAS is a completely electronic system that allows keeping track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone.

The Swiss State Secretariat for Migration anticipates ETIAS may not be operational before May 2025. The exact ETIAS implementation date remains unconfirmed, with an announcement expected by late 2023. Despite a proposal to decouple ETIAS from other databases for a potential May 2024 launch, no progress has been made. The earliest estimated ETIAS go-live date is May 2025.

What Are the Schengen Countries?

view of the schengen

The Schengen zone includes 27 who have signed the Schengen agreement. Each of these countries can issue a Schengen visa.

Here’s a complete list of the countries that form part of the Schengen zone:

Austria flagAustriaBelgium flagBelgiumCzech Republic flagCzech RepublicCroatia flagCroatiaDenmark flagDenmarkEstonia flagEstoniaFinland flagFinlandFrance flagFranceGermany flagGermanyGreece flagGreeceHungary flagHungaryIceland flagIcelandItaly flagItalyLatvia flagLatviaLithuania flagLithuaniaLuxembourg flagLuxembourgMalta flagMaltaNetherlands flagNetherlandsNorway flagNorwayPoland flagPolandPortugal flagPortugalSlovakia flagSlovakiaSlovenia flagSloveniaSpain flagSpainSweden flagSwedenSwitzerland flagSwitzerlandLiechtenstein flagLiechtenstein

Being part of the Schengen zone allows you to travel freely within them without passing through passport and border control. This is a great advantage because it makes travel much easier and accessible for non-EU citizens.

What Other Non-Schengen Countries Can I Visit with a Schengen Visa?

Other countries aren’t part of the Schengen zone that still allow foreigners to enter and stay in their territories only by showing a valid multiple-entry Schengen Visa.

Here’s the list of countries:

Albania flagAlbaniaAntigua and Barbuda flagAntigua and BarbudaBelarus flagBelarusBosnia and Herzegovina flagBosnia and HerzegovinaBulgaria flagBulgariaColombia flagColombiaNorthern Cyprus flagNorthern CyprusGeorgia flagGeorgiaGibraltar flagGibraltarKosovo flagKosovoMexico flagMexicoMontenegro flagMontenegroNorth Macedonia flagNorth MacedoniaRomania flagRomaniaSão Tomé and Príncipe flagSão Tomé and PríncipeSerbia flagSerbiaTurkey flagTurkey

Even though these countries aren’t part of the Schengen Area, you can still visit them without the need for a national visa issued by them. This shows that, even if you’re visiting a non-Schengen country, the Schengen visa is still useful and has many benefits.

Also, just recently, the European Parliament has stated that Bulgaria and Romania are expected to join the Schengen area by the conclusion of 2023.

Schengen Visa Types

a city in the schengen

You’ll need a Schengen visa if you’re visiting for one of the following reasons:

  • Business purposes

  • Visiting friends or family

  • Tourism

  • Holidays

  • Cultural or sports events

  • Transit

  • Medical reasons

  • Short-term study

  • Research purposes

Depending on why you’re visiting the Schengen countries, you may be granted a single-entry visa, a double-entry visa, or a multiple-entry visa.

Single-Entry Visa

A single-entry visa allows the holder to enter the Schengen Area only once within the given period of time. Once the holder leaves the Schengen Area, they can’t re-enter it using that visa, even if they have not spent the number of days permitted.

Don’t get confused; a single-entry visa does not mean you can only enter one country. You can enter through any country from the Schengen Area and keep moving around the 27 countries.

Double-Entry Visa

The double-entry visa works similarly to the single-entry visa. The difference between them is that, unlike the single-entry visa, the double-entry visa allows you to re-enter the Schengen Area one more time after you have left it.

With this visa, you won’t be allowed to enter a third time when you leave the Schengen Area a second time. So be very mindful of the time you spend in the zone and ensure you don’t exceed the number of days you are permitted to stay.

And again, do not confuse the double-entry visa with the number of countries you’re allowed to visit.

Multiple-Entry Visa

Any holder of a multiple-entry visa can come and go from the Schengen Area as they please, as long as they don’t violate the 90/180 days limit.

This visa is granted depending on how frequently you travel. If you have obtained a double-entry visa more than once and you are a frequent visitor to the Schengen zone, you will most likely be granted a multiple-entry visa.

Depending on how frequently you travel, you may be granted one of these multiple-entry visa types:

  • 1-year multiple-entry visa

  • 3-year multiple-entry visa

  • 5-year multiple-entry visa

1-year Multiple-entry Visa

The 1-year MEV can be obtained if you have obtained and lawfully used three visas within the previous two years. You must show proof of your previous visas when applying for this one.

The 1-year MEV allows you to enter the Schengen zone as often as you want, as long as you do not remain more than 90 days within this period.

3-year Multiple-entry Visa

You can obtain a 3-year MEV if you have used a previous multiple-entry visa valid for one year within the previous two years.

This visa gives you the right to enter the Schengen Area as often as you wish within three years. However, you must not stay for longer than 90 days within a 180-day span.

5-year Multiple-entry Visa

This visa is granted if you have previously obtained and lawfully used a multiple-entry visa valid for at least two years within the previous three years.

Same as the others, the 5-year MEV allows you to enter the Schengen Area as often as you wish within five years, but make sure you do not violate the 90/180 days rule.

Uniform Schengen Visas (USV)

The Uniform Schengen Visa is a permit given by ​​one of the Schengen Area Member Countries that allows you to transit or reside in the desired territory for a certain period of time, up to a maximum of 90 days.

There are two categories of USV, type A and type C.

USV Category “A”

This category stands for “Airport Transit Visa”. This visa allows you to travel through the international zone of the Schengen country Airport without entering the Schengen Area.

Keep in mind that airport transit visas are mandatory for citizens traveling from one non-Schengen state to another non-Schengen state, where they change flights in a Schengen country airport.

USV Category “C”

This category stands for Short-term visa. This visa allows you to reside in the Schengen Area for a certain period of time. Short-term visas can be obtained as single-entry visas, double-entry visas, or multiple-visa entry, which we discussed above.

Limited territorial validity visas (LTV)

An LTV allows you to travel only in the Schengen State that has issued the visa. This means the holder of an LTV cannot enter or transit through any other Schengen country that is not the first and final destination target.

This type of visa is granted only on specific cases, like humanitarian reasons or under international obligation, as an exception to the common USV system.

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Who Needs Schengen Visa?

girl applying for the schengen visa

Many nationals of countries do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area. However, some do need to go through the process to apply for a visa to transit or visit countries that are part of Schengen.

Some of the countries that are required to obtain a Schengen visa are:

Albania flagAlbaniaBelize flagBelizeBolivia flagBoliviaChina flagChinaDominican Republic flagDominican RepublicIndia flagIndiaKenya flagKenyaNigeria flagNigeriaPakistan flagPakistanPhilippines flagPhilippinesQatar flagQatarRussia flagRussiaSouth Africa flagSouth AfricaThailand flagThailandUganda flagUganda

To see the complete list of countries that require a Schengen visa, check out this link!

Schengen Visa for US Citizens

Citizens of the United States do not need a visa to enter any country in the Schengen Area. They may enter and remain there for tourism or business purposes for no longer than 90 days within 180 days.

Schengen Visa for US Green Card Holders

If you’re a green card holder, it will depend on your nationality. Green card holders that are also a national of a third country that requires a Schengen visa will also need to apply for a visa. If you’re a national of a third country that does not need a visa, then you don’t need one either.

To check the complete list of countries that require a visa and which don’t, check the official website.

Schengen Visa for EU and EEA Nationals

Nationals of the European Union or the European Economic Area do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area.

However, If you are a family member of an EU or EEA nationality but you aren’t, you will need to apply for a visa. Being a family member of an EU or EEA national does mean the application process will be much faster.

Schengen Visa Requirements

When you’re filling up the Schengen visa application, there are several documents you will need. There aren’t a lot of requirements, but make sure to make the application properly to avoid any delays or denials of your visa.

To qualify for a visa, you must:

  • Be a national of a non-EU country that requires a visa

  • Have a valid passport

  • Fill up the application form properly

  • Show proof of financial means

  • Show proof of accommodations

  • Round trip reservation or flight itinerary

Schengen Visa Application Form

The Schengen visa application form is the most important part of the process. Without it, you won’t qualify for a visa, so carefully fill it out. You mustn’t make any mistakes when filling up the form. The most common reason the Schengen visa application is denied is that people didn’t fill up the application form properly. So keep a sharp eye when you’re filling up yours.

You can download the application form here. You’ll also find the application forms for specific countries in that link.

The application form will ask for the following:

  • Your personal information

  • Information on your background

  • Your purpose of wishing to enter the Schengen Area

  • Other details regarding your trip.

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Valid Passport

Alongside the application form, you’ll also need a valid passport. This must have been issued within the previous ten years and valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave the EU.

Schengen Visa Photo Requirements

You must also have two identical photos. They have very specific requirements on how the photo must be taken, so make sure the photos you attach to your application comply with all of them.

Here’s a list of all the requirements and specifications for the Schengen visa photograph:

  • Two identical photos. Not older than six months.

  • Photo size: 35x45mm.

  • In color. No black and white

  • The head should take 70-80% of the photo.

  • Brightly colored background. Light gray is suggested. No patterns.

  • The applicant should be looking straight at the camera.

  • Neutral facial expression. No smile and mouth closed

  • Avoid uniforms or colors matching the background.

Check out the official website for more details and examples of the Schengen visa photograph.

Proof of Financial Means

You’ll also need proof of financial means when applying for the Schengen visa. While they don’t have a minimum income, you must show that you can support yourself financially during your visit.

There are multiple ways to prove your financial sufficiency:

  • A personal bank statement indicating your financial movements (for at least three last months).

  • Credit card

  • Cash

  • Traveler’s checks

  • Payslips

  • Proof of employment

  • Supporting document to attest sponsor’s readiness to cover your expenses during your stay

  • Proof of prepaid accommodation

  • Document about accommodation in private

  • Proof of prepaid transport

Proof of Accommodation

Proof of accommodation is part of the required documents for your Schengen visa application. The Embassy or Consulate where you’re applying will accept one of the following:

  • Hotel Booking or Reservation

  • Sponsorship – An Invitation from The Host with a Copy of His Passport

  • Evidence of a pre-paid tour with details of your payment to the tour operator

The official website of Schengen Visa provides resources you can use when booking your accommodation or flight tickets to make your application process much easier. Check out this website to explore their options!

Schengen Visa Cover Letter

One of the Schengen visa requirements is a cover letter. This letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself, why you’re traveling, and any other important information you wish to communicate to the visa officers handling your application.

In this letter, you must include the following:

  • The purpose of your travel to the Schengen Area

  • Proof of how you will fund your trip (own funds or sponsor)

  • In the case of a sponsor, explain your relationship with them and why they will be sponsoring your trip

  • An overview of your itinerary, which should also explain why you chose to apply at the specific Embassy

  • If you cannot submit any of the required documents, write about why you cannot submit them and explain alternative documents that you may have submitted.

  • Your intent to return to your home country or you can also write a separate letter of intent to explain your rootedness to your home country.

Check out this website for more details and examples of how to write your cover letter!

Return Flight Ticket or Flight Itinerary

The Embassy or Consulate will also request you show proof of round flight, a return ticket, or an itinerary. So make sure you submit that information next to the rest of your documents.

Double-check that the flight confirmation you provide has all of your information, including:

  • Your name

  • Your destinations

  • Payment confirmation

We advise you not to pay for a return ticket, but instead only to book it. If your visa is denied, we don’t want you to lose that money. Don’t worry–a booking confirmation will be accepted.

Schengen Visa Insurance

Another important document to include is health or travel insurance. The insurance should be valid for your stay in the Schengen Area, with a minimum coverage of 30,000 EUR for medical emergencies.

Luckily for you, there are many insurances designed specifically for digital nomads. We love Genki’s travel health insurance because it includes all the best benefits at an accessible price. To read more about this amazing travel health insurance, check out their website!

Employment Status

During your application process, specific documents will be requested depending on your employment status.

For employees:

  • Employment contract.

  • Current bank statement of the latest six months.

  • Leave permission from the employer.

  • Income Tax Return (ITR) form or Certificate of Income Tax deducted at the source of salary.

For the self-employed:

  • A copy of your business license.

  • Company bank statement for the latest six months.

  • Income Tax Return (ITR).

For retirees:

  • Pension statement of the latest six months.

For unemployed and married to an EU citizen:

  • Confirmation of Employment letter, no older than three months, from their spouse’s employer stating the position held within the company and the starting date.

  • Spouse’s valid passport.

Schengen Requirements for Minors

If you’re traveling with minors, you must submit extra documents for each underage applicant.

Here’s the list of documents needed:

  • The minor’s birth certificate.

  • Application form signed by both parents.

  • A family court order, in cases where only one parent has full custody of the child.

  • Certified copies of ID/passport of both parents.

  • A notarized parental authorization is signed by both parents/guardians if the minor will be traveling alone.

How to Apply for the Schengen Visa – Step-By-Step Instructions

ocean beach in schengen

Now that you know all the requirements and documents you’ll need, it is time to start your application process. Here are the step-by-step instructions you must follow.

Step 1 – Acquire the Necessary Documents

You must gather all the necessary documents before you start your application. This will make the process much easier and quicker. Additionally, make sure to keep copies of the documents just in case.

Here’s a complete list of all the documents you’ll need for your application:

  • Schengen Visa Application Form

  • Valid Passport

  • Two Schengen Visa Photographs

  • Proof of Financial Means

  • Proof of Accommodations

  • Schengen Visa Cover Letter

  • Return Flight Ticket or Itinerary

  • Proof of employment status

Step 2 – Complete the Schengen Visa Application Form

Once you’ve gathered all the documents, you can start your application.

Download the application form here. The visa application form has 37 questions you must complete by hand.

The most common reason for denial of the Schengen visa is that applicants make mistakes while filling up the application form. So just pay close attention to all the information and avoid making mistakes.

Step 3 – Book Your Schengen Visa Appointment

To proceed with your application, you must book an appointment. Most countries can book the appointment online, or you can go directly to the closest Embassy or Consulate of your destination country.

Step 4 – Attend Visa Appointment

After making the appointment, you can attend your interview on the agreed date and time. Make sure you arrive on time at the facility where you will be interviewed.

You’ll meet a visa consular in charge of your application during this appointment. Hand over all your collected documents.

The visa consular will interview. This is a short interview where you’ll be asked personal questions about your whereabouts, the intended trip, and other travel details. The interview shouldn’t last longer than 10-15 minutes.

Step 5 – Pay Your Schengen Visa Fee

The next step is paying the visa fee. This is a non-refundable administration fee. Without it, your application cannot be processed.

Currently, a Schengen visa fee is €80 per person. Children and some other categories will have to pay either reduced fees or no fees.

Check out a complete list of the Schengen visa fees, depending on the categories.

Step 6 – Wait for Your Visa

The last step is waiting for your Schengen visa approval. You’ll be contacted directly with a response from the Embassy or Consulate where you applied.

Schengen Visa Processing Time

city in schengen

Most applications take no more than 15 days to process. However, there are times when the process may take longer. Some countries may extend the processing time from 15 to 45 days.

Schengen Visa Fees

The standard Schengen visa fee is €80 ($80).

Children between the ages of six and twelve pay a reduced fee of €40 ($40).

Children under the age of six are entirely exempt from payment.

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Schengen Visa Denial

tram in europe

If your Schengen visa is denied, you will receive a reason for the rejection. Read through the information they give you, so you can try the application process again.

If you think your application was correct and the decision on its refusal was a mistake, you may appeal the visa rejection.

Common Reasons for Schengen Visa Denial

There are many reasons why a Schengen visa application may be denied. Here are some of the most common reasons and what you can do to avoid them.

Insufficient Explanation For The Purpose And Circumstances Of The Planned Stay

The visa consular may deny your application if they feel you didn’t present enough justification for the purpose and conditions of your trip and stay.

These cases may be due to the following:

  • ​​Failing to present an employment and professional qualification that matches your financial situation.

  • Unable to provide documents supporting travel and staying in the Schengen Area.

  • The inability to offer unchanging declarations about the purpose of travel and stay.

Damaged passport or passport invalidity

You might be surprised at how many people present a passport that is not in good condition. Passports with detached or missing pages or without a cover will not be accepted, and the application will be denied immediately.

Additionally, passports that do not comply with the Embassy or Consulate requirements will not be accepted. This includes:

  • ​​Presenting a passport that does not have a valid period of less than three remaining months after the return from the visit to the Schengen Area.

  • Presenting a passport that does not possess two different blank visa pages.

  • Presenting a Travel Document Booklet instead of a valid passport.

  • Presenting a valid passport that is older than ten years.

Invalid proof of travel itinerary

Another reason the Schengen visa might be denied is due to presenting invalid proof of your flight or travel itinerary. You must show a proper travel plan within the Schengen Area; otherwise, you won’t get your visa.

Invalid Travel Insurance

Having valid travel health insurance is crucial to obtain your Schengen visa. Without it, your application will be denied. So make sure you get one valid for your stay in the Schengen Area, with a minimum coverage of 30,000 EUR for medical emergencies.

Schengen Visa Reapply or Appeal – Which to Choose?

If your visa gets denied, you have two options: reapply or appeal.

Reapplying for the Schengen visa is recommended when the denial is due to your mistake during the application. This might be like forgetting to submit certain documents or providing the wrong information. In this case, you can gather everything you missed the first time around and apply once again.

However, if you think the reason behind the denial is wrong, then you can opt for an appeal. Article 32(3) of the Visa Code of the Schengen Agreement clearly states that those who have been refused a visa shall have the right to appeal.

Schengen Visa Appeal

If you’re appealing the decision on your visa application, there are certain steps you must follow. Keep in mind that the appealing process is not simple and might take a long time.

The first step is to write an Appeal Letter for Schengen Visa Refusal. In this letter, you must give strong reasons why you believe your application was incorrectly rejected and why the decision must be taken back. You must also include evidence to support your arguments.

The Appeal Letter for Schengen Visa Refusal must include the following:

  • Personal details

  • The date when your application was rejected

  • The reason behind your visa refusal

  • Why you believe the rejection was incorrect

  • Your signature

Check out this website for a complete guide on how to write your appeal letter.

After you’ve written the letter, you must submit it at the embassy of the Schengen country you wish to visit or at the embassy or consular where you first applied. Make sure to submit the supporting documents alongside the appeal letter.

Schengen Visa Appeal Feedback Timeline

Once you’ve submitted the appeal letter and supporting documents, a higher-ranked officer will review your letter and decide whether the decision to reject your visa application should be reversed.

Sadly, there is no specific timeline to get a response for the appeal. The waiting time depends on the embassy of the country you have applied to.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Schengen Visa

Still, have questions about the Schengen visa? Don’t worry! Here are the most frequently asked questions!What Is ETIAS?

What Does a Schengen Visa Look Like?

You’ll receive a Schengen Visa sticker if your visa is approved. The visa sticker information is provided in English, French, and German. 

How To Read Schengen Visa Sticker?

The Schengen visa sticker is in three languages: English, French, and German.  The visa sticker always contains information on the countries its holder is permitted to visit. The phrases VALID FOR, VALABLE PUR, and GULTIG FUR are set before the name of the territory you are permitted to enter with the visa you have obtained.

If next to those words is written ETATS SCHENGEN or SCHENGEN STATES, then it means that the visa is valid in all Schengen states. Otherwise, it’ll have the acronyms for the Schengen countries where the visa is valid.

Next to the labels FROM, DU, and VOM, you’ll see the first day you are permitted to enter the Schengen Area. Next to the labels UNTIL, AU, and BIS, you’ll see the last day you will have to leave.

The label NUMBER OF ENTRIES, NOMBRE D’ETNREES, and ANZAHL DER EINREISEN stand for the number of times a person is permitted to enter the Schengen Area.

For more details on how to read your Schengen visa sticker, visit the official website!

What is Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is the EU passport-free zone that covers 27 European countries. It is the largest free travel zone in the world.

What Are the Easiest Countries to Apply for the Schengen Visa?

Spain has the lowest rejection rate. Plus, Spaniards are friendly and easy-going people, so you shouldn’t have a problem talking to the people at the embassy or consulate.

Since France is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, they’re used to processing thousands of visas. Their rejection rate is also very low.

What Biometrics Do I Need to Provide?

You’ll need to provide the following biometrics:

  • Your fingerprint scan of all ten fingers

  • Facial scan of your full face. You cannot wear sunglasses, tinted spectacles, or a head covering unless worn for religious or ethical reasons.

Can a Schengen Visa Be Applied for Online?

Most countries allow you to schedule an appointment online; however, you must attend the interview in person.

What is the 90/180 Day Schengen Rule?

The Schengen visa allows you to stay for 90 days in a 180-day period of time. That means that for every 90 days you spend in the Schengen area, you must spend 90 days outside of it.

What is the Penalty for Schengen Visa Overstay?

If you stay over the 90-day period, you could receive a fine, immediate deportation, or even get banned from entering the Schengen Area for a period.

Can a Schengen Visa Be Extended?

The Schengen visa may only be extended for emergencies, and strict conditions apply.

To extend your visa, you must meet the following conditions:

  • Your stay in the Schengen Area must not exceed 90 days in total.

  • You must explain why you need to extend your stay. If you cannot return to your own country before your visa expires, you will need to show documents to demonstrate why.

  • You must have enough money for your stay. Or you can ask someone to act as a guarantor.

  • You must have valid travel and/or health insurance that covers the extra time.

  • Your passport must be valid for at least six months and not be more than ten years old.

  • There must be no indications that you have other reasons for extending your visa.

  • You must pay a fee to extend a Schengen visa.

Is there an Accelerated Schengen Visa Procedure?

The application process is the same for almost everybody. You may be entitled to an accelerated visa procedure that is free of charge if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are a family member of an EU or EEA citizen

  • That EU/EEA citizen is traveling to or is residing in a member state other than that of which he/she is a citizen

  • You are accompanying the EU/EEA citizen or planning to join them in the Schengen State of destination.

Is It Difficult to Get a Schengen Visa?

No, getting a Schengen visa is very clear and straightforward. It might feel long, and they might request a lot of documents, but if you follow the instructions and do everything dutifully, then you’ll have no problem getting the approval for the visa.

Does The Schengen Visa Cover The UK?

No, The UK is not a part of the Schengen Area

What Is ETIAS?

The ETIAS is a completely electronic system that allows keeping track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone. The earliest estimated ETIAS go-live date is May 2025.

What Is VIS?

VIS stands for Visa Information System. This allows Schengen States to exchange visa data. The VIS connects consulates in non-EU countries and all external border crossing points of Schengen States.

What Countries in the Schengen Area Offer Visas Options for Digital Nomads?

The application process is the same for almost everybody. You may be entitled to an accelerated visa procedure that is free of charge if you meet the following criteria:


Nadia Dardón is a freelance writer from Guatemala. In early 2022 she embarked as a digital nomad, traveling through Europe, focusing mostly on the literary history of each country. She has worked fully remotely for the past four years as a reader, writer, and content creator with experience creating pieces for different industries. She also has a personal blog where she writes about her cultural and literary travels.