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Visa requirements for non-EU nationals

This summary has been archived and will not be updated. See 'Visa requirements for non-EU nationals' for an updated information about the subject.

Visa requirements for non-EU nationals

This regulation lists the non-European Union (EU) countries whose nationals must hold a visa or are exempt from the visa requirement when crossing the external border of the EU.


Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 of 15 March 2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement.


Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 establishes the visa requirements and visa exemptions for non-EU nationals entering the EU in view of a short stay. . It also provides for exceptions to the visa requirements and visa waivers that EU countries may grant to specific categories of persons.


The regulation provides a common list of countries whose nationals must hold a visa when crossing the external borders of a Member State (Annex I or negative list). The regulation also lists the countries whose nationals are exempt from the visa requirement (Annex II - positive list).

These lists are regularly updated with the successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 539/2001.

Decisions on the modification of the lists are taken on the basis of a case-by-case assessment of non-EU countries to which are applied criteria such as, for example, illegal immigration, public policy and security, economic benefit (tourism and foreign trade), external relations including considerations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as regional coherence and reciprocity. These decisions are sometimes taken as the consequence of successful visa liberalisation dialogues with the third countries concerned.


Generally, a short-stay visa issued by any of the countries in the Schengen area entitles its holder to travel throughout the 26 Schengen States for stays of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.

Visas for visits exceeding that period remain subject to national procedures.

In addition, the regulation states that visa requirements are waived for:

  • non-EU nationals who hold a local border traffic permit;
  • non-EU school pupils who are residents of a Member State and travelling with their schools for the purpose of a school excursion;
  • recognised refugees and stateless persons who hold a travel document from the Member State in which they are residing.


Member States may grant exceptions to the visa requirement or the visa waiver to certain categories of persons such as, for example, holders of diplomatic, service and special passports, civilian air and sea crews or flight crew and attendants on emergency/rescue flights.

Other specific cases of exemption are detailed in the regulation.


A mechanism is triggered whereby if a non-EU country on the positive list introduces visa requirements for the nationals of one (or more) Member State(s), the latter should inform the Commission and the Council and a specific procedure is implemented with a view to restoring visa-free travel. If this country still imposes these requirements more than 6 months after the publication of the notification of the non-reciprocity situation, the Commission may propose, as a reciprocity measure, the temporary restoration of a visa requirement to certain categories of the nationals of this non-EU country. This specific reciprocity mechanism applies to the EU as a whole. Thus, should the non-EU country apply a visa requirement for nationals of an EU country, there could be a joint EU response from all Member States.


Under strict conditions and after thorough assessment by the Commission, another mechanism allows for the temporary reintroduction of visa requirements for citizens of non-EU countries when there is an emergency situation caused by abuse of the visa-free regime by nationals of a non-EU country on the positive list leading to a substantial and sudden increase in the numbers of:

  • unfounded asylum applications;
  • irregular migrants; or
  • rejected readmission applications.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 539/2001



OJ L 81 of 21.3.2001

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Council Regulation (EC) No 2414/2001



OJ L 327 of 12.12.2001

Council Regulation (EC) No 453/2003



OJ L 69 of 13.3.2003

Act concerning conditions of accession



OJ L 236 of 23.9.2003

Council Regulation (EC) No 851/2005



OJ L 141 of 4.6.2005

Council Regulation (EC) No 1791/2006



OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006

Council Regulation (EC) No 1932/2006



OJ L 405 of 30.12.2006

Council Regulation (EC) No 1244/2009



OJ L 336 of 18.12.2009

Regulation (EU) No 1211/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council



OJ L 339 of 22.12.2010

Regulation (EU) No 517/2013



OJ L 158 of 10.6.2013

Regulation (EU) No 610/2013



OJ L 182 of 29.6.2013

Regulation (EU) No 1289/2013



OJ L 347 of 20.12.2013

Regulation (EU) No 259/2014



OJ L 105 of 8.4.2014

Regulation (EU) No 509/2014



OJ L 149 of 20.5.2014

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.

Last updated: 12.08.2014