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Visa Code

Visa Code

This regulation establishes the procedures and conditions for issuing visas for short stays in and transit through the territories of EU countries. It also lists the non-EU countries whose nationals are required to hold an airport transit visa when passing through the international transit areas of EU airports and establishes the procedures and conditions for issuing such visas.


Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas (Visa Code).


The aim of the regulation is to establish the conditions and procedures for issuing visas for short stays in (maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period) and transit through the European Union (EU) countries and the associated states applying the Schengen Agreement in full. It applies to nationals of non-EU countries who must be in possession of a visa when crossing the external border of the EU, as listed in Regulation (EC) No 539/2001.

In addition, the regulation lists the non-EU countries whose nationals must hold an airport transit visa for passing through the international transit areas of EU airports (Annex IV). In urgent cases of mass influx of illegal immigrants, any EU country may extend this requirement to nationals of other non-EU countries.

Procedures and conditions for issuing visas

The EU country that is the sole or the main destination of the visit is responsible for examining the visa application. If the main destination cannot be determined, the country of entry into the EU is competent. In the case of transit, the EU country through which the transit takes place or, in case of multiple transits, the country of first transit is responsible. Generally, the visa application must be submitted to the consulate of the EU country concerned.

EU countries may establish bilateral arrangements for representing each other for the purpose of collecting visa applications or issuing visas. They may also cooperate through co-location or a common application centre.

A visa application may be lodged by the applicant or an accredited commercial intermediary at the earliest 3 months before the intended visit. When lodging an application, the applicant must appear in person, unless this requirement has been waived. When lodging an application, the following must be presented:

  • an application form, as set out in Annex I;
  • a valid travel document;
  • a photograph;
  • supporting documents as set out in Annex II, as well as proof of sponsorship and/or accommodation if requested by the EU country;
  • proof of possession of travel medical insurance, if applicable.

Apart from certain exceptions, the applicant must allow the collection of his/her fingerprints and pay a visa fee. The visa fee may be waived or reduced in individual cases, for example for cultural, foreign and development policy reasons. An external service provider (e.g. travel agency) may charge an additional service fee.

After verifying the admissibility of the application, the competent authority must create an application file in the Visa Information System (VIS), following the procedures set out in the VIS Regulation. It carries out a further examination of the application to check that the applicant fulfils the entry conditions as set out in the Schengen Borders Code, does not pose a risk of illegal immigration or a threat to the security of the country and intends to leave before the visa expires.

A decision on an admissible application must be taken within 15 calendar days from the date on which it was lodged. In exceptional cases, this time limit may be extended. A decision is taken on whether to issue or refuse a uniform visa (valid for the entire area covered by the Schengen Agreement) or a visa with limited territorial validity. In the case of an EU country representing another, it may decide to discontinue the examination in order to transfer the application to the latter’s relevant authorities.

A uniform visa may be issued for 1, 2 or multiple entries with a maximum validity of 5 years. For a transit visa (including airport transit visa), the period of validity must correspond to the time needed for the transit. A 15-day period of grace is usually added. In certain cases, the period of validity of a visa may be extended. Under certain circumstances, the visa may also be annulled or revoked.

A uniform visa or visa with territorial validity does not automatically provide a right of entry to the visa holder.

A visa is refused if the applicant:

  • presents a false travel document;
  • gives no justification for the purpose and conditions of the intended stay;
  • provides no proof of sufficient means of subsistence for the duration of the stay nor for the return to his/her country of origin/residence;
  • has already exhausted the 3 months of the current 6-month period;
  • has been issued an alert in the Schengen Information System (SIS) for the purpose of refusing entry;
  • is considered to be a threat to the public policy, internal security or public health of one of the Member States;
  • provides no proof of travel medical insurance, if applicable;
  • presents supporting documents or statements whose authenticity or reliability is doubtful.

The applicant must be notified of a decision to refuse, annul or revoke a visa with the standard form set out in Annex VI. Such a decision may be appealed in the country that took it, in accordance with its national law.

Exceptionally, a visa application may be submitted to the authority responsible for checks on persons at the external border of the EU country of destination. A visa issued at a border crossing point may allow for a stay of maximum 15 days or cover the time needed for transit.


This regulation amends the VIS Regulation and the Schengen Borders Code. It also repeals Articles 9-17 of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement and the Common Consular Instructions.

The regulation applies from 5 April 2010. Articles 32(2) and (3), 34(6) and (7), and 35(7) apply from 5 April 2011.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 810/2009



OJ L 243 of 15.9.2009


Report from the European Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: A smarter visa policy for economic growth ( COM(2014)165 final of 1.4.2014 - not published in the Official Journal).

This report examined the extent to which the initial overall goal of the Visa Code in facilitating legitimate travel and ensuring equal treatment in similar cases has been achieved, without specifically assessing its effectiveness in terms of contributing to economic growth.

The conclusions of the report are addressed in the Commission's proposal to amend the Visa Code (see below).

Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Union Code on Visas (Visa Code) ( COM(2014) 164 final of 1.4.2014 - not published in the Official Journal).