Europe is home to many world famous travel destinations. It offers everything ranging from beautiful mountains to sandy beaches and from picturesque countryside to cosmopolitan cities. And it's easy to explore many European countries in a single trip, thanks to the European Union (EU).
The European Union is a united trade as well as the monetary body of the twenty-seven member countries. All the member countries of the European Union (EU) have to follow all the EU regulations related to airport facilities and security.
The EU gives financial support to those countries whose airports are not able to meet standards when joining the EU. It helps countries to maintain equal standards at all airports under the EU.
Further, EU eradicates all border controls between the member countries. The open borders of these countries allow the free flow of people as well as goods from one country to another. Also, there may be police checks for some police information, but they are not the same as border checks.
The countries who signed the Schengen Agreement ('Schengen Members') have agreed that their citizens can travel free between those countries without the getting a passport. There is also an agreement concerning the tax-free purchases at the Airport by its members. That is why Airport security and customs need to divide the Schengen and Non-Schengen travelers at the Airport.
In some of the old airports, this process is a little burdensome. While in the new airports, the authorities already have this division.
Foreign' travelers need a visa to enter a Schengen-area country.
The EEA (European Economic Area) combines the EU (European Union) and EFTA (European Trade Association) member countries. Its purpose is the participation in the European Market trade and movement, without having to be a member of the EU countries.
EU - European Union
According to 2010 EU regulation, departing passengers need to show their boarding card before pass the security checkpoint. You can print this card at the check-in counter, from a check-in machine, or from the internet.
- Members of EU: Austria Belgium Bulgaria Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Netherlands Poland Portugal Romania Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden United Kingdom.
- Candidate members of EU: Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia (formerly Yugo Rep.) and Turkey.
- Non-EU members: Albania, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine and Vatican City.
EU Rules for Liquids & Gels and Duty-Free Purchases
When you are traveling by plane from an airport which is located in the EU, you have to follow certain security requirements:
To protect the passengers from the hazard of liquid explosives, the European Union has adopted some safety rules. Further, it limits the number of liquids that you carry through security checkpoints.
This rule applies to all passengers who are departing from airports in the EU, irrespective of their destination. You must present your liquids and gels separately from your hand baggage at the security checkpoint.
All the liquids that you carry must fit comfortably in the transparent plastic bag, and the bag must be sealed properly. The maximum capacity of liquids that you can carry is 1 liter, and no container can hold more than 100 ml.
Liquid containers that are larger than 100 ml need to be placed in checked baggage. This amount of restriction is not applicable to baby food and medicines.
Duty-free and Tax-Free items
All the duty-free and Tax-free goods that you have purchased at the Airport are permitted in your hand baggage. All the Liquids and gels will be packed in a specially sealed bag.
It is important here to note that you have to prove that the liquids that you carry are purchased on the day of your flying. Moreover, the seal on the bag containing your liquid Duty-Free Tax-Free purchases can only be broken when you reach your final destination.
On the other side, if you made Tax Free purchases from a non-EU country or a non-EU airline, it gets confiscated on transferring at an EU airport.
EU Rules for tax-free shopping & VAT
All the passengers residing in an EU country can purchase tax-free items after passing through the security line at the airport and onboard European airlines. In addition, all the fluids and gels that you purchase get sealed at the place of purchase.
This seal has a maximum validity of one day. When you are transferring to an airport, you cannot break the seal till the time you reach your destination.
All passengers who are residing in a non-EU country can obtain tax-free goods from outside of EU airports. You will pay the VAT (value-added tax) levied
on your purchases in the shop and get a refund of it at the airport prior to boarding.
General restrictions to this rule are as follow:
- Traveler stays no more than six months when visiting the EU
- Purchases are made no longer than three months prior to export
- Goods meant for personal use are eligible for the refund
- Travelers must save the purchase receipts and visit Customs before leaving the EU to get an export validation stamp. Receipts can then be sent back to the retailers for a refund request
Also, note that each EU country levies a different percentage of VAT, which can be reclaimed. Also, there is a restriction on the minimum amount of purchases that you made.
EU Rules for Duty-Free Shopping
Duty-free shops are those retail outlets that do not apply local or national taxes and duties on the goods. You can make duty-free purchases before getting through the passport check when your destination is different from the EU.
These outlets are not for the travelers flying within the EU but are retained for travelers whose final destination is outside the EU. They are also allowed to sell the goods to the intra-EU travelers but with appropriate taxes.
Some special member territories, including Aland, Livigno, and the Canary Islands, are within the EU but outside the EU tax union. Thus they avail the benefit of duty-free sales for all the travelers.
Schengen Area Countries
Under the Schengen agreement, transiting from one country to another within the Schengen area is allowed without any border controls or checks. In fact, the Schengen visa permits the residents to visit all the countries in the internal borders of the Schengen area for short visits (90 days) without further formalities.
For more clarity, you can go through the following points
- European Union and the Schengen area are two different zones.
- Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and is a member of the Schengen countries. Further, it can lose its membership if it refuses to vote to deny Romanians and Bulgarians free access to the country.
Countries that are members of the Schengen zone are
Schengen members traveling within the Schengen countries do not have to show their passports at the borders. The member countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
European countries that are not part of the Schengen Zone
Ireland, UK, Romania, Bulgaria, Cypress, and Croatia
Visa Requirements for Foreign Citizens
As per the Schengen regulations, citizens of the other countries need a valid visa to visit any country in the Schengen area. (This includes all Caribbean Islands, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia in South America; all of Africa, and most of Asia).
In addition, nationals of other countries also need to have travel insurance with them. Further, these requirements can change from time to time. To be certain, you can also consult your embassy or travel agent. Your passport is valid for at least six months after your return.
Countries that have visa-free access to the Schengen states
Following countries have free visa access for 90 days, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand; Paraguay, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.
How to Get a Visa for the Schengen Area
You will get your visa by the country through which you enter the Schengen area. In addition to your visa application, you have to present certain other documents to the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting in the Schengen area:
- You need to have your standard Schengen visa application form.
- Your passport must be valid for three months after the visa expiration date for which you are applying.
- You must also submit the documents that state the purpose of your trip and specify the conditions in which you are traveling.
- Attach proofs with the application form like proof of transportation, reservations, invitation, or accommodation.
- To obtain a visa, you also need to have travel insurance of at least 30,000 EUR to cover the costs of repatriation and emergency medical expenses.
Member countries of the European Economic Area
Countries that belong to the EEA area are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom.
On the other side, Countries that are members of EEA but are not part of the European Union include Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.