The Schengen area includes the territories of the 26 European States – 22 Member States of the European Union, and 4 associated States, EFTA members – which implemented the Schengen Agreement and the Schengen Convention, signed in Schengen (Luxembourg) in 1985 and 1990. The Schengen area works as a single area for international travel and border controls, where internal borders are crossed freely, without passports and without controls.
The standards of the Schengen area were absorbed by European Union law through the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999, although the area also includes four non-EU Member States – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland – and de facto three European micro-States – Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican. All but two EU Member States – Ireland and the United Kingdom – must eventually implement the Schengen standards. With the exception of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia and Romania, all other Member States are already participating. The Schengen area currently encompasses more than 400 million inhabitants over an area of 4 312 099 square kilometers It is now part of the European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.
The implementation of Schengen area standards implies the elimination of border controls between Schengen area members and a reinforcement of border controls between Schengen area members and those who are not members (so-called « external » borders, i.e. the four Member States waiting to implement it, on the one hand, and third countries, on the other hand). Finally, this includes provisions on a common policy on temporary residence of persons (including the Schengen visa, for up to three months), harmonization of external border controls, cross-border police cooperation and judicial cooperation.
In case you’re interested in seeing all the Schengen area states you can check our article about the “territories of the Schengen area”.