What the 'Schengen zone' means for your European business trip

What the 'Schengen zone' means for your European business trip

Europe-bound business travellers can take advantage of the Schengen Agreement, which makes crossing European borders simple -- and in many cases for Australians, visa-free.

Thanks to this agreement, travelling between many countries on continental Europe is actually easier than heading across the Tasman to New Zealand: no borders, no customs checks, no delays, no hassle.

But there are a few catches and caveats that you should be aware of before your trip.

Read on for business traveller-focussed basics about visiting the Schengen area countries, plus links to the official pages to get more information.

Schengen countries 

Twenty-five European countries are signatories to the Schengen Agreement, which allows free travel and simplified visa arrangements between most Western European countries, with the notable exceptions of the UK and Ireland.

Essentially, once you have legally entered the Schengen area, your travel is domestic within the Schengen area countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Visa requirements

Australian passport holders are entitled to a 90-day visa-free stay for business or pleasure in the Schengen area any 180-day period. So going to France for 80 days and then Germany for 20 days immediately afterwards isn't allowed.

For anything more than that, you'll need to take advice from the High Commission or consulate of the country you'll spend most time in.

Only some Schengen countries allow you to undertake paid employment in those countries during that visa-free stay: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.

But that doesn't always mean you can't do work for your Australian company in Europe visa-free.

So it's always best to take specific advice from the relevant High Commission or consulate to get the precise situation for your circumstances and avoid being turfed out or experiencing difficulties re-entering in the future. 

Transport practicalities

Under Schengen, if you first land in Frankfurt, say, you won't see any difference in the process of getting to your connecting flights for Munich, Madrid, Milan or Marseilles.

It can be a little confusing: at some airports, you don't want to follow the signs for international flights. 

You'll also need to make sure you get your passport stamped at your first port of entry to show you're legally in the Schengen area.

And if driving, you often end up in the rather odd situation of asking yourself whether you're in the right country when driving in border areas, because there are no customs points, only signs and the occasional change in road surface to let you know if you've crossed the frontier.

For up to the minute information, and lists of the relevant High Commissions and consulates -- where you should always confirm arrangements before planning your travel -- check the DFAT Smartraveller page on Schengen and the EU Delegation to Australia's Schengen Visa page.

John Walton

John Walton (John Walton)


Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.


  • am


    10 Oct, 2011 04:20 pm

    Ah the wonder of having a British passport :)

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  • KS


    15 Oct, 2011 02:12 pm

    Just a point of terminology John - Foreign diplomatic missions are called embassies (usually in a capital city) or consulates (in non-capital cities).  The exception is that a mission of one Commonwealth country in the capital city of another Commonwealth country is called a 'High Commission'.  So India, Malaysia, Canada and the U.K.  have high commissions in Canberra, not embassies.  Of the 25 Schengen countries, only one - tiny Malta - is a Commonwealth country and has a High Commission in Australia.  So if I want a work visa in any of the other 24 Schengen countries (e.g. France, Germany, Switzerland or the Netherlands), I'd go to that country's embassy or consultate in Australia, not High Commission (as they don't have one).

    Your piece is a useful summary for those who haven't heard of Schengen.  However, the rules of Schengen are complex - this is because although there is a single passport-free zone, each individual Schengen country runs its own immigration policy and rules. 

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  • John Walton

    John Walton

    17 Oct, 2011 11:07 am

    Thanks KS. As it happens, you don't actually take visa advice from an embassy -- that's what's a permanent diplomatic mission is called, and refers to the Ambassador and staff who deal with the host country's political apparatus.

    A consulate deals with visas, passports, and other business to do with the host country's citizens, and renders assistance to its own citizens in the host country too.

    You may find a consulate within an embassy or High Commission building, though increasingly not -- many countries are locating consulates in business areas rather than Embassy Rows, especially in capital cities that are not as government-focussed as Canberra.

    (For more technical info on diplomatic missions, have a read through the surprisingly un-jargony Vienna Convention, which I'm sure can be found online.)

    You're absolutely right that Schengen can be complex. But it's a heck of an improvement on the old way!

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  • Rufus


    17 Oct, 2011 10:07 pm

    "Only some Schengen countries allow you to undertake paid employment in those countries during that visa-free stay: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland."


    just to clarify - the situation in Germany at least is that an Aussie passport holder is permitted to apply for a work permit (an Aufenthaltserlaubnis) after arrival in the country, but not to work for a German employer until it's granted.  (I guess normal business trips aren't caught in any case). 

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  • John Walton

    John Walton

    17 Oct, 2011 11:28 pm

    Ja, wirklich!

    You're absolutely right there. We had to draw the line between "completely not" and "sort of yes" somewhere, and that's the grey area that's a little bit fuzzy and falls under the "contact the consulate" category.

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  • eurobizzie


    24 Jan, 2012 03:38 am

    If you have a New Zealand passport, you can spend up to 90 days visa-free in each of the following Schengen countries, irrespective of the time you have already spent or intend to spend in other Schengen countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland (+ Hungary if visiting it as the final destination in the Schengen Area).

    However, when going to Schengen countries not listed above (i.e. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia), the normal 90 days in any 180 day period limit applies to the time spent in these 7 countries.

    For more information, visit the European Union (http://www.delaus.ec.europa.eu/newzealand/eu_guide/faqsvisas.htm) and New Zealand Government (http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/destinations/europetips.shtml) websites.

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19 Jan, 2018 08:49 pm


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