Travel across much of Europe is now largely unrestricted: we can travel from the Mediterranean to beyond the Arctic Circle without passport controls or the need for a visa. This freedom of movement exists because of Schengen. To ensure this mobility securely and legally, freedom to travel within the Schengen Area is accompanied by increased protection of external borders and common provisions on the granting of visas.

Schengen forms a common legal framework that governs the rules for entry/departure and short-term stays in the Schengen area, i.e. the rules on managing the Schengen external borders and on Schengen visas. Citizens from a third (i.e. ‘non-Schengen’) country are subject to the same entry requirements, no matter where they enter the Schengen area, for example by ship in the Netherlands, at an airport in Switzerland, or by train in Poland. The area of Schengen cooperation covers most of the EU Member States and the four associated States (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).

Cooperation between Schengen States

In order to adhere to the legislative framework, Schengen States must cooperate with each other on a daily basis in operational and legal matters. The SEM actively participates in such cooperation, e.g. in Schengen working groups at EU level, ensuring that Switzerland's position is taken into consideration. The legislative framework conditions are frequently reworked and adapted to tackle emerging challenges or to overhaul existing systems. Moving from country to country should be as efficient as possible for border control officials to check as it is for travellers to do. To guarantee the common standards, regular evaluations of all Schengen states take place.

For example, the large-scale project «Smart Borders» is currently being implemented. «Smart Borders» uses state-of-the-art technology to increase the efficiency of border controls at Schengen external borders and to improve security within the Schengen area. Central to this project is the electronic EES Entry/Exit System. The system will be used to automatically register all third-country nationals entering and leaving the Schengen Area, replacing the current practice of stamping passports. With the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), visa-exempt third-country nationals will be obliged to apply online for a travel authorisation, subject to a fee, before entering the Schengen area. Ultimately, the interoperability of these EU information systems will be ensured with common query functions.

Last modification 03.08.2022

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