The European Union is not the same as the Schengen area: some countries in the EU are not part of the Schengen area and vice versa. These differences can restrict visa-free travel for second passport holders and they need to be taken into account when selecting the European country where you want to live. We will clarify which passports allow you to travel visa-free in the Schengen area and which ones can help an investor move to the European Union.
Concepts and composition of the EU and Schengen zone
The concepts of the European Union and the Schengen area differ from each other, although many countries are included in both entities. The EU is a political and economic union, whereas the Schengen Area permits the free movement of people among the participating countries.
The European Union includes 27 countries. They have a common market and foreign policy. The European Union government can influence the internal affairs of the member states by, for example, developing a common policy in the field of agriculture or regional development.
The Schengen area is a visa-free space consisting of 26 states. When traveling from one Schengen country to another, there is no border control. However, a citizen of a country outside the Schengen zone needs to have a valid visa to enter the Schengen zone.
The European Union and the Schengen area are composed of both common and different countries. Some countries are part of both entities, while others belong to only one of the two entities.
Which countries are members of the EU and Schengen area
Importance of distinguishing between the EU and the Schengen zone
The rights of a country’s residents and citizens depend on which entity their state belongs to.
There are 22 countries that are part of both the European Union and the Schengen area. A residence permit issued by any of these countries allows the holder to spend 90 out of 180 days in any Schengen country and also in any country in the European Union.
Some states are members of the European Union but are not included in the Schengen zone. A residence permit issued by such a state allows the holder to travel without a visa only to those EU countries that are also not part of the Schengen zone. For example, a Bulgarian residence permit holder can travel to Cyprus, Croatia or Romania without a visa. However, to travel to France, Germany, Austria or any of the other countries in the EU, they will require a visa.
With a residence permit issued by a country that is part of the Schengen area but not the EU, the holder can only visit those Schengen countries that are not part of the European Europe without a visa.
A residence permit issued by any country allows the holder to enter it without a visa for an unlimited period of time for the duration of the validity of the resident permit.
A residence permit issued by Austria, Portugal, Greece, Switzerland, or Spain, as well as a Maltese residence permit or permanent residence in Malta, permits the holder to travel both in the European Union and the Schengen countries without a visa.
Residents of Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus cannot visit the Schengen area without a visa. Residence permits in these countries are more often obtained for purposes of migration, and not for the sake of freedom to travel without a visa.
EU citizens can move to other EU countries, as well as to Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. They can also travel without a visa to the Schengen area. This rule applies to all EU citizens, including countries belonging only to the European Union but not the Schengen zone.
What are the exceptions to be considered
Britain and Ireland joined the European Union in 1973. However, as they wanted to keep their own immigration policy, they did not join the Schengen Agreement.
Residence permits issued by the EU and Schengen countries do not entitle the holder to travel without a visa to the UK or Ireland. Similarly, for example, residents of Ireland can visit Bulgaria and Cyprus without a visa, but not Austria or Germany.
Previously, EU citizens could visit the UK and Ireland without a visa and stay there for an unlimited period. Now, after Brexit, they can only do so in Ireland.
In 2020, the UK withdrew from the European Union. From January 1, 2021, citizens of the European Union can visit without a visa as tourists for up to 6 months only. They need a visa to work, study or get married in the UK.
Which countries in Europe are not part of either the European Union or the Schengen area
There are countries in Europe that are not part of either the European Union or the Schengen area: for example, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, and North Macedonia.
Citizens from some of these countries can travel without a visa within the Schengen area: for example, citizens of Montenegro.
However, residents of these countries cannot visit the EU or Schengen states without a visa. For example, a residence permit issued by Montenegro, in contrast to Montenegrin citizenship, does not entitle the holder to enter the EU or the Schengen zone without a visa. To travel to the Schengen countries (or the EU), residents of these countries need to get a visa.
Why get EU citizenship?
An EU passport holder can choose to live in any of the EU countries. Getting a second citizenship helps to open up new business opportunities, and makes it possible to travel to many countries without visas, educate your children in prestigious international schools and universities, and gives you a refuge in case of upheaval in your country of origin.
To obtain citizenship in one of the EU countries, you need to live there as a resident for at least 5 years. During this time, you cannot leave the country for more than 6 months a year or 10 months in total.
Malta offers easier terms to those seeking citizenship. Maltese citizenship can be obtained for exceptional merit by direct investment. On this route, citizenship is obtained by naturalization: applicants spend 1 or 3 years as residents before getting a passport. The minimum investment is €690,000.
To move with a Malta passport to another EU country, the holder needs to register with the local authorities within 3 months after arrival. At the same time, you need to show that you have medical insurance, a place of residence and an income sufficient to live on. Usually, the required documents are submitted to the police or the migration service.
Immigrant Invest helps its clients obtain residence permits and second citizenship. This offers them freedom to travel, relocate and do business in countries with a high standard of living. Immigrant Invest’s lawyers will help you choose a program that suits you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Also, the Schengen countries can be visited without a visa by EU citizens. Foreign applicants can obtain citizenship by naturalization in 1–3 years in Malta.
There are also countries that are not part of the Schengen area, but their citizens can visit it without a visa: for example, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Vanuatu.
To move to a specific EU country, you need to obtain a residence permit there. The easiest way is to participate in a citizenship by investment program: they are offered, for example, by Portugal, Greece, Spain and Malta.
Austria and Switzerland issue residence permits for financially independent persons. They allow you to move to the country, but these residence permits do not give you the right to work or do business in the selected state.
Malta citizenship allows you to live in any EU country for life. You will need to register there with the local authorities, within 3 months after arrival. You also need to have health insurance, a place of residence, and sufficient income to cover the needs of your dependent family members.
No, residents of the EU or Schengen countries cannot visit the UK without a visa. Only citizens of the EU (for example Malta) or Schengen countries have the right to visit the UK without a visa.
An EU citizen can enter the UK without a visa and stay there for up to 6 months.