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Visa requirements for non-EU nationals

This regulation lists the non-European Union (EU) countries whose nationals must hold a visa or are exempt from the visa requirement when crossing the external border of the Union. It also provides for exceptions to the visa requirements that Member States may grant to specific persons.

ACT

Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 of 15 March 2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement [See amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

This regulation harmonises the visa * requirements for non-European Union (EU) nationals entering the EU. It provides a common list of countries whose nationals must hold a visa when crossing the external borders of a Member State (Annex I).

The regulation also lists the countries whose nationals are exempt from the visa requirement for stays of maximum three months (Annex II). In addition, the visa requirement is waived for:

  • non-EU nationals who hold a local border traffic permit;
  • non-EU school pupils who are residents of a Member State and travelling with their schools for the purpose of a school excursion;
  • recognised refugees and stateless persons who hold a travel document from the Member State in which they are residing.

Optional exceptions to the visa requirement

A Member State may grant exceptions to the visa requirement or the exemption from the visa requirement to the following persons:

  • holders of diplomatic, service/official and special passports;
  • civilian air and sea crew;
  • flight crew and attendants on emergency/rescue flights;
  • holders of laissez-passer.

The following persons may also be exempted from the visa requirement:

  • school pupils that are nationals of a non-EU country whose nationals require a visa, but that are residing in a non-EU country that is exempt from this requirement or in Switzerland or Liechtenstein, and that are travelling with their schools for the purpose of a school excursion;
  • recognised refugees and stateless persons residing in and having a travel document from a non-EU country exempt from the visa requirement;
  • holders of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) identification and movement orders, and members of the armed forces travelling within the framework of NATO or Partnership for Peace operations.

An exception to the exemption from a visa requirement may also be made for persons who perform a paid activity during their stay.

Member States must notify each other and the Commission of any exceptions they decide to apply.

Principle of reciprocity: breaches by a non-EU country

If one of the countries whose nationals are exempt from the visa requirement (Annex II) introduces such a requirement for the nationals of a Member State, that Member State must notify the Commission and the Council. This notification is then published in the Official Journal of the EU. Subsequently, the Commission is to contact the authorities of the non-EU country in question with a view to restoring visa-free travel.

Within 90 days of publication of the notification, the Commission must report to the Council. It may propose the temporary restoration of a visa requirement to the nationals of the non-EU country. The Council must take a decision on the proposal within three months. If the non-EU country abolishes the visa requirement, all temporary measures imposed on it will be terminated.

Key terms used in the act
  • Visa: an authorisation issued by a Member State or a decision taken by such a state that is required with a view to:
    1. entry for an intended stay in that Member State or in several Member States of no more than three months in total;
    2. entry for transit through the territory of that Member State or several Member States, except for transit at an airport.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 539/2001

10.4.2001

-

OJ L 81 of 21.3.2001

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 2414/2001

1.1.2002

-

OJ L 327 of 12.12.2001

Regulation (EC) No 851/2005

25.6.2005

-

OJ L 141 of 4.6.2005

Regulation (EC) No 1932/2006

19.1.2007

-

OJ L 405 of 30.12.2006

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.

LAST AMENDMENTS OF ANNEXES

Annex I and II
Regulation (EU) No 1211/2010 [OJ L 339 of 22.12.2010].

Last updated: 23.02.2011
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