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The Schengen area is made of 25 European countries. Some countries are part of the European Union, but do not belong to the Schengen area. These are the United Kingdom and Ireland. Other countries, like Norway and Iceland, are not part of the European Union, but are part of the Schengen area following a cooperation agreement signed with the Schengen States.

In addition, with regards to France and the Netherlands, the Schengen regulations only apply to their European territories. The Principality of Monaco allows entry on its territory without any formality to Schengen visa holders. The nationals of Taiwan, holding a valid visa for all Schengen States, may also enter Liechtenstein visa free for a stay which does not exceed three months.

The Schengen area is an area of free movement of persons. In accordance with the Schengen Convention of 14 June 1985, the 25 States, which are members thereof, have abolished checks on persons at the time of crossing of their internal borders. Hence the checks on persons are only carried out at the time of crossing of the external border of a member State, which then acts on behalf of all of the other States of the Schengen area.

The Schengen Convention has implemented uniform rules of entry in all the Member States. In order to be granted entry in the Schengen area, the nationals of the European Economic Area* (EEA) must present a valid identity card or a valid - or expired - passport less than five years old.

Non-EEA nationals must also produce, if so requested, the documents justifying the purpose and the conditions of their visit. Besides, they must have sufficient funds both for the duration of their stay and their return. In addition, they should not be persons for whom an alert has been issued for the purposes of refusing entry. Non-EEA nationals who are exempted from the visa requirement enjoy free movement in the Schengen area for a maximum period of three months (90 days) per half-year from the date of first entry. For non-EEA nationals who are subject to the visa requirement according to their nationality, the visa shall specify the duration of the authorized stay. It cannot exceed 90 days in any half-year. Unless otherwise stated, the visa is valid for the 25 Schengen States.

In both cases, the entry or transit of a non-EEA traveller in the Schengen area is materialized by stamping his or her travel document (i.e. passport) to determine the starting point of the authorized stay.

The travel document is also to be stamped on exiting the Schengen area. If the travel document does not bear an entry stamp, the authorities may presume that the holder does not fulfil, or no longer fulfils, the conditions of duration of stay. This presumption may be rebutted if the traveller is able to provide credible evidence of his or her presence outside the Schengen area.

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* The European Economic Area (EEA) includes the 25 Member States of the European Union (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom) as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

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