Home Travel & Adventure Romania and Bulgaria Set to Join Schengen by Air on March 31:...

Romania and Bulgaria Set to Join Schengen by Air on March 31: What Travelers Need to Know


The travel process for Romania and Bulgaria will be easier from March 31, 2024, when both countries’ citizens will be allowed to travel passport-free to Schengen Zone countries.

However, since partial accession to the EU’s borderless area does not mean full Schengen acquisition for these two countries, travellers should be aware of the new changes that will become effective by the end of this month, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

Schengen membership means that those legally staying in member countries can move freely without passport checks. However, the membership of Romania and Bulgaria is exceptional – the removal of passport checks only applies to air and sea transport.

Finnish authorities in Romania

Streamlined Procedures for Air & Sea Travel

Austria’s “Air Schengen” proposal granted Bucharest and Sofia accession to the Schengen Zone by air and sea from March 31, 2024. Still, Vienna continues to maintain its veto when it comes to land border enlargement, citing irregular migration concerns.

Earlier this year, the Council of the European Union said that the date of accession by land would be decided only after March 31, with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, expressing her hopes that the process will be finalised by the end of this year.

Under the new changes, the abolishment of passport controls will only be applied to air and sea transport, but when it comes to land borders, passport controls continue to remain valid. Rivers and lakes between countries are considered land borders.

Therefore, travellers are urged to hold a valid passport or identity card, as the authorities have the right to check their identity.

Ahead of partial Schengen accession, both Bulgaria and Romania have declared full readiness to embrace air Schengen.

Romania & Bulgaria to Start Issuing Schengen Visas

From April 1, Bulgaria and Romania will begin issuing Schengen C visas that allow entry and stay in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

National short-term visas issued before March 31 by Romania and Bulgaria did not entitle you to travel throughout the Schengen Zone, only in the two countries as well as Cyprus. That will continue to be the case for visas issued before March 31, but not for those issued later.

However, residence permits and long-term D visas issued by authorities in these two countries before March 31 give them free movement rights in the Schengen Zone as long as permits are valid.

Time of Stay in These 2 Countries to Count Towards Total Schengen Stay

In January this year, the European Commission spokesperson for internal affairs, Anitta Hipper, told RFE/RL that from the end of this month, third-country citizens without a European Union passport would consider the time spent in these two countries to be time spent in the Schengen Area.

Hipper said that the time spent in Sofia and Bucharest will be counted towards the total period of stay in the Schengen Area, which cannot be longer than 90 days in 180 days.

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