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Passport Control & Schengen

What is the Schengen acquis?
Freedom of travel across borders within Europe

From 25 March 2001, Iceland, along with fourteen other European countries, became a participant in the Schengen acquis. This acquis is based on an agreement that initially was signed in the town of Schengen in Luxembourg on 14 June 1985, with the objective of abolishing border checks on travellers at the mutual borders of Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany. While abolishing control within the area, border checks would be intensified towards other countries.

The premises of the Schengen acquis are on the one hand to ensure freedom of travel of individuals inside the borders of the participating countries and on the other hand to strengthen the fight against international crime.

From 25 March 2001, fifteen European countries participate in the Schengen acquis. Along with Iceland, these are: Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Spain, Portugal and Greece. 

What is Iceland's experience of freedom of travel without border controls?
Iceland has already had excellent experience of freedom of travel without monitoring of individuals at border controls. From 1957, Iceland has been a party to the Nordic Passport Union along with Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, which means that the citizens of the member states may travel freely between them without being subject to border checks. The objective of the Nordic Passport Union was to make the Nordic countries a single passport zone with one set of external borders. Thus, citizens of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have for years been able to travel between these countries without showing their passports but must, however, present all taxable goods at customs.

What is the importance of free travel across inner borders?
It is possible to travel within the Schengen territory without presenting a passport at border controls. However, a valid personal ID is required within the area to prove personal identity upon request. Therefore it is important that Icelandic travellers carry their passport at all times since no other valid personal identity documents are issued in this country. It should also be kept in mind that airlines may request travellers to produce passports prior to flight embarkation.

At airports in all Schengen States, including the Leifur Eiriksson Terminal, passengers flying inside the Schengen territory are separated from those flying from a country outside the Schengen acquis. All those entering the Schengen area pass through passport control when they enter the first country in the area, but after that there is no more control. The countries to which this most applies, which have regular flight connections with Iceland, are the United States and Britain. With the introduction of the Schengen acquis, passengers to or from these countries will pass through a border check and must present passports both when they enter and leave the country. This applies also if passengers do not leave the airport terminal building but instead take a connecting flight with only a short stay in the Leifur Eiriksson Terminal.

Although Icelanders are free to cross internal borders within the Schengen territory, the right to stay is still subject by regulations of the country in question or the regulations of the Agreement on the European Economic Area. Therefore an individual must, generally speaking, apply for a residence permit if s/he intends to stay more than 90 days in the country.

What replaces the abolition of border checks?
One of the two purposes of the Schengen agreement is to combat crime and support police cooperation between the member states. An important feature of police cooperation is the management of a central data bank – the Schengen Information System – which stores information on, for instance, persons wanted for arrest on suspicion of a crime or to serve a prison sentence, lost persons, foreigners who will be refused entry to the Schengen area, individuals to be arraigned for trial and information on stolen goods such as cars, firearms, identity documents etc.

Police in all the Schengen States has access to the Information System. The Directorate of Immigration also has access to the System for information on persons prohibited from entering the Schengen territory. This database will facilitate the transfer of information and improve cooperation between authorities of the Schengen States. The police play an important part in the Schengen acquis, but when border checks between the Schengen States were abolished there was even more need for active cooperation within the territory. The Schengen Information System is of great value and police officers all over the country have access to it and are able to retrieve information, either for routine checks or for some other specific reason, and find out if information is available on a particular individual. Police supervision such as this is a key factor in ensuring the success of the Schengen acquis.

What is the legal rights of foreigners within the Schengen area?
The Schengen Agreement permits individuals who are staying legally within the Schengen territory to travel about inside the territory without border checks. This does not only apply to the citizens of these countries but also to foreigners. Thus, foreigners with a valid residence permit in a Schengen State and carrying valid documents can travel within the territory and do not need any special permission to do so.

What changes are in visa policy?
With participation in the Schengen Agreement, there was a change in the status of those who need a visa. A standardized Schengen visa sticker replaced the former form of visa. This visa sticker is valid for travel to all the Schengen States and it is therefore not be necessary to apply specially for a visa to Iceland. In cases where Iceland is the main destination, the embassies of other Schengen countries in over 100 locations all over the world will issue visas on the behalf of Iceland. Information on embassies offering this service is available from the Directorate of Immigration and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

What changes were in the Leifur Eiriksson Terminal because of Schengen?
When the Schengen agreement came into force, a new wing of the Leifur Eiriksson Terminal was taken into use. Because of the introduction of the Schengen acquis, passengers flying within the Schengen territory are separated from those flying to or from a country outside the Schengen acquis. Due to this separation, there are two duty-free areas and two service areas, one in each building of the terminal.

What is not included in the Schengen agreement?
Some features did not change with the participation of Iceland in the Schengen acquis. It is important to keep these in mind.

Always bring your passport!
Although travellers within the Schengen area are not be asked to present a passport at borders, travellers are still advised to bring their passports. It is the obligation of everyone travelling within the area to be able to show a fully valid form of personal identification approved by other Schengen States. At present, the Icelandic passport is really the only identity document that is certain to be accepted by other countries as a valid ID. Also, airlines within the Schengen area may want to inspect the passports of their passengers.

Schengen in no way changes regulations on permits of residence or work in Schengen countries!
Although people are not requested to produce a passport when travelling between Schengen States, this does not change regulations on required permits for residence or employment in the country. Thus, individuals who wish to stay more than three months in a Schengen State must familiarize themselves with regulations that are in force there concerning longer stays. Otherwise, they may find that they are staying illegally in the country when the time limit expires.

Schengen does not change customs control procedures in the Schengen territory
Regulations on customs checks at borders between Schengen countries do not change when the Schengen Agreement enters into force. Travellers to this country from a European country within the Schengen territory are therefore subject to the same regulations as before concerning routine customs inspection in Leifur Eiriksson Terminal or at a harbour in this country. Regulations on duty-free shopping do not change.

Further information
The following ministries and institutions give further information on the Schengen acquis:

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Raudararstigur 25
150 Reykjavík
Tel. 560 9900
Fax 568 4878
E-mail: postur@utn.stjr.is
www.utanrikisraduneytid.is

Ministry of Justice
Arnarhvoll
150 Reykjavik
Tel. 560 9010
Fax 552 7340
E-mail: postur@dkm.stjr.is
www.domsmalaraduneyti.is

Directorate of Immigration
Skógarhlíð 6
105 Reykjavik
Tel. 510 5400
Fax 562 3375
E-mail: utl@utl.is
www.utl.is

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