Would anyone know the easiest country to get a visa in order to take advantage of the Schengen restrictions? For example, I want to travel throughout Europe for a solid 5-6 monts. I understand that I would need a visa in order to to that. I'm flexible where I start my journey. I'm sure some country's visas are easier than others. Thanks.
I did a little research on this question a month ago, and think that France may be one of the easier countries but have not looked at all 22. Spain requires a criminal background check from the FBI. I would just pull up the web sites for the countries and see what the requirements are. However, start early because it can take time.
Frank, Would I have to start my journey in France?...or can I just get the Visa from the French consulate in the US, and that apply to all the Schengen countries in my journey?
You would have to obtain a VISA prior to your arrival. There are always a bunch of hoops but you cannot just get a VISA at the border. You would not have to start your trip in France. There is no such thing as an extended Schengen visa. You simply have a long stay visa for France which is recognized (accepted) by the other countries.
I am not sure of the easiest, you certainly could check each embassy site and get a rough idea of the differences. It may also be that, all else being equal, the country that has a consulate nearest you may be the easiest, though it can be done online and via mail. I would expect that just about any country will want some evidence of financial support (bank account balances, pension payments, etc.); Sometimes evidence of medical insurance, occasionally info on where you will be living, more commonly an itinerary. It is not a firm requirement that you enter in the country that issued your visa, but that country should be the one your itinerary shows you spending easily the most time. I have heard of people getting the run around, basically itinerary shows several countries, and they are told to go to another embassy. The itinerary need not be fixed once you arrive, the only time you may be questioned about it is if you should get in trouble and are carrying a French visa in Italy for example.
"... You simply have a long stay visa for France which is recognized (accepted) by the other countries. ..." That statement is true but misleading, because it should read "You simply have a long stay visa for France which is recognized (accepted) by the other countries as a short term visa." You can not get, say, a French six month visa and stay four consecutive months in Italy. For visa waiver nationals (e.g. Americans and Canadians) the only real benefit of, for example, a French national long term visa in the other Schengen states is that days spend in France during the validity of that visa doesn't count in the Schengen 90-in-180 clock.
This is just a related question to throw out to everyone. We often read inquiries about extended stays on this forum, but other than the people who legally work or study in Europe, has anyone else ever reported back that they successfully obtained an extended visa?
Regarding marks comment about the French Visa and the 90 days in 180 rule; I have not seen anything that says this is a firm requirement or at least that the 90 day rule is even in effect. Certainly the intent of a longer term visa is that you have reason to be in the host country for a longer period of time, and if you were to provide an itinerary to the French showing 4 months in Italy and 2 in France, they would tell you to talk to the Italians. Making a false itinerary to show something else, well, that has it's own issues. My understanding is that having a 6 month French Visa (or any Schengen country visa) gives you the ability to travel throughout the Schengen zone, if asked, you present both your passport and the visa, the 90 day rule is not a concern since that applies to a short term visa, and from a practical standpoint difficult to track in todays Schengen world. I may certainly be incorrect, but it begs the question, " What rules apply if I find myself needing to go back to Europe a few weeks after I had spent 6 months on a long term visa?"
"... They all have the same rules ...." No, for long term visa they haven't common rules. "... My understanding is that having a 6 month French Visa (or any Schengen country visa) gives you the ability to travel throughout the Schengen zone ..." But only as a short term (i.e. 90-in-180) Schengen visa (since there are no long term Schengen visas). And since Americans and other first-worlders don't need short term visas to begin with, the effect outside the visa-issuing country is rather limited. Really, again, there are no common EU or Schengen long term visas. Try to look at it from the perspective of European electorates, politicians, and bureaucrats:
when they hear "long term visa" they don't imagine "American tourists on a long holiday," they think of "third world immigrants screwing up the labor market." And immigration (which is the heading long term visas really fall under), just like for example common armed forces, criminal law, or taxes, is one of those policy fields where the EU countries don't trust each other and adamantly refuse to relinquish sovereignty to the EU. And looking at the tensions over the Greek and Spanish budget crisis this is not likely to change in the immediate future...
I have read all the Schengen articles/posts, but if I plan to multiple countries on a European driving tour...let's say staying in 10 countries for 12 days in each, what country in their right mind who provide me with a Visa?
None of them, Julian, because you can't demonstrate a need to be in any one country for a majority of the time. You simply can't stay more than 90 days in a for unless some of the days are in non-Schengen countries. It's not like the old days when you could stay as long as you wanted.
I hate it when the law gets in my way. : )
Julian, if you can pick 3 countries that are out of the Schengen zone, then you can legally make your 120 day trek as you'd stay only 84 days in the Schengen zone (assuming you stick to 12 days per country).
Thanks Dina. This is true, although I used that as an example. Reality is that it may be a rather tight timeframe. I'm thinking of trying to finagle a visa out of a willing country. Any Schengen consulate officals reading this...I plead mercy on your system. Give a friendly American an opportunity to spend money in the land of Schengen!