The European Union created the Schengen Area as an area without internal borders. All members of the European Union can enjoy open borders throughout much of the continent. This permits EU residents, citizens and visitors from abroad to travel freely within most of the continent.
A United States citizen traveling to Spain must present a passport when first arriving at the airport in Madrid. However, a side trip to Paris would not require further inspection at the French border. US citizens do not need a visa to enter most of Europe. Visits are permitted for up to 90 days without a visa.
Citizens of countries in the Schengen area who are traveling to the United States are also not required to obtain a visa for entry. An Italian national, for example, can enter the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. The same goes for all citizens of EU member states.
This free movement of people throughout much of Europe, without frequent stops at border checkpoints, has increased the transport of tourists, merchandise and services, and contributed to the economy of EU member states.
The Schengen Area has also brought the EU countries together on the issue of external borders. The member countries have a unified approach on controling external borders.
The following is a complete list of all countries which comprise the Schengen Area: