Should my first trip be to the country which issued my Schengen Visa?
In case, if I get a multiple-entry Schengen visa in one of the embassies in Ukraine, Kyiv - should my first trip be to the country which issued the visa?
Any there any requirements of this sort? Does this condition vary depending on embassy which issued the visa?
What are the possible consequences on not visiting that country first? Does it somehow depend on country where the embassy is (i.e. non-Schengen and not EU members)?
Your first port of entry does NOT need to be the country which issued you a Schengen visa. When deciding which country to apply for a visa, this is determined by which country you're spending the most time according to your filed itinerary. Once the visa is issued, it does not matter what country is your point of entry. Technically, you should also stick to your itinerary as filed but I don't think this is checked at any point.
*Technically, you should also stick to your itinerary as filed but I don't think this is checked at any point*. Bad advice. There **are** reports of travelers penalized when the trip didn't match the declared itinerary. E.g. Finland border guards find the hotel bill from Germany on return from Europe and then future visa applications to Finland consulate are denied (for visa abuse).
Practically speaking, while most Schengen countries are quite lax about visas, some are extremely picky.
For example, there are lots of reports that the Finnish consulate in St. Petersburg systematically reprimands local applicants for 'illegitimate' usage of Finnish ME visas for traveling to Europe instead of Finland - sometimes by issuing a warning, sometimes by refusing new visa applications. A number of cases have been reported when holders of Finnish visas were turned back at the border and their visas cancelled when the guards found evidence of their plans to travel further than Finland.
What it all boils down to, is: attitudes vary.
As I've said in the other answer, I've also encountered reports about cases when the border guards discover the trip's real destination *at the end of the trip*. Of course, they still let the culprits out of the Schengen zone, but they create an incident report that complicates future visa applications and border crossings.
@ilya n. How would they find out the real destination as long as port of exit is same as filed in the visa application?
@pranavk, Fairly easy if you are departing from Finland with a fresh tan on your body and a Scuba apparatus and an assortment of Spanish cured meats in your baggage.
As others have already explained, there is no general requirement to enter through the country that issued the visa.
In fact, if you are travelling to several Schengen countries at once, you are required to apply to the country that will be your main destination and might therefore very well be different from the one you will enter first. So if you go for a week to Italy, a month to France and then a week to Spain, you would be entering Italy and visiting Spain on a visa issued by the French consulate. It's not merely something you can do in practice but is technically not allowed, that's precisely how the system is supposed to work.
By contrast, the fact that you are required to apply to a specific country also tells you that you are not really supposed to use a visa issued by a Schengen country to go wherever you please (otherwise what would be the meaning of this requirement?)
Beyond that, you ought to make a distinction between several scenarios:
You have a multiple-entry visa. Those are intended to cover multiple trips and multiple purposes, so going elsewhere is generally fine.
The best is to first use the visa to go to the country that issued it. After all, it's supposed to be a country you have reasons to visit frequently. Having the stamps to document that also shows that your visa is legit and that you really do travel to this country regularly.
If you have never been to this country, it's not forbidden to use your multiple-entry visa but it could raise some suspicion that you didn't have a good reason to get one in the first place. See also Can I use my Schengen visa for a completely different purpose and entry point?
In practice, you might not even be asked about it but it's a possibility. Unfortunately, this system is frequently being abused, which is perhaps the reason for the backlash described by Andrey Chernyakhovskiy.
Also when comes the time to renew the visa, it makes sense that not having been to the country that issued it at all should raise questions. You are not supposed to get a visa from one country as a convenient way to visit other countries, you are supposed to apply to a country you really intend to visit at some point.
You have a single entry visa. It has been issued for a specific trip, for which you had to submit an itinerary so going elsewhere than planned is not recommended.
If you are following your itinerary, then it's obviously fine. It can mean that you are entering the Schengen area through a given country with a visa issued by another one (as in my Italy/France/Spain example) but that's the way the Schengen system is supposed to work. No issues here.
If you added some last-minute changes to your itinerary (say add a short visit to another country at the beginning of your trip), you will usually be fine. To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing that would explicitly disallow that in the regulation. You might however get some questions when crossing the border and some countries appear to overreact to small changes so if you want to be careful, it's always best to stick to your itinerary. See Can I change my route and hotel reservation after getting a Schengen visa?
If you are using your single-entry visa for a completely different purpose, you are in a bit of a grey area. Deliberately applying to a country you do not intend to visit because it's easier/more convenient is definitely forbidden. If found out, it would be a valid ground to annul the visa, which means being forced to return where you came from immediately and more trouble getting another Schengen visa in the future. On the other hand, many people do get away with it and if you had a genuine change of circumstances, you might legitimately find yourself in this situation (see Use of unused Schengen visa to travel to Switzerland).
At the end of the day, border guards have some discretion here. Using a single-entry visa for another trip is not unambiguously allowed nor is explicitly forbidden as such. Depending on whether you still meet the conditions or whether it seems you deliberately committed fraud, your visa could be annulled or revoked or you could simply be denied entry. It's also possible to have luck and to be allowed to continue your trip but it's clearly a risk.
If you consider doing some changes to your itinerary and are concerned about the consequences, one approach to preempt any objection is to contact the relevant consulate and ask what you should do. Most likely, they will tell you they can't issue a new visa and you can use the current one but the upside for you is that you can print their answer and have it ready to demonstrate your good faith if some border guard asks about it during your trip (do not volunteer anything if it does not come up). See also Use of unused Schengen visa to travel to Switzerland for an example.
About last point of annuling visa, to avoid doubts that border officials may have (because they have some discritionality here) in case you're entrying Schengen through a different country of the issuing one *because your country destination does not have a consulate in your country* and thus you applied on a different schengen consulate acting as *Representing the other schengen state*, then make sure the issuing country does not forget to add that info to your visa sticker, it would be "R/TWO LETTER COUNTRY CODE OF THE REPRESENTED COUNTRY"..
.. so eg. "R/SE" should read on a visa issued by Consulate of Spain in Santo Domingo when that visa was done representing Sweden, which is a real case as Spain represents Sweden and other schengen countries that don't have consulates in Dominican Republic. If the border official does not see this info on the sticker he just sees a "dominican national flying to Sweden on a Spanish visa" and while this is technically legal he may see a migration risk here and deny you (because of the discretionality they have).
As far as my knowledge goes, (and it goes far because I am staying in UK on a visa, so Europe's kinda' my backyard!), when applying for the visa you just have to think one thing:
Which is going to be the most important and longest stay destination of your trip?
That pretty much answers your question. Having said that, common sense prevails from that point onwards. If more than one destination fits the bill, and one of them also happens to be the intended port of entry, then that's where you apply. If even this doesn't solve the dilemma, or things change at the last minute, don't worry, as long as you have a plausible story for applying, staying and dining in three different countries, border control will let you off!
Some others on the wild wild web who think the same:
Plainly put; it makes sense that if you're arriving in Frankfurt, you'd go to the German Embassy for a Schengen visa. Having said that, and when you've got a visa: plans could change and you could decide to arrive in Greece, for example. They don't punish you for doing that!
Your port of entry can be anywhere in the Schengen zone. The prerequisite of obtaining a Schengen visa via a particular country, say France, is that France would be the main destination (i.e. where you spend the most amount of time) and it is only if the amount of time is equal with one or more Schengen countries that then it would be the port of entry.
Generally speaking with a Schengen visa, you may enter one country and travel freely throughout the Schengen region during the validity of the visa. Internal border controls are limited with no or few stops and checks.
I had a multiple-entry Schengen visa issued by the German embassy. My first port of entry by air was Switzerland. I was admitted to enter the Schengen states through that port of entry. I once travelled by road from London to Germany.
I had a German Schengen visa too. My first port of entry was France. I was admitted into the Schengen states through France without being asked for my itinerary.
I think at the port of entry they know that with that visa you are allowed to enter the Schengen states so they will not deny you entry simply because you have sought to enter through a state different from the issuing state. All you need do is explain your circumstances.
There is a corner case here not covered by the previous answers where it's NOT acceptable to arrive in a different member state...
Source: Schengen Handbook
If the person has a single entry Schengen visa...
====> AND the person arrives in a different member state than the one that issued his visa...
========> AND the person does not have a connecting flight to the member state that issued his visa...
THEN his visa will be annulled by the officials of the member state he arrived in.
Source: Article 34 of the Visa Code (also exemplified in the handbook), which says in part...
A visa shall be annulled where it becomes evident that the conditions for issuing it were not met at the time when it was issued, in particular if there are serious grounds for believing that the visa was fraudulently obtained. A visa shall in principle be annulled by the competent authorities of the Member State which issued it. A visa may be annulled by the competent authorities of another Member State, in which case the authorities of the Member State that issued the visa shall be informed of such annulment.
Does it have to be a connecting flight? Or would any plausible onward transport do it? (eg flying into Barcelona, Schengen visa from France, TGV ticket to Montpellier?)
@Gagravarr, the guidance explicitly mentions 'proof of a connecting flight', so I am *interpreting* it as a decision being made airside, i.e., I don't think the passenger would be landed.
On a slightly different example, assume you'd just flown into CDG from outside Schengen, wanting to go to Barcelona. Whether taking the train or flying, in both cases you'll need to clear Schengen entry formalities in Paris. You could well be right on what the French officers will do if you turn up with a Spanish visa in that situation, but it does seem a little strange to me that a CDG-BCN flight is OK, Paris-Barcelona TGV ticket + idea of getting the RER to catch that isn't. May be strange but true though!
@Gagravarr, thorny area... incredibly, I have found *another* corner case and am now debating whether or not to update my answer.
This case is in fact covered in my answer (it's the last of my bullet points) but I don't think you can state with such certainty that the visa *will* positively be cancelled if the person cannot show a (plane) ticket. Planning to arrange transportation locally is perfectly legit and a ticket *leaving* from the other member state should also be perfectly acceptable as evidence. Conversely, having a throw-away ticket can be useful to bluff your way through the border but it does not mean a visa should not be cancelled.
Various official documents mention transportation tickets as a means to establish a person's intent in different contexts (in particular the handbook's Russian-national-in-Brussels example) but it's never a requirement, certainly not a legally binding one. What matters is whether the border guards think you just lied about your intents to get the visa (and in practice many people get away with it in any case, which also makes this answer inaccurate in another way).
@GayotFow those handbook examples are far from exhaustive. They are examples, so they do not cover all possible reasons for taking or refraining from a given course of action. If the traveler has a bus ticket or even a credible plan to take a road trip to Italy with his friend who lives in Brussels, the officers can admit him.
@phoog right, agreed that it's not exhaustive, the answer takes up a corner case not given in the other answers.
Short answer, No.
I did almost the exact same thing in the past. I had a French long stay visa and entered the Schengen Region thru Amsterdam and then traveled to France via Train.
As long as you have a valid Schengen Visa, you should not have a problem at any Schengen port of entry.