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I'd like to ask the community opinion based on this question. It is about transiting through Schengen area, and lists specific OP circumstances (transit airport, and citizenship). Questions like that are frequently closed as duplicates, citing this answer. The cited answer, however, is very generic, and provides little value in cases like that, when someone is asking "I'm Saudi citizen flying Dubai-Amsterdam-London, do I need Schenghen visa?". This question can be easily answered as "no, you do not", providing the value both for the person who asked the question, and for others who would be looking in the same circumstances.

But instead he's referred to the answer above, which requires him to go through five pages of text. And they still don't provide anything specific (basically telling him "this depends on the airport you transit"), which is hardly the answer here because a specific airport is named. Just for information, this indeed matters, because some airports in Schengen (TXL notably) require you to go through passport control even if you're connecting from non-Schengen to non-Schengen - and those are not minor case; TXL is the largest Berlin airport with tons of connecting flights.

Thus my question to the community is, why those questions are considered a duplicate? It seems like I probably misunderstand the idea of travel.stackexchange as providing specific answers to specific questions. The (duplicate) generic answer indeed would be more suitable for Wikitravel or a similar site offering generic information, but is hardly answering a specific question.

This seem to be similar to "visa/recheck luggage" debate overall.

  • TXL is a very unusual case, visa-free transit is in fact possible (with a police escort arranged by the airline, due to the unusual configuration you noticed), and it was supposed to close years ago. – Relaxed Sep 15 '16 at 16:14
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    Also TXL is a minor case, it's Berlin largest airport but that only says something about the sorry state of airport infrastructure in Berlin (and the debacle around BER). Berlin might be Germany's capital but unlike CDG, AMS, LHR or MAD, TXL is not a major transit airport and only Germany's fourth airport, by far (a third of FRA in terms of passenger numbers, MUC being Germany's other main hub). – Relaxed Sep 15 '16 at 16:33
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    On a European scale, it's somewhere between Düsseldorf and Milan, somewhat larger than Geneva and Helsinki, which sounds a lot less impressive than “Berlin largest airport”. – Relaxed Sep 15 '16 at 16:40
  • @GeoreY. It's not a compelling reason one way or the other but for more historical background, I just remembered that there was a time some folks were seriously suggesting we close all visa questions pointing to Timatic. And over at expats.SE, someone came up with the suggestion of making visa questions off-topic and moving them to a yet-to-appear “visa” SE site... That's what we are up against ;) – Relaxed Sep 16 '16 at 17:23
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For the sake of consensus building, I will write two - opposite - answers to the question at hand. Feel free to up/downvote accordingly and to edit to add arguments if it seems necessary.


Closing specific question to point to a canonical question is a great idea, especially in this area. We already have too many poorly researched visa questions and can't possibly contemplate a separate question for each and every conceivable combination between airlines, airport, citizenship, etc.

Questions like Do I need a visa to transit (or layover) in the Schengen area? are a good compromise, the topic is still manageable, the answer is self-contained and comprehensive, easier to check and maintain. As we close new transit visa questions as duplicate, they all point towards the same canonical question with a solid answer instead of the earlier maze of link between half-maintained questions with at times outdated or erroneous answers Even if the OP forgot a crucial details in their question, another reader following the link to the duplicate will find enough information to find out how the rules apply to his or her situation.

In any case, canonical questions can help a great number of people (e.g. covering nationalities nobody asked about until now) and are still much easier to use than alternatives like the regulation themselves or Timatic.

Finally, questions showing that someone actually read the basic material and spelling out why they are concerned their situation might be different (say asking whether a specific airport is set-up for visa-free transit) should still be welcome.

  • I'm not saying we do NOT need canonical answers at all - they are indeed a good idea. What I'm saying is that it is bad idea to close questions simply because there is exists a generic answer to them, which does not cover particular circumstances. – George Y. Sep 16 '16 at 21:04
  • The main problem here is that a canonical answer which basically tells you "it is complicated, there are many variables, do your own research" is useless for a large number of people who won't do research. Some of them don't know how to do it, or don't have enough time/resources to do research. Internet, for example, is incredibly slow in many parts of India, and what you correctly would call "a simple Google search" is something which may take hours of (re)tries in some environments. People also might not know enough English for research. This is not as easy as we take for granted. – George Y. Sep 16 '16 at 21:19
  • @GeorgeY. Have you actually read the Q&A you pointed to? For the second or third time, the only type of research I am talking about is using the site's search function to find it (and closing questions makes even that unnecessary)! Beyond that, I did the research, it's borderline insulting to suggest it contains only something along the lines of “it is complicated, there are many variables, use Google”. I devoted quite a lot of effort to delineate precisely what those variables are and to explain them in plain English in a simple self-contained form anyone can use to reach a conclusion... – Relaxed Sep 16 '16 at 22:05
  • Like I said, I understand your point and I am not particularly in favor of closing all specific questions to point to canonical questions (I only wrote this one as a compromise solution, in the face of an apparent consensus that it was the way to go) but, whatever you prefer, please don't be disingenuous. – Relaxed Sep 16 '16 at 22:06
  • Also note that this answer puts forward the best case I could for one approach. As usual on the “meta“ website, if you think it's not the way to go, you should downvote it and upvote the solutions you favor, not endlessly debate it. We'll see which options gets the most votes (having posted them myself, I can't vote). – Relaxed Sep 16 '16 at 22:11
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    It would probably be a good idea to update the canonical answer with some kind of guidance for how to check whether the layover airport has a sterile transit area. Sometimes this guidance may end up being "ask a specific question here on the site", but simply providing a positive list of major hub airports that do have airside transit (KEF, HEL, ARN, CPH, FRA, MUC, AMS, CDG, ...) and ones that one might think did but actually don't (TXL, ...?) could help clear it up quickly for the majority of askers. – Henning Makholm Sep 18 '16 at 10:52
  • @HenningMakholm Great idea! – Relaxed Sep 18 '16 at 11:29
  • @HenningMakholm I think, that should be an answer! ;) – Jan Sep 18 '16 at 21:49
  • I personally don’t agree with the ‘two opposite choices by one person to collect votes’ answers anymore, so I’m not voting on either. Just as a heads-up. – Jan Sep 18 '16 at 21:50
  • @Jan Why on earth could you disagree? Do you understand how votes work on meta, right? How does it matter whether I or anyone else wrote the answer? I just did it because it seems nothing was moving at the time... – Relaxed Sep 18 '16 at 21:51
  • @Relaxed The clearest case in point was one over at Anime.SE, where two opposing answers were posted that seemed to address everything possible … until somebody else posted a third (different) answer that was turned into the new policy. That basically convinced me. Other than that, there’s also the idea that somebody who writes a strong argumentative answer for one side could do a much better job at convincing others than a standard answer that just states pros and cons. Tbh, I’m still waiting whether somebody is going to write an answer arguing against dupes (with arguments etc.) ;) – Jan Sep 18 '16 at 22:04
  • @Jan Clearest example of what? Don't see how writing two answers precludes me or someone else adding a third or fourth one. Meanwhile if you (dis)agree with either of them you can vote as usual. Where do you see a standard answer with pros and cons, by the way? A strong argumentative answer for one side is exactly what this is (and the other one too). So I still genuinely don't understand why you are so hung up on the fact my nickname stands under both of them. Just ignore that and act accordingly. Also, I am not sure I understand your last sentence... – Relaxed Sep 18 '16 at 22:09
  • @Relaxed Let’s agree to disagree on the sentence ‘A strong argumentative answer for one side is exactly what this is (and the other one too).’ and leave it at that ^^ – Jan Sep 19 '16 at 10:05
  • @Jan That's absurd. I can't "agree to disagree on that" and pretend we are having a reasonable discussion when your contention is just blatantly false. What's the point of having a discussion if it bears absolutely no relationship to what I actually wrote? You need to either back up your claim or stop making false accusations. Can you point out a single sentence in this answer that argues against the sentence in bold? If not, how is that anything else than a strong argumentative answer? – Relaxed Sep 19 '16 at 10:19
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Would you rather have 500 questions with 500 out-of-date answers? Or 500 questions pointing to 1 out-of-date answer that can be changed and keep the whole site in sync?

The last changes to the Schengen Borders Code were put through less than 3 months ago in this year. OK they didn't take up transit visas in the last round of changes, but relevant changes are in the pipeline.

I know that META threads occur from time-to-time advocating that we should avoid marking duplicates because the OP may have used different words or that the site should not be a repository for encyclopedic questions. Proposals like these fail because they enlist the support of 'volunteers' who have not consented to volunteering OR they rely upon the community to act as a hive mind on a 24/7 basis. We know from experience that trying to get TSE to function as a hive mind doesn't work. Sometimes we have trouble trying to get TSE to act consistently on stuff that has reached broad agreement in META much less on debatable issues.

I have also seen the argument that when an OP uses different words to ask the same question, Google's search results are confounded and the person may be sent to a different site. So because of this we shouldn't mark duplicates. My answer is 'prove it or it didn't happen'. More often than not you can paste the text of any Schengen question into Google and see our stuff in the top 3 or 4 results anyway, if not the top result.

Your questions...

"I'm Saudi citizen flying Dubai-Amsterdam-London, do I need Schenghen visa?". This question can be easily answered as "no, you do not", providing the value both for the person who asked the question, and for others who would be looking in the same circumstances.

No. If somebody says 'no, you do not' their answer would be marked for the LQP queue and ultimately deleted, if not accruing down votes in the process. It's part of the 'cultural gravitas' in TSE that serious answers contain authoritative references and these cannot be introduced without raising the spectre of duplicating someone else's answer or plagiarism or whatever. And what happens when Saudi's can travel into Schengen visa free?

Thus my question to the community is, why those questions are considered a duplicate?

The current canonical for Schengen transit is here. It contains the appropriate authorities and answers hundreds of questions. It can be changed in a few minutes to keep the site in sync with the current Schengen regime, and it will appear at or near the top of any reasonably similar Schengen query put to Google, regardless of what words are used.

Ultimately, if you think a question has been dup'd unfairly or with too much haste (it happens), you can use the 'reopen' button. META remains the ultimate path of recourse, so open a thread here about it.

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    I really don’t know why you CW’ed this, but okay, if you really don’t want your avatar listed under it … – Jan Sep 18 '16 at 21:47
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    Also, duplicates are explicitly not removed on SE because they serve as signposts. So if someone would only find a duplicate with their Google search, that’s as good as finding the actual question. (In any case, I +1’ed this.) – Jan Sep 18 '16 at 21:48
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In general, the answers to visa questions — especially ‘do I need a Schengen visa for transit?’ are somewhere between strongly similar and identical. And that is exactly what Stack Exchange was thinking of when they created the idea of duplicate questions: Questions that somehow ask a similar question (does not have to be identical) but which can be answered with the same set of answers (potentially with different examples attached). Thus, they should generally be duplicates.

I wasn’t one of the close voters in the specific case that sparked the meta discussion but I usually join the close votes in other similar cases.

But there is an important caveat. Some airports may be different for any reason. For example, Frankfurt, Paris and Helsinki may have the same airport layout but Tegel is different because Berlin. Tegel being different warrants it having its own question and answer. Thus, a question whether one needs a transit visa for Tegel should remain open.

Unfortunately, those who just judge a question by its generality cannot know, especially if they haven’t been to the specific airport before. So unless you know about Tegel’s special case, how would you?

But some do know that Amsterdam or Tegel or Santa Claus’ home airport Rovaniemi are different from the generic case. Well, those people should please take a look at this post and remember its guidance. Drop an edit and/or a comment why Amsterdam is different from the standard case and warrants its own answer. If I see the edit (I for my part typically want to keep myself updated with all new posts, at least for a bit), I may well retract the close vote. Others may too. If it’s too late, drop a reopen vote or flag for reopening.

If the situation indeed is a special one it should stay open. If it is the generic one, dupeclose it. If it is being closed, but you know it is a special case, it is your responsibility to edit or drop a comment to prevent closure.

I no longer have feelings about the Amsterdam case in the question. I was first told it was special, no I’m told it’s generic. I guess, I’ll wait for actual evidence.

  • Tegel is not the only airport, I read somewhere that a flight from Madrid to Frankfurt (which should be Schengen) on Iberia operates from T4, which is not Schengen. Someone with a single entry visa flying this route would be up to a nasty surprise. – George Y. Sep 16 '16 at 10:49
  • @GeorgeY. Not necessarily, that can always happen for technical reason (happened to me in Toulouse just a month ago) but border guards must know it and be able to wave someone with the right documentation through without putting an exit stamp on the person's passport (after all, you want your exit stamps in order more than the border guards, to avoid problems down the line). Arriving at a non-Schengen terminal would be a real problem but that's not what we are talking about. – Relaxed Sep 16 '16 at 11:04
  • I assume that if departs from a non-Schengen, it should arrive in a non-Schengen Frankfurt airside as well, because being a non-Schengen terminal, people there might not even have the proper visa. – George Y. Sep 16 '16 at 11:07
  • Jan, your answer makes little sense to me: You are arguing for an aggressive dupeclose policy... and then reach the conclusion that this particular question should be kept open because? It does not single out the aiport as an issue (AMS is actually thoroughly unproblematic) and is just an exact duplicate from many other questions (not only the generic one - which you apparently have no problem with in principle?) but also many more specific ones... Meanwhile, this does nothing to resolve the underlying (and certainly valid) issue raised by @GeorgeY. (so why accept it as an answer?!) – Relaxed Sep 16 '16 at 11:07
  • @GeorgeY. No, that's not how it works (again: been there, done that). I don't think the folks in Frankfurt even know about it. Maybe we could contrive a scenario to exploit this but it seems difficult: you would need to know it in advance and somehow secure a boarding pass). The flight is treated as a Schengen flight, there won't be anybody in it without the proper visa unless they engage in extensive trickery. – Relaxed Sep 16 '16 at 11:09
  • But it does beg the question of people connecting on Iberia and who are supposed to get an entry stamp in Madrid. Unless someone in Madrid ensures they go through a border check they could end up in Frankfurt (with a visa of course, otherwise they would not even be allowed to board their flight to Madrid) but without having undergone a proper entry check (with database look-up, entry stamp, etc.) – Relaxed Sep 16 '16 at 11:14
  • @Jan, sorry for accepting early, clicked on a wrong button. – George Y. Sep 16 '16 at 11:25
  • @GeorgeY. Since this is meta, I wouldn’t even have noticed acceptal. – Jan Sep 16 '16 at 12:07
  • @Relaxed I didn’t want to make it sound like an aggresive closure policy. Rather, I think that special circumstances should not per se be closed as a dupe. But that people who haven’t been to the airport (but who see the question in the close vote queue) cannot know whether a special circumstance exists. Thus, I tried to stress the importance of editing/commenting. As I’m currently just in the DB lounge, I won’t edit right now, but maybe later. Also, I’m no longer sure about the last sentence. So Amsterdam isn’t different from (say) Frankfurt? If so, why is it an issue in the first place? – Jan Sep 16 '16 at 12:10
  • @Jan I think the question is about the approach in general, should we have this type of generic/canonical questions covering many (regular) cases or not? On the flipside, someone asking a question can hardly know in advance whether a given airport is a special case or not (otherwise, he or she wouldn't need to ask!) – Relaxed Sep 16 '16 at 17:12
  • @Relaxed I was just about to rephrase my post anyway. I hope it fits the general picture better and gives more of a general guidance. Generally, my position is dupeclose unless special. But if special, edit to state it. – Jan Sep 16 '16 at 17:27
  • OK, great, that's clear! – Relaxed Sep 16 '16 at 17:34
0

For the sake of consensus building, I will write two - opposite - answers to the question at hand. Feel free to up/downvote accordingly and edit to add arguments if it seems necessary.


Canonical question are a bad idea and run contrary to the philosophy of the platform, whether they are about visas or about something else. Generic questions are unwieldy and simply aren't real problems someone face. Such artificial questions result in complex answers that don't really help anybody. Besides, the principles of the stackexchange platform are clear: A duplicate is a duplicate is a duplicate, i.e. a question asking precisely the same thing, not a way to dispose of vaguely related questions we do not like for other reasons.

Additionally, there is no reason to worry about potential questions so much when we don't have that many question in total and little difficulties in handling them in practice. After all, out of the myriad of potential combinations, only a few actually come up (some of them frequently enough to have actual duplicates).

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