Visa liberalisation negotiations between the EU and the Western Balkans (excluding Kosovo) began in the first half of 2008 and ended in 2009 (for Montenegro, Northern Macedonia and Serbia) and 2010 (for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina). Prior to the total abolition of visas, the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia and Serbia) had signed „visa easing agreements“ with the Schengen states in 2008. Visa facilitation agreements should, at the time, reduce wait times, reduce visa fees (including free visas for certain categories of travellers) and reduce red tape. In practice, however, the new procedures have proven to be longer, heavier and more costly, and many have complained about the ease of obtaining visas before mediation agreements come into force.    Schengen states with a common land border with a third member state are permitted, in accordance with the European Union Regulation 1931/2006, to conclude or maintain bilateral agreements with neighbouring third countries for the purpose of implementing a border area system.  Such agreements define a border area of up to 50 km on both sides of the border and provide for the granting of permits for small border traffic for the inhabitants of the border area. Authorizations can be used to cross the EU`s external border within the border area, are not stamped when crossing the border and must include the name and photo of the holder, as well as a statement indicating that the holder is not allowed to travel outside the border area and that any abuse is punishable. The Schengen area consists of 26 states, four of which are not members of the European Union (EU). Two of the non-EU countries – Iceland and Norway – are part of the Nordic Passport Union and are officially considered „states linked to eu`s Schengen activities.“  Switzerland was allowed to participate in the same way in 2008. Liechtenstein joined the Schengen area on 19 December 2011.  De facto, the Schengen area also includes three European micro-states – Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City – which have open or semi-open borders with other Schengen member states.
 Authorizations are issued for a validity period of one to five years and allow you to stay in the border area for up to three months. Permissions may only be granted to legitimate residents of the border area who have been in the border area for at least one year (or more if provided for in the bilateral agreement). Applicants must prove that they have legitimate reasons for frequently crossing a land border under the local border transportation system. Schengen states must maintain a central register of authorisations issued and allow other Schengen states immediate access to relevant data. When EU member states negotiated the signing of the Schengen Agreement in the EU through the Treaty of Amsterdam, Ireland and the United Kingdom were the only member states that had not signed the agreement. The United Kingdom did not want to join and Ireland wanted to retain its common travel area with the United Kingdom and the associated islands, a regime incompatible with Schengen membership, while the United Kingdom did not intend to do so. As a result, both parties are negotiating an exemption clause for the part of the treaty, which was to incorporate the Schengen rules (or acquis) into EU legislation when it came into force on 1 May 1999.  The applicable protocol allows either to apply for participation in aspects of the Schengen acquis, but this request is subject to the agreement of the Schengen States.  On 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union and the protocol is no longer applicable to the European Union.