Planning a trip to EUROPE? Congrats! You are at the right page . . .
If you are planning a trip to Europe or any of the below stated countries, you will need to obtain a Schengen Visa. In this article I will focus just on how to obtain a Schengen Visa for the purpose of tourism. So, since you are reading this blog, it is apparent that you are planning your maiden Europe tour. The foremost thing you need for this dream trip other than your valid passport is a valid Schengen Visa stamped on your passport. Without beating around the bush, I take you through how to obtain a Schengen Visa.
List of Schengen Countries:
The Schengen area is an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. The area mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. The 26 countries are-
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland
As already mentioned, just one Schengen Visa is needed to visit any of the above mentioned countries or some of them or all of them.
First thing first “Finalizing the Visa Consulate”:
If you are planning to tour more than two countries in the Schengen area then apply for visa to the embassy/consulate of the country you will be residing in for most of the travelling days, often referred as the main destination. If two countries have the same number of days then choose the one where you are planning to land or exit.
In case you do not have a fixed itinerary (not recommended, though), and you plan to visit several countries in the Schengen area randomly, then apply to the embassy/consulate of the country which you are entering first.
Since now you know which embassy you need to apply, next is how to apply and what are the documents required.
Long trail of documentation:
The most painful part is this, where you need to prepare the documentation. I will keep the checklist simple and provide rationale on why they ask for the particular document which will help you understand the significance of it and you can produce a substitute, if possible and required
1) Valid passport (issued within the last 10 years and with at least 3 months validity after the scheduled return; passports with observations regarding the front data page are no accepted) with at least two empty pages Nothing much to say, of course you need a valid passport. Since the maximum stay with a Schengen visa can be of 90 days, so 3 months validity is required on the passport. Two blank pages, because one will have Visa sticker and the other page will have Indian immigration stamps and the stamps from the Schengen country where you are landing and exiting.
2) 2 passport pictures according to biometric specifications, not older than 6 months Go to the studio and get a photo of the dimension 35 mm in length and 45 mm in height. Your face (the start of the hairline in the forehead till end of your chin) should be between 32 mm to 36 mm. Get the photo in a light background, white is preferred. Detailed information can be obtained here Cheap Tip: Do not go to any fancy studio and spend a bomb on just the photo. The consulate needs a clean and clear photo with the above mentioned specifications (which are very general) and not for featuring you as a playboy model, so save the buck.
3) Leave letter of your company (if employed) This letter serves as a proof of return to your own country, so make sure the letter clearly states your designation, since when you are working with the company, leave dates (mandatorily covering your entire stay), date on which you will resume your duties.
No-objection certificate of school or university (if student) This is pretty much same as the above.
4) Proof of financial status If employed: Payslips of the past three months / employment contract Provide either of them, not both. Provide three latest Payslips, as it clearly states how much you are earning and if you are capable of surviving a European trip. This document helps the Visa officer gauge your financial status and also validates that the money earned is legal. If self-employed: Certificate of Proprietorship or other proof of ownership (proof of land title, proof of income from agriculture (sales form) etc.)
5) Income Tax Return (ITR) form or Form 16 (Certificate of Income Tax deducted at the source of salary)
It ensures that all the fund in your bank account is earned legally. Though my experience is that, they hardly care how you have earned the money. If they see there is enough fund available in your account then they are fine
6) Personal bank statement of the past three months with sufficient funds
Here they look into couple of things; first, money in your account is sufficient to cover your entire stay in Schengen area during your travel period. Second, the fund has not been deposited all of a sudden to inflate the available balance. I have written below in detail on how much you should show in your bank account, so keep reading.
The bank account statement can be online, but make sure it is a bank statement with details of transaction and not just an account summary. You can show travelers cards (with statement stating available balance), credit card statement, and fixed deposits in your name or joint accounts. If anyone is sponsoring you (like your father or mother), a sponsoring letter addressed to the consulate from him/her and his/her bank statement for last 3 months.
7) Proof of accommodation for your entire stay in the Schengen area.
This is vital, I have read and heard personal experiences where the Visa has been cancelled due to discrepancy in accommodation arrangements. Make sure you have confirmed hotel bookings with details of the property owner/manager and property details (address). If you are staying at friends/relatives place then copy of their passport (with valid residence permit, in case of non-EU citizen) and an invitation mail will be sufficient as long as you are sponsoring your own stay I have elaborately written on how to make bookings, keep reading.
8) Flight and transport reservation Again, very vital. Many applications got rejected because of fake bookings. DO NOT make a fake reservation. Search for flights which has minimal cancellation charges and book your flights well ahead of travel date (45-60 days prior) to get a good deal. If you are travelling within Schengen countries then it is advised to show them train/bus bookings for inter-nation travel. One need not show travel details within the country, say if you are travelling within Italy (Rome to Florence) then need not show prior bookings. But if you are travelling from Italy to Switzerland then it is advised to show a confirmed booking.
9) Travel Insurance Vital to get visa and also for your own sake. If something unwanted happens and you need to avail medical services then you will be ripped off everything as healthcare is expensive in whole of Europe. The travel insurance must cover Euro 30, 000.00 in case of hospitalization and must cover emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. The list of approved travel insurance companies can be fetched here
10) Proof of civil status Marriage certificate, birth certificate of children, death certificate of spouse, ration card if applicable or Aadhaar Card.
11) 1 copy of your passport’s data page Print the first two pages and last two pages of your passport in an A4 size paper.
12) Residency proof, if address in the passport falls outside the jurisdiction region of the consulate: Which consulate or which region you can apply? You can apply at the region (North, South, East or West) where you are residing for last 6 months.
This is something none of the blogs available in the internet have mentioned clearly. In case you are a domicile of different region and applying at a different region (domicile of Uttar Pradesh, North and working in Bangalore, South for last 3 years), or simply if the address mentioned in your passport does not fall under the jurisdiction region of then consulate then you need to provide either a copy of your rent agreement, or a letter from your company HR clearly mentioning your address or some utility bill (electricity, water or telephone bill).
13) Duly filled application form Kept at last, because it is important. You can either fill an online application (recommended) or also can fill an offline application. German consulate online application can be filled here , similarly other Countries’ application form can be found in the respective VFS website. Self-Declaration Form can be found here, required only for German consulate. It is recommended to fill the online application form, it not only saves time at the application center but also legibility is better than the handwritten one.
14) Cover Letter A letter addressed to the consulate you are applying. It must contain the following
- Purpose of visit (tourism, visiting friends or family)
- Detailed itinerary If you have a sponsor
- Explain your personal relationship with your sponsor and the reason why they will be sponsoring your trip
- If you cannot submit any of the required documents, write about the reasons why you cannot submit and explain alternative documents that you may have submitted
- You can also mention the reasons why you will not overstay the visa period (employment, personal assets, etc.), explain your rootedness to the country
Cool Tip: You can attach the itinerary separately which will enhance the readability of your letter.
Write to me at email@example.com if you require a specimen cover letter or template of itinerary, I will be more than happy to help you with one.
FAQ: Below are some common queries and their answers.
How to make hotel bookings? If you have a rock solid plan, then you know in which location you are going to stay for how many days. So you can simply go ahead and book accommodation, like hostels, hotels, homestays (out of many myths, this is one, that embassies do not accept AirBnB bookings. Absolutely rubbish! Your AirBnB booking should be confirmed and clearly state property details with contact number of the owner). If you are backpacking, then also make your hotel bookings. Select the cheapest hotels at your destination with zero cancellation and no pre-payment. Usually the hostels give you a cheap rate and no cancellation fee till the day of arrival, so you can book them for the purpose of Visa which can be later cancelled in case of change of plan.
How to make travel bookings?
Flight Bookings: Before making a flight booking, open skyscanner.com in incognito mode of your browser and search for the cheapest airline. Once you have finalized on the airline then do find out the prices from their official websites, sometimes they have good offers. Almost all websites provide good amount of cashback on international bookings. Cheap tip: Emirates airline has the cheapest cancellation fee, so if you find cheaper tickets with Emirates then book them.
Trains are usually expensive and the tickets are non-refundable, but certainly the most comfortable ones. In case you have a rock steady plan then do book the train tickets well in advance, as you might find the best rates when booked 45 days in advance from the travel date. In “Train Italia”, you can find tickets worth Euro 12.
Flights are cheap, operators like “Vueling” offer rock bottom prices which are as low as Euro 35. But please check the offerings on the luggage, as sometimes the fares are “cabin-baggage only” fares.
Buses, my favorite. In Europe I haven’t found sleeper buses but the buses available are comfortable and takes you through the picturesque landscapes. These are often the cheapest and offers extended luggage carrying facility. Caution! They can be late too. Cheap tip: Make bookings with FlixBus, it is cheap and easy to book. However, if you cancel the tickets, you won’t get the money back but get a voucher after deducting Euro 1 from your original cost of the ticket. You can use the voucher to make any other future bookings with FlixBus which is valid for one year.
Bank Balance: The most debated part, as there are no guidelines on the minimum balance required. If your flights are booked (and fully paid) and inter-nation travel tickets are booked (and paid) along with the hotels for the entire stay then you can calculate at Euro 70 per day for most of the countries, for Switzerland, keep it Euro 90 per day. For example if you are planning to stay in Germany for 5 days, Italy for 4 days and Switzerland for 3 days then you should atleast have – 5 x € 70 = € 350 + 4 x € 70 = € 280 + 3 x € 90 = € 270
How to apply: Book an appointment either on the VFS website or by calling the VFS customer care. The appointment can be cancelled and there are no charges for booking. So book it in advance, preferably 7 days prior (usually the slots are available) to the intended date of application.
Carry print out of the application form along with all the relevant documents and also your VFS appointment letter. Reach the VFS application centre 15 minutes prior to the given time. First you need to clear the security, they will frisk you. Within the visa application centre, they will issue you a token number once they validate your appointment. Then move straight to the document submission room (there are markers on the floor).
In the document submission room, you will find counters of every country of the Schengen area, go near the counter of the country you are applying to. You will find a big screen displaying the token numbers against the counter numbers. Once your token is allocated to any counter, go there. They will check your documents and issue you a receipt. Take that receipt and make the payment (the payment counter is in the document submission room), the cost of application is Rs. 4, 700.00 plus Rs. Rs. 1, 582.00 to be paid as logistics charges to VFS. The payment can be made in cash, DD or card.
After making the payment show the paid receipt to the counter where you submitted the documents. They will issue you a tracking number and guide you to the biometric room, where they will take your fingerprints.
After recording your fingerprints, you can leave the premise and track the status of the visa on VFS website. Once the visa has been processed, you will get an SMS from VFS to collect your passport. You will come to know if the visa has been approved or not only after you collect the passport. Hope this blog helps you with your Schengen Visa application. Further if you have any questions, please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Rony – The Universal Localite