So this is one of the things I have been talking about in the past few weeks. I was waiting for the visa to arrive before I wrote about my next trip. If you have been following me on Instagram, you would know though. Do you need any more reason to follow me on Instagram?
Drumroll please. I am off to Europe for 5 weeks in May/June. I will mostly be in Western Europe and I am going all around the place. Hopefully I will try to keep you updated as I go around the continent.
The biggest hurdle for any Indian (or anyone having an underprivileged passport) going to Europe is obtaining a Schengen Visa. Since I am visiting multiple countries this time, there was a confusion on which Embassy/Consulate I should apply to. Even though this is my fourth time in Europe and my 2nd Schengen visa in 2 years, I had to go through the entire procedure all over again.
One advantage of the Schengen visa is that you need only one visa to visit 26 countries from the Schengen Area. Countries like United Kingdom, Ireland etc. however are not part of the Schengen Area even though they are part of the European Union and you need a separate visa to visit these countries.
So I would like to take you through my Schengen Visa process. Last time I went through SOTC for my Italy trip. However this time I wanted to apply on my own. So find out how I did it this time?
|Switzerland - Photo Credit : Nishanth Nottath|
Figure out which country’s Embassy You need to apply to:
If you are visiting multiple Schengen countries, then you have to apply to only one country. There is an order to be followed in such scenarios.
• Main Destination / Main purpose of travel: In case you are going for purposes other than tourism, then you have to choose the country for which this is intended. This did not apply for me.
• Maximum Number of days: Next is to choose the country where you are going to spend maximum number of days.
• Port of Entry: The country where you are entering the Schengen area through.
In my case, I chose Spain. There was a lot of confusion regarding this. Many people suggested Portugal since my port of entry is Lisbon. But then I called both Spanish and Portuguese VFS helpline to clarify. They told me that maximum number of days is valid in my case since I am spending only 5 days in Portugal and 8 days in Spain. So while deciding, always choose this order. You can find more details here.
Book Your Appointment:
Once you have decided which country you need to apply to, book an appointment for submitting your documents to the respective VFS Application center. Please note that VFS is an outsourced partner for many embassies and act as a collection and processing center for some countries like India, Nepal etc. Register yourself at the link mentioned here and then book an appointment after giving the requisite details. For all Schengen countries in Bangalore, the application center is Prestige Atrium, Shivaji Nagar (Opposite Empire restaurant)
I always prefer taking an appointment in the morning since you can finish the application processes faster and still get in time for office. I chose the 8:40 AM appointment time since I was not sure if I would get in time for the first appointment at 8 AM. For my appointment on 21st April, I scheduled it on 15th April. Ideally it is better to apply for your Schengen visa at least 4 weeks before your intended date of travel since the minimum processing time for visas is around 15 working days (as stated by the Embassy).
Get All Your Required Documents Ready
This was the most stressful part of the entire process for me. All required documents are mentioned here: . But just a few inputs from my side (From a Solo Woman traveler perspective).
1 Write a detailed and convincing cover letter. This should include the dates of travel and purpose of travel. If any of the required documents are not available, then explain why it is not available. In my case, since I will be between jobs, I did not have a leave letter and I explained the reason for the same in my cover letter. Also I am working with multiple hotels this time and I gave the details here. All other details should also be mentioned in the cover letter.
2 Follow the checklist to the T. I did not read the checklist thoroughly and I missed the fact that we need to submit the photocopy of all the pages of all your passports. Luckily there is a photocopy machine at the application center and I took the photocopy there. I believe this is required for Spain and Denmark.
3 In case of Bangalore, you need to submit only one filled application form. In case of other application centers, you may have to submit 2-3 photocopies of the application form. Please note that this has to be filled in blue ink or filled online. Also please note that the specifications of photographs vary from country to country. Ensure that you choose the right one.
4 Travel Insurance: This is mandatory for all Schengen countries and you should have a minimum coverage of 30,000 Euros. I always choose ICICI Lombard and I never travel without travel insurance. Also note that this should be applicable for 15 days after your exit from Schengen Area. For e.g. if you are leaving Schengen area on 15th July, then your travel insurance should be valid till 2nd August. Also sworn declaration for travel insurance has to be signed and submitted by the applicant.
5 Hotel Accommodation and Travel Itinerary. – This is mandatory and has to be submitted for all applicants. I will write a detailed post on this later. Ensure that you show proof for all days for accommodation and for internal transport/transfer within Europe. Also you need to show CONFIRMED return flight tickets.
6 Proof of economic means: You need to submit 3 months of bank statements. Online bank statements are not accepted and you need to get this from your bank with the proper authorization seal and signature. Rule of thumb is to have a consistent bank balance of Rs 1,00,000 (On an average of 50-75 Euros per day) over the past 3 months. Also last minute money transfers are looked down on. In addition, 6 months’ salary slips, 3 years Income tax returns, copy of PAN card also need to be submitted. I had copies of my fixed deposits and my apartment’s sale deed but the agent in charge said it was not required.
7 Passports: All your passports will have to be submitted and at least 2 blank pages need to be there in your current passport. In addition, it should be valid for at least 3 months after your stay in the Schengen Area. In case of Spain, photocopies of all your passports need to be submitted.
8 Authorization letter in favor of VFS.
On The Day of Your Appointment
1 Ensure that you arrive on time on the day of your appointment. There is no point coming hours before your appointment time since they let you in only 10 minutes before your appointment time. Seating capacity is limited outside.
2 Get your token number once you are allowed inside the application center. Switch off all your mobile phones. You will be searched and frisked when you are admitted inside the center. Laptops are not allowed inside and I did not see any storage lockers outside.
3 Wait till your token number flashes on the screen and then proceed to the counter number displayed.
4 They do give glue to stick on your photographs. You can check for them at the counters.
5 The agent in charge will ask for all your documents in order. Only if you submit all your documentations, your application will be accepted. Else you will be asked to return with the required documentation.
6 The agent in charge will then give you a slip to do the payment once he confirms that all documentation is in order. I paid Rs6201 in cash (including service charge, visa charges and tax) at the payment counter. This may vary in your case.
7 Once this is done, go back to the agent in charge. He will give you the counter number and your application folder for your biometric submission.
8 Wait your turn at the biometric booth. Once you are called, enter the biometric room. In case of ladies, you need to tie your hair for the photograph. Then submit your fingerprint data. Since I have only 9 fingers, I made this clear to him. He made note of this and made the appropriate observations in the collection form.
9 You are done once this is completed and you can leave.
Waiting for your Visa
Every application is considered as a fresh application. In spite of having so many visas on my passport, I was still worried about the status of my application since I would be between jobs during my trip. I applied on 21st April and I received my passport on 28th April. I opened my passport and there it was, that elusive hard earned visa. It took less than 5 working days for me. However it will vary from person to person.
Yipee I am going to Europe in less than a month.
Disclaimer: Writing down my experience is just to help you with your application process. Please do not take this as the only point of reference since this may be different in the case of your application.
You can find more details here.
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