These Tips Will Help You When You Apply For The Mighty Schengen Visa!!
Europe is beautiful. It is so beautiful that people governing different bits and pieces of Europe knew that anyone travelling to any one of the European countries would never return unless they have seen a bit more of it. Europe has everything – green meadows, lakes, islands, beaches, food, culture, history, and architecture. A Parisian evening is as ethereal as skiing in the Alps, a beach trip to a Greek beach will make you feel as good as a trip to the colosseum in Rome. Truth be told, Europe is a teaser to what heavens must be like. And European countries are so close to each other that you can start your evening walk in Belgium and end up in Austria. So, these nice administrators of Europe came up with something called Schengen Visa. One visa, one Europe. Yes, Schengen Visa saves you from the stress of applying for each country individually. They knew that you will be tempted to see everything; the countryside, the larger-than-life cities, the glistening coastline, and everything in between.
A lot of Indians, however, are not aware of the process of applying for the Schengen Visa.
Applying for your first Schengen Visa can be a daunting experience. There are many documents to put together, several confusing questions to answer and countless clarifications to seek. Getting a Schengen Visa on an Indian passport is a complex process, and the sooner you start with it before your scheduled departure, the better.
Let’s go through some common queries that most first-timers have when applying for the Schengen Visa.
What is a Schengen visa and when do I need it?
A document that allows a non-European tourist/traveller to travel within the Schengen area, for a period of up to 90 days. There are 26 Countries that are part of the Schengen area, and if you plan to travel to one or more of these countries, you will need this visa. The 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 an Indian, where and how do I apply for the Schengen Visa?
VFS Global handles the entire Schengen Visa process as the Schengen countries have outsourced their visa application cells to them. There is also no requirement to go to the embassy anymore. VFS Global has many centres in India, but their Schengen Visa facilities are available only in these 16 centres: Delhi, Gurgaon, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Goa, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi, Trivandrum, and Pondicherry.
To apply for the Schengen visa, log on to VFS Global Website, and go to the bottom left of the screen, where you will see this:
After entering the appropriate details (for multi-country trips, select your “main destination”. Keep reading for more on this.), you will be directed to another screen where you will be able to download the visa form, find information on visa fees and make an appointment to submit the visa form along with supporting documents.
What do I need to take care of before my appointment for Schnegen Visa?
All the required documents are mentioned on the VFS website. Put all the documents that you need to show, together – there are quite a few of them. Here is a brief of what they are:
Cover letter: Not listed as one of the required documents. But it is highly advisable to submit a cover letter as a comprehensive reference paper for the visa officials. Start by addressing the embassy through which you are applying for the visa. The body of your letter should include the dates of your trip, the names, and professions of those accompanying you, the purpose of your travel, and a paragraph on how you plan of bearing the expenses on this journey – mention real figures pertaining to your savings, credit cards and fixed deposits. Als, list down the documents you will be submitting along with your visa application.
Hotel bookings: You will have to book your flight tickets and hotels before you apply for the visa. While this in no way confirms that you will get the visa, officials need to establish that you are indeed going for tourism via your accommodation confirmations.
Travel insurance: For emergency hospital or other medical expenses, you will have to get a mandatory travel insurance worth Euro 30,000. It will keep you protected against large bills in case something goes wrong. BookMyForex in collaboration with Bajaj Allianz has amazing deals on Travel Insurance.
Financials: The country you are travelling to wants to know that you have enough money to make it through the trip and go back. For this, you will submit a bunch of your financial documents such as bank account statements for the last six months, income tax returns for the last three years and others – a list of which you’ll find on the VFS website.
If you have sufficient funds in your account, you are good to go. However, if you do not have sufficient (according to the European Union) funds, then your visa will definitely be rejected. But you can ask your friends/parents, to transfer funds temporarily to your account, once you receive a decision on your visa, transfer them back.
While the European Union has a list stating the amount you need to have for each country, a good estimate of how much you need to have in your account is Rs 1.3 lakh for 10 days, Rs 2 lakh for 15 days and Rs 2.5 lakh for 20 days – all per person costs.
If you are unsure of anything on the visa form, leave it blank and clarify with the official at VFS before submitting it to him.
What is the estimated time for the entire process? How long will it take for the Schengen visa to arrive?
The first thing you need to remember is to schedule your appointment with VFS at least a month or a month-and-a-half before your scheduled departure. If you can do it sooner, it will give you more time to make your real bookings at hotels or Airbnb. It will also take you a few weeks to put together all your documents, especially if you are an unorganised, working professional like me.
Once you get your appointment date, it will only take a day if you have all your documents in order. A year or two ago, you would also have an interview after submitting the documents at VFS. These days, that only happens in rare cases where they have a cause for suspicion that you don’t plan to come back. So, once you are done with VFS, you should get your visa within seven days.
What if my Schengen visa is rejected? Will my fee be refunded?
Visa fee is non-refundable. If your visa is denied for some reason, you have two options: One is to appeal the decision. Since the appeal will be evaluated by someone other than the person who rejected your visa, there is a chance that the decision will be overturned. But the visa appeal process might take a few weeks or even months. Also, in India, this process is only available for Spain, Germany, and Norway. So, the second and better way to go forward is to reapply through a different Schengen state embassy. Usually, a previous visa denial will not automatic lead to the refusal of a new application, and the new application will be assessed independently.
FAQs for Schengen Visa
Do I have to hand over the documents personally at VFS?
Yes, you, along with whoever you are travelling with have to be personally present while you hand over the papers. After you have successfully submitted the documents, scans of your fingerprint will also be taken (the first time you are applying for a visa).
If I am travelling to more than one Schengen country, which embassy do I apply through?
You will have to apply to the “main destination”, the country where you will be staying in for the most number of days.
Do I apply through the country I am entering the Schengen area?
No, you don’t have to if you won’t be staying the most number of days there.
Should my first trip be to the country that issued the Schengen Visa?
No. You can enter any Schengen country after you get your visa.
If I’m travelling for work first and then taking a short vacation, do I tick business or tourism in my visa form?
Business. Get an invitation letter for the first few days from your foreign business partner, and then show hotel bookings for the rest of the days.
How long is the visa valid for?
You can travel in the Schengen Area for 90 days within an 180-day period. These 90 days, however, do not have to be consecutive. Say you enter the area in March and stay for 50 days, and then come back in August for 20 days, this totals to 70 days in 180 days.
Can my visa be extended?
A Schengen Visa, which has already expired, cannot be extended. Even otherwise, while on paper you can extend it, an extended visa rarely comes through.
Will my air tickets be refunded if I don’t get a visa?
No. To help minimise risk, book a flight ticket that is refundable to the largest amount possible.
What are the common reasons behind a visa being rejected?
There can be a few reasons why an embassy might reject your request for a Schengen Visa.
- The documents and cover letter you have provided prove inadequate in establishing the purpose of your travel and stay
- There is a mismatch between your travel itinerary and the visa period you have applied for
- Your supporting documents do not show accommodation for each night you will spend in a Schengen Area
- You do not have enough funds to support your travel
- Your travel insurance policy is not valid across the Schengen Area
- You were unable to respect Schengen Visa limitations during a previous attempt
But don’t worry, if you put everything together carefully and meticulously, and don’t have a criminal record, the chances of you getting your Schengen Visa are very high.