Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thoughts: Sche..what? a simple guide to applying for a Schengen Visa

It probably started with a dream of visiting medieval fortresses, admiring the grandeur of castles, looking at frescoes in old churches and walking on cobblestone streets. You act on the dream by saving up and cutting down on all those movie nightouts with friends and you tirelessly pored on guidebooks and online articles on what to see and do and must eats. Then you realized.....your passport is from a so-called "developing" country that requires a travel visa to most countries outside of the ASEAN region. You started to falter and the thought of taking Plan B which is to instead visit this up and coming South American country that famously gave birth to "Havaianas" crossed your mind but the charm and excitement of getting lost in the maze of cobblestone streets still holds your heart.

Any third world country citizen would have probably faced this dilemma before they embark on a European trip. Just the thought of filling up the forms, gathering all the documentations and going to the embassy is enough for someone to throw in the towel and gave up the dream of travelling the European continent. But they say that you cannot achieve the dream without taking the first step, if it is in your bucket list to visit the beautiful European countries - I challenge you to make the first step by applying for the travel visa. 

Most European countries are under the European union and the travel visa that you need to visit these countries is called a Schengen Visa (Note: Make sure to check if the countries you are visiting are under the Schengen agreement). If you are travelling to several countries, you will only apply for the Schengen Visa on the country where you will be staying the most number of days. In the case that you will be spending equal number of days in the different countries in your itinerary, you will have to apply in the country which is your point of entry. The Schengen visa will be valid for all countries in the European union, for example - you will be travelling to France and Italy and you will be staying 7 days in France and 3 days in Italy. You have to apply for a Schengen Visa in France embassy and this visa is already valid for your onwards travel to Italy. 

If you are travelling in a group tour most probably they will be assisting you in the visa application process so they will guide you on the procedure and documents required.But if you are doing a DIY (do not be discouraged it is very much possible to DIY a European trip where you set your own itinerary and schedule), the internet is a throve of information from visa application to planning your day to day activities. 

If you will be applying on your own, all information are available in the website of the embassy where you will be applying for the visa. The website will provide you with all the details on how to apply, processing time, fees and documents you need to present.So get that mouse clicking.

Most embassies have online appointment system to set your appointment for the visa application, make sure that you use this because this means that you cannot do a walk-in.
In the case that it is on a first come, first serve basis just make sure to come early since they might have a cut off time for visa applications.

The documents you need present are also listed in the websites of the embassy. 
Here's a guideline on what you can expect the documents that will be required:
1. Passport
2. Residency ID/ Employment Visa (if you are residing/working outside of the Philippines)
3. Certificate Employment (addressed to the embassy and includes salary)
4. Travel Insurance
5. Flight reservations, includes flights within European countries (These are only reservations and NOT paid flight tickets, you can get this from travel agencies they would usually charge a small amount for this. Just inform them that you need it for a visa application)
5. Train tickets (if any). (Tip: Since you cannot do a reservation only for trains, for train journeys you can just put it as a flight so you can request an itinerary from travel agencies then just book the train tickets once you have your visa approved.)
6. Hotel/Accommodation booking (Tip: Choose hotels that have free cancellation option. You may try using and book hotels via this site)
7. Bank statements (last 3 months)
8. Credit card statement, tax return, other savings accoount (This will serve as an additional proof of your financial standing)

Note: This is just a guideline, visit the embassy website for the official list of documents

On the day of your visa application, don't forget to dress up smartly and be on time. Wipe those clammy hands and give the visa officer a nice smile this might be the start of your journey to the beautiful and historical European continent


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