The process of applying for a Schengen visa can be somewhat nerve wracking and sometimes very frustrating. Imagine after doing the usual up and down runs to collect the required documents, attend your visa application interview, only to end up receiving that white sheet of paper inside the envelope containing your passport. A visa denial. You feel like your world and dream to explore the world has literally come crashing down in milliseconds. Well, I am here to tell you that it is not.
In this post, I will share some valuable tips that will enable you better prepare yourself ahead of your next appointment and heighten your chances of finally getting one of the most sought after stickers in your passport.
First, let us begin with the basics.
A Schengen visa is simply a sticker placed in your passport, which gives you the freedom to travel to countries within the 26 members of the Schengen States namely: 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.
There are different types of Schengen visas depending on your purpose of travel, the member state that issues it as well as the freedoms and restrictions it comes with.
The application process begins with identifying the country you intend to visit and the type of visa you require. You will then search its Embassy website on Google to obtain further information of what is required for you to lodge your application, their location and contacts.
Once on the page, you have to select the visa type and then proceed to book an appointment. Most European countries use VHS Global as a service provider to mainly facilitate their visa application submissions, document collection and delivery to the consulates for processing. Their website can be found on https://www.vfsglobal.com where you can get further information about visas and services. On the other hand, if you need to travel to Italy, Cox and Kings Global Services (CKGS) can be found on https://www.it.ckgs.com.
You will be required to submit a given list of documents that determine your purpose of visiting the Schengen area. Why, you may ask. It is for them to be absolutely certain of your ties to your home country and eliminate any suspicion or chance that you may fail to return home after your visit. Based on their requirements and your submissions, the consular officers scrutinize and determine whether you are eligible to get the Schengen visa or not.
Some of the documents required at the time of your appointment include but are not limited to the following:
->Application form that is filled and signed. You have the option to either print out the pages and fill manually or fill it in online and print.
–> Proof of income. This is for you to produce bank statements that range from the last 3-6 months depending on the country you plan to visit. Remember that these copies must be originals and stamped by your bank otherwise they might be considered illegitimate. Some embassies however allow online bank statements as long as they are certified by your bank.
–> A copy of your employment contract. Yes. The one that mentions your job designation, salary, terms of service etc.
–> No objection letter from your employer that mentions the specific dates of your leave and when you are expected to resume work.
–> For those that are self employed, there are a different set of documents you should submit which include the company/business registration documents, company bank statements, Income Tax Return certificates and so on.
–> Copies of your itinerary that is hotel and flight booking confirmation.
–> A copy of your travel medical insurance whose minimum coverage should be at least 30,000 EUR (about $50,000). This would cover expenses (if any) that may occur while you are away on travel including repatriation for medical purposes, medical attention, hospital treatment or death.
For most of the Schengen member states, those are some standard documents you are required to submit. Do your homework and not simply assume the same documents required for a Schengen visa application in one country will be the exact same ones required for another.
- Always book your appointment in advance. Each embassy has its peak periods and depending on the time you plan to travel, you might notice that as the days get nearer, the appointment date availability is not until after several weeks. If for example, you plan to travel in April, it is wise to begin planning as early as February. Some embassies take up to 4 weeks or more to process visa applications so you will have ample time without worrying that your travel dates will begin before you get your passport back.
- Once your appointment is booked, do not forget to print the confirmation page with the reference number and applicant details. It is one of the first documents you are required to submit during your appointment.
- Do not wait until the last minute to begin collecting your documents. I advise that you write if not print out the detailed document check list. As soon as you get one document ready you check it off the list.
- Do not be in a rush to quickly get documents and put them aside to wait for your appointment day. Ensure you go through each of them, confirm the dates, months and details tally. Any inconsistencies after submission are taken very seriously and put the officers in doubt regarding your intention to visit the Schengen area and the end result might not be in your favor.
- Do not make actual hotel and flight bookings before your visa is approved. It is possible to do so and fail to secure a visa. Based on the refund policies you are likely to lose a huge chunk of your money should that happen and that could be in the very least, extremely frustrating.
- Some travel agents can provide these confirmed documents to you for a small fee for the purpose of visa processing and enable you to cancel the booking afterwards. You can also visit sites such as https://www.booking.com/ https://www.agoda.com/ https://www.expedia.com/ and so on to search and make hotel bookings. Always go for the ‘no prepayment’ and ‘free cancellation’ options to avoid denting your pocket during the process. After making a booking, you will be required to provide an email address where your booking confirmation is sent. Print that sheet out to present during your appointment.
7. Be truthful during that process. Do not fill out details about yourself that aren’t true or correct. Any attempts to obtain documents fraudulently is something I would strongly advise against because it will definitely get you on the blacklist. The final page of your form contains an agreement to which you sign against, after you read and confirm that all the details/information you have provided are not falsified in any way. Background checks are carried out before visa is issued and the last thing you would want is being denied a visa based on a lie you would have prevented in the first place.
8. Your passport size photos should be recently taken and go by the specifications for Schengen visa applications. This information is found on the respective websites I shared above. Inform your photographer about the purpose of your passports ahead of time because most are aware of those requirements. Passport photo retakes waste your time and money as well so avoid it as much as possible.
9. Avail additional documents (if any) such as marriage certificates, copies of your bills and utilities, cover letters, pay slips, investments such as property acquisition certificates and titles, copies of previous travel history etc. Sometimes they go a long way in convincing the issuing officer of your intention to return after your stay.
10. Keep time during your appointment day.
11. Dress appropriately to your appointment. You could opt to have courier deliver your passport to your address after visa processing. This service comes at a fee as well and so does text messaging to inform you when your passport is ready for collection.
12. Do not get conned into believing that any travel agent, individual or staff at any of the resourcing company and staff could get the visa request made in your favor in exchange for money, gifts or property. The visa refusal or grant is at the sole discretion of the embassy of the country you applied with and there are no go-betweens or agents that influence those decisions whatsoever.
13. The trick is to prepare, present/provide those requirements truthfully and to the best of your ability then leave the rest to the officers.
14. A visa refusal is not the end of the world. The greatest lessons I have gathered so far from this process is never give up and provide as many supporting documents as you deem fit and eventually, your visa will be granted.
I hope this article helps you secure a visa. Keep those successes coming. Wishing you the best this time around.