If you’re planning a trip to Europe, congrats! You’re about to have the time of your life. However you need to take care of some paperwork before you can embark on your adventure, most importantly your passport and visa.
26 countries in Europe allow you to travel with one common visa- the Schengen visa. These 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
You can travel to one or more of these states with a Schengen visa obtained from the embassy of any one of these states.
In this article, I will take you through the process of obtaining a Schengen visa for your travel to Europe.
Firstly, if you’re travelling to multiple destinations, you need to decide which consulate you will be applying to. Ordinarily, it is advised that you apply to the consulate or embassy of the country in which you will be spending the most time. If this is undecided or the number of days is equal, apply to the country in which you will be landing first.
It is advisable to apply for your visa at least three weeks before your trip but no more than 3 months prior. Book an appointment with the VFS office, either online or via a phone call, sufficiently in advance (about a week before you want the appointment)
The next leg of the application process can be a little tiresome, but with the following checklist in mind, you should be good to go. Always make sure you have two sets of all the necessary documents- one file containing the originals, and another containing photocopies. Make handwritten checklists of the document list that you find at the end of this blog, and on the VFS website.
1. A valid passport – Issued within the last 10 years and with at least 3 months validity after your scheduled return. It must have at least two blank pages.
2. Two passport size photos according to the embassy specifications, taken not more than 6 months ago. The photo must be against a light (preferably white) backdrop. The photo must be 35 mm in length and 45 mm in height. Your face must be fully visible, from the bottom of the chin up to the hairline, and the size of the face should be between 32 and 36 mm.
3. A No-objection certificate (NOC) from your school or university (for students) or a leave letter from your company- clearly stating your designation and leave dates as well as the date on which you return to work.
4. Proof of financial status – Salary slips of the last three month, in order to prove that you can afford the trip. Certificate of proprietorship will suffice if you are self employed.
5. Income Tax Return (ITR) form or form 16 ((Certificate of Income Tax deducted at the source of salary) for three years. If you do not file an ITR you will need to submit an ITR of the person who is gifting the trip to you.
6. Bank statement of the last six months to prove sufficient funds. It is recommended that you have a minimum of Rs 1.5 lacs per person in your account as closing balance
7. Proof of accommodation for the entire duration of your stay in the Schengen area. If staying with friends or relatives for the whole or part of your trip, please check with VFS for documents required based on the country you are applying to – usually their passport and letter of invitation will suffice, but we strongly recommended checking with VFS before hand.
8. Flight tickets both to and from the Schengen area.
9. Travel insurance which you can buy online. The travel insurance must be valid for 30 days from your trip start date. Also, the sum insured must be a minimum of Euro 30,000.00 for hospitalization and must cover emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains.
10. One copy of your passport’s data page Print the first two pages and last two pages of your passport in an A4 size paper.
11. Proof of residence – You are required to apply for your visa in the region in which you have been residing for the 6 months prior to applying for the visa. If it so happens that the region in which you are currently residing, and from which you are applying for your visa is not the same as the address mentioned in your passport, you will have to provide proof of residence in the form of an official document- such as your rent agreement or a utility bill (electricity or water or phone bill)
12. Application form – This can be downloaded from the VFS office of the respective country, and must be duly filled.
13. Cover Letter A letter addressed to the consulate to which you are applying. It must elaborate upon the following details
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
14. VFS appointment letter.
Once you have made an appointment, show up to the VFS office 15 minutes before your appointed time. Ensure you have photocopies and originals of all documents and a printout of your VFS appointment letter. Once you have cleared security, you will be issued a token number. After this, you will have to submit your documents when your token number is called. If your documents are in order, they will give you a receipt to make the payment. The payment desks are in the same area, and you have to pay around Euro 60 per application + VFS service fees ,so ensure you carry a sufficient amount. Payment can be made via cash, card or DD.
Once you come completed the payment, show your paid receipt at the counter where you submitted documents. You will be issued a tracking number and taken to the biometric room where your fingerprints will be recorded.
This is the complete process at the VFS office. You can track the status of your visa application on the VFS website. Once it has been processed you can collect your passport from the same office. The post document submission process usually takes around 15 days.
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An avid traveller who is a voracious reader!