Europe!!! A dream travel destination for many of us. Sometimes we think that we are too far of reaching this dream. But, this dream will only remain a dream if we will never take time to make it into reality. To make this “dream come true”, we should know what do we need to go to Europe, and the first thing we will need is a visa – Schengen Visa.
So let this guide help you to fulfill this dream and start your backpacking in Europe.
WHAT IS A SCHENGEN VISA?
This is our “all in ticket” to Europe.
It is a document issued by the appropriate authorities to the interested party for visiting/traveling to and within the Schengen Area. Having this visa allows the holder to enter 26 countries within the Schengen area including France and Italy.
So if you plan to visit any of the above countries, only ONE visa is required.
WHERE TO APPLY FOR SCHENGEN VISA?
Filipinos can apply for a Schengen Visa in any embassy of a Schengen member country. In Philippines, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain have embassies. Check what embassies are available in your current country.
Please note that there are some points you need to consider where to apply the visa.
1. If you will be traveling to one and only one Schengen country, apply at the appropriate embassy/consulate of that certain country. So, if you plan to visit only France then apply in the Embassy of France.
2. If you are planning to visit two or more Schengen countries, apply for the visa in the embassy/consulate of the country you will be staying with the longest number of traveling days or also called as “main destination”
3. And if there is no “main destination” or the number of days to each Schengen country you will visit are equal, apply for the visa in the embassy/consulate on the FIRST Schengen country you will enter according to the itinerary.
In my case, my plan was 4days Paris itinerary , 3 days Rome and 2 days Frankfurt, so I applied my Schengen visa in French Embassy here in Bahrain where i am currently working.
One more thing you may consider is try to search which embassy has higher rate of approving visa applications. There was one blog I read that French Embassy known to be more considerate than Italian and Spanish embassy in the Philippines. One reason might be (IMHO), there are more job availability for Filipinos in Italy and Spain that some of us might grab. Jobs that we can grab and take chance to stay and not come back.
WHEN TO APPLY?
Generally, you can proceed with your visa application up to 90 days before of your intended travel. Processing of the visa is only 5-7days after you submit all your application. However, always think that something might not go as planned, ex. they will require for some additional documents, so it is really advisable to apply months before your trip. Two months could be enough time fix a problem should it arise.
HOW TO APPLY FOR THE VISA?
– SETTING APPOINTMENT
It is mandatory to book an appointment to submit your application at the VFS Visa Application Centre. Book your appointment before anything else because we never know what is the earliest schedule will be. You can always book a much later date if you’re still working on some requirements. There are some embassy that still accommodate phone calls for appointment like French Embassy here in Bahrain
To book an appointment, you will need to sign up first in VFS Global. Click here to register and set an appointment . If you have an existing account, simply log in using your access details. Once log in, select you preferred date and then print out the Appointment Confirmation Letter. Do not forget this confirmation letter as this will be your “ticket” to enter the application center.
However, if you really feel that you need more time to prepare all your required documents, you are free to complete your document list first before setting up an appointment.
Prepare all the documents required for your visa application. I personally apply for my Schengen Visa in the France Embassy in Bahrain on my set appointment in VFS Global. These are the basic documentary requirements for embassy I submitted based on what is listed in their website.
1. Signed Schengen visa application form with photo (35mm x 45mm, white background)
2. Valid passport (3 months’ validity from the end of intended stay), photocopy of biopage, valid and former visas, pages of the passport with Immigration stamps and previous refusal stamps, if any
3. Cover letter explaining the purpose of the trip and proposed day-to-day itinerary (send me a private message in my Facebook Page for sample of cover letter)
4. Proof of Accommodation
• For Tourists: hotel reservations (for the entire stay in the Schengen area)
• If staying with a French resident: “Attestation d’accueil” (delivered by the City hall where the host is residing (the original must be presented) + copy of that host’s passport or residence permit (if citizen of a country outside the EU) + proof of relationship (if applicable)
• For priests, nuns and missionaries: “Formulaire unique” + certificate from the Apostolic Nunciature and guarantee letter from French and Filipino congregation
5. Round Trip Airline Reservation (reserved ticket only not confirmed)
6. Transfer tickets within Schengen countries if you plan to visit other countries. (train, coach, flight reservations, etc)
7. Proof of Employment
• Certificate of employment with monthly salary and leave of absence approved by employer
• If self employed, official business registration (DTI Permit and /or SEC papers) for current and previous year
8. Photocopy of the last three months’ statement of account of the same bank account
9. An international travel insurance (medical expenses and repatriation) covering the entire period of the person’s intended stay and valid for all Schengen states. Minimum coverage should be Euro 30,000.
10. Visa Fee Euro 60
– FOR APPLICANTS IN THE PHILIPPINES,
The following documents are also required in addition from the above list.
1. Latest personal income tax return
2. Recent (issued within the last month) personal bank certification
3. Identity/Marital Status
• If married: photocopy of your marriage contract and birth certificate
• If single: photocopy of your birth certificate.
– FOR OUR “KABAYANS” IN THE GCC LIKE ME (I.E BAHRAIN, UAE, SAUDI), COPY OF BIRTH CERTIFICATE IS NOT A REQUIREMENT HOWEVER, WE NEED TO PRESENT THE FOLLOWING
1. Original and Copy Residence ID (Iqama, CPR, national ID)
2. Original and Copy of valid Work Permit or Visa
SUBMIT THE REQUIREMENTS AT THE VFS VISA APPLICATION CENTER
Again, make sure to bring the Visa Appointment Letter that you have printed. You will need it to enter in the embassy. Usual security check on the entrance then you will be waiting for your turn. Once called and they accept your documents, they will get your biometrics (fingerprint). Some questions may be asked regarding your travel. Just be consistent on your answer based on what you have submitted.
After taking your biometrics, you will be advised on what day you need to come back to pick up your passport. In Philippines, there is an option to have your passport delivered by courier.
That’s it. The processing usually takes 5-7 days. There have been cases when they got theirs in 3 days, same as mine. Some unlucky ones got theirs a lot longer than 7days. All you need to do now is wait and PRAY. Just hope for the best.