We often try and apply for visas on our own. It isn’t difficult and if you ask me, I would suggest doing the entire process on your own rather than bringing an agent in between. I am not against travel agents. Using their services work for some and it isn’t a bad thing. But when you are an independent traveler and when you do everything on your own, visas are the simplest if you follow the right steps! Schengen Visas are no different! In fact, if you are doing it on your own, you know for sure what you are giving the consulate unlike the mess-ups done by agents!
You don’t have to worry on hearing the term ‘Schengen’. Due to the fact that this visa allows you to travel to multiple European countries, the Schengen state consulates are very process oriented. If all things are in place, there is no reason for a visa rejection.
Schengen Visa lets you visit 26 countries!
When the Schengen treaty was first signed in 1995, it was only between 7 countries! Ever since many countries came to be a part of it. Right now there are 26! These 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.
Steps to Adhere to NOT have your Schengen Visa Application Rejected
Where do you start? – It is not a very long post, but do get some water/coffee before you start reading. You may also find linking posts to this article which may be useful.
For a flawless Application Process, you need to know and execute the following so that you have NO reasons for a Visa refusal –
1) Passport Validity and Pages
Firstly, ensure that your passport is not hand-written and is issued in the last 10 years. The validity of your passport also shouldn’t be more than 10 years.
Make sure your passport is valid for a minimum of 3 months beyond the intended duration of stay in the Schengen territory. E.g.: If your intended travel is one whole month of June (return 30th June), your passport should remain valid until end of September.
Your passport should also have a minimum of 2 blank pages.
2) Identify the Right Consulate/Embassy to Apply the Visa
If you are visiting multiple countries, you should apply in the embassy/consulate of the country where you plan to stay maximum number of days. If you are visiting equal number of days in each country then you should apply it from the embassy of the country where you land first.
For E.g.: If you plan Italy, France and Germany for 12 days, i.e., 4 days in each country starting from Rome, then you should apply your visa from the Italian consulate because Rome (Italy) is where you will be landing first!
Note 1 – Once you have a Schengen visa (from any consulate), you can visit any of the 26 countries as long as the visa is valid. Also, if you had initially planned Italy and have already got the visa from the Italian consulate, and now with a change of plan you wish to visit France first – you can still go ahead! Yes, with a valid Schengen Visa, you can visit any of the 26 countries first, regardless of the issuing country.
3) Fill the Application Form and Sign as Suggested
You can download and print the application form from the VFS website. Please ensure you fill everything as honestly as possible and don’t leave anything blank. You can say ‘Not Applicable’ or ‘N/A’ to those sections that don’t apply to you.
Also don’t forget to sign on the form!
4) Keep 2 Photographs ready as per Schengen Visa Requirements
Most studios will get you the right size photographs when you tell them you need it for Schengen Visa. The specification however is 45 X 35 mm with 80% face covered on the Photo. The photo should also be on white background without borders.
5) Write the Best Covering Letter Mentioning Everything About your Travel
Just don’t write a letter because you have to! The consulate reads this letter with interest – they want to know why you are interested in being a tourist to their country.
Tell them why you are travelling (E.g. They know you are a tourist but tell them the places you plan to see and your area of interest etc.).
One cover letter is enough for everyone travelling together as a family/group. Just make sure to mention everyone’s names with their respective passport details. Mention the number of days you would be touring around. It would be nice to summarize your itinerary with dates. You can also add bullet pointers of all hard copies you will be giving to them and mention in a way it is clear to them. For instance, tell them which flight you would take and where you would stay. Let them know of how you plan to travel internally.
Summarize everything you would be submitting to them. Be passionate as you write.
If you are travelling with a family of kids or a spouse who is not working, you should clearly state who would bear the expenses and how. You should also write what financial documents you have attached as a proof.
6) Confirmed Hotel/Accommodation
If you are booking a hotel online, you will need a copy of the confirmed hotel bookings. You can also show them airbnb booking details.
In case of a sponsor, you will need an Invitation letter accompanied by a copy of identification of who is inviting you.
Instance 1 – Let us say, you are going to Italy, and an Italian national is inviting you. In this case, you should show a copy of their Identity card (with address) along with the invite letter.
Instance 2 – If it is a foreign resident who is inviting you, then you should show copies of their Passport, Identity card and permit of stay along with the invite letter. Basically, they will have to prove their legal resident permit before you can go and stay with them.
Note: There are many agents who can provide you with a confirmed itinerary, flights, and hotel bookings for a nominal fee or free! Else, ensure whatever you are booking is all refundable.
7) Confirmed Return Flights
Currently, the consulate wants us to show them return flight tickets or reservations. It is seen that they prefer knowing for sure that you do plan to return back. You shouldn’t be refused visa because they are unclear of your return.
8) Travel Itinerary
You could draw up an itinerary that gives a clear information of how you would be spending your days during the tour. This goes along with your accommodation and flight details. I prefer making a list of places to see starting day one and attaching it with the cover letter!
9) Travel Insurance
It is MANDATORY to have a Travel Insurance from one of the reputed/accepted insurance companies. It is mandatory that your insurance covers overseas minimum medical coverage of Euro 30,000 – including emergency hospital and repatriation expenses.
Buying a minimum of 10 days insurance is mandatory from the travel date.
Tip – I bought mine from ICICI Lombard lately. However, I have also used Bajaj. They are both equally good if you are doing it from India.
10) Leave Letter/NOC from your Employer
Yes, you need a company issued leave letter (on the company letter-head) stating that you would be on leave on the said dates and you will join back after your return. Your name and travel dates should be clear on this letter. It should also be signed and sealed by the respective authority. This is again a proof that you have enough attachments to return back to your home country.
11) Financial Proof
You will have to provide copies of the following –
- Salary slip (in case employed): last 3 months (at times 6 months depending on the consulate).
- Personal Bank Statement: last 3 months (get original from the bank as it has to be bank-sealed on their letterhead)
- Original receipt and a copy of the Forex purchased OR recent Credit card statement mentioning credit limit OR original and a copy of the Bank Guarantee from sponsor in the country OR in case of Enit groups a mention in the cover letter that Forex will be purchased before departure.
What did I give? – I gave them 3 month Salary Slips, 3 months Bank Statement from the bank (signed and sealed) and a recent credit card statement (online copy) that shows them the credit card limit.
Do read my post on what is the minimum bank balance you should maintain.
12) Passport Copy and Copies of Previous Schengen Visas
You will need photocopies of your passport – one copy of the front page, one copy of the last page and a copy of the page where any Observations are mentioned in the passport (only if you have observations mentioned).
You should also attach photocopies of all old Schengen Visas issued from 2005 onward. It is also suggested to attach Photocopies of valid US and UK Visas as a supporting document!
How to Apply via the VFS?
You may apply via the VFS if the embassy is not in the city of your residence.
Check the address of the respective country’s VFS office near you and book an appointment on the website. It will let you choose the day and time.
Reach about 15 mins prior to the appointment time and submit the Application Form along with all the documents. The VFS officers are very friendly and they will let you know which documents are needed to be submitted. If you have forgotten any document (depending on your case), they will hold back your application until you furnish it later that day.
Once all the documents are accepted by the VFS officials you will have to undergo the biometrics process. Ensure you don’t have any henna on your fingers or even an injury as then you will be sent back! They will not be able to capture the right impression and hence you will have to book another appointment for your Application Submission!
After the biometrics, you are done with the process. This is when you will have to remit the Visa fees and the VFS fees at the payment section before you leave. The receipt will hold the tracking number which will let you track the status of your application form online.
How Much Does it Cost?
If you plan to apply directly going to the respective Consulate, it will cost you only around 60 Euros (Rs.4500). If you prefer doing it via the VFS, there will be an additional service fee of Rs.1500 approx. It is convenient to apply via the VFS as they have offices in most cities.
If all your documents are in the right order with the supporting finances, there is no way your visa will be rejected.
After the passport is processed (you can see it via your tracking/token number), you may collect it at the VFS collection counter. If you opt for their courier service then it will be sent home!