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You’ve planned, you’ve researched, you’ve created an itinerary and even started booking sections of your trip.
Now comes the annoying question of whether or not you need a Schengen visa from India or anywhere else to enter Europe?
For almost all European countries (and EU), citizens of U.S.,U.K, Australia, Canada and New Zealand only need a valid passport to enter. The exceptions are Russia, Turkey and Belarus where visas need to be applied for in advance.
The tourist Schengen visa has a ‘90 days within 180 days’ limit. This means that in a period of 180 days, you are only allowed to legally be in the Schengen zone for a maximum of 90 days, including the days of your arrival and departure.
In this post, you will find the process, how to apply and tips for a successful Schengen visa application!
What is the Schengen area?
The Schengen region is a zone made of 26 countries that allow every European Union (EU) citizen to enter, work, travel and live without any limits. Citizens of non-schengen countries need a visa to enter the Schengen zone. U.K and Ireland citizens are allowed entry without visas. Hence, the Schengen visa is essentially a tourist visa for entry to these 26 specific countries which include:
Austria| Belgium | Czech Republic |Denmark | Estonia| Finland| France| Germany | Greece |Hungary | Iceland |Latvia | Lithuania |Liechtenstein |Luxembourg |Malta | Netherlands | Norway |Poland |Portugal |Slovakia |Slovenia |Spain| Sweden| Switzerland
Useful Link: Do you need a Schengen visa?
Documents required for a Schengen visa
- Visa application form. Completed and signed.
- Two recently taken photos (last 3 months) according to the visa photo requirements.
- A valid passport. Not older than 10 years and it should valid for at least three more months beyond the date you plan to leave the Schengen zone.
- Round trip reservation or flight itinerary. It must include dates and flight numbers specifying entry and exit from the Schengen area.
- Travel insurance policy. A document or policy letter that proves you have travel health insurance for the whole Schengen territory, with a minimum coverage of 30,000 euros in case of any medical emergency such as illnesses, accidents and repatriation in case of death.
- Proof of accommodation. A document that shows where you will be accommodated throughout your stay in Schengen. This can be one of the following: A hotel or hostel booking OR A rental agreement.
- A letter of invitation from a host at whose house you will be staying.
- Proof of financial means. Evidence that you have enough money to support yourself financially throughout your stay in the Schengen. This can be one of the following:
- Bank account statement that shows you have enough money in your account for the trip. The statement shall be no older than 3 months.
- Sponsorship Letter by another person that confirms they will be financially supporting your trip to the Schengen. In order for this letter to be valid, it must be accompanied by a bank statement of the sponsor, no older than three months.
- A combination of your bank account statement and a letter of sponsorship.
- Proof of paid visa fee. €60 for adults and €35 for children from 6 to 12 years old.
Note: Please do check any other local embassy requirements that may be required for your particular country.
Visa Application Process
Step 1: Book an appointment online at the VFS (agency handling Schengen visas) centre or the concerned embassy website directly.
Timeline: 3-4 months before your departure date.
Step 2: Show up on the appointment at least half an hour early with your Passport and all other documents listed above.
Make sure to carry cash with you. The Schengen visa fees is usually € 60 or INR 5000 approximately.
Tip: Always carry some extra cash for services such as passport delivery to your home address if you can’t come to pick it up. These services are EXTRA. So be sure to carry INR 2000 (€25) extra with you for emergencies.
Step 3: Pay the fees and submit your documents and biometrics.
Once you have arrived at the location, you will be given a number and called one by one to submit your documents and biometrics. Make sure to keep the receipt of submission with you so you can track your application online. You can choose to pick up your passport after you get the confirmation or opt for the courier option.
If you are visiting from another city, opt for the option where they send you your passport and visa by post.
Step 4: Wait for the results!
Once you have submitted your application, there is not much else you can do. The embassy states that they will reach a decision within 15 working days, but usually it’s a much faster process. In any case, plan a time of 2-3 weeks for this process.
Tip: Plan an extra 4 weeks between your visa appointment date and departure date in case of a rejection or if you need to resubmit extra documents.
Tips for a successful application
For applicants from African and Asian countries, the process of applying and getting a visa can be quite stressful. In the last couple of years, I have been through pretty much every type of visa process for Europe. I’ve applied for a Schengen student visa, two Schengen tourist visas, a national long term visa and a working permit. I’ve also spent considerable time hosting friends and family and hence these tips might be of use to you, particularly if your citizenship requires a visa to travel to the Schengen region.
- Apply to the embassy of the country where you will be spending maximum time in. Not the country where you think you would like to apply.
- Give yourself enough time between your visa appointment and the date of departure. Keep at least six weeks, so that in case you do not hear a response or get rejected, you have enough time to repeal the decision.
- Make sure all your documents are as detailed as possible. Assuming that a half formal looking document will work is not advisable. Get a stamp, a signature, an affidavit, whatever it may need to complete your formal documents, especially related to your job or university.
- The cover letter you submit should be more than just listing your itinerary. Think of your cover letter as a job cover letter. You need to explain how your background, your current status and your “purpose” of visiting Europe is only travel. It doesn’t need to be formal and can be written in a person manner.
- Be sure to provide a strong reason for you to return to your home country. More often than not, this is a reason for immediate rejection. If you are unemployed or in-between jobs, you should clearly outline your future plan and how you plan to fund your travels. The reason could also be that you reside with your family and they rely on you for moral support.
- If you are required to have a visa interview prepare a thorough list of questions and supporting documents that you may be asked. Needless to say, do not lie.
It is best to prepare for the visa process well in advance and have a significant time to re-apply if things really don’t work around the first time, although if you are thorough with the above mentioned tips, there is no reason why you shouldn’t get your visa easily.
What to do if you get rejected: Schengen Visa Remonstrance Process
No one wants to receive a letter that says, “REJECTED”. But it happens more often than not.
The first time my sister visited me in Europe, her Schengen visa got rejected too. Shit happens.
You still have hope. The hope is something called the “remonstrance process’ which is something impossible to find information for.
It’s like this top secret process that apparently no one wants to talk about.
Take a deep breath. And do what I tell you-
Step 1: Find the local embassy or consulate contact to see what their contact email is.
Make sure you find the embassy that rejected you. This means you have to write the local embassy (such as New Delhi embassy/Bangkok embassy, etc) that finally checked your visa application. Not the VFS centre that merely “processed” the application.
Step 2: Write an email at this address with a hand-signed letter explaining why you should get this visa.
Think of this as a second cover letter. For Indian passport holders or other developing countries, visa rejections most often have the following reason->>> No guarantee that you will come back to India.
Unless a major document was missing, you can be assured this was most likely the reason you got rejected. Sometimes the embassy will tick a reason why they rejected your visa, but due to the overload of applications, they some times give no reason at all. This can be incredibly FRUSTRATING.
Anyway, once you have collected extra information and written the letter and signed it off by hand, scan a copy and send it via your personal email (which you used in the application) and send it to the local embassy.
Step 3: Prepare for a call back.
If you’re lucky you will get a call or an email back setting up a face to face appointment either for an interview or to resubmit missing documents. This of this as a visa interview, and if you pass, you will get your visa stamped on the same day or next day!
This process happened to my sister and within a week of her visa being rejected, she was given hers.
Now, how the hell do you figure out what to write in this remonstrance letter? Here’s the exact sample that I sent:
If you don’t hear back for a week, your best chance is to REAPPLY for the Schengen visa. Life can be rough when it comes to visas for Indian citizens, but it’s not all bleak!
With the right preparation, strategy and patience you can get the Schengen tourist visa successfully, the first time around!
Planning a trip to Europe?
Learn how to plan, prepare and book a trip to Europe with my Europe Trip Planner Guidebook.
I have used everything I know from the last 6 years of traveling Europe and combined it into a simple, precise Europe travel planner that helps you have your dream Europe trip in the most time-efficient and cost-effective manner!
Some of my other free blog posts you can check out if you are heading to Europe include-
- The Ultimate Travel Europe For Cheap Guide
- What’s The Best Time To Travel To Europe? Answered!
- 10 Gorgeous Summer Destinations To Visit In Europe
- Top 10 Cheapest Countries To Visit in Europe (and around) in 2019
- 3 Sample Two Week Europe Itineraries That Will Delight You
- Backpacking Europe – 4 Cities To Travel Under $40 a Day
- What’s The Best Time To Travel To Europe? Answered!
- The Complete Europe Travel Checklist
- 5 Top Hostel Chains And Essential Tips For Booking Hostels in Europe
- The Ultimate Europe Backpacking Route
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