28 September 2018

Schengen Visa Application in a European Country

I currently work and reside in Cyprus, a European Country in the East Mediterranean, but despite of my work and residency permit, I still need to apply for a Schengen Visa should I wish to visit some nearby countries within Europe (i.e. Schengen Member States). For those who doesn’t have a powerful passport like mine, applying for a travel visa could be tedious as it requires a whole lot of documentations and proving of one’s capacity to travel. It’s a tiresome process but I do understand its importance and the security reasons for implementing it. Let me share with you my experiences in applying for Schengen Visa and hopefully, it will guide you in your preparation for your plans to travel in Europe.

Maybe some would have thought that applying for Schengen Visa in a European Country is easier and less strict than applying in your home country. But based on my experience so far, I see no difference. I have to say, I went through same stress and hassle.

Let me list down here the basic requirements for Schengen Visa Application for Tourism Purpose only (No Sponsor/ No Inviting Person or Company).
  • A Completed Schengen Visa Application Form 
    • This is available for download online but I suggest taking it from the main website of the embassy of the country you’re planning to visit 
    • Fill out the form with all honesty as officers from the embassy are trained to be skeptical about your application and they will ask if there’s something suspicious about your answers.
    • The important fields they normally look into directly are the following:
      • Current Occupation 
      • The purpose of travel 
      • Member state(s) of destination 
      • Number of Entries Requested 
      • Duration of the intended stay or transit 
      • Intended date of arrival in the Schengen Area 
      • Intended date of departure from the Schengen Area 
      • Means of Support - the most important one! So, check all the boxes in the list that applies (Cash, Traveler’s Cheques, Credit Card, Prepaid Flight, Prepaid Accommodation, others)
  • At least 6 months Valid Passport
  • Employment Contract 
    • They would only need a copy of your contract but bring as well the original as sometimes they verify its authenticity
  • Paid Round Trip Ticket 
    • You must ensure them that you will return to your departure country
  • Proof of Place to Stay in the Country 
    • Your accommodation must cover the entire duration of intended stay in the country
  • Proof of Financial Means to Support your Travel 
    • 3 months bank statements – with a reasonable balance to cover the entire trip (Average of EUR 50-100 per day, depending on which country) 
    • 3 months pay slip
  • Copy of the Pink Slip or Resident Permit in the European Country you’re currently working or residing. 
    • This must be valid for at least 3 months beyond the expected return date
  • Medical Travel Insurance 
    • Insurance must cover a minimum of EUR 30,000 in medical assistance, hospital care, and repatriation for medical reasons valid in all the Schengen Member States).
Other Supporting Documents:
  • Travel Summary itemizing your plans and intended sites to visit in the country 
  • Invitation Letter (If applicable) 
  • Employment Confirmation Letter stating your start date and annual salary signed by the HR or Finance Dept of your company. 
  • NOC (No Objection Certificate) from your company regarding your intention to travel

Typical Questions by the Embassy during the application:
  • Will you be travelling alone or with companion? 
  • How long will you be staying in the country? (Must be the same number of days you put in your application form) 
  • What’s your purpose for travelling in the country? (Must say for Leisure or Tourism purposes)
  • Which Schengen States you will be going? (Must be the same with what you declared on the application form)

The 26 countries that are currently members of the Schengen agreement 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.

Common Reasons for Schengen Visa be denied:
  1. Past or Current Criminal Actions 
  2. False Travel Document 
  3. Insufficient Explanation For The Purpose And Circumstances Of The Planned Stay 
  4. Damaged Passport 
  5. Passport Invalidity 
  6. Lack To Proof The Travel Itinerary 
  7. Invalid Letter of Reference 
  8. Insufficient Means Of Subsistence 
  9. Unacceptable Birth Or Marriage Certificate 
  10. Invalid Travel Insurance 
  11. Lacking to present a Proof of Accommodation 
  12. Unfavorable Schengen Visa Situation

For more detailed explanation, visit (https://www.schengenvisainfo.com)

So far, I’ve been to four (4) different Embassies to apply for a Schengen Visa and each has different level of strictness and method of scrutinizing documents. My first-time application was okay as I had all my documents prepared but it took me two (2) weeks before they released my visa. My other Schengen Visas were released in maximum of 1 week after application.

I have an experience where the officer in the embassy focused more on my financial capacity to travel. She was digging and highlighting my bank statements to see if I have enough month-end balance to spare for travelling. At that time, I honestly felt judged based on my nationality as she was questioning me. Though I understand her position to be strict, I got intimidated by her tone and the way she insinuated my incapacity. Also, she ignored to consider my travel history and previous visas I have on my passport. Anyway, I didn’t proceed with the application that time even though I have all the required documents and right amount of money to travel. I sensed her unwillingness to accommodate my application, thus I didn’t insist.

I also have an experience where I have overlooked my documents and I mistakenly gave a hotel booking confirmation where the reservation was one day less compared to my duration of intended stay in the country. Thus, the officer was skeptical about my application and find my intention to travel as not credible. Because for her, planning a trip must be well-thought so missing one day of hotel reservation is not acceptable. She didn’t proceed with my application even if I told her at that time that I can book one more day in the same hotel. I understand her reason, but I just hope she could have been a little bit considerate. In my defense, I was actually travelling a lot during that month and I had a lot of changes in my flights & accommodations that made me failed to notice the mistake. But of course, that’s not a valid excuse.

Based on those experiences, I got a taste of how difficult to have a not powerful passport. Thus, I can say that even if I am already in Europe, it’s not easy to get a Schengen Visa. I’m a little dismayed by the thought that my passion to travel is restricted by a piece of paper to allow me to see the world. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance and the security reason for implementing visa in each jurisdiction. That’s just part of the reality in this world that most people like me have to deal with. 

For me, travelling is the best thing one can experience to fully discover what’s life beyond what you used to. It educates and opens one’s mind to understand cultural and religious differences. And with that understanding, it cultivates peace and respect among people in the world. Thus, travelling for me is very essential to humanity.

Though it’s impossible but I still wish someday that the world opens all countries without visa requirement to people like me who simply just want to travel and discover different people, cuisines, cultures, beliefs, history and life principles. And with that experience, I would be able to help promote understanding, love, respect and harmony to the world! :-)


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