Planning your trip abroad means not just the regular flight and accommodation bookings but also getting your visa in place for starters. And obtaining a visa often becomes stressful for a huge majority of people. Only 58 countries in the world are visa-free or offer e-visa/ visa on arrival for an Indian Passport. But the US Visa, UK Visa, Schengen Visa & the Australian Visa are the trickiest to crack. They are tricky not because of interviews or situations, but the requirement for documentation has a close variation for all applications.
There are 26 members in Schengen states and you can visit a total of 28 countries using your Schengen visa. You can also visit other European countries except for Belarus, Ukraine, UK, Ireland on your Schengen visa.
Here's a complete guide to applying for a Schengen Visa for Indian passport holders!
WHICH STATE TO APPLY FROM?
Considering one visa can give you access to over 26 states; a Schengen Visa is a lot like a jackpot. Which brings you to the key question, from what state should you apply?
While you're most likely to consider factors like turnaround time and success ratio for applications, there are but two criteria to remember-
Which state will you be staying in for the longest period? If you're going to stay in 2 states for the same duration of time, you need to first consider the state which is your entry point.
Obviously, if you only intend to visit one state, that is where you will apply from otherwise.
WHICH CATEGORY OF VISA DO YOU NEED?
If you traveling to the Schengen states for tourism, to visit family/friends, cultural purposes, airport transit or any other personal reasons, you need to apply for the Short-Term Tourist Visa. You can apply for a maximum of 90 days Schengen visa.
Make sure you apply for a multi-entry visa, this will help you visit multiple states or even take multiple trips on the same visa within the timelines and provisions
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU APPLYING FOR SCHENGEN VISA
Schengen Visa is easy to obtain provided you have submitted your detailed itinerary, documents, and purpose of visit Timelines matter: You can apply for your Schengen Visa 3 months prior to your travel dates to a minimum of 15 working days before your travel dates Make sure to follow the checklist as provided by the respective embassy Self-sponsored applicants are likely to get a visa faster than sponsored applicants, depending on pending documents For those traveling across multiple states, your travel bookings between different states are essential in your itinerary Always remember, your cover letter can be a deal breaker. So ensure you have it well formatted with sufficient information and purpose The Biometric Scan is required only once in every 5 years for your Schengen visa. However, you're likely to be asked for a repeat submission of your biometrics for faster processing Tracking your application can help correct/ provide additional documents required for your visa processing The information provided in your application can be verified during your travels, avoid faking an itinerary for convenient visa processing Whichever embassy you are applying from, the details are available to all member states including rejected applications. Make sure you pick the correct embassy as per the specified rules to avoid visa rejection Rejection of Schengen Visa comes with a letter and does not reflect in form of a stamp on your passport Keep your payment receipt safely, it is essential to collect your passport While planning your application, account for local holidays and the holidays in the state of the application
HOW TO GO ABOUT THE APPLICATION?
The easiest way to work around your Schengen Visa application is to go step-by-step.
Your plan is your most essential aspect to ensure you get the right visa:
ITINERARY: Your detailed travel plan, starting from your home country till you enter back. Where you will stay, booking details, next destination, etc. till the end of your trip INTERNAL TRAVEL: In case you're traveling between 2 cities or states, make sure you have bookings/ details of your travel bookings. Having a confirmed booking is not essential, but you need to specify your route and plan of transport. STAY: No one wants you sleeping in the European parks or roadside benches, so provide your confirmed booking details to add credibility to your itinerary FLIGHTS: Return flights are the key essential element for any visa office to accept your application. Many people also use dummy tickets which can be used for your application to outline and indicate your travel plans.
Once you have your plan ready, you can start preparing for your visa application submission:
APPLICATION FORM: A download link to the form of every embassy is available online for printing purpose. Make sure you read the guidelines and fill in the complete application form in accordance with the same. TRAVEL INSURANCE: Depending on the nature of your trip, make sure you have a travel insurance in placing covering up in case of mishaps DOCUMENTS: Make sure you prepare your document folder well with the following documents.
Passport: A valid passport with a validity of minimum 6 months validity without any physical damage is needed for your visa application. Ensure you also get your passport xeroxed for submissions.
Photos: 2 passports sized photos as per the dimensions and details provided by the agency
Return Flight Tickets: Your return flights can be a deal breaker.
Accommodation for all days in Europe: You will have to present your confirmed reservations for your stay in accordance with your itinerary
One of the integral requirements of your visa application is proof of financial status- This means you need to show a closing balance of INR 1 Lakh and above in your account, depending on the duration of your trip. Your bank statement needs to be signed and sealed by your bank.
You will also have to present your ITR statement for the last 3 financial years for your application.
In case of absence of either, you will have to show a sponsor with a letter, a closing statement, and ITR that fulfills the above criteria. Make sure to attach the sponsor's signature proof to make your visa processing smoother.
You will also have to provide your salary slips, no objection letter from your employer for the trip. In case you are a self-employed/ freelancer, make sure to provide a letter stating the same.
One of the key factors from granting a visa is your ability to showcase that you can provide for your needs while traveling.
Depending on the status of your paperwork, book an appointment with VFS for visa application from the VFS website through the state that you are applying from. Always remember, there should be a minimum 15 working days window between your visa application submission and your travel date.
The processing time of visas is shorter with the mainstream consulates such as Germany, France, Spain, and Switzerland.
In case of lesser visited destinations like the Scandinavian region, it's wiser to submit your application at least a month in advance.
Always ensure to reach slightly earlier for your appointment and cross-check your documents well.
Remember, you are not allowed to carry bags and laptops inside the VFS centers. Some offices offer your storage options, some don't. Make sure you pre-plan accordingly.
Your phone at all times must remain on silent.
On reaching the VFS office, produce the email that you have received regarding your appointment and get a token from the security.
While putting together your documents, get a print out of the checklist and ensure you have every document on the list. Once your token gets called out, you can head to the respective counter and present your documents.
If you have submitted your form online, your physical documents are tallied with the same.
Your cover letter plays a key role and must clearly specify your purpose and intention of the visit.
All original documents are required for your visa application: passport, tickets, travel insurance, itinerary, accommodations. Mention your transport options between cities and states too, with possible reservations.
You will also need to attach a passport-sized picture (size depends on the state of the application). You can mention the details at a photo booth and get the size as per requirements/ also mentioned on the VFS page of the embassy.
Ensure you have not made any marks on these documents.
Depending embassy to embassy, you may be asked to submit a complete Xerox (including blank pages) of your passport.
After submitting your documents, you will be given a receipt for which you need to make your payment by cash, card or demand draft before you head for the biometric scan.
The final step of your visa application process is the biometric scan.
Your photo, fingerprints, eyes are recorded by special machines.
As per the rule, an applicant only needs to submit his biometric details once in 5 years. Since the Schengen states are connected, once submitted data becomes available to all.
However, some states do prefer a fresh biometric scan for every application.
After submitting your complete application at a consulate/ VFS Office, keep a track of your application using the tracking code.
The payment receipt that is given to you after submitting your documents includes your application number which can be tracked from the VFS page of the Schengen state that you are applying from.
Why is it important to track?
In many cases, especially when the applicant is being sponsored by a third-party (parent/ guardian/company), additional documents/signatures are required by the consulate before granting the visa.
These may have been overlooked while submitting your application or could be needed for further investigation of records.
At the bottom of your screen, you're likely to find a message that explains your application status or mentions any additional documentation that is needed from you.
In case of confusion, call VFS helpline for clarification. Ensure you submit the required additional documents at the earliest to avoid rejection of your visa application.
If you have paid/ enabled SMS updates, you're also likely to receive an SMS/ call regarding the additional requirements.
PLEASE NOTE: THE VISA APPLICATION TRACKER OR PASSPORT COLLECTION EMAIL NEVER STATES THE STATUS OF VISA.
Which means, in case your visa has been rejected, your unlikely to find out until you have received your passport. The tracker and the email only state whether your passport can be collected or not.
After you receive an email/call or SMS, you can go to the VFS Office again with the receipt and ID proof to collect your passport as per the mentioned timing. The VFS Office is very strict with the collection timings and it is best to avoid any delay in collecting your passport.
Alternatively, you can pay an extra fee to avail courier services for your passport. This will ensure that the passport reaches your doorstep directly instead of you having to match your schedule to get it.
In case your visa gets rejected
In case your visa gets rejected, contact the VFS helpline. Your rejection letter is most likely to state a reason for rejection. You can reapply through the same/ different embassy depending on the reason of rejection by rectifying your paperwork. Time, financial means, itinerary and purpose play a vital role in getting a visa.
Please Note: As per news report, provisions for Emergency Schengen Visa for Indians is being worked upon and will be announced shortly.
Check out how to make the most of your Europe Trip on Awara Diaries