Despite nationals of over 60 countries being able to enter the Schengen without a visa, all other nationals will require a Schengen visa to enter the region. However, before you start with the Schengen visa procedure, you will have to take care of certain formalities to ensure that your application is successful and that you do not get your visa rejected. The following sections will provide in detail the various steps involved in the Schengen visa process.
Before you apply for Schengen Visa
Quite often, people rush into making an application for the Schengen and end up getting their application rejected. In order to avoid this, there are a few things you must do before making your application. These are explained in the following sections-
Schengen Visa Types
The first step before applying is to determine the purpose of your visit. Your Schengen visa type to apply for will depend on this. You should note that you must not lie about the purpose of your visit on the application form. It is essential that you choose the type that suits your reason for the visa. For most countries, you will be able to choose from one of the following -
- Visiting family/friends
- Cultural/Sports/Religious events
- Official Visits
- Medical Reasons
Which country to apply?
Once you have decided on the purpose of the visit, you must determine the country you must apply to, also known as the destination country. This will mainly depend on the following factors -
Schengen Visa Rules
As per the Schengen rules, the destination country must be determined by the following rules -
- If you are visiting only one Schengen country, your application must be made to that particular country.
- If you are visiting multiple Schengen countries, submit your application:
- To the country where you will spend most days, ( In the case of an unequal amount of days in each).
- To the country of your port of entry
Port of Entry
Your destination country is your port of entry in case you are planning to spend equal amounts of time in all the multiple Schengen countries. Port of entry is your first destination in the Schengen region. In these cases, you will have to apply to the country that holds your port of entry.
For example - If you are landing in Germany from India and spending 15 days there, then travelling to Austria to spend 15 days, and then travelling back home, you must apply to the respective authority of your port of entry, that is Germany in this case.
Duration of Stay
In cases where you are spending an unequal amount of time in multiple Schengen countries, you must apply to the state where you would be spending the maximum travelling period.
For example - If you are entering Spain and staying there for 20 days, then travelling to Portugal for 15 days, and then travelling to France for 15 days, you must apply for the Spanish Schengen visa.
Upon successfully determining your purpose and the destination country, you must check if you are eligible to apply for that particular category. The two main eligibility for any type of Schengen permit are as follows -
The passport is the most important travel document of any individual. Without a passport, you will almost always be denied entry into the Schengen zone except in certain extreme circumstances. To be eligible to apply for a Schengen visa, your passport must meet certain specifications -
- You must be a passport holder of the country where you are lodging the application. In case you are a foreign passport holder, you can apply provided that you are living in the country on a valid residence permit.
- Your passport must contain at least 2 blank pages. This is to stamp the Schengen visa.
- Your passport must not be older than 10 years.
- The passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of travel.
- If you possess any old passports, you must submit them along with the new one.
Staying in most of the Schengen countries can be expensive due to food, accommodation, travel, and other expenses. In order to make sure that you do not have any difficulties during your stay, you must provide proof that you have sufficient funds to support yourself.
In most cases, these can be bank statements or copy of passbook for the past 3 months. You must show that you have enough funds to cover the day to day expenses for your entire stay period. This amount can vary from country to country. For example, France, being a country with a higher cost of living than Finland, you may have to show slightly higher funds for a France Schengen than the Finnish Schengen.
Apart from this, your bank accounts must have steady transactions history. In case there are unusual transactions of high amounts, you may have to provide an explanation for these.
Where to apply for a Schengen Visa?
Before applying, you must figure out where you can make the application. The application for the Schengen visa can be made at one or multiple locations. This depends on the regulations set by the embassy of the respective Schengen country. Based on this, you can make the application at one of the following -
- The embassy of the destination country.
- One of the consulates of the destination country.
- One of the Visa Application Centers to which the embassy has outsourced the visa submissions.
- The embassy or consulate of the other Schengen state to whom the destination country has outsourced the visa processing.
Gather required documents
Submitting the documents is a crucial part of any visa application. Before starting the application, you must gather all the required documents required for the visa. The following are the list of general documents you would need. Note that, apart from these, there will be additional documents for each category of the Schengen visa, as well as based on the specific embassy requirements.
- Completed visa application form
- A valid passport meeting all the specifications
- 2 photos as per the photo specifications
- Travel medical insurance covering at least 30000 Euros
- Round trip flight reservations
- Proof of accommodation
- Proof of sufficient funds
How to apply for a Schengen Visa?
Once you have finished with all the prerequisites, you can apply for Schengen visa. The Schengen visa process is explained below. However, note that the processes may be different depending on the specific embassy.
Schengen Visa Application Form
The first step is to fill in the Schengen application form. You can do this by visiting the website of the respective embassy or VAC and downloading the offline application form and then filling it. For certain countries, you may be able to fill the application using an online portal.
The most common type is the offline application form. This form is of the same format regardless of the country you are applying to. In the form, you will have to mention the following details -
- Your personal information such as name, D.O.B, address, etc.
- Details of your travel document.
- Your purpose of visiting the Schengen country,
- Details of your trip such as the number of entries, duration of stay, etc.
While filling out the form, you must keep in mind the following instructions -
- Ensure that you fill in the latest application form. If the form is updated, the outdated forms will be unacceptable.
- Fill in all the details truthfully. You must not, under any circumstances, lie on the application form.
- If your ‘purpose of visit’ is not among the ones listed on the form, you must select ‘Others’ and explain the reason in one simple sentence.
- Fill in the details legibly. In cases where you are filling the form by hand, you must use a Black inked pen and ensure that you write in capital letters clearly.
- You must not leave any boxes blank. In cases where you think the question does not relate to you, you must fill in with N/A (Not Applicable).
- In certain cases, you may be required to submit 2 copies of the application. You must sign in both of these.
- In case of a minor applicant, the parents will have to submit a written consent and sign in the corresponding column of the application form.
Note that if you filled in the online application form, you will receive a copy of the filled form on your email. You must take a print out of this and sign it.
Pay the Schengen Visa Fees
Once you have booked the appointment, you must visit the respective centre for your appointment. Upon reaching the venue, you would first have to pay the Schengen visa fees. All the Schengen countries have a uniform Schengen visa amount of 60 Euros. However, this can fluctuate based on several factors such as the age status of the applicant as well as other factors. Also, while making the application fees for a particular country, you would be paying it in the currency of the home country. As a result, the fees may slightly vary depending on the foreign exchange rates. You must check these while applying for the visa.
Apart from the non-refundable visa fees, there will be additional biometric charges as well as possible service charges to be paid. If you are using additional services provided by the VAC or a travel agency, you may have additional Schengen visa cost.
Note that in most cases, you can pay the fees at the VAC or the embassy by their respective allowed means. You must check the means of payment the embassy accepts before proceeding to pay the fees. However, in certain cases, you may also be able to pay the fees online while filling your application form.
Once you have filled in the application form, you must proceed to book an appointment for the Schengen visa application submission. The Schengen visa appointment will be either at an embassy/consulate or at one of the VACs that are authorized to accept visa applications.
In most cases, you may be able to book it by visiting the website of the VAC or embassy and using the online portal. However, in certain cases, you may have to contact the embassy directly to book the appointment.
The visa appointment is for you to submit the application, pay the visa fees, as well as provide biometrics. However, in certain cases, you may be required to attend a visa interview as well.
As per the Schengen regulations, it is mandatory for all Schengen applicants to provide biometrics for the application. Once you are at the appointment centre, your fingerprints and photo will be taken digitally as a part of the biometrics. These are then stored in the Schengen Visa Information System (VIS).
Note that if you have submitted your biometrics for a Schengen visa in the past 5 years, you are not required to submit them again. The biometric information from your previous application will be used again. In this particular case, you may not have to visit the appointment centre in person. You may ask a third party to submit your application, provided that they possess a letter of authorization signed by the applicant.
Attend the Interview (if applicable)
In certain specific cases, the consular officer will ask you to submit for an interview. The interview will last around 10-15 minutes and the questions will revolve around your personal details and the trip. Some of the most common topics asked during a visa interview are as follows -
- You will be asked about the Schengen countries you are planning to visit.
- You may be asked if any family members or friends living in Europe.
- You will be asked to explain your exact purpose of the visit.
- You will be asked to provide details about your source of funds.
- If you are married, you will be asked to provide further details of your spouse.
- If you have children, you may be asked about their details.
- You will be asked about the duration of your stay.
- You may be asked about your planned accommodation in the Schengen country.
- You would be asked about your educational background and qualifications.
- If you are employed, you will be asked to provide details on the job and the company.
At the visa appointment centre, you will be asked to submit your documents. This includes your passport and other supporting documents for the particular visa. The VAC or embassy will need all the originals of most of the documents. However, certain documents may be submitted as a photocopy as you may not receive any of the documents except your passport back.
While submitting, ensure that you provide only genuine documents. Providing falsified documents are grounds for automatic visa refusal. A Schengen visa rejection may affect your future travel to the Schengen region as well as other countries.
When to apply for a Schengen Visa?
Something you should be careful while applying is the processing time as it affects how early you should make the application. The visa can take even 30 or 60 days to process in certain cases. Normally, since it is processed within 15 working days, you must apply for the Schengen at least 15 working days before your intended travel date. Although this is the bare minimum, a suitable time to apply for a Schengen visa is generally 3 weeks before the expected date of travel. However, note that you cannot apply more than 3 months before the date of travel.
After you apply for Schengen Visa
Once you have made the application, your application will be sent to the embassy or consulate for processing. In most cases, the application will be sent the same day or the next day of receiving the application. Note that the VAC does not have any authority over the processing of your application. This is done solely by the consular section of the embassy or the consulate.
Wait for an answer on your application
After your application, you will have to wait till you get a response from the embassy/VAC. This can take several days and can depend on several factors such as the type of the visa, the volume of applications at the respective embassy, as well as your previous travel history. Normally, it can take up to 15 working days to get your visa. However, in certain extreme cases, your wait will be longer and can even be 30 or 60 days.
How to Check Schengen Visa Status?
While you await a decision on your application, you can check the status of your Schengen visa application in multiple ways -
- If you have applied through one of the VACs located across India, you can track the application through the online portal provided by the VAC.
- If you have applied at the embassy/consulate directly, you can check the status by contacting the embassy directly, and in certain cases, there may be online tracking services provided by the embassy.
- You can contact your travel agency to have them track it for you.
When you have Schengen Visa?
Once you have received the passport that is stamped with the Schengen visa, you must keep in mind the following points for your visit.
Before travelling -
Before you travel to the Schengen country, you must note the following -
- You should check the visa expiry, the number of dates, and the stay duration mentioned on the Schengen visa sticker in your passport. Your stay must be in accordance with these.
- You must carry all your travel documents. These include the passport and the copy of documents you have submitted during your visa application.
- You must travel to the country within 6 months or as mentioned in the visa sticker.
At the border -
Once you are at the border control of the Schengen port of entry, you must keep in mind the following-
- You must show your travel documents to the officers at the port of entry.
- You will be stamped with the date of entry in your passport. Your stay duration cannot be more than 90 days from this date.
In the Schengen country -
Once you have entered the Schengen nation, you will have to keep in mind the following points -
- You must not work on the payroll of a Schengen company unless you are on the employment visa.
- You must respect the customs and abide by the laws of the particular Schengen country.
- Carry a copy of your travel documents with you while you are travelling within the Schengen region.
- You will not be able to extend your Schengen permit under any normal circumstances. However, you may be able to extend it in certain extreme cases such as a Force Majeure or other humanitarian reasons.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Schengen Visa is processed quickly?
Most of the Schengen visas are processed within the same time. However, the processing can depend on the volume of applications at the respective embassy. For example, applications for the French Schengen visa are more than the applications for the Finland Schengen visa. As a result, the French visa will be issued slightly slower than the Finland visa. Among the types, the business visa is processed faster than the other categories.
What to do if I need to stay for more than 90 days in Europe?
If you require to stay for more than 90 days, you must apply for the National Visa instead of the Schengen. The National Visa will let you stay in the Schengen region for a duration of more than 90 days. However, in certain extreme conditions such as humanitarian reasons, you may be able to extend your Schengen visa as well.
What to do if your Schengen Visa gets rejected?
If your Schengen visa has been rejected, you will receive a letter stating the reasons for your rejection. You can then choose to appeal the decision or to wait and re-apply. If you appeal the decision, you can fill in the form and submit it to the embassy. However, if you are re-applying, you must ensure that you have made the necessary changes from the first application, and submit a better application.