Schengen Visa: What and How!
So you have decided to travel to Europe? Europe is a a very good location to spend your holidays. I have been to Europe 4 times so far and it has been a wonderful experience for me. This means I have had to apply for Schengen visa each time I traveled there. Since I am an Indian, I require a Schengen Visa to visit certain countries in Europe. Note that not whole of Europe is a part of Schengen Area. There are different kinds of visas like Tourist Visa, Medical Treatment, Business, Visit visa etc. This post talks about Schengen Tourist Visa.
Following countries are part of Schengen Visa.
Estonia Finland France Germany
Greece Hungary Iceland Italy
Latvia Lithuania Liechtenstein Malta
The Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal
Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden
So, if you wanted to visit the United Kingdom, you will have to take a separate Visa for this purpose. Once you have your Schengen visa, you could travel to any country on Schengen states mentioned in the above list.
What exactly is Schengen?
To understand about what exactly is Schengen, please read the article on Wikipedia.
When was the Schengen agreement signed?
On July 14, 1985, as Luxembourg held the European Economic Community (EEC) presidency, it picked Schengen for its symbolism: it intersects France, Germany, and Luxembourg (a member of “Benelux”). Two other countries signed — Belgium and the Netherlands. The signatories representing the five stated rode on the MS Princesse Marie-Astrid cruise boat moored at the tri-point border, running down the middle of the Moselle River.
What are the benefits of Schengen Visa?
When you have a stamped Schengen Visa,
- you could travel freely within Schengen Area. For example, when I visited this year, I visited counties like Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium etc;
- you could stay continuously for 90 days within Schengen Area for every 6 months (short stay visa);
How to get your Schengen Visa?
Steps to get your Schengen Visa, you will need to plan a bit:
Step 1: Think and brainstorm on where within Schengen area will you spend most of your time. If you are spending most of your holidays within Germany, it is encouraged that you apply for a Schengen Visa at German Embassy (Processed at VFS located in Wafi Mall in Dubai).
Step 2: Learn about all the documentation that you are required to prepare in order to apply for the Schengen visa. This is important, as without proper documentation, your application may be rejected.
Step 3: Make sure you book your appointment at VFS when you are confident that you can obtain documentation within the date of appointment.
Step 4: On the date of your appointment, make sure to go on time and take your token to the respective country application centre within VFS. A VFS staff will scrutinise your application and forward it. This process may take 15 minutes per application. Once your application is submitted, you will receive update through SMS on Submission.
Step 5: Schengen Visa process takes anywhere between 10 to 15 days. My application was approved within 3 days. You will receive an SMS on the approval.
This is a simple process for Schengen Visa.
What are the documents required for Schengen Visa?
Documentation part is quite strict while applying for a visa. There are no exceptions to any documentation while applying for Schengen Visa. So your documentation must be perfect. Following are the documents that you will require:
1. Completely filled Application Form: Depending on your main destination, you will need to fill up the application form provided at the respective country’s page and submit. Certain countries to offer facility to fill out application on the system. For others, you will require to fill out application form on paper and submit. I was going to Germany and I filled out the application form online and printed it.
2. Original Passport and UAE Residence visa and copies: While submitting your documents, you will also require to submit your original passport and residence visa. It is also advisable to take color copy of your passport and visa. You could also include previous Schengen Visas if you have visited Schengen earlier. Note that your passport must not be older than 10 years and must have at least 2 blank pages. UAE Residence Visa must be valid for at least 3 months after your return from the Schengen trip. If during your application process, you have to travel, you could request your passport to be returned and mostly they would return the passport to facilitate your travel.
3. Latest passport size photograph. Note that the photograph must show full facial features and with a light background. When you visit a studio to take a photograph, mention that the intention is to apply for Schengen Visa. Photographs 35X45 mm; If in doubt, VFS themselves have a photo booth at visa application centre.
4. Valid return air ticket: Make sure you have a valid return air tickets. There have been instances where a check is being conducted on these and visas rejected.
5. Proof of stay like Hotels or Invitation letter from a family or friend in Schengen area: I am fortunate to have family members living in Germany and hence I received an invitation letter which proves I have means to stay during my visit. For those who do not have friends and facmily, you will have to book hotel for the duration of your stay.
6. Medical Insurance: You can get this online through various insurance providers like Axa or RSA Direct. Usually there is a separate package called Schengen Visa insurance, which costs roughly AED 120/-.
7. Proof of financial capacity: As a proof of your financial capacity, you will require latest 3 month bank statements showing salary credits. Internet banking statements are also accepted.
8. Salary Certificate: You will have to take a latest salary certificate addressed to respective Consulate/Embassy, which should state your start date of your employment, current designation, monthly salary and duration of your leaves.
9. Birth certificate for your kids: If you are applying along with your children, you will need to provide copy of the birth certificate.
10. If you have not provided your bio-metric (finger prints) details earlier, these will be taken while accepting your application.
How much is the cost of Schengen Visa?
Schengen Visa application fee is mandatory for every applicant and is non-refundable. The Schengen visa cost is depending on the type of visa, age of the applicant and the country you will visit. The visa charges per person can be anything between 300 to 500 Dirhams. VFS charges an additional processing fee of 100 Dirhams. There are also additional costs for SMS service and courier service if you wished you passport to be delivered. The visa fees can be paid in the designated consulate/embassy via cash, debit or credit card.
How long does it take to get Schengen Visa?
The typical time to get Schengen Visa is anywhere between 10 days to 30 working days for certain cases (not including any public holidays), according the VFS Global. However, my visa took less than 4 days to process.
How to visit VFS office in Dubai?
VFS Global Dubai office is located in Wafi Mall, 2nd Floor.
Schengen Visa FAQ:
What can go wrong while processing your Schengen Visa?
The most problems occur with documentation. You have to read thoroughly the documentation required and comply. The documentation is considered as one of the proofs that you will return to UAE. More complete the documentation, higher your chances of getting the application approved.
Is Airbnb booking considered as valid proof of stay?
I have not tried this as of now. But I believe, this may be possible. You will need to print the Airbnb booking which has the name of the host.
Can I reschedule appointment?
Yes, this can be done online and through phone.
Do I have interview prior to approval?
When I went for the first time in 2011 to Germany, I had to attend interview. But these days, there are no interviews.
Where can I get more information?
VFS website has more information for you to apply for Schengen Visa.
This article is written with great care. However, rules and documentation may change. Kindly refer to respective Embassy guidelines. I will be updating this article regularly. Wish you all the best.
My Schengen Visas over the years:
What are the new rules for Schengen Visa?
- Applicants from some countries become eligible for one year multiple entry visas only after they have received three short term Schengen visas in the two proceeding years
- Applicant who were granted a one year Schengen visa in 2019-2020 will be able to apply for a two year Schengen visa
- Five year Schengen visa will generally only be issued to those who have received a two year Schengen visa in 2018-2020
- The period for reviewing or processing Schengen visa applications has now been extended from less than a month to 45 days.
What’s the difference between Schengen and the EU?
The borders of the Schengen zone and the European Union (EU) do not coincide.
Of the 26 Schengen states, 22 are members of the EU, while four – Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Switzerland – are not.
The EU, on the other hand, is an economic and political union of 28 states (Croatia is the latest member to join EU). EU members have abolished internal visas and also voluntarily transferred part of their powers to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (CEU).
With a Schengen visa, foreign citizens can also travel to Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Croatia, Montenegro — though they’re not Schengen convention members.
Croatia is set to officially become Schengen Zone member in 2023, according to travel site Schengen Visa Info.
Who grants the Schengen visa approval?
The approval of visa applications filed with the VFS Global centres is solely at the discretion of the client government it serves.
Types of Schengen Visa:
- Transit: Valid only in the transit zone of an airport
- Transit through the Schengen countries:Issued for up to 5 days
- Single or Multiple Entry: Allows the holder to spend 90 out of 180 days in Schengen countries
- National: Valid only in the country that issued it.
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