If you are traveling to a country in the Schengen zone, you’ll need to apply for a visa. The process can be quite long, but once you’ve got all your paperwork sorted, you’ll be able to enjoy free travel in many parts of Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland are all members of the Schengen agreement.
Submit a Schengen Visa Application before your departure
Travellers wishing to apply for a Schengen visa will have to apply in person, and in advance. Applying on arrival in your destination country is not possible. Instead, the process should take place in your home country, at the embassy or consulate of your planned destination. If you’re planning to travel between two or more Schengen countries, then you should make the application at your “main destination”: that is to say, the country in which you intend to spend the most time.
Before you start, it’s important to look over the required documents that your destination country demands. Generally, all Schengen nations have very similar visa requirements, but you may find some small differences in certain countries. Regardless of where you’re planning to go, however, all countries require you to hold a valid passport, which must have at least six months to go before its expiry date.
In addition to your passport, you will also need a recent, clear, passport-sized photograph, which should be attached to your completed Schengen visa application form. This document outlines the purpose of your stay, your plans, your employment status, and so on. It is important to fill out the form carefully, as mistakes can cause lengthy delays to your application process.
Itinerary and European travel insurance
You will also need to provide details of your trip, including your reservation – which must include a return journey. You must also have travel health insurance, covering expenses up to the amount of 30,000 euros. Your health insurance policy has to be valid for the entirety of the Schengen area. Take care: you must purchase the policy before applying for your visa, but if something goes wrong and your visa application is rejected, you will not be able to get a refund!
Proof of accommodation
You will also need to provide proof of accommodation for the duration of your trip. This could be a booking confirmation from a hotel or tour operator or, if you plan to stay with a friend or relative, you will need a written invitation from your host, along with a copy of their passport. Finally, you will need to prove that you have the financial means to support yourself during your trip.
When to apply
You can apply for your Schengen visa up to twelve weeks before your planned travel dates, and it is essential that you make an appointment for your application at least fifteen days in advance. That is the minimum time that the embassy or consulate will take to process your visa, and in some cases, it may take longer. It’s a good idea to apply sooner rather than later, to be on the safe side.
Attending the appointment
When attending your appointment, you must take all the required documentation with you. At the appointment you will have an interview, which has to be carried out in person. You can expect to be asked a number of questions about your planned trip, including dates, accommodation plans, reasons for travelling, and various other details. You are also likely to be asked a number of questions about your circumstances, including your spouse, family and employment.
During the interview, it is essential that you answer all the questions clearly and accurately. The embassy or consulate will look for confirmation about your answers afterwards. Confusion over details can cause a delay in the process, or even lead to your visa application being turned down.
Some of the common types of questions that often appear in the visa interview include:
- Which Schengen countries will you be visiting?
- Do you have any friends or relatives living in the Schengen zone? If so, where?
- What is the purpose of your trip?
- How will you afford your trip? Are you paying for it yourself, or is someone else supporting you?
- Are you married? If so, how long have you been married? What is your spouse’s job and nationality?
- Do you have any children? If so, how old are they? If they are adults, what are their jobs?
- How long will you stay in the Schengen zone?
- Where is your accommodation?
- What kind of educational background do you have?
- What is your job? Which company do you work for? What does the company do?
Be aware that the process of applying for a Schengen zone visa is not free. You must pay an administrative fee when you make your application. This fee is non-refundable, even if your application is unsuccessful. Costs vary, and you can find out all the relevant details by enquiring at the embassy or consulate of the country in question. For more comprehensive information on applying for your Schengen Visa, visit ____