Visiting Europe has its own set of advantages as well as disadvantages. If you are planning to visit a Schengen country then the best part is that with a single visa you can visit all the Schengen countries. By Schengen countries don’t mix it up with the European Union as there as some countries like Switzerland which is a part of the Schengen agreement but not a part of European Union whereas Ireland is part of European Union but not a part od Schengen agreement. When I planned to travel to Europe that is to Italy along with my family I had to get a Schengen Visa for all.
My trip was a bit complicated as my wife was traveling to attend a conference so she had an official invitation thus things were easy for her but for me and our eight-year-old daughter we had to apply as tourists but show my wife traveling with us. All these complexities made me research tons of documents to ensure that our Visa does get approved since we had already booked flights, hotels and other local transportations within Italy.
The final result was that we all had managed to secure a Schengen Visa well within the deadline and had a wonderful trip of a lifetime. Many of my friends were surprised as to how easily we managed to get the visa but in reality, it all boils down to proper documentation and a solid travel itinerary.
Which Country Do I Get The Schengen Visa From?
First of all, you need to decide if you are traveling to multiple Schengen countries or just one. If it’s just a single country then the answer is pretty simple it has to be the one you are visiting else if it’s multiple then you have to apply in the country where you will be spending a maximum number of days during your vacation. This is why a solid travel itinerary is important as the Visa officer will study this carefully and your entire trip is based on this.
For me I was only visiting Italy thus the choice was very simple and being from Kolkata I knew that we have an Italian consulate in the city so things will be a bit faster.
Where Do I Apply for Schengen visa?
VFS is the official Visa processing agency for Italy (also for most other Schengen countries) and they do a pretty good job as they have very well trained staff who guides you in the event you are confused or have any query.
Alternately you can directly apply at the embassy or the local consulate if your city has one. The main difference is the scope of service, VFS has an online time slot booking system with which you can choose your preferable time slot whereas at the embassy or consulate you have to write an email to them directly to secure an application slot which is very short and limited (day and time). Also, you don’t expect the embassy or the consulate staff to help you in depth as they are there only to receive the forms along with documents.
If you are a budget traveler then here is a trick to save around Rs. 1250, if you apply directly at the embassy or consulate then you don’t have to pay VFS service charge.
Adults need to pay around 4,290 Rs. per person and minors need to pay nearly half the amount 2510 Rs. If you are visiting as a student in groups from an institution then you may apply for visa fee waiver.
How Long Will It Take to get Schengen Visa?
Officially it will take a minimum of fifteen days but can extend as these fifteen days are considered as working days only. My wife got her business visa in six days as she had the invitation to attend a conference whereas for me and my daughter it took exactly fourteen days.
What Do I Need To Prove for Getting Schengen visa?
Basically, you need to show that you are visiting the country as a tourist or for business purpose and not planning to stay back illegally. Also, you have to prove that you have enough money to fund your trip and the trip that you are taking is a paid off by the surplus of what your earn.
The Italian Embassy has also specified a fund matrix which is what amount each person should have during the trip per day of travel. Please note that this amount varies from country to country thus plan accordingly. Alternately Credit Cards statements with balance and Foreign Exchange like Euro currency will also serve the purpose. This amount you must be able to show as a bank balance or in foreign exchange (not in cash but as documents with your passport number endorsed).
Please refer to VFS site for this Fund Matrix.
Documents Required For Schengen Visa
Schengen Visa Covering Letter
This is the most critical bit of document since this is what the Visa Officer will actually read thus it has to be self-explanatory and include a detailed plan of your trip. This letter should establish:-
- You know where (country) you are going
- You know which places you are going
- You know which documents to attach
- You are talking all financial responsibility for yourself and that of family members if traveling along with you.
List down all the documents that you are attaching with this cover letter in the exact order they are listed.
Sample Schengen Visa Covering Letter
The Visa Officer
Consulate General of Italy
(Your Name) (Your Surname)
Mobile: (Your Mobile Number)
Date: (Give the date on which you are applying)
Subject: Application for Schengen Visa for travel to Italy
I intend to travel to Italy as a tourist between (From Date) and (To Date) and would request you to please grant me Schengen Visa (Tourist).
Enlisting the details of my proposed trip:-
Date of Arrival: (From Date)
Date of Departure: (To Date)
No of days: (Number of days)
Other members of my family traveling along: Traveller Name (Relation – Passport no: ABCD1234)
Traveller Name (Relation – Passport no: ABCD1234)
Arrival at Rome: Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (FCO) (Arrival Date). Taking the Leonardo Express Airport Train to Rome Termini. Further taking a taxi to the hotel.
(Date) = Visiting places around Vatican
(Date) = Visiting places around Rome
(Date) = Visiting places around Florence
(Date) = Visiting places around Venice
(Date) = Visiting places around Pompeii
(Date) = Visiting places around Rome
(Date) = Departure from Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (FCO) to India
(The more details you give the better it will it look on papers)
As per the required document list mentioned on the website, I am attaching the following documents:
1: Filled up application form
2: Two recent photographs in the specified dimension
3: Passport Photocopy
5: Medical insurance
6: Travel itinerary and tickets
7: Leave authorization for my workplace
8: Salary slip of last three months
9: Last three-month bank statement
10: Form 16 (last three years)
11: Income Tax challan (last three years)
12: Hotel booking slips
Additional documents like (PAN Card, Aadhaar Card)
I am the bearer of all the travel expenses inclusive of air tickets, train tickets, local transport and hotel booking. Trust that my application along with the necessary documents would be in order to your requirement for visa application process. Thanking you in anticipation that the visa would be granted.
(Your Name) (Your Surname)
Filled up Schengen Visa application form
The form can be downloaded from VSF site as well as from Italian Embassy / Consulate site. Ensure to use a black pen and write in all capitals.
Two recent photographs in the specified dimension for Schengen Visa
The photograph dimension and specification needs to be followed exactly thus please do not use any available photograph. Detailed information available at VSF site as well as from Italian Embassy / Consulate site.
I had carried the photographs but this was not required but don’t take chances take it along. Only a single photograph was required which had to be pasted on the application form.
Take two sets of photocopies which should include first page, last page, and any observations. Include copies of old Schengen Visa which will make things easy for you to get the Visa.
After all, this is where they will stick your Visa thus don’t forget this.
Medical insurance for Schengen Visa
Travel Medical Insurance is easy to get these days, just buy them online and select the cheapest one. Just one important point that the duration of coverage should be additional ten days after your departure from Schengen area.
Travel Itinerary and Tickets
Since you have to show this during your Visa application thus include them, this is a big investment thus make sure you have enough buffer days between your actual date of travel and application date as in the event there are some unforeseen delays you can panic a bit less. Since most of the (cheap) tickets are non-refundable thus it might be a good idea to buy a little bit more expensive refundable tickets.
To make things look better on paper you may also add local transportation tickets like train tickets from point A to point B since these make the application more credible.
Leave authorization for Schengen Visa
If you are a salaried person then this letter is vital as the Visa officer would want to see you are employed and the employer is aware of your leave. Make sure the date range of leave is mentioned along with your name and designation.
Salary slip of last three months
This is basically to prove that you have an income to sustain a trip to a Schengen country and not planning to make a one-time trip and not coming back.
If you are a retired person or freelancer then you can add your savings account details plus any sort of investments which can be easily be translated into a cash amount.
Last three-month bank statement
Just to prove that you have a steady income or steady bank balance and not gathering funds from friends and family just before your Visa application. The Visa Officer might ask you question if there is a sudden influx of funds into this account thus plan ahead. If you have multiple bank accounts you may show them also to show as accumulated funds.
Form 16 (last three years)
You are a law abiding citizen paying the due that is to the government as per your income.
Income Tax challan (last three years) –
You pay tax and the tax return matches the salary or your earnings you are being paid.
Hotel booking slips
This is also important in the application form as you also need to mention in the application form where you will land up first once you arrive at your destination.
If you are staying at your friends or relatives place then you need to provide them a letter from the host confirming that they will take care of your stay.
If you are attending a conference then you need to give official invitation letter from the inviting organization.
p.s. Booking confirmation from Airbnb.com is also accepted thus do not worry
Submitting the Documents for Schengen Visa
On the date of appointment submit all the documents (photocopies) at the counter except the application form and passport which you have to submit in originals. Make sure you come at the exact time mentioned else you will not be allowed to enter. If it’s at the embassy or consulate then it’s much stricter and only allowed to enter during the slot provided to you. At VFS its bit easier but the time slot needs to be maintained.
After submitting the documents you need to pay the visa fee and then you have to provide biometric data which will be done by scanning all ten fingers of your hand. Make sure your fingers do not have Mehendi or Heena else the scanning cannot be done. Minors do not require to provide biometric data.
At VFS you will be provided with a tracking number which you can check from time to time online or via phone.
Schengen Visa Interview
There is a for sure an interview process if you are applying for the first time for Schengen Visa. The questions will be to ascertain that you are going for a vacation if applied for a Tourist Visa and sometimes for Business Visa you need to prove that you are saying exactly what you have submitted. Don’t be nervous just be confident and answer what you are asked.
During my interview, I was just asked about what kind of work that I do and what type of industry I work for. What I understood is that they just want to re affirm what you have mentioned in your covering letter.
Backpacking around Europe without a fixed itinerary is a bit difficult if you are visiting for the first time since most of it has to be planned and presented in your travel details. A European can come to India without a fixed plan and go as it progresses but this is difficult for Indian traveling to Europe.
But what I have understood is that if you get Schengen Visa once then getting it the next time becomes a bit easy but you still need to go through the same process.
I had applied for a single entry Visa but was granted a multi entry Visa thus there is a slight chance for you to alter your planned schedule and travel to nearby countries which you can easily travel without much hassle.
Make sure that all your documents are in order and all that is required is provided so that there is little room for denial of Visa. Still, have some buffer days between your actual date of planned departure and Visa application date as you can always re apply if denied.