If you plan on traveling to the Schengen Area for any reason in the coming days, weeks, or months, then you might find yourself in the requirement of a Schengen Visa. A Schengen Visa is a certification that will allow you to enter the zone for your desired reasons and it is necessary for some people. The requirement of a Schengen Visa for your individual situation will likely ben dependent on your nationality.
If you have never traveled to Europe, you are probably curious as to whether you will need a Schengen Area Visa or not. This is quite understandable since so much is changing in the area that it can be difficult to know what the current requirements are for travel within the Schengen Zone. At present, there are about 60 countries worldwide that are able to enter the zone without having to get a visa. They are allowed to stay there for 90 days within any 6 month period, after which they will have to begin the process all over again.
If you do not fall within one of those countries, then you will likely have to obtain a visa. To travel effectively within Europe requires one of these visas, and as such, your travel plans can completely hinge on whether you are able to successfully complete the visa application process. If you do need to apply for a visa, you might not yet know what the steps are or what you need to do in order to begin the process. This article will walk you through everything you need to do in order to apply for a Schengen Visa and travel at will within Europe.
Deciding on Your Visa
The first step in getting a visa is actually figuring out which type of visa you need. You might not know it yet, but there are several different types of visas, and each one corresponds with different needs. It is important to select the right type of visa because the wrong decision can derail your entire trip and not give you the flexibility that you need on your trip. Here are some of the Schengen Visa types that you can obtain:
- Visa for Medical Reasons
- Study Visa
- Transit Visa
- Business Visa
- Visa for Culture
- Visa for Sporting Activities
- Visa for Family & Friends
- Visa for Tourism
- Visa for Official Visits
Each of these types of visas is designed to serve a different reason for visiting the Schengen Zone. The names of the visas make it obvious what they are intended for, so be sure to carefully select which type of visa you would like to apply for.
Find an Application Location
Once you know what type of visa you are going to need for your trip, the next step is finding a location to apply for your visa. The process for applying for an application and where you need to apply for a visa will depend based on which country you are from, as each country has a different preferred process for applying for visas. Where you apply will also depend on the location of the country that you intend on traveling to. Each country has its own specific process for this. There are a number of possible locations that you may have to apply for your visa at, and they usually include one of the following:
- Your country’s embassy
- A consulate
- A visa center
- An embassy or consulate within a Schengen state
How you apply will not only depend on where you are from and where you are going but also how many different countries you will be visiting on your trip. If you are going to be visiting only one country within the Schengen Zone, then you should fill out your visa application at the embassy or consulate of the country that you intend to visit.
If you are going to be visiting multiple countries on your trip, then you should fill out the visa application in the country that you are going to be spending the most amount of time in. If you are going to be spending an equal amount of time in each country, then fill out the application in the country that you are going to be visiting first.
Timing Your Application
Now that you know which type of application you need and where you should apply for it, the next step is to determine when you are going to apply for your application. The best time to apply for your application is as early as possible. Luckily, many embassies have outlined when you can and cannot apply for a visa. You must fit your application within this window in order to have a successful application and obtain your visa.
There is a restriction on how early you can apply for your visa. You can apply for your visa as far as three months in advance from your trip. Any applications that are longer than that will be rejected.
There is also a limitation as to how late you can apply for your visa. The latest that you can apply for your travel visa is 15 business days in advance of when you are traveling. If you submit it after that, there is basically no chance that it can be processed in time.
The recommended time to submit your application is at least 3 weeks before you plan to travel. However, if you want to be safe and ensure that you encounter no problems in the application process, you should apply as soon as is legally allowed.
Booking an Appointment
Complete the Application Form
Once you have booked your appointment, it is time to start gathering paperwork and other documents that are needed for the processing of your application. The first thing that you should do is download the application form from the consulate or embassy’s website and fill it out accurately to the best of your knowledge. One thing to take note of is that the application form will look the same regardless of which country you are applying for a visa to.
You should be prepared to give a variety of information on your visa application, as it will surely ask for it. You will need to provide personal information, background information, your purpose for traveling to the Schengen Area, and possibly specific details about your trip that will make it easier for officials to understand why you are traveling there.
Once you have filled out the form, be sure to double-check it for blank columns. Don’t leave any columns on the form blank and if you feel that one or more columns do not apply to you, fill it out with N/A or otherwise let them know that it does not apply to you. Print the form and ensure that you sign two copies.
If you are underage and applying for a visa, you will need your legal guardian to include written consent and also sign your visa application in the appropriate area.
Supporting Your Application with Documents
Not only will you need to fill out the various forms that are required to complete your visa, but you will also need to provide certain documents to verify your identity and ensure that your application is properly processed. Here are some of the documents that you may have to provide if you plan on applying for a visa:
- Visa application form
- Valid passport
- Proof of financial means
- Proof of accommodation
- Proof of travel purchase
- Travel insurance
- Accurate photographs
If you can provide all of these expediently, you can look forward to a seamless and easy visa application process that ultimately results in you getting the visa that you need to complete your travel.
Go to Your Interview
One of the last steps that you will have to take as it relates to the information that you must provide to complete your visa application process is an in-person interview. At this interview, the goal is to verify your information and discuss your reasons for traveling. You must attend the appointment that you set earlier and show up on time to that appointment in order to be considered.
You will meet with a professional called a visa consular who has the job of verifying your information and accepting all of the documents that you have collected for your application process.
You can expect to be asked a wide range of questions during your in-person interview that is intended to learn more about your travel plans. Be sure to be prepared with any information that they might require and that your in-person answers are the same as your written answers. The interview typically takes only about 10-15 minutes.
Here are some of the questions that you can expect to be asked during your interview:
- Where are you staying on your trip?
- Which company do you work for?
- Do you have family or friends in Europe
- Why are you visiting?
- Are you paying for your visit?
- How long are you staying?
And more questions about your trip to Europe and your background.
Pay Associated Fees
When you apply for a Schengen visa, you will have to pay an application fee for it to be processed. Many of the countries in the Schengen area have standardized their fees, so you won’t have to worry about paying a different fee and staying on top of changing fees. Application fees are typically very affordable at only 60 euros per person. If you are applying for a visa for a child, the fee will be less. Make sure that you pay all associated fees on time and in full so as to reduce the chance of having your application delayed or denied as a result of unpaid fees.
Standby for a Decision
Once you have done all of this, there’s nothing else that you can do besides waiting for an answer from the governing body that you have applied for your visa with. Usually, it doesn’t take more than 15 business days to process a visa. However, if there is any confusion or they require more information to be provided, then the process may be extended to up to 30 days. For that reason, you should be sure to apply with enough time left before your trip to ensure that you can address any problems or provide additional information as needed.
If your visa was approved, congratulations! Be sure to read through all regulations and rules that apply to you as a traveler so that you can remain compliant with these stipulations. The instructions and regulations will typically be attached to the visa sticker that is provided to you when you are approved. Ensure that you do not overstay your approval, as it will have consequences, often in the form of fines.
If your visa was rejected, don’t worry. Hopefully, you have applied with enough time left before your trip to go through the process again without being concerned about missing your trip. If you have been rejected for your visa, the first step that you should take is to read the reason for rejection and find out why you were rejected. Once you know which error you made, you can fill out another application in an attempt to correct it. Otherwise, if you feel that the rejection was a mistake and you do in fact meet the requirements, you can appeal the decision to try and get it overturned.