Being relocated to United Kingdom’s London, suddenly, feels like the world of travel threw its doors open wide for me! The possibility of going to Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Berlin and other popular European destinations is easily within reach! However, I just need one more HUGE thing to be able to actually embark on those journeys…. the Schengen visa.
What is Schengen Visa? Why do we need it?
When the European Union was formed, one of their main aim was easier access to each other’s country. They signed a treaty in the town of Schengen wherein it was agreed upon that holders of Schengen visa, they named it after that small town, would be able to travel easily within the borders of member countries.
The European Union now has 27 participating countries, from an original of 6: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Do you need a Schengen visa?
Basically, if you’re not a resident of any of those country, it would be best to check the website of the country you intend to visit just to be certain.
So once you’ve checked and you do realize that you have to apply for a Schengen visa then you apply to the consulate of your destination country (if you’ll visit just one country) OR to the consulate of the first country of your destination (if you’ll visit many countries and you’ll stay stay equal amount of days per country) OR to the consulate to the country where you’ll stay the longest (if you’ll stay longer in any one country).
*Disclaimer: This post is about my Schengen visa application to France. I am a Filipina currently based in London. It would be best if you’ll always check the website of the country wherein you’ll apply for the visa as they may have different/ additional requirements. ;)
Step 1. Decide where you’re headed to and where you’ll apply. Once you’re done with that, download their visa application form and fill it up.
Step 2. Complete the required documents.
1. Filled up application form. Make sure you don’t forget to sign! Anyways, they’ll check your application form and will point out if you missed some or will help you figure out what to write when you get there. ;)
2. 2 identical ID photos: passport size, on a white background, less than 3 months old. One should be attached to the application form.
3. Original passport and a photocopy of the pages with personal info and visas granted. Make it 2 copies of the first page, the one with the personal info. Your passport should have at least two blank pages in it for them to put the visa sticker on.
Note: Your visa to stay in the UK should still be valid for 3months upon your exit from France (or Schengen country of your destination).
4. Old passport and a photocopy of the pages containing personal info, signature and Schengen visas granted (if you have some).
5. British residence permit and photocopy. I’m just outlining it here but basically, it’s already in your passport so don’t worry about it. Just don’t forget to make a photocopy of this as well. :)
6. Working certificate, original and photocopy. This should be less than 3 months old.
7. Last three month’s payslips, original and photocopy.
8. Proof of financial means of support, original and photocopy. This should be pretty recent. Banks normally send a monthly statement of finances. Also, the minimum amount of money on it should be at least (for France) £55 per day of your intended stay. If, say, you’ll stay in France for 10 days, then you should have at least £550 in your bank account (£55 x 10days). If you don’t have one, just go to your local branch and print one from the machine, that’s what I did. :)
9. Lodging attestation or hotel booking, original and photocopy. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to book for a hotel because a French friend applied for Certificate of Board and Lodging (“Attestation d’Accueil”) in their town hall stating that I’ll be hosted by them and sent it to me.
10. Proof of travel, original and photocopy. They want confirmed travel tickets. It’d be cheaper if you book tickets in advance. I booked mine via Eurostar. £84 round trip ticket, not bad but I guess I’m hoping for something wayyyyy cheaper. Spoiled with crazy cheap fares back home I guess! lol
11. Insurance, original and photocopy. The travel insurance should be valid in the Schengen areas that you’ll be visiting and it should be able to cover at least 30,000euros of medical cost. It should also be able to cover your whole period of stay. I applied at the post office as per recommendation of a colleague at work. Since I plan to travel often, I went with the annual worldwide coverage. Definitely cheaper than if you’ll get one for every trip that you’ll make. ;)
Step 3. Schedule for an appointment. This is done online. Okay, chill, take it easy. You won’t have to go to the actual French embassy. You will submit the documents in TLS Contact. If you’ll check out the French embassy website, you’ll be redirected there as well. Make sure you book for an appointment at least 15days but no more than 3months before your intended visit.
Step 4. Submit your complete documents on the date of your appointment. A short stay visa for France costs £50. You’ll have to pay an additional £23.33 for service fees though. And £8 more if you’ll have them deliver your passport back to you. Alternatively, you can choose to just go back there to collect your passport. You’ll receive instructions online on how to get there. But since this blogpost is to help you out hehe: go to Olympia (Kensington) station, that’s an overground line. Exit at the platform 2 side, the one near the Olympia Exhibition Center. Turn left, walk towards the main road. Across the street, you’ll see The Hand and Flowers shop, turn to the street on its left. Just walk a few more and you’ll see a big sign that says Exhibition House. Go in and just keep on walking until you see the TLS Contact sign. If you’re early, they’ll make you wait outside (bummer!). If you’re late, hopefully not too late, they’ll let you head straight in. Better be early than late to be on the safe side. ;)
Once inside, they’ll check your application form and scan your passport. You’ll then be seated coz you’ll have to wait your turn to give your documents. There would be two screens where they’ll flash your name and the counter where you’ll have to head to. When it’s your turn, a staff would go through all your papers with you and collect the papers. Once you’re cleared, some instructions would be given such as what to do next and what to expect. Head over to the cashier and pay. You’ll be charged more if you’ll use credit card. Stick with cash or debit card. Then you’ll be made to wait again for your turn at the biometrics section where they’ll scan your fingerprints and take your picture for the visa. That’s it! I submitted mine on the 21st of February and got a decision on the 22nd! How fast is that?! :D
Good luck guys! Hope this one helped! ;)