Things to remember while applying for Schengen Visa

© Agus Dietrich

Are you a Tier 4 international student in the UK planning a trip to Europe, but don’t know where to start? If YES, then keep reading! (This is a long postso grab that coffee.)

As a tier 4 international student residing in the UK for the past year, my application for a Schengen visa to make my solo Europe dream trip come true was quite a task. I did not expect it to be wearying. Though my application did not get rejected (not after I submitted my passport, that is); it took me some time to pave the way through all the information that was available on the internet and the complexities of every single consulate and their rules for getting a tourist visa. Nevertheless, this article may not be your one-stop solution, but it will give you a fair direction about how to start and be prepared for the processes ahead. Now with two successful Schengen visa applications, I am at a point where I can clearly give you the do’s and don’ts before booking your trip to Barcelona (or whatever EU countries you want to visit!)

When I shifted to the UK, I was under the notion that having the UK visa automatically gives me the pass to go to Europe (Lord, I was so wrong). Apparently, to visit a European country or specific countries that constitute as European Union (EU) which have signed the Schengen Agreement, you need to apply for a Schengen tourist visa. Firstly, you need to check if you need one at all based on your citizenship. Citizens of some countries are exempted from the visa requirement to visit the EU, while many do need the visa to travel freely inside the EU.

This year in March, my course tutors planned a study tour to Mainz (Germany) for a week. Unfortunately, by the time I realised that I am not eligible for travel to EU without a valid Schengen visa, my classmates from USA and Mexico did not require a Schengen visa (As long as they A. did not intend to stay there for more than three months and B. did not intend to do any paid jobs during their stay.) and enjoyed the trip. I, on the other hand, kept scrolling through my classmates’ travel stories on Instagram while cursing my luck. Below I have attached links that will help you understand about Schengen visa in-depth.

  1. Who Needs and Who Doesn’t Need a Schengen Visa to Travel to Europe?
  2. Schengen Visa Information
  3. Schengen Countries
AT A GLANCE

Once you are clear about your Schengen visa requirement, here are the following things to remember.

1. Decide the duration of your trip and what countries you want to visit
2. Check the visa application from the website of the consulate of the country you intend to apply and is nearest to your place of residence
3. Decide which country you will be spending your maximum time
4. Understand the visa application for some countries can be harder than others
5. Read the application form carefully and fill it out online
6. Book hotels, hostels and travel tickets from one country to another (refundable is preferable if you want to keep it flexible)
7. Get student travel letter from your university
8. Get travel insurance from the UK issued for the entire trip
9. Have your last 3 months bank statements ready and printed before you confirm your appointment
10. Check appointment dates and select the one suitable to you
11. Have the prerequisite documents printed and arrive at the office in time
12. Keep a check on junk email folder for any status notifications for your application
13. Collect it from the office within 30 days of arrival

1. Decide the duration of your trip and what countries you want to visit

Whether you plan to take a trip for 9 days or 2 weeks, having a clear itinerary is the foremost thing to do before you start filling out a visa application. If you are not sure what countries you want to visit, it is my suggestion to pick one or two countries for your application and the number of days you plan to be in the EU, with confirmed start and end dates of your travel to and from EU respectively. Remember, you need to book CONFIRMED, not reserved flight tickets of all the travels you do; provide accommodation details of every single place you intend to stay while in EU; buy travel insurance for your entire trip. Hence, choosing one or two countries reduces the complexity of providing a lot of information and allows flexibility to your itinerary. Once you have successfully procured your visa, you can travel freely in EU countries within the valid duration.

Note: My Germany Schengen Visa (two weeks travel duration) was valid for a month from the intended travel date, while my France Schengen visa is valid for six months (nine days travel duration).

2. Check the visa application from the website of the consulate of the country you intend to apply and is nearest to your place of residence

If you stay in Scotland, chances are you need to check the right consulate office that is nearest to you and is located in Scotland. If you stay in London, Ireland or Manchester, you will need to find the nearest consulate office of the country you intend to go and check their website for visa application. For example, if you plan to go to France, google Consulate General of France, Edinburgh (or wherever is your location) and there should be details about Schengen Visa application on their main website. Many of the consulates have handed over visa application services to third party companies such as VFS, TLS, Visametric and so on. Hence, it is important to carefully read how to apply for Schengen Visa on their respective websites.

3. Decide which country you will be spending your maximum time

It is recommended to apply to the consulate of the country where you will stay for the maximum number of days. If your itinerary covers France, Germany and Italy, and you will spend more time in Italy, apply to Consulate General of Italy. Though there is no hard and fast rule that you cannot apply to other consulates (in this case France and Germany), your application looks more convincing when you stick to one plan.

4. Understand the visa application for some countries can be harder than others

This is my personal experience, but applying to Germany and Italy consulates for a Schengen visa was tougher for me than applying to France consulate. Also, check your appointment dates. Start your application no less than three months from your travel date. Otherwise, the offices can be closed for a long period of time due to holidays and that can put you in a terrible fix.

5. Read the application form carefully and fill it out online

Not that you already know how important it is to fill the online application form correctly, note that if you have put in wrong information, even by mistake, your application can be rejected. Plus, none of your application fees is refundable.

6. Book hotels, hostels and travel tickets from one country to another (refundable is preferable if you want to keep it flexible)

During my solo trip planning, I booked hostels that I could easily cancel and get refunded and so was the case for buses that I booked from apps like Omio, Flixbus and Skyscanner. Having the option to cancel is appropriate if you want to be flexible with your itinerary.

7. Get student travel letter from your university

If you are a student, you have to get a student travel letter from your university (visit international students and visa enquiry/ HR department) and they will provide you with one. The letter should consist your travel dates and reason for travel (tourism, mostly) and confirms your status as a student in that university.

8. Get travel insurance from the UK issued for the entire trip

You can easily buy travel insurance from visa application offices or online. I used Visa Reservation for my first application, even though it is a US-based company. But I would highly recommend a UK based travel insurance to save you from any hassles. The insurance should cover a minimum of £30,000. Most of them provide that amount and more but double-check it.

9. Have your last 3 months bank statements ready and printed before you confirm your appointment

You should have no debts and a minimum of £ 40 per day to sustain in the EU. So calculate £40 x No. of days in the EU, and that is the required amount that should be available in your account. It can get tricky if you are a student and will be self-funding, so you may have to show more amount of money in your bank account. But if someone is sponsoring your travel (for example, parents or relatives), you need to provide their bank statements and a sponsorship letter.

10. Check appointment dates and select the one suitable to you

Try booking your appointment dates as soon as possible; it almost takes 10 – 14 days for your visa to process, and can get delayed if the consulate needs more documents for verification. So keep a good chunk of time in between your application and your departure date. An application can be submitted at least 3 months before your travel date.

A sample copy of required documents for Schengen visa application (can be found of application websites)

11. Have the prerequisite documents printed and arrive at the office in time

Once you have finished your online application, check other documents that you will require on your appointment day and keep them ready. Copies of your passport and BRP (Biometric Resident Permit) is mandatory. The last thing you want to be stressed about is not being able to find your documents in front of the officer.

12. Keep a check on junk email folder for any status notifications for your application

Many visa services send you an email about your successful application and if it is available for you to pick up from the office or it has posted to your address. You can also track the status of your application by logging on to the visa application website.

13. Collect it from the office within 30 days of arrival

Hooray, now go live your dream!

Note: With Brexit coming into place anytime soon, the laws and requirements for Schengen visa application may change. Check the consulate website for updates.

In case you want to know more about my application or have any queries related to it, feel free to post in the comments section below.

Published by

Shilpa

A closet writer with a knack for adding vivid, witty & personal details. I love coffee, books and food. Highly appreciate lo-fi music and illustrations. Borderline obsessed with stationery, productivity and organisation tools. Always in search of adventures & stories by travelling or being buried in books. Current Status ↠ Striving to finish my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge. Life Goals ↠ Spark conversations, ideas & inspiration with a cup of mild roasted black coffee.

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