What is SCHENGEN VISA?
According to THIS SITE, Schengen Visa is a one-policy visa wherein the holder can travel to any (or all) member countries using one single visa, thus avoiding the hassle and expense of obtaining individual visas for each country. This is particularly beneficial for persons who wish to visit several European countries on the same trip. The Schengen visa is a “visitor visa”. It is issued to citizens of countries who are required to obtain a visa before entering Europe.
The purpose of the visit must be leisure, tourism, or business. Upon the issuance of the visa, the visa holder is allowed to enter all member countries and travel freely throughout the Schengen area. It is strongly recommended to plan your journey within the timeframe of the Schengen Visa as extensions can be very difficult to obtain, thus forcing you to leave to stay in compliance with the Schengen rules and regulations. A Schengen visa allows the holder to travel freely within the Schengen countries for a maximum stay of up to 90 days in a 6 month period.
HERE IS A LIST OF THE 27 COUNTRIES YOU CAN VISIT WITH THIS VISA:
This list is taken from Wanderlass’ Guide to Schengen Visa Application
- Czech Republic
Now, the information you see here may have some inaccurate information because I am not a consul nor do I work for an Embassy, so it is best to visit the Embassy you’re applying to (website of the Embassy of France) as well to make sure you are on the right track. This blog is based on personal experience, so if you have questions that are not covered in this blogpost, kindly call the Embassy since I do not work for them and might give you a wrong answer.
WHEN CAN I APPLY FOR THIS?
3 months prior to your departure would be the earliest possible time to apply.
WHICH EMBASSY SHOULD I APPLY TO?
It should be the embassy of the country you’re visiting the longest. If you don’t have specific plans yet, or the length for each country is the same, you should apply at the embassy of your entry destination.
In our case, our point of entry is Paris, France, so we applied at the French Embassy which is located at:
16/F Pacific Star Building
corner Sen. Gil Puyat & Makati Avenue
HOW DO I START MY APPLICATION?
Well, this would depend on WHICH Embassy you’re applying to. In our case, these were the steps for the French Embassy:
1. CALL TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT
(Mondays-Saturdays, 08:00 AM – 06:00 PM except Public Holidays)
-All individuals who intend to travel to France (except spouses of French Nationals, Diplomats & Official Passport Holders) MUST first make a call to the call centre to book for an appointment. They will take your passport details so make sure to have your passport with you. They will also ask for your intended date of travel and point of entry. Make sure you have a pen, too, cause they will give you the details of your appointment.
The Embassy Call Centre is available nationwide and may be contacted thru any of the following numbers:
For PLDT/Smart/Touchcard Subscribers 1 (909) 101- 3333
For Globe/Innove/Touchmobile Subscribers 1 (900) 101- 3333
For Bayantel Subscribers 1 (903) 101- 3333
This service is available thru a toll call charge costing Php 32.00 (pesos) per minute excluding VAT and applicable NDD charges for calls made outside Metro Manila. Additional rates may apply for calls made through payphones, prepaid phone cards or mobile phones. Please check with your telephone provider for details. This service is available only through NDD-enabled telephones and accessible to calls made only within the Philippines.
2. SHOW UP AT THE EMBASSY ON YOUR SCHEDULED DATE WITH COMPLETE REQUIRMENTS
-Signed Application Form with attached photo (35x45mm, white background, no smiling face, clear, no alteration, no headgear or eyewear)
-Valid Passport (still 3 months valid by the end of your trip)
-Photocopy of Valid and Former Visas (all visas if possible)
-Cover Letter explaining the purpose of your trip and your proposed day-to-day itinerary
-Proof of Accommodations (please see TIP on the notes below)
-Roundtrip Flight Booking (reservation only; we can do this for you. Email us!)
-Proof of Employment (Certificate of Employment with monthly salary and approved leave by Employer OR Official Business Registration for current and previous year for self-employed)
-Certificate from the Apostolic Nunciature and Guarantee Letter from French & Filipino congregation instead of Proof of Employment for Nuns, Priests, and Missionaries
-Proof of Income (Income Tax Return, Recent Bank Certification, and Photocopy of the last 3 months statement of account of the same bank account)
-Photocopy of birth certificate
-Photocopy of marriage contract
-DSWD permit for minors travelling without parents
-International Travel Insurance (minimum coverage should be EUR 30,000) WE CAN BOOK THIS FOR YOU! Email us!
-Visa Fee (peso equivalent of EUR 60, payable in cash)
3. GO BACK ON THE DAY THEY SET TO GET YOUR PASSPORT (AND HOPEFULLY, YOUR SCHENGEN VISA!)
– You will be given a small piece of paper that tells you when to come back for your passport and what time. This is the TIME FOR TRUTH. It’s only when they hand you the passport that you can really be sure you’ve been given a visa (and how many days valid).
HOW LONG DOES THE WHOLE APPOINTMENT TAKE?
This depends, I guess. In our case, it only took about an hour and a half or less from the time of appointment schedule. We got the 08:00 AM slot, was allowed to go up from the basement guard station to the 16th floor at 07:30, waited outside the Embassy door until 08:00 AM. All those who had a schedule at 08:00 AM were called and asked to line up. We were then given numbers and once inside, all we had to do was wait for our number to be called.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO PROCESS THE VISA?
5 working days unless further verification is needed. It’s possible you’ll be asked to return to the Embassy for an interview.
In addition to a valid passport with a visa (3 months validity from the end of intended stay), every foreigner, when entering France, should be in a position to produce to the Immigration Officer the following documents:
-Motive of stay in France (hotel reservations/ documents from travel agency/ letter from Employer for professional visits/ “attestation d’accueil” for those staying at a local’s house/ etc)
-Means of Living: cash/ cheque/ international credit cards
TIPS AND MORE NOTES (based on our experience at the Embassy of France):
-To make sure you are applying at the right embassy, present all the information and verify if you’re applying at the right embassy when you make the appointment call.
– Not all Schengen countries have Embassies in the Philippines. If you are going to hop from one country to another, it’s best to research which countries you plan to visit have Embassies here so you can make that as your entry point, or stay there the longest. I personally know someone who had to fly to another country just to apply for his Schengen visa because the only Schengen country he was visiting does not have an Embassy here.
-You will be asked to register at the guard station at the basement of the building. Try to arrive at least 30 minutes before your schedule because it will take a while to register and go up at the 16th floor. Prepare one ID for your group. The guard will ask you to leave one.
-The earliest time you can go up is at 07:30 AM. The line starts when you get to the 16th floor. Upon exiting the elevator, turn right then turn right again. The door for the Embassy will be there. The line is done PER time. So even if you are there by 07:30 but your schedule is still at 08:30 AM, only the ones scheduled at 08:00 AM will be asked to fall in line.
-Make sure to bring a BALLPEN. The guard station at the basement did not have a pen to share when we went.
-Your cellphones will be taken from you before you enter the Embassy, so if you have a car, you can also leave them before you go up.
-Make sure you have COMPLETE requirements. Most people who get denied are denied because they do not bring sufficient requirements. We personally saw 2 men denied because they did not pass the required Travel Insurance. They were apparently given 24 hours after their interview to pass it, but they did not, so they were denied.
-If you own a business, make sure you submit both DTI permit and Business Permit (Mayor’s Permit).
-If you feel that your financial documents are not enough to support your case, you can also bring financial documents of your possible sponsor. You can bring his/her Recent Bank Certification, Certificate of Employment indicating his/her salary, and even an affidavit of support!
-For proof of accommodations, you need to show hotel vouchers. Some booking sites allow zero fees for cancellation (you can try Agoda), so you can try booking a hotel then cancel it later on should you get denied, or decide to change hotels. In the spirit of fairness though, I do hope you book some of your accommodations from that site. Please refrain from being a major user.
-If you are going on a tour package, your supplier can send you a voucher that lists your accommodations and itinerary.
-If you are staying at a local’s house, it’s a little bit stricter. Instead of hotel vouchers, you will need to present the original Attestation d’accueil, a document delivered by the City Hall to the address of your host + a copy of the host’s National ID or residence permit
-Make sure to have a PHOTOCOPY of everything and make 2 sets. 1 set of originals and 1 set of photocopies. AND you have to arrange them in order (check requirements above to see the proper order). If you arrange them in random, they will ask you to take a seat and arrange them properly. Kindly save their time and yours. And yes, 2 sets, meaning they are separated. Not original copy then photocopy under it but 1 set of originals separated from 1 set of photocopies. Bind them with a clip for more organization. If only photocopy is needed such as birth certificate, make sure you have 2 copies and separate them. We heard from a friend that her travel agent was insisting that they’ve been doing it for years and that really, only one copy is required, but truth is, when we were applying, the lady before us was asked why she did not have a photocopy and that she should have read the requirements, and then she was asked to go back with the copies. So maybe it depends on who interviews you. Or maybe it’s different when you go through an accredited agency. So if you’re doing it on your own, I would say, you lose nothing by bringing 2 copies. Just use the ones they return as scratch paper after the interview.
-Try to answer everything in the application form. They will ask you to make it as complete as possible.
-I’ve read blogs that say they’ve been asked a lot of questions during their appointment. In our case, I was quite surprised cause they asked very few questions (when I was expecting a lot), and they were just more like reiterating what’s already in our documents. My hunch is that it’s because we submitted all the required documents and did so very clearly. Our cover letter pretty much covered our plans for our trip so the one who interviewed us already knew why we were going there. We mentioned it’s our honeymoon, but that it took a year later than our wedding day because I had to establish our travel agency first. Our documents were also complete, such as my permits to operate the agency and my husband’s documents for his proof of income.
-In the application form, you will be asked to write the name and address of the hotel you’re staying at. If you’re going on a multi-country trip with a lot of different hotels, you don’t need to put them all. Just write the hotels you’ll be staying at in France.
-For your cover letter, you don’t need to write your whole itinerary. I mean, you don’t need to write each and every place you plan to visit. The towns/ major areas per day will suffice. You can search online for sample cover letters.
-Though the photo they will use for the visa is the photo they take of you, make sure your photos are attached on the application form. Also, please use recent photos. If it is not your first time to apply at the same Embassy, make sure you use new photos.
-Dress up a little for the day of appointment. For women, it won’t hurt to put on a little make up. They’ll be taking your photo for the visa that day, after all!
-I read in blogs before that they only accept EXACT CHANGE for the visa fee. And in peso only. Since I cannot tell you how much the exchange rate will be on the day of your appointment, I would say, bring enough small bills to make sure you’ve got it covered. We brought a lot of 50’s, 20’s and even coins! But luckily for us, on the day we applied, it was exactly PHP 3,700 per person. (UPDATE: We applied again just a few days ago (April 2015), and it was only PHP 2830!! It’s actually the Euro exchange!)
-I also read before that it’s possible they will ask you to come back to the Embassy after your trip to Europe. They will then stamp your passport with “RETURNED” or something like that. YOU MUST GO BACK if you were asked to. In our case, we weren’t asked to do this. But if you were asked and you don’t, it could ruin your future applications.
-For our latest application, we applied with my husband’s brothers because we are all going to Europe together. During the interview, we specified that 2 from the group will be left behind (that would be me and my husband). When we got our visas, we were only given the same number of days as the rest of the group, which meant it wouldn’t be enough for our actual number of days in Europe! Don’t panic! All we did was called the Embassy again, then they asked us to email someone and explain the situation. Within the day, they told us to send our passports back so they could rectify their mistake. In two days, we were able to get our passports again with the corrected visa.
If only the consul asked me why I wanted to visit France, I would have sung Disney’s Be Our Guest and reply this:
After all, Miss, that is France
And a dinner there is never second best.
Hahaha. Seriously I wanted to sing that. On a more serious note, good thing the consul did not ask me. 😀
So there. Everything I wrote here is based on our experience at the Embassy of France. If you have questions that are not covered here, it’s best to call the Embassy you’re applying at directly.
Goodluck in your application and hopefully, bon voyage, mes amis!