Formerly if travellers from India and some other countries wanted to travel to several European countries during a single trip, they needed a separate visa from each of these countries. But now, with the introduction of the Schengen Visa, travelling to these 26 European countries has become much easier and hassle-free. The Schengen Visa is a boon for Indians and other international travellers. That’s because now you can travel to any or even all the member countries on one trip by using just one single visa. No more hassles and extra expense for obtaining individual visas for each country. To get a Schengen Visa, the purpose of your visit must be leisure, tourism, or business. A Schengen tourist visa allows the holder to travel freely within the Schengen Visa countries for a maximum stay of up to 90 days within a period of six months however most of the times the Visa is given for around 10-15 days more than your trip duration.
The Schengen Visa Countries
22 of these are members of the European Union (EU) and four are non-EU members. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
When should I apply for a Schengen visa?
Which Schengen country’s embassy should you apply to
Where you file your Schengen visa application depends on your travel plans within Europe. Here’s the order of consideration:
- Apply for your Schengen visa at the embassy of the country you plan to spend the maximum number of days in.
- If you’re going to spend equal number of days in some countries, apply at the embassy of the country you plan to land in.
If your plans are open and flexible, it’s a good idea to go with the latter and let your accommodation bookings reflect that. Once your score your Schengen visa, you can enter from and travel freely in any part of the Schengen zone.
Get an appointment with VFS
Once you’ve figured out which country’s embassy you’ll be applying to, find its corresponding VFS website (for instance, VFS Germany, VFS France, VFS Netherlands) and book an appointment at your nearest centre.
Documents required for Schengen visa
- Schengen Visa Application: Edit the visa application right away on your computer or take a printout of the application and fill it up with a black/blue pen. Make 2-3 copies of the unfilled visa application for safety.
- Cover Letter: A cover letter that has a strong claim to your purpose of visit, if you are travelling in a group don’t forget to mention name of rest of the group. This is important as Hotel Bookings are also required for Visa processing and if the bookings are made at the name of one person your cover letter will help the embassy identify that your bookings are already done.
- Itinerary: Enclose a Itinerary along with the cover letter, you don’t have to stick to the itinerary that you show in Visa application and make changes later
- No Objection Certificate (NOC): If you are working in a firm, make sure that you get a No Objection Certificate from your employer, including the number of days you will be off from the work, for legitimate reasons.
- Last 3 months Salary Slip
- IT returns for last 3 years: If you don’t have IT returns for last 3 years mention the same in cover letter along with the reason.
- Bank statement for last 6 months
- Flight tickets and Hotel reservations: You have to show to and fro flight tickets and hotel reservations for all the places you wish to visit , this is to ensure that you stay only for a few days in the country and that you will return back. If you are planning to stay in any of your relatives or friends place, ask them for a Proof of accommodation (which can be got from a government office near their residence), copies of their driving license, passport and a valid id.
- Travel Insurance: Before traveling to Europe, it is vital that you take a travel insurance with a Schengen approved travel agency or a third party insurance company and submit the proof of the insurance along with the visa application.
- ID proof: Along with all these documents, submit copies of your id proof (including pan card, voter’s id, drivers license, company id and aadhar card).
- Copy of all previous visa: Attach a copy of all past Schengen visas and valid US/UK/Canada visas.
- Photographs: Keep at least 6-10 visa size photographs with you and these photos should be recently taken over solid background with you properly groomed and for your visa application, you will be asked to submit 4-6 visa size photographs normally.
Schengen visa fee and what to expect at the VFS appointment
The visa fee includes both the embassy see and the VFS fee; at VFS France, this comes to almost INR 5,700 – and is similar for other Schengen countries. The fee is to be paid at VSF office itself. You are allowed to enter VFS only 15 minutes before your appointment time, and it’s a good idea to do that because you still have to get a queue number inside. A VFS official will check your documents, and if it’s your first visa application, your fingerprints will be taken. The application processing time varies based on the embassy you’re applying to; France usually takes 2-3 days for the visa processing. You can choose to collect your passport at VFS with the receipt and a copy of your ID, or to have it sent it by courier to your address.