How To Apply For A Schengen Visa

Let's face it.  Anyone who loves traveling would be crazy not to include Europe as one of the top destinations to visit.  To be able to travel to places rich in history and culture, to be able to view breathtaking sights both ancient and modern; natural and man-made, and to be able to walk down the same roads once taken by the great artists and philosophers... one cannot help but get these romantic notions when thinking about going to Europe.

Heck, where'd you think the term "romance" came from anyway?  But I digress.

A major challenge when planning a trip to Europe is deciding which country to visit.  Unlike the USA, Europe is a continent with LOTS of countries to choose from, each having its own story to tell.  To have this opportunity to travel, yet spending it in just one country would be a bit wasteful, don't you think?  Unfortunately, some of us have passports that require certain visas to [operative term] legally gain access to those countries, and it would be a lot more wasteful (not to mention expensive) to apply for a visa to EACH separate country in Europe.  Thankfully, this won't be the case... at least for some of the countries in Europe.

THE SCHENGEN AGREEMENT

In a nutshell, this agreement is a treaty among certain countries in Europe, aiming to eliminate border control.  Travel-wise, going from one Schengen Member State to another is just like doing domestic travel, even if it's actually traveling between different countries.  This is certainly beneficial to us tourists, because instead of applying for separate visas, we can now apply for just one visa--good for traveling to 25 countries that are currently under the agreement:
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain... not bad, eh?
The Schengen Visa


GENERAL GUIDELINES ON APPLYING FOR A SCHENGEN VISA

So, if you're a Philippine Passport holder, how can you apply for a Schengen Visa?  Here are a few notes:
  1. A Schengen Visa Application Form is available online for download, and there is an item in the form that asks for the Member State of first entry.  Ideally, this is the embassy where you would want to submit your application.  That, or the Member State which is your main destination.
  2. Note that there is no guarantee that each of the countries listed above has an embassy in the Philippines.  However, certain embassies are in agreement to represent each other in accepting visa applications.  In my case, my main country of destination is Poland, but since there is no Polish Embassy in the Philippines, the application can be coursed through the Netherlands Embassy.
  3. Visa application is NOT always free.  Check the type of visa that you're applying for and its corresponding application fee.
  4. Application should be done in person.
  5. This is a walk-in process, so you must take note of the schedule when the Consular Section is open.
NOT APPLYING FOR A TOURIST VISA?

My purpose to travel in Europe is for work, and unfortunately this type of visa is not accepted by the Netherlands Embassy.  The following visas cannot be processed by the Dutch Consul:
  • Diplomatic and service
  • Work
  • Student
  • Special Permit
For this, application needs to be submitted in the Embassy of Poland in Kuala Lumpur.  As this application is done outside the country, it would be wise to communicate with the embassy to verify the correctess of your requirements before actually going there to submit them.  If you are enlisting help from a third-party, make sure that they understand your purpose clearly so that they will be able to prepare the correct list of requirements that you need to produce.

TIPS AND TRICKS

  • Know your visa type, and update yourself with the current policies. I've had the horrible experience of applying for the wrong type of visa.  The mix-up actually came from the third-party helping me with the requirements.  What happened is that they were basing the requirements on an outdated policy (which changed just a few months before my application), which made my application invalid.  The Consul was understanding enough to allowed me more time to gather the correct documents, but it cost my company a lot more because I had to extend my stay in Kuala Lumpur while waiting for the documents. 
  • If you are going outside the country to apply for the visa, do it on the weekday. Preferably, when the Consul is also available on the following day.  So, in case the Consul requires you additional documents, you have a chance to fix them ASAP.  I made the mistake going to the embassy on the last day of the week, and I had to wait for the whole weekend before submitting the requirements again. 


ONLINE REFERENCES

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