Encircled by the icy Arctic Ocean in the north, Atlantic Ocean in the west, pristine waters of the Mediterranean Sea in the south and the mighty Asian continent in the east, Europe is a peninsula that thrives on nature’s bounty. In order to make the most of the plethora of experiences the continent has to offer, all you have to do is apply for a Schengen visa. This visa is an all-in-one permit that empowers you to explore 26 magical countries.
For all Indians who wish to acquire a Schengen Visa for the purpose of tourism, wherein your trip lasts for not more than 90 days, here’s a quick guide to help you understand the visa process.
1. What is a Schengen Visa?
The continent of Europe comprises of about 50 countries, 26 of which form a part of the Schengen Agreement. These are – Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
These countries together issue tourists and immigrants a Schengen Visa, under which they can freely travel to any of the member countries; thus fulfilling the purpose of the agreement to dissolve internal boundaries.
You may acquaint yourself with the different visa types and identify the category under which you belong.
2. How can Indians apply for a Schengen Visa?
While the concept of a Schengen Visa might come across as a complex one, it is rather simple!
Step 1: Identify the Consulate/Embassy you need to apply to
- If you intend to travel to only one of the Schengen countries, then apply to that particular country’s Embassy in India.
- If you plan on visiting more than one Schengen country, the application must be made to the Embassy of the country you would be spending the most number of days in.
- For those who do not have any particular travel agenda or are unsure of the countries you are traveling to, you should then apply to the Embassy of the country you would be visiting first.
Step 2: Form Filling and Appointment Scheduling
The best way for Indian residents to go about their Schengen Visa application is by visiting http://www.vfsglobal.com/. VFS is an umbrella portal for all Schengen Visa procedures, enabling you to schedule appointments, track your application, etc. in an organised and hassle-free manner.
In case you choose to apply through other means, you may do so by applying independently to your identified Consulate or Embassy. This can be by visiting their individual websites.
- Download the Schengen Visa application form from http://www.schengenvisainfo.com/download-schengen-visa-application-form/. You will find a link guiding you with the process.
- On completion, sign the form and attach a photograph that matches the requirements as mentioned on http://www.schengenvisainfo.com/schengen-visa-application-requirements/photo-requirements/.
- Post the form filling process, book an appointment for submission of documents on the respective Embassy or Consulate website.
|Belgium and Luxemburg||http://india.diplomatie.belgium.be/en|
|Estonia, Hungary and Latvia||www.mfa.gov.hu/kulkepviselet/IN/en/|
|Iceland||Visa issued by Denmark in New Delhi, Italy in Kolkata, Germany in Chennai and Mumbai; check relevant websites|
|Switzerland and Liechtenstein||http://www.eda.admin.ch/newdelhi|
Step 3: Appointment
The appointment is for submitting your visa application and all your documents, such as your passport, photographs, travel itinerary, bank statements, hotel bookings, flight tickets, ID proof, travel insurance, etc. The appointment takes place at the Visa Application Centre (VAC) of that particular country in India.
To be on the safe side, book your appointment a month prior to your date of travel.
You may refer to http://www.schengenvisainfo.com/schengen-visa-application-requirements/ to get a detailed list of the documents required on the day of the appointment. Make sure you have all your paperwork in place at this stage.
The appointment may also contain a biometrics test for your fingerprinting. In case your biometrics test doesn’t take place at this stage, you are likely to be called for the same during your personal interview.
Step 4: Visa Fees
At the time of your appointment, you will be required to pay the visa fees at the Visa Application Centre, which is non-refundable. The fees for a regular visa for an adult is €60, for children between ages 6 to 12 is €35, and infants below the age of 6 are exempted from payment of fees.
*Rates as of August 2016. Maybe subject to change. Please refer to http://www.schengenvisainfo.com/schengen-visa-fee/ for updates.
Step 5: Personal Interview
You will have to make yourself available on 2 separate occasions. First, for the application submission as mentioned in step 3 and second for your personal interview round. You will be notified with the date of the interview over an email or SMS.
In this round, you may be asked to undergo the biometrics test if you haven’t already. The interviewer has the authority to ask you questions pertaining to the intention of your travel, place of accommodation, itinerary, financial details (this is to ensure you have sufficient funds to travel and return to your country of residence), and so on.
It is to be noted that not all visa applicants are called for a personal interview. Upon receiving the visa application, the embassy will thoroughly check your documents with the following outcomes:
- Directly granting a visa
- Requesting you to submit additional documents
- Calling you for an interview
- Rejecting your application
3. What happens if my Schengen visa is denied?
On being denied a visa, the embassy will return your passport to you within the stipulated time period, along with the reason for denial. You have the right to appeal against the Member State that has taken the decision over your application. If your visa is denied, you are entitled to know the law under which the refusal has taken place. Depending on the nature of your case, you may be able to resend an application for a fresh visa immediately.
4. How long does the Schengen Visa procedure take?
Ideally, the process takes 15 calendar days from the date of application for authorities to inform you on the status of your visa. In certain cases, the period may be extended to 30 days. It is also to be noted that certain embassies may not be located in your own city. Post the form and document submission stage, the passports are returned to you by the courier service, which me add on to the number of days of the entire procedure. Therefore, it is advisable to lodge your visa application in advance.