How to apply for a Schengen (Europe) visa if you're a Filipino Citizen

Friday, December 1, 2017 —
In this post I'm going to talk about the SCHENGEN visa application/requirements. 

(The FAQS and tips I'm going to share are for my fellow Filipinos who want to apply for a Schengen VISA) 




Okay, first you need to know is that there are different visas you need when you visit Europe. 
It's my first time to apply and I want to share with you guys how I gathered my requirements etc. Hopefully this will help you if ever you're going to apply for these visas!



 I applied for a UK visa first before I applied for Schengen. Why? Because my point of entry is London so I scheduled this appointment first.

You can read about How to apply for UK visa HERE

INFORMATION ABOUT SCHENGEN VISA


WHAT COUNTRIES ARE COVERED BY THE SCHENGEN VISA?

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.



"Schengen area covers the majority of European countries, except for the United Kingdom and countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland soon to be part of the agreement."


I'M GOING TO A LOT OF COUNTRIES! WHICH SCHENGEN COUNTRY SHOULD I APPLY TO?


IMPORTANT: YOU MUST APPLY TO THE COUNTRY YOU'RE STAYING THE LONGEST. For me, I'm staying in FRANCE the longest so I applied through the French embassy.

TIP: You have to have a dummy itinerary that you have to submit. Noting how many days you're planning to travel/stay in the Schengen covered areas. Schengen countries just give the EXACT days/months for the visa so they base it to the itinerary you're going to submit. I'm going to show you guys a sample itinerary later when I discuss the requirements.
You can still change this when you do your actual travel, the embassies just need to see a skeleton itinerary.


Pros and cons when applying for a schengen visa through French embassy

Pros:
Shortest processing time (3-5 days)
You can ask for a long term stay / multiple visa

Cons:
I heard from my friends that it's hard and they reject a lot of applications.


DID YOU GO THROUGH A TRAVEL AGENCY?

YES, I got an agency (Aerostar Travel tours Shangrila Mall --- this is not sponsored) to do the booking of our visa appointment (I applied with my dad) BUT to be honest, you don't need one. I was just REALLY lazy to read the VFS website about scheduling visa appointments.

They said they double checked my requirements but then when I was reviewing my documents, I was lacking of something & they didn't notice it. I was the one who realized it. So I don't know if they thoroughly checked it so guys, it's still YOUR responsibility to complete the requirements/documents (make sure you have everything!)

Going through an agency is not an assurance that you'll get a visa. I interviewed the girl in the travel agency and it really depends on the requirements you're going to submit.

SO IF WE DON'T GO THROUGH AN AGENCY, WHERE CAN WE SCHEDULE THE VISA APPOINTMENT?

NO, you don't apply directly to the embassy. 
All scheduling of appointments / applications go through VFS - http://www.vfsglobal.com/

This is the link where you can book your Schengen (France) visa appointment, if you don't want to pay get an agency: http://www.vfsglobal.com/france/Philippines/index.html 



WHAT IS VFS? 

It is the world's largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. Visa application processing and consular support services offer diplomatic missions an integrated process from submission to delivery.

Here in the Philippines, all European countries use VFS (their office is located in EcoPlaza in Pasong Tamo). 


HOW MUCH DID YOU PAY THE AGENCY?

P1500 for service fee.
 
DO YOU RECOMMEND GETTING A TRAVEL AGENCY TO HELP YOU BOOK YOUR APPOINTMENT?

If you have spare P1500 and don't want to go through the VFS website, go for it. But if you have the patience to study it, then don't get an agency. I think if I ever apply for a visa next year, I'll try to book my own appointment. But the convenience of them just giving you a schedule is WONDERFUL. It really depends on your budget.


HOW MUCH IS THE SCHENGEN (France) VISA FEE?

P5600 for the visa application plus courier services. They also have miscellaneous fees. You'll pay this when you're in VFS (after you submit the requirements, before your biometrics).



How many months before your scheduled trip did you apply?

I started fixing my requirements 2 months before my scheduled trip. The agency got an appointment for France a week after I submitted my requirements.

VFS France told me to wait 3-5 working days. They processed my Visa for only 3 days. It was really quick. I passed the requirements and did the biometrics on a Tuesday and they delivered my passport with visa on Friday, same week.

TIP: Fix your requirements 3 months before.

What kind of visa/ the longevity of stay did France give you?

I asked for 56 days. I was very specific when I handed VFS France my documents. They gave me 60 days, multiple entry.

On the other hand, my dad who's only staying for 3 weeks in EU, 1 week in London, 4 days in Scotland and 10 days in Schengen countries (Paris, France and Rome, Italy), asked for 10 days for Schengen visa. He got a 15-day visa.

What if I want to extend?

I don't think you can do that. So give them a dummy itinerary that somehow has extension dates already. Don't give super exact. Add 3-5 days. 

Did they interview you?

Nope they didn't. I just submitted my documents and did my biometrics. Of course they will double check your documents so make sure you have everything (original and photocopy). I'll discuss this further later.



DOCUMENTS YOU NEED TO SUBMIT:


This is the list of requirements I submitted (ORIGINAL AND PHOTOCOPY). VFS France didn't get the original copies anymore.

Ok so let me go through everything!

SIGNED VISA APPLICATION

The travel agency gave the visa form to me but I researched and found this link in VFS. See application form HERE

BIRTH CERTIFICATE

original and photocopy, okay!

PASSPORT 

make sure it's not going to expire soon!

OTHER PASSPORTS 

I also submitted my old passports because my US, Japan and Korea visas are there.


PHOTOCOPY OF ALL PASSPORT PAGES WITH STAMPS and EXISTING & FORMER VISAS - they really look for these.

RECENT PHOTOGRAPH 

 just go to any photo store and ask for a photo for the France (Schengen) visa (they know it already --- size, background color).
 

COVER LETTER and ITINERARY 

Ok, so I'm going to attach here the cover letter I sent and a part of my itinerary. For my safety I won't copy paste my whole EU IT hahaha

Sample cover letter:



Sample itinerary:


TIP: Of course you use google to research about the places you want to go to, right? So what I did for the itinerary I submitted is that I googled things like "1 week Paris itinerary" or "1 week Rome itinerary". 

Researching through google is your bestfriend. This is so easy to do.

PROOF OF ACCOMMODATION  

I submitted print out copies of the hotel bookings my mom made (they're only going to London, Paris, Rome, Newcastle and Scotland) -- my mom was so confident we (my dad and I) were gonna get visas so she already booked our hotels for those cities.


BUT for my 1 month + 1 week stay, I temporarily booked my hotels through booking.com. Temporary meaning I chose establishments with free cancellation option. This means no ties at all. Just in case I find a better option for lodging or sponsors for hotels.

I DON'T HAVE A CREDIT CARD, HOW CAN I BOOK THESE?

 Booking.com (they didn't sponsor me ok haha just helping you guys out) has a book without credit card option (meaning you will pay when you get to the hotel --- also means free cancellation!)




Check the left side of the screenshot "Free cancellation & more" option. 

PS FRANCE is VERY strict about accommodations. They really look for it. They even check the dates, count the number of dates of the hotel bookings & if they match your itinerary.

What if I have a relative in FRANCE or any Schengen country and I'm going to stay with him/her?

THEN GOOD! Ask your relative to send you necessary documents (photo of passport, letter of support/sponsor). If a relative is going to fully sponsor you (meaning financial aid), the relative must submit his/her bank account and other documents showing he/she can support your trip.

 Roundtrip Airline Reservation
 By the time I applied for Schengen (France) visa, I already got my UK visa. Since I'm 100% sure about this trip, I already booked a flight in Etihad Airways. I didn't get the Qatar Airways flight I reserved through the agency (I used this reservation for the UK visa application). I cancelled it because it's too expensive (cancellation's possible --- don't know how to agency "reserved" it in the first place).

Transfer tickets within Schengen countries 

I only had few domestic bookings (flights to Rome from Paris, Rome to London, London to Newcastle --- since my mom already booked them). The girl in VFS France counter who was reviewing my documents actually asked me for my train / bus tickets for the rest of MY trip (I'm staying for 2 months). At first I was tempted to lie and create an excuse but I just decided to be honest and told her "I wasn't able to book it yet, but I will soon". 

Ok, that was a BIG risk. I wasn't as confident about the Schengen visa because of this requirement. So please, don't imitate what I did. But when I saw her check that portion in the requirement checklist, I was relieved. I think she considered the few domestic flight bookings I had.

Certificate of employment / if self-employed, business registration and ITR

If you're employed, letter from your employer allowing you to take a leave, employee cert from your HR - how much your earn per month & ITR (income tax return) of the company

But if you're freelance like me - business registration, itr, proof of work

OK, so this whole freelance thing made me nervous. I've been working freelance for 7 years now so I'm always kinda nervous when I apply for visa. To cut the story short, I finally registered myself -- well my accountant did haha (like 2 months ago) as a freelance writer so I have a business registration and ITR already.

SO AS A FREELANCE WRITER/STYLIST/BLOGGER, WHAT DID YOU SUBMIT FOR THIS SECTION?

My business registration, my fairly new ITR, print out of magazine and website articles I wrote and styled for the past 7 years (of course not everything! but enough to prove I've been working freelance for the past 7 years), my instagram page, and even as screenshot of my webpage. YES! I submitted those. WHY? It's better to submit a lot of documents of proof of work (especially if you're freelance).

The girl from VFS france actually asked me if I had more documents when I handed my business registration and ITR. I said "I'm freelance, that's just what my accountant gave me". Then she saw my sample works, articles, proof of work then reviewed everything. Then she asked "are you going to submit these?" I said in a happy tone "Yes!".


 Recent personal bank certification (issued within the last month) and last 3 months statement of account of the same bank account

You get a bank certificate AND bank statement (the last 3 months prior to your visa application). You can get these from your bank, tell them you're applying for a Schengen (in France --- or wherever you're applying) visa (because they need to address the bank cert letter to the embassy).

HOW MUCH SHOULD BE IN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT?

To be honest I don't know what's a safe amount. I think it's safe to have 200k-300k in your bank account.

TIP: Ask for your parents' BANK STATEMENT, BANK CERTIFICATE, LETTER OF AFFIDAVIT and LETTER OF SUPPORT & GUARANTEE (submit these eventhough they're not applying a visa).

Why?

This is to assure the country that you have a fallback just in case you run out of money. That your parents can support your finances when you travel. I always and forever submit these (Even when I applied for Japan and Korea visas).

 I was actually asked again by the VFS france girl when she saw these documents. I just told her my parents will contribute to my travel funds.

I just noticed Schengen (France) doesn't have EVIDENCE OF ASSETS  in their list of requirements

But since I applied with my dad, we submitted these anyway. Property deeds (lands, cars, proof of ALL the properties you own). 

MOST IMPORTANT REQUIREMENT THAT YOU SHOULDN'T FORGET FOR SCHENGEN (FRANCE --- or any Schengen country) is the...

TRAVEL INSURANCE

This is required and sadly, non-refundable. Schengen countries are strict and you must buy a travel insurance that you will present when you submit your documents to VFS. My travel agency fixed this for me. To be honest, I don't know how you're going to buy this if you don't have an agency. 

Why is this required? It covers your medical expenses (just in case an accident happens), loss/delay of luggage, missed flights,  loss of gadgets, clothes etc.

Since I'm staying in Europe for 2 months, the travel insurance they got me is for 90 days. Why 3 months? they require a date "allowance" of some sort.

My dad is only staying for 3 weeks but he had to get the travel insurance for 1 month.

The cost of MY travel insurance is P7,216 (for 3 months/90 days) and P3,995 for my dad's (for 30 days/1 month) 

---

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS:

SO IS IT BETTER TO APPLY WITH YOUR FAMILY?

I think so. My dad is really old (he's 71) so I believe it's a plus that I applied with him. My mom doesn't need a visa because she's a US citizen. I can't assure this though. I mean, that you'll get approved if you apply with family, or there are less chances for approval if you apply solo. How the embassy decides about this, we will never truly know... 

HOW MUCH DID YOU SPEND ALL IN ALL?

P1500 for the travel agency service fee, P5600 for the visa fee, misc, courier fees, P7216 for the travel insurance = P14,316

---

So reminders! Apply in the Schengen country where you're going to stay the longest, 
don't be late for your visa appointment and make sure to prepare all your requirements (original and photocopy)

And... GOODLUCK! 
Hope this helps!

You can comment here or email me at tracyayson@gmail.com if you have any questions!








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