Scoring a Schengen Visa from India is not as irksome as a US visa but is a task for sure. Been there, done that.
This post is my attempt to add to the existing information on Schengen visa requirements and process through my experience. It embraces all my insider tips on how to apply for Schengen Visa for Indians.
If DIY is your thing then this post will surely make sense to you!
Just In This is a piece of wonderful news for travelers like me. As per the latest update, Schengen states are planning to offer priority visa services for Indian Passport Holders. Not to mention, the priority visa to the Indians will come at an extra cost and the turn around time is expected to be less than a week. I'm doing a happy dance here. Let's plan our next Euro trip pretty soon.
Few things can allay the excitement and anticipation of vacation more than the grueling process of getting a visa. I’m really not exaggerating when I say the biggest challenge for Indian passport holders dreaming to travel to Europe is scoring a Schengen visa.
The most infamous for its rejection rate, Schengen visa’s application process, is arduous.
Believe you me, I have had sleepless nights caught between what ifs waiting for one.
I would dream of wandering about the cobblestone streets dotted with colorful flower-clad little homes, hiking one of those famous cliffs in Norway overlooking gorgeous fjords, soaking in the golden glow of Midnight Sun, sitting leisurely in one of those charming sidewalk cafes – and then what ifs would fade away the dreams!
What if my dream vacation never happens? What if the visa gets rejected?
With a third world passport, visa process remains onerous for us. There’s no way out.
But, take it from me, despite all the dreadful Schengen visa stories, getting a Schengen visa is very much attainable if you be cautious and take care of certain points while applying for the Schengen visa.
Related Read - A Guide to the US Tourist Visa from India
Is it Just Another Blog on Schengen Tourist Visa for Indians?
Blogs on Schengen Visa for Indian passport holders and Indian citizens are dime a dozen, then what makes this blog any different?
It’s different just like everyone’s experience is different and awareness radiates in every experience. I am not an expert on the visa, of course, as I said this is my effort to just contribute to the existing facts.
While I was applying for the Schengen visa on my Indian passport, I needed something that can be understood easily by noobs or first-timers like me.
The meticulous and detailed blogs left me seeking more clear and precise details.
Doubts sneaked in even after browsing the internet for days and reading innumerable articles on how to score a Schengen Visa for Indian citizens.
I was confused as to what exactly is the right way – book flights and hotels and then apply for the visa or wait for the visa stamp to avoid any losses.
Because they ask for confirmed flight and hotel bookings for your visa application to be approved.
Perturbation led me to travel agents (who are counted as the best in the market) who as usual disappointed me and glad that I settled applying for the Schengen Visa on my own.
That’s another story!
In the process of applying for Schengen visa in Norway embassy, I researched the length and breadth of the internet and spoke to everyone in my circle I know knows how to apply for Schengen visa from India to get things right.
Leaving no stone unturned, I jotted down each and every possible detail about the visa process of the embassy I was applying to.
I continued my research even after I filed my visa application – It eased my frustration (visa wait time, you know) and gave me a chance to understand the Schengen visa process in terms of each and every Schengen country inside out. Far-sighted move 🙂
Here’s my two-bit!
What’s a Schengen Visa?
Out of 50 countries (including transcontinental) in Europe, 26 countries are bound by the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen Agreement is a treaty signed by these 26 Europen countries creating Europe’s Schengen area where internal border controls are abolished.
In a traveler’s words – A single Schengen visa allows you to travel to 26 countries in Europe.
Isn’t it liberating?
That’s the power of a Schengen visa!
Which European Countries Does Schengen Cover?
Currently, 26 European countries including 22 European Union (EU) countries and 4 Non-EU countries make up the Schengen Region.
They 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.
Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and, Switzerland aren’t the members of the European Union but a part of the Schengen agreement.
The Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands are the special members of the EU and the part of the Schengen region.
Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City, though not the Schengen region members but, have opened their borders with Schengen.
If you have a valid, double and/or multiple entries Schengen visa on your passport, you can enter Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia without any need for the additional visa.
Andorra can be visited on multiple entry Schengen visa obtained from Spain or France consulate.
Some of the other non-Schengen countries that allow visa-free entry to Indian passport holders with valid Schengen visa include Albania, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Georgia, Colombia, Antigua and Barbuda, Kosovo, Gibraltar, Macedonia, Mexico, Turkey, Serbia, Sao Tome, and Principe.
So, you can visit 26 Schengen countries + 15 non-Schengen countries with a Schengen visa.
The table below includes the list of the Schengen Visa Countries with the Schengen visa fees and the links to the embassies of respective countries.
|Schengen Country||Region||Visa Fee (Adults)||Visa Fee (Children between age 6-12 years)||Important Links||Things to Note|
|Austria||Central Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Austria Visa For Indian Passport Holders|
|Belgium||Western Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Belgium Visa For Indian Passport Holders|
|Czech Republic||Central Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Czech Republic Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Denmark (excluding Greenland and The Faroe Islands)||Northern Europe (Scandinavia)||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Denmark Visa for Indian Passport Holders||You can travel to Faroe or/and Greenland with a multiple entry Schengen visa stating valid for the Faroe Islands or/and Greenland issued by the Danish Embassy.|
|Estonia||Northern Europe (Baltics)||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Estonia Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Finland||Northern Europe(Nordic)||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Finland Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|France (excluding French Overseas Department and Collectivities)||Western Europe||60 Euros||35 Euros||France Visa for Indian Passport Holders||You can travel to Monaco with a valid Schengen visa which covers |
You can travel to French Overseas Department and Collectives by applying for the relevant French visa at the French diplomatic office in your country.
|Germany (excluding Heligoland)||Western Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Germany Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Greece||Southeastern Europe||60 Euros + GVCW Service Charges||0||Greece Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Hungary||Central Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Hungary Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Iceland||Northern Europe (Nordic)||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Iceland Visa Information|
Iceland Visa for Indian Passport Holders
|Danish Embassy in India handles Iceland visa.|
|Italy||Southern Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Italy Visa for Indian Passport Holders||You can travel to San Marino and Vatican City with a valid Schengen visa which covers Italy.|
|Latvia||Northern Europe (Baltics)||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Latvia Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Liechtenstein||Central Europe||60 Euros||35 Euros||Liechtenstein Visa for Indian Passport Holders||In India, Liechtenstein's visa application process is handled by Swiss embassy.|
Direct and personal application for short stay visas can be done at the Embassy of Switzerland in New Delhi.
|Lithuania||Northern Europe (Baltics)||60 Euros||35 Euros||Lithuania Visa for Indian Passport Holders||Embassy of Lituania directly handles the Schengen visa application process in India.|
|Luxembourg||Western Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Luxembourg Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Malta||Southern Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Malta Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Netherlands (excluding Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands)||Northwestern Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Netherlands Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Norway (excluding Spitsbergen)||Northern Europe (Scadinavia)||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Norway Visa for Indian Passport Holders||Register your visa application on the Application Portal Norway (UDI)|
|Poland||Eastern Europe||60 Euros||35 Euros||Poland Visa for Indian Passport Holders||Embassy of Poland directly handles the Schengen visa application process in India.|
|Portugal (special provisions for Azores and Madeira)||Southern Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Portugal Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Slovakia||Central Europe||60 Euros||35 Euros||Slovakia Visa for Indian Passport Holders||Embassy of Slovak Republic directly handles the Schengen visa application process in India.|
Slovak Republic Visa is handled by Embassy of Hungary in parts of India -Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gurajat, Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
|Slovenia||Central Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Slovenia Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Spain (special provisions for Ceuta, Melilla and the Canary Islands)||Transcontinental State (Southwestern Europe and Africa)||60 Euros + BLS Service Charges||35 Euros + BLS Service Charges||Spain Visa for Indian Passport Holders||Spain Visa in Indian is now handled by BLS International.|
|Sweden||Northern Europe (Scandinavia)||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Sweden Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
|Switzerland||Central Europe||60 Euros + VFS Service Charges||35 Euros + VFS Service Charges||Switzerland Visa for Indian Passport Holders|
What Type of Schengen Visa Do I Need?
There are 3 types of Schengen visa depending upon the purpose of your travel:
- Uniform Schengen Visa
- Limited Territorial Validity Visa
- National Visa
The Uniform Schengen Visa (USV) gives a permit to stay or transit in the Schengen region for a fixed duration ranging from a maximum of 90 days starting from the date of entry.
- Category A means Airport Transit Visa which permits to travel through the Schengen Country’s International Airport without entering the Schengen country region.
- Category C means a Short term visa which allows staying in the Schengen area according to the visa validity.
Category C USV is further of 3 types:
- A Single-entry visa allows entering the Schengen region only once, within the specified duration. Once you exit the Schengen region, going back isn’t permitted even if you have not spent the specified number of days.
- A Double-entry visa allows entering the Schengen region twice, within the specified duration. You can go back to the Schengen region the second time provided you have not exhausted the permitted number of days.
- A Multiple-entry visa allows entering and exiting the Schengen region as many times as you want as long as you follow the 90/180 Schengen Visa rule. The rule says you can’t stay in the Schengen area for more than 90 days in any 180-day period.
You can apply for any one of the multiple-entry visa types based on your travel requirements
- 1-year multiple-entry visa
- 3-year multiple-entry visa
- 5-year multiple-entry visa
In all the multiple-entry visa cases, you need to show a proof of you being a regular and frequent traveler to the Schengen region justifying why you need a multiple entry visa.
You’d need a Uniform Schengen Visa ‘Category C’ to travel to one or more Schengen Countries for tourism purposes. It can be single-entry or multiple-entry depending upon your travel plans.
Where to Apply for a Schengen Visa?
First and foremost, It’s vital to correctly figure out the embassy of the Schengen country you need to apply and secondly, the location of the embassy based on the city you live in.
It should fall under the jurisdiction of the embassy you are applying in.
Which Schengen Country’s Embassy Should You Apply For?
There’s a predetermined order that needs to be followed while choosing the embassy to file your Schengen visa application.
- If you plan to travel only one country in the Schengen zone, apply at the embassy of the country you intend to visit. Quite obvious, I know 🙂
- If you are going to travel to more than one Schengen state, apply at the embassy of the country you intend to spend the maximum number of days in, called as the main or primary destination.
- If you mean to spend the equal number of days in two or more Schengen countries, apply at the embassy of the country you propose to enter the Schengen area through, called as the port of entry.
Denmark Embassy also handles the visa process for Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
The Faroe Islands and Greenland though part of Kingdom of Denmark are not the part of Schengen Region. So, you can’t enter here based on your Schengen visa.
You have to write a different cover letter along with the Schengen visa cover letter and choose multiple entry visa if Greenland or Faroe Islands are part of your travel plan.
You need a Schengen Visa issued by the Danish Consulate with a sticker mentioning that it’s valid for the Faroe Islands or/and Greenland too.
Apply through Danish VFS and mention on the application form Greenland or the Faroe Islands as the main destination.
Svalbard is not a part of the Schengen treaty system. To visit Svalbard, one needs a Schengen visa with two or multiple entries.
Svalbard is visa-free but Schengen Visa is required because you have to enter and exit the Schengen region while traveling to this Norwegian archipelago.
Another stratagem is to choose the country with a lower Schengen visa rejection rate.
France and Germany are known to be the fastest of the lot, however, Spain is infamous for being the toughest to grant Schengen Visa. Greece is known for its higher than normal share of personal interviews.
Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Iceland, Slovakia, Poland, Finland, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic have the lowest Schengen visa rejection rate which ranges from 0.5% to 2.5 %.
Poland is the easiest country to apply for a Schengen Visa from India with the fastest visa processing rate.
It’s a safe bet to check the embassy toughness index before zeroing down on the country to apply.
Singapore on mind? Read Our Ultimate Guide to Singapore Visa for Indians
Put my Two Cents in…
Please please please…make sure that the country you are applying to remains your main destination even when you get your visa.
Just don’t try to fool the officials.
Though the visa allows you to enter or stay at any of the Schengen countries, it’s not advisable to change your main destination after getting the visa.
You might get to enter or stay for the first time but there are higher chances to get in trouble the next time you apply for the Schengen Visa.
I read in a forum about a guy who showed Amsterdam as his first port of entry and main destination to get the visa from Netherlands embassy but flew to Italy after he got his visa.
While applying for the Schengen visa second time around, the embassy of Austria found out that he violated the rules in his earlier visit and his entry was permanently banned in all the Schengen countries.
Read Between the Lines, Please!
Lately, I have heard people complaining about visa being rejected by Denmark embassy stating they don’t give visas to people (specifically Indians) traveling to the Schengen region for the first time.
Weird! I know.
While skimming and browsing the internet, I came across Nyidanmark.dk, the official portal of the rules for entry and residence in Denmark.
The portal states that they have listed countries in five main groups based on the overall risk of the citizen immigrating illegally to Denmark or any other Schengen country.
Each group has different guideline requirements for the visa.
India belongs to group 3 whose citizens represent a significant risk of staying back in the Schengen region even after the visa expires.
So, as an Indian, if we don’t have any relationship ties or family or friends in Denmark, we will not be given visa by Denmark embassy.
They urge you to have an invitation letter from your host in Denmark for a successful visa application through the Royal Danish Embassy.
Read more - Guide to Copenhagen for Families
How Early Before the Start of the Planned Travel Should I Apply For a Schengen Visa?
Schengen Visa Applications can be filed three months before the start of the planned trip.
They recommend filing the application at least 15 calendar days before the planned travel.
My experience says that one should apply for the Schengen visa at least a month (30 calendar days) before the intended visit to avoid last-minute hassles.
The early you start the process, the more you get the time to make the bookings and also you are more likely to get deals on flight and accommodation bookings.
And then it takes a good deal of time (at least 2 weeks) to arrange and put together all the required documents.
I’d also like to add that once you figure out the embassy you need to file your application at, make sure to check their website and take into account the national holidays of that Schengen state.
Where Should I Submit My Tourist Schengen Visa Application?
Most of the Schengen countries have outsourced their visa application processing services to VFS Global so, no need to visit the embassy.
VFS collects the visa applications along with the required documents and passports from the applicants in a sealed envelop and forwards them to the respective embassy for visa processing.
There are a few exceptions here.
Schengen visa applications for Spain are processed by BLS, not VFS.
VFS Global no longer accepts visa applications on behalf of the Embassy of Greece in India. It’s processed by GVCW.
Schengen visa applications for Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia are handled by the respective embassy, not VFS.
We don’t have Embassy of Liechtenstein in India. In countries where Liechtenstein does not have any representation, its citizens are advised to contact the Swiss embassy for all consular questions.
Is there any Age Criterion to Apply for the Schengen Visa?
No. Though children less than 6 years don’t need a Schengen visa.
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What are the Steps to be Followed While Applying for a Schengen Visa for Indian Citizens?
- Fill in the application form
- Schedule the appointment at VFS/consulate
- Gather all the required documents (Now that’s a task!)
- Submit the application form and the required documents at VFS/Consulate
- Give Biometrics
- Wait for your visa to come.
How to Fill the Schengen Visa Application Form?
I applied through Norway embassy which asks you to fill the form online here and then take a print out of the same.
Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, and Lithuania also have an online application system.
Other Schengen countries allow you to download the form from the VFS website and remember, it has to be filled with blue ink only.
Here are the guidelines to fill in the form to score a Schengen visa from India.
Can I Apply for a Schengen Visa Online?
There are embassies of some Schengen States that allow you to fill a Schengen visa online through their electronic application forms like Norway, France, Germany, Estonia, Belgium, Finland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal.
For the other Schengen States (Austria, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland) that don’t have an online system, you can fill the editable PDF form online and then take a print out of the filled Schengen Visa Form and sign it.
It makes things easier and saves you from the hassle of filling the form with a pen.
What is the Schengen Visa Fees for Indian Citizens?
The Schengen visa fees for Indian Passport holders for all the Schengen states is fixed.
In addition to the visa fee, you need to pay the VFS service charges which vary from country to country.
|Schengen Visa Type||Visa Fee (Indian Rupees)||Visa Fee (Euros)|
|Child (6-12 years )||2820.3||35|
* The Schengen visa fee in INR is as per the latest exchange rate. Thus, it’s subject to change with the change in the exchange rate.
*1 Euro = 80.58 INR as per latest (February 2019) exchange rate.
What Kind of Preparation is Needed Before Taking an Appointment for Schengen Visa?
Know the visa rules of the country you are applying to and work accordingly.
Gather all the required documents and place them in perfect order (same order as in the checklist) in a file.
Double-check to make sure you have all the required papers.
Write an audacious cover letter. Writing a convincing cover letter is an art. It’s vital to compose a detailed and compelling cover letter.
Pitching is the key here, brevity isn’t. Write your heart and soul out.
Tell them how keen you are to see their beautiful country but your soul remains here in your homeland.
Address the embassy you are applying to. The main body of the cover letter mentions the duration with dates of your trip, the number of people accompanying you with their names, the purpose of your travel, information about who will bear the expenses and how like using the savings account or credit cards or forex cards.
List down the documents you will be submitting along with your visa application.
Note Since a lot of people asked me to provide them with the cover letter template, I'm giving a link to download the editable format of my Schengen Visa cover letter in this post. At the end of the post, just put your name and email address to subscribe and receive the sample template.
How to Book an Appointment for Schengen Visa?
Once you have decided on the embassy of the country you are applying to, log on to the VFS Global’s website where you’ll see a box on the website, fill in the country you are visiting (embassy you want to apply to,) the resident country and press go; it’ll automatically take you to the corresponding VFS website in another window viz.
When I type Norway as a visiting country and India as a resident country, I’m directed to Norway visa’s information in a different window.
From here, you can download the Schengen visa for Indians form, and make an appointment with VFS.
You need to register here to make an appointment.
Once you register, click on schedule appointment and fill in the details like the visiting country, residing country, nearest VFS center and purpose of your travel.
It shows the earliest date available for the appointment. Choose the date and time and take a print out of the appointment letter.
Pro-Tip It's best to take an appointment as early in the morning as possible (if available) because the visa agents at VFS are fresh and then it gets crowded with passing time.
What are the Schengen Visa Requirements?
You need to submit a set of mandatory and supporting documents listed by the Schengen States to start the Schengen Visa application process.
Always take a print out of the checklist of documents from the VFS portal of the particular country’s embassy and mark to keep a check what all documents are done and what all are pending.
And most of the time it’s recommended to put the documents in the same order as mentioned in the checklist and the cover letter.
It makes things easy.
Documents Required for Schengen Visa
Visa Application Form
The Schengen form can be downloaded or filled online depending upon the country you are applying to.
A covering letter explaining the purpose of your visit along with the detailed travel itinerary.
You also need to list out the documents you are submitting with the application form. A cover letter should address the embassy you are applying to.
It should be on a plain white paper if you are an employee and on company letterhead, if you are a businessman.
Passport Size Pictures
Photographs specifications differ from country to country. Check the specifications for the country you are applying through.
Current and Previous Passports, if any.
The police report, if the previous passport is lost.
Photocopy of the first, last and stamped pages of the passport.
Denmark Embassy asks for the color photocopy of the entire passport. I don’t understand the reason but feels like a total waste of money, paper, and time. What about being eco-friendly to save the world? Wait. But I heard Denmark is the most eco-friendly country.
This is important.
They ask for CONFIRMED return flights. Most of the embassies also ask for internal transport/transfer within Europe viz. flights, buses, trains, or rented car booking receipts.
Proof of accommodation
Hotel booking confirmation containing the complete name and contact information of the hotel with the hotel voucher.
In some cases, you are required to show CONFIRMED hotel bookings for each and every city/country you are visiting in the Schengen region.
Norway embassy asks for confirmed hotel booking only in Norway.
Having an invitation letter from one of your friends or relatives staying in the country you are applying to adds power to your visa application. You just don’t need to show any hotel bookings in that case.
Travel Health Insurance
You need a mandatory travel health Insurance with a minimum cover of 30,000 Euros valid for all the Schengen countries and covers the entire duration of your stay in the Schengen area plus remains active for another 15 days after you leave the Schengen area.
The insurance must cover all the medical expenses and repatriation of your residence country.
Detailed Plan or Itinerary
This is just a datewise or day-wise plan on a plain white paper.
List down all the countries, cities and attractions you are planning to visit and mention the inter-Schengen and intra-Schengen transport details along with the names and addresses of hotels or hostels or Airbnb you are planning to stay at.
Proof of Financial Situation
The proof of finances is asked to know if you have enough funds to make it through the itinerary and come back.
The documents to support the proof of enough funds include bank statement from your bank with stamp and signature for last 3 months, payslips for the last 3 or 6 months, ETF or EPF contribution slips, and Income tax returns for last 3 years.
A sponsorship letter if someone else is sponsoring your trip with his or her bank statement for the last 3 months.
Documents Required for Minors or Children Traveling With You
The application form for a child has to be signed by both the parents.
You need to show the letter of school or university confirming permitted leave and birth certificate/s of the child or children traveling with you.
Employment and Leave letter if employed, Business registration if self-employed, and Pension statements for the last six months if retiree.
You need a marriage certificate if the partner’s name isn’t mentioned in the passport.
I Don’t Have One of the Documents They Demand. I’m Authentic. What Can Be Done?
I’d say being genuine and true is the key to getting a Schengen visa even when you don’t have some documents.
A cover letter is the face of your application and thus, a powerful tool. Just explain in your cover letter which document is missing and why you are unable to provide it.
Here, I want to cite this example of a backpacker who couldn’t provide the proof of transportation within the Schengen zone as he was planning to use interstate buses or trains on the go depending upon whatever he finds cheaper.
You know, he stated the same reason in the cover letter and got his Schengen visa.
But, yes there’s no guarantee here if the embassy is strict on the rules.
Though, it’s always better to arrange for the desired documents and then apply for the visa.
Do I Really Need to Show Confirmed Hotel Bookings and Flight Reservations for Visa?
Now, this is a bit tricky.
Though they mention on their websites, not to book the confirmed flight tickets but ask for the confirmation proof.
To get a Schengen visa, it is mandatory to show confirmed flight tickets and accommodation bookings for your entire duration of travel and stay in the Schengen region.
The safest option is to book fully refundable flights on your credit card and cancel to rebook the cheaper flights once you get your visa.
Fully refundable flights, of course, are way more expensive than their non-refundable counterparts but keep you safe from any losses and then no one can question its authenticity.
The ticket hold option for a free or minimal fee or using award miles by airline companies can be used.
But, they can hold tickets minimum for a day and maximum for a week. So, it’s quite risky if your visa processing takes more than a week’s time.
Which option did we choose?
We paid a little amount of money to a travel agent and got our flight or travel itinerary.
Flight itinerary is like a detailed plan of the flights to the Schengen area.
The document shows the chosen airline with a flight name, your name, a valid flight reservation number or booking ID, arrival and departure date and airport codes, as well as the price.
There are a couple of online visa booking sites too that provide flight and hotel itinerary for a little amount of service fee.
You can go ahead with the same flights once you get the visa and your money is adjusted in the total flight amount or you can plan to book different flights. Here, the loss is minimal.
For accommodations, I used Booking.com to book hotels, canceled them and booked Airbnb when I got my visa.
Booking.com lets you book hotels and cancel them nearer to your date of stay without a fee.
You get the full refund. Airbnb refunds the booking amount minus service charges.
I have heard that some of the embassies have become smart and stopped accepting booking.com reservations for visa applications.
Some embassies even don’t accept Airbnb bookings. I guess, Hungry is one of them.
How Much Money Do I Need to Show in My Account?
The more the merrier 😉
The unwritten rule here is to maintain a balance of at least 1.5 to 2 lakhs in your account over the past few months.
Please don’t do last minute transfers because they do more harm than good because it looks fishy to them.
Also, avoid withdrawing any money from the account after you have submitted the documents to the embassy.
Wait till you get your visa.
You can show the credit card statements, property papers, FD account statements, PF slips to strengthen your case.
The means of subsistence differs depending upon the Europen country you are visiting or applying to.
This can be 15 Euros per day per person for Latvia, and 100 Euros per day per person for Norway or Switzerland.
Multiply the amount with the number of persons and number of days to calculate the total amount. That amount should be visible in your bank account statement.
In case you don’t have enough funds (according to the Europen Union Standards) at the time when you planning to apply for the visa, you can loan or lend money from family or friends and return them once you get your visa.
What to Expect at VFS?
Reach 15 minutes before your appointment time. Show your appointment letter to the security guard outside and follow the path to the counter.
Take a token number from the counter and wait for your turn.
The token numbers are displayed on the screen with the counter number you need to go to submit the application.
The VFS agent checks your application and documents and put them in the right order.
You need to carry all your original documents for the visa officer to check during your Schengen visa application process.
He or she lets you know if any document is missing. If it’s just a printout, you can go to the photocopy station and get it done. Though, prices are a bit higher than the market.
The agent doesn’t accept the application in case the documents are not complete. You need to make an appointment again and come back to submit the application.
Once the documents are checked and put in order, the agent gives the slip to complete the payment (visa fee + VFS charges) which is done at the separate counter.
You can pay the amount by cash or card and when you show the payment receipt to the VFS agent, the application folder is handed over to you to proceed for the biometrics.
You are given a receipt after the biometrics submission which needs to be saved for future use. The biometrics are valid for 59 months.
They’ll ask for it when you go to collect your passports from VFS and the courier person also delivers passports after seeing that receipt.
You can choose to collect your passport from VFS or to have it couriered to your address.
Remember, In both cases, you need to show the receipt and the ID card.
I always choose to collect the passports on my own just to reduce the risk of it getting lost in transit.
If you are still not clear about the documents or have any doubts about the visa application process, VFS’s Premium Lounge Service is a premium service that can be pre-booked over the phone or can be opted while you submit your application where you get a personalized service by a dedicated staff who checks your documents and guides you through the whole process.
Check if it’s available in your city or not. Not to mention, you pay extra for the premium services.
I haven’t used those services, so can’t really comment on that.
Do I Have To Attend the Visa Interview or Does Embassy Official Call?
Well, In cases where the cover letter and the documents fail to convince the embassy official but they still feel that you must get a chance to prove your case, they may call you for one on one.
Try to be as real as possible but remember that impeccable honesty comes at a price. I hope you are able to read between the lines.
In some scenarios, they take a telephonic interview.
They call you to clear their doubts related to your travel plans and it’s imperative to answer them confidently.
You should remember the dates, itinerary and the other details provided in the documents by heart to avoid any confusion.
A mismatch between the details given in the cover letter or documents and details provided over the phone can be disastrous.
What Questions Are Likely to Be Asked If Schengen Visa Interview (face-to-face 0r telephonic) Happens?
I spoke to some of my friends and fellow travelers who have been through the situation.
Here’s the essence of it!
- Why do you want to visit Europe or the (country you are applying to)?
- What is the purpose of your visit?
- Can you share the itinerary you have planned?
- How are you planning to travel within the Schengen zone?
- Have you booked your intra-Schengen flight, bus, cruise or train tickets?
- Who’s financing your trip?
- Do you know that Europe is expensive? Would you be able to manage the cost?
- Which airline company have you booked your tickets with?
- What’s your date of departure?
- When are you coming back?
- How many days are you planning to stay in the Schengen area?
- Have you booked your stay for the entire duration?
- Which hotel have you chosen for your stay in ———(country you are applying to)?
- How long have you been working with the ———– (company name)?
- Do you have any friends or family members in ——— (country you are applying to)?
Be realistic and positive during the interview because that can get you the Schengen visa easily 🙂
How Long Does it Take for a Schengen Short Stay Visa to be Approved in India?
It’s recommended to apply for a Schengen visa at least 3 weeks before your travel dates to give yourself buffer time.
You normally hear from the embassy within 15 days (2 weeks) from the date embassy receives your application file.
But there have been cases when people get their visa in just 3 or 4 days.
In our case, it took 20 days to get the visa from Norway Embassy. The delay was because of the summer vacation rush.
Next time around, it only took 6 days for us to get the visa from Austria Embassy.
So, I guess it varies from case to case and embassy to embassy.
Estimated Time is Over! I’m Still Waiting for Visa. What Should Be My Next Step?
Firstly, don’t panic.
It does take more than the estimated time in certain cases like when the embassy is overwhelmed with visa applications due to summer vacations.
If you haven’t received your visa past 15 days, it’s advisable to write a mail to the embassy mentioning your travel dates.
Don’t forget to attach the travel itinerary and hotel or flight booking papers.
Call the VFS to get the correct email address because sometimes the mail isn’t mentioned on the embassy’s website and also if your application has taken way more than the required time, VFS itself forwards your case to the embassy for a quick response.
Looking for Day Trips from Copenhagen? Read about the Perfect Day Trip to the Cute Fishing Town near Copenhagen, Dragør in Denmark
Why Was My Schengen Visa Rejected?
There can be a lot of reasons for the Schengen visa rejection.
To elucidate a few –
- Past or Current Criminal Record
- The documents and cover letter you provided are unable to endorse the purpose of your travel. They fail to convince the visa officer.
- You haven’t shown enough proof of funds.
- You have demonstrated false or forged travel documents. It can be anything from the false hotel or flight booking documents to employment proof documents. Remember, the embassy officials crosscheck everything and this obviously earns you a visa rejection but also a bad name and makes it difficult to get a visa in future.
- A mismatch between the dates you mentioned in the travel itinerary and the dates you stated in the visa application.
- Your Travel Insurance is invalid and inadequate. A Travel Insurance Policy is a must for a Schengen visa and then it doesn’t cost you any money because good insurance companies refund the amount if a visa is denied. We chose the ICICI Lombard.
- Your intention to return is unclear. Your cover letter or supporting documents that show ties to your home country are unable to convince the embassy official. Sometimes, just the return flight tickets aren’t enough. You need to show that you have a job or business back home, you own a property, your kids are enrolled in a school and you have a leave sanction from your employer clearly stating that you’ll be back to the job on this particular date.
- To err is human. Embassy officials can make a mistake while handling the application. One can reapply in the cases where he or she is sure about the documents presented.
- You have applied at the wrong Embassy because you were unable to determine your main destination.
- The supporting documents fail to show the booked accommodation for each Schengen country and each night you spend in the Schengen region.
- The flight bookings aren’t complete. For example, when you travel as a group, you mistakenly, forget to show flight bookings for one of the applicants.
- You are not able to demonstrate transport bookings inside the Schengen region.
- Invalid invitation letter
- Unacceptable birth or marriage certificate
- The reason for rejection can be your passport. Passport is damaged or not in good condition, It is not valid as it expires in less than 6 months, or It doesn’t have enough blank pages (at least 2 blank pages are needed).
- You fail to respect the Schengen Visa limitations last time e.g overstay in the Schengen Area or spending more number of days in some other Schengen country rather than your main country.
Will My Fee Be Refunded If My Visa Gets Rejected?
The visa fee covers the cost of processing the visa application.
Can I Apply for Schengen Visa After Rejection? Can I Apply Through Different Embassy as Fresh Application?
You have two alternatives.
One is to appeal against the decision.
The reason for the refusal is mentioned in the rejection letter. Appeal only if you feel that the reason given is not right. Also, appeals concerning rejections take a long time from weeks to months and not a good alternative if your travel dates are fixed.
So, the second and the best option is to reapply through the same embassy or a different Schengen state embassy.
You stand a fair chance if you reapply as you are treated as a new applicant. Don’t forget to make changes in accordance with the reason of refusal.
How Long Can I Stay in the Schengen Zone Once I Get My Visa? What’s the Schengen Visa Validity?
A Schengen visa generally allows you to stay in any of the Schengen states during the trip, within the validity of the visa.
The Schengen visa validity is of maximum 90 days within a period of 180 days for tourist purposes.
Don’t confuse with the visa validity and the duration of stay.
Your Schengen Visa validity for single-entry or multiple-entry visa can be 6 months, 1 year or 5 years depending on the embassy’s decision but the duration of stay can be a maximum of 90 days.
How Can I Check my Schengen Visa Validity?
The Schengen Visa validity is mentioned on the visa sticker affixed to your passport.
In our case, the visa validity was 45 days.
Can I Leave the Schengen Region and Come Back Again With the Visa That’s Still Active?
The Schengen visa allows single entry or multiple entries based on your visa application.
The same is mentioned on your visa sticker.
With a single entry visa, you can enter the Schengen zone only once for a certain period of time while the multiple entry visa allows you to go in and out of the Schengen region freely within the validity of the visa.
I Have Connecting Flights, With a Layover at a Schengen State Airport. Do I Have to Apply For The Transit Visa to Exit the Airport?
You have a Schengen visa valid for entry to all the Schengen states.
You can exit the airport to travel to the Schengen state during the layover.
Can Schengen Visa Be Extended?
Visa can only be extended if you have stayed in the Schengen region for less than 90 days in any 180 days period and the current visa isn’t expired.
If the reason for the extension isn’t strong and serious enough, it rarely gets through.
What Are the Things to Keep in Mind to Improve The Chances of Success in Scoring Schengen Visa from India?
- Research.Research. Research. Know the rules from A to Z.
- Write an impressive cover letter.
- Choose the embassy to apply your visa application wisely. Check the embassy toughness index and plan your itinerary around the easiest to get visa embassy.
- Turn down VFS. They know nothing more than the information given on the website and repeat the same in the parrot-fashion.
- Plan well in advance.
- Carry additional copies of the documents while submitting the application at VFS to avoid any rush.
Disclaimer The tips and tricks mentioned in this post are based on my personal experience. Please don't consider them as a standard for judging or deciding because every case is unique. Also, please note that all the information provided here was true at the time of publishing but may change without prior notice. The visa policies are volatile and the information regarding visa keeps on changing periodically. We try to keep the post updated, however, there can be certain discrepancies. If you find any, please let us know 🙂
All the best!
I found this video by Shadez of Megz about how to get Europe tourist visa from India quite helpful so if reading isn’t your thing, get useful tips about Schengen visa for Indians from this video.
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