Europe 2016: How I got my Schengen Visa

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Me, sporting an ube-langka theme and an overused jacket for Paris Fashion Week HAHAHA

Filipinos who want to go to Schengen area as tourists need a Schengen Visa. It’s a visa that covers about 25 countries in Europe (Schengen member states). Take note that not all European countries are covered by these, hence one should obtain a separate visa when planning to go there (i.e. Schengen does not cover United Kingdom, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus).

My profile/story

I was driven to go to Europe primarily because my boyfriend was given a 2-month work assignment in Stockholm, Sweden. I thought I could take the chance to visit him there and at the same time, tour around, because it probably won’t happen again. I’m single, bunso (youngest), no responsibilities yet, no major bills, hence I should sponsor myself. Also, the fact that I planned to stay at my boyfriend’s place when in Stockholm probably played a major factor in my visa approval, I can’t really tell. He was issued a residence card/work permit. So really, don’t treat this blog post as a single source of truth. What I did, I read countless blogs and of course, checked the official embassy website and collected as many information and tips as possible.

Where to apply?
Normally a Europe tour will be comprised of more than 1 country and spans for a minimum of a week. But of course it will depend on you. I mean when I saw my airfare from Manila I wish I could afford to stay there for a year. “Para masulit ang visa”, you would say or, “yolo” lol. Where to apply? The rule of thumb is: you should apply to the embassy of the country to which you will spend the majority of your stay. If you shall spend equal number of days on two or more countries, say 3 days in France, 3 days in Italy, 3 days in Spain – please choose your port of entry (your first stop).

I planned that majority of my trip will be in Stockholm, Sweden. There is no Swedish Embassy in the Philippines, so I applied thru VFS Global for Norway (representing Sweden, Finland and Iceland in the Philippines).

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Flam, Norway as part of Norway in a Nutshell Tour (Bergen to Bergen)

Requirements
Though aiming for the same visa, the requirements slightly differ depending on which embassy you apply. Again, please visit the website of the embassy you wish to apply.

Upon deciding your choice of embassy, you also need to be sure which type of visa you will apply for, because there are many types of visa. I was slightly confused at first, because there are two options for me: tourist visa, or visit bf/gf visa. I eventually chose tourist visa.

The number of requirements are greater (and more expensive) compared to Korean/Japan tourist visa application, so yes this is like a preview to the expensive trip you’ll face in Europe lol.

Also please take note that many (not all) European embassies today outsource their visa processing services to VFS Global. If this is the case, you go to the respective country’s VFS Global office and not to the embassy.

I won’t discuss the list of requirements here because they are pretty self-explanatory. However, I do want to give you tips:

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Bryggen in Bergen, Norway – gateway to the fjords!

1. Be true to your intentions. When I was composing my cover letter, “kulang na lang ikwento ko buhay ko since birth”. Do not, in any slightest chance – lie. Do not fake your COE, do not fake signatures, do not fake your itinerary*, just do not fake anything. Because when they found out, aside from getting your visa denied, you can be a candidate for black-list.

*It’s okay if you haven’t finalized your itinerary yet prior to visa application, but at least have a solid idea on which embassy you would apply and REALLY go to their country. For instance, I’ve always read it is easier to get a Schengen visa from the Czech Embassy due to their relatively low number of applicants. I initially planned to apply there, though I’m certain I won’t last for more than 3 days out of my 16 days “if ever” I visit Prague. You see two things here? 1. I’m not even sure if I’m going to Prague 2. If ever I go there, it’s still not my primary European destination. Be firm and consistent with your facts – as they say, the truth shall set you free. lol

I haven’t seen any blogs about VFS Norway. Yet I chose to apply there because it’s the right thing to do. Truth be told, I’m initially intimidated by Norway (or Scandinavia as a whole, being one of the richest regions in the world) so I was finding reasons to apply to other embassies. But I had no choice anyway, so sticking to my humble requirements and relieved by the fact that there are no interviews, I finalized my appointment to VFS Norway.

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Stortorget in Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

2. For first-time visa applicants, yes you have to submit your passport because they will stick your visa to one of the pages on your passport 😛 unless you don’t want to 😛

3. You will spend some 230 pesos for both the bank certificate and bank statement for 3 months, which brings us to the most commonly asked question: how much should you have in the bank?

Not surprisingly, Europe is expensive. Although, the Swedish Embassy requires you to allot at least 450 SEK per day (around 2500 pesos per day). So if you plan to stay there for 10 days, they are implying you should have at least 25k pesos in your bank. Wait, just 25k pesos? No, that’s like your daily allowance – you should add your airfare and hotel for 10 days, and that makes it around 100k pesos. Of course, it will be more relaxed if you have a guarantee that someone will be taking care of your accommodation.

I have emailed some bloggers who gladly shared how much they had in the bank when they applied for visa. Guess what? One had only 37k in the bank – actually she was denied visa at first, but filed an appeal so eventually she was granted a visa for her 4-day stay in one European country. On the other hand, most travel agencies that arrange group European tours will require the participants to have at least 200k in the bank.

These are all so confusing right? We can’t really gauge a definite amount, ha! Which brings us to tip no. 4:

4. Aside from one’s sufficiency of travel funds, it is equally important to submit your proof of rootedness in your home country.

What? Rootedness?

Basically, the embassy wants to be assured that you will return to your home country before your visa expires. They want to know you have a job or business here to return to. They want to be sure that you won’t become a TNT “Tago Nang Tago” in their country and add to their population and become an illegal immigrant. They want to be sure you won’t find work there or marry one of their citizens there or both.

Unfortunately, there are many Filipinos who are illegally living and working in other countries without proper documents, so really we can’t blame their governments for imposing visa policies on us. I hope someday this will change, to improve our credibility as a country 🙂

  • Going back, it is vital you submit proofs that you will return to your home country:
    -Request to have your COE customized by indicating the duration of your approved leaves
    -Photocopy of old passport stamps showing that you always return to your home country
    -Photocopy of your car’s OR/CR, land titles, paper assets and any other properties
    -If avid traveller, your confirmed flights for your next travels coming from your country

These are probably the most important things embassies are looking for: that you can afford your trip, and that you’re going back! Period!

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Zaanse Schans (Old Holland little village) in Zaandam, Netherlands

5. Hotel bookings need not be finalized. You can use booking.com to reserve hotels without payment and with free cancellation.

6. You will have to pay for a roundtrip flight reservation. It’s not a confirmed flight ticket, you don’t have to buy the actual ticket, but you need a reservation. Unlike your hotel reservation which you can cancel anytime at booking.com or any other websites, this flight reservation is kind of special. Some airlines accept unpaid reservations but only hold it for 48 or 24 hours. It’s not really useful especially when your visa appointment is days ahead. Personally I availed of an online service for this (I wish I was paid for this but no I’m not their endorser). It was the cheapest I found for 15 USD (around 730 pesos). They will email you your flight itinerary and booking reference number, which you can check at the airline website itself. I checked it at Thai Airways website and indeed, they “bought” the flight for me. Note that you don’t have to buy that flight (and embassies don’t advise you to buy a confirmed flight ticket when you don’t have a visa yet), you only need a reservation and it’s just for formality.

7. You will have to buy a travel medical insurance with 2.5M-peso coverage. I got mine from Malayan Insurance (again not an endorser) for around 1500 pesos for 24-day coverage, though I only planned for 16 days). It’s non-refundable. Or at least I didn’t try to refund it, but that’s insurance right, you buy it hoping you won’t need it 🙂

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Looking for Leaky Cauldron to get myself to Diagon Alley, but no I’m not in London. This is in Gamla Stan, Stockholm.

8. You will have to pay 60 euros (around 3200 pesos) to book an appointment online. This is mandatory. You can’t just show up to VFS Global without any appointment. Personally, I gathered my requirements first before booking my appointment.

As a summary of expenses, you will have to pay for 60-euro visa fee (around 3200 pesos), travel insurance (around 1500 pesos for me, depends on insurance company and length of coverage), flight reservation (around 730 pesos) and bank certificate/statements (around 230 pesos). Total of around 5660 pesos, plus optional courier fee (around 280 pesos – expensive but less hassle) if you want to have your passport delivered instead of you picking it up. One will spend roughly 6000 pesos for Schengen visa application, which you’re not even sure of passing but hey! Law of attraction! 😀

And be really, 100% whole-hearted, well-planned and well-prepared! If you think you can afford it and you are true to your intentions, and you submit complete requirements, there’s no need for you to worry. Schengen visa application is relatively easy 🙂 I got mine after 2 working days.

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Leidsegracht, one of the many canals in Amsterdam. In the far right, the bench where Hazel and Gus sat on (The Fault In Our Stars movie)

Europe posts to follow (in the coming days or weeks or months lol)! Stay tuned 😀

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3 thoughts on “Europe 2016: How I got my Schengen Visa

  1. Pingback: Europe 2016: From Paris with Love (Part 2) | Virtually Talkative

  2. Pingback: Europe 2016: I did it, Norway! (Part 2) | Virtually Talkative

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