If you haven’t had the experience of applying for a Schengen visa yet, it can be as easy or as hard as the specific consulate will make it for you. At the time of posting, I’ve only dealt with the consulate of France and Spain and want to point out some differences below. This doesn’t mean that one is better but they do have their differences.
If you are looking for instructions and forms, please visit the appropriate Consulate website directly. What I will discuss and share is more of an addendum than a step-by-step directive.
For some extra detailed help on your application, especially if you are a Filipino passport holder, visit Mr. and Mrs. Howe’s post: How To Apply For A Schengen Tourist Visa With Your Philippines Passport
Specific to how the office works for appointments, I do prefer France. Here’s why:
- Contact: The French Consulate was a lot easier to reach by phone regarding any questions. I believe they also have email contact available, but I didn’t have to use it.
- Contact: The Spain Consulate was harder to reach by phone aside from the automated menu. It seemed the best contact is via email which can take a couple of days to receive a reply to. It’s not terrible, but if there’s a last minute question you have prior to your appointment, you may be out of luck.
- Appointment: The French Consulate has an intercom at the door where you confirm your Schengen appointment with your name and time. You will be buzzed in and instructed to sit next to the last person in the queue. The seats are the queue order and you move down accordingly. You know that you are properly check-in and expected, and are clear when it is your turn.
- Appointment: The Spain consulate does not have a check-in system and no signage advising what to do. The only signs are for bathroom door codes and a cell phone restriction rule. What does happen is they begin calling out names of people once their appointment time has arrived or has passed (depending on how long their previous applicant took), so be early just in case.
- Follow up: The Spain consulate does not indicate a clear instruction for this, either. If you are there to pick up your passport or provide extra documents, you must wait until they call out “visa pick up” or “document drop-off” regardless of what sign is on the window, and you can approach from that point on. I see many people enter and approach any open window asking what to do. I really think that following a procedure like the French Consulate or having some signs up would ease them of this burden, but they haven’t implemented either.
Consulate Interview & Preparation
Aside from the above, a Schengen visa application generally has the same requirements, but make sure you check the details. The list of paperwork you need to provide can feel overwhelming, but you have easy control over obtaining most things as they can be printed from your accounts online. It’s the minority of documents that are can be a nightmare to obtain. Obviously, there is not much way to avoid the consulates if you require any visa, but I feel like it’s best to be emotionally prepared for the worst.
It can be very stressful because of a time crunch.
- You will likely spend a lot of time gathering all your paperwork together and you do not have the luxury of preparing it early.
- This is because your Schengen appointment cannot be further than 3 months prior to your leaving.
- And most paperwork needs to be current. Meaning, if you’re appointment is in August, they will require some paperwork that is dated to include the month of August. (i.e. bank statements, pay stubs, etc.)
You will likely spend a decent amount of money on just paperwork alone.
This is in addition to the requirements that your trip be fully booked prior to your Schengen appointment. Specifically, your flight and accommodations. Those are generally easy.
However, if you happen to be unemployed, there will be extra paperwork required of you, many of them notarized, which costs money. This can cost $15+ for each stamp, which doesn’t sound bad until you need one ASAP and you can’t make it during business hours. The special fees can add up.
You will think you understand everything and are ready.
There’s a good chance you were mistaken, through no fault of your own.
No matter how well you prepare, regardless of how easy or difficult your appointment was, you can still get rejected. I’ve seen people pick up their passport, surprised to be rejected.
I was told that I needed a document that was specified online as required for the applicant. However, suddenly, they required the same document from my sponsor as well. The man I dealt with kept insisting it was required, but it says nothing to support his claim.
In addition, I needed a second notarized letter from my sponsor indicating the same detailed information of an already notarized letter I had prepared and paid for, just in slightly different wording.
This cost me an additional $45, plus the 60 mile drive to and from the emergency notary near my sponsor.
It’ll hurt in so many ways.
Frankly, it seemed arbitrary who’s application got accepted or rejected. This doesn’t even count the approval or rejection or the actual visa.
Regarding my situation with the sponsor’s 2nd notarized letter, I received conditional acceptance of my application until I got together the two extra documents to bring the next day.
The next day I brought my additional documents, someone’s application got rejected for “missing” her employment verification. Which was not actually missing because she provided just that, but the consulate wanted an automated corporate document.
Sounds reasonable until you realise that they didn’t require this for others, including myself. Both times I’ve applied for a Schengen, I provided a letter from HR confirming employment, as per instructions online.
She was very distraught and left in a rage. I understood the feeling because I felt that way when I was afraid they were going to reject my application because of my “missing” documents. To top it off, she drove from a county located 2 hours away (based on regular traffic), during rush hour. Both she and her husband were going to have to redo ALL their documents, request another appointment which is normally booked months in advance, and try again.
Then you wait for your Schengen approval/rejection.
I cannot even imagine the trouble it would be for everyone if I was rejected. As a group of 4 taking this trip together, I knew that my rejection could likely mean the whole trip falls apart for everyone involved.
My boyfriend would not go without me, although he probably should if he cannot get a refund. My friends could still go on the trip, but the whole purpose was to do this together. All our reservations were for 4 people, prepaid (mainly because I needed it to apply) and refunds would be hard for items not under my name. My required travel insurance would have covered my expenses if I got denied my Schengen visa.
Visas are a heavy pressure. I’m not faulting the existence of visas on this. I see their necessity and I’m happy to provide my itinerary, information, and fees to be able to visit. It’s the intense pressure. It’s the easy way the consulate can just shoo you away no matter how much you followed their instructions. It’s an emotionally abusive relationship, albeit temporary.
In the end, I submitted my application and had little choice left but to sit back, stop worrying, and just hope everything was acceptable. I was still on risk for getting rejected for whatever reason. Anyone was. Fortunately, I was quickly approved, receiving an email to pick up my visa in less than the allotted two week period.
Man, the sigh of relief.
As you can see, I ended up applying for my citizenship. It was for other reasons aside from this, but it really was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had been considering it for at least a decade, so the time just arrived, is all.