Getting a visa is a headache… as a traveller, I have no choice but submit to that long and annoying bureaucracy! As a Moroccan passport holder, I need a Schengen visa even though I live in the UK (because the UK is not a Schengen state!). I had few experiences with visas but lastly, I got two years visa with the French Consulate. Here are the steps to take for applying for a Schengen visa and some of my trips from my personal experience.
What is a Schengen visa and where is it valid
Schengen visa is a travel authorisation granted by any of the Schengen states. It is valid for tourism and visiting relatives within the borders of Schengen. The Schengen member states are: Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
In addition, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican are de facto valid to visit with a Schengen visa because they share an open border with the area.
Moreover, some EU countries like Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania that are not Schengen states, accept a Schengen visa to visit with a multiple entry Schengen visa.
Furthermore, some countries in the Balkans that are neither EU nor Schengen states like Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia accept multiple entries Schengen visa holders to visit for a limited time. Can vary between 15 days to 3 months, depending on the country and some like Bosnia have further conditions that need to be met.
Now surprisingly, the Schengen visa is also valid in countries beyond Europe! It is so powerful, you can visit countries like some Caribbean islands. You need to check with these countries directly.
The idea behind the Schengen agreement is that all member countries share one common border so once you enter one country, you can visit the other one without any issues. For example, you visit Spain and want to go to France, it’s totally possible on the same trip because the border is open and a Schengen visa covers both countries. However, you need to apply for a Schengen visa with the country where you either plan to visit first or plan to stay most of the time.
Documents needed for a Schengen visa application
Even though the visa is the same for all member countries, sometimes every country has its own set of documents. But in essence, the core documents for a Tourist Schengen Visa are the same for all countries:
- ID photo
- Schengen visa application form
- Letter from school, if student
- Letter from employment, if working
- Last 3 months worth of payslips
- Last 3 months bank statements
- Hotel or other accommodation booking
- Return flights, bus or train tickets
- Travel insurance covering all the area
This list is only indicative to give you an idea! You need to look further for more information and get every document right, because it is crucial for your application to get the right document! Some countries expect extra documents rather than other. For example, Germany asks for a list of countries you visited in the past with most on the list being unstable countries like Somalia or Afghanistan. I have never been asked this by the France consulate.
Get a good travel insurance!
One of the most important documents for a Schengen visa application is the travel insurance which must cover all Schengen states. It is also recommended to always carry a copy of your insurance policy during your visit too. Get a quote below for a travel insurance for Schengen visa:
Make sure you get the right documents
Make sure the ID photo meets the size, the insurance policy covers their requirements and your employment letter states all information about your employment. If you are unemployed for example, make sure you have enough proof that someone is sponsoring your trip. This could be a close family member or a husband or a wife, so again, you need to proof their relationship to you and to proof they can financially support your trip.
Getting a document wrong risks of delaying your application! I personally used to have my applications delayed because I missed a small detail on their requirement. Yes, I had the right document but it did not have a small detail. For example, I provided once bus tickets to Paris as proof of travel but the booking did not have my name on it, so they made me call the bus company to issue me with a booking including my name.
My top tip: add a document that is not required at all!
A motivational letter or cover letter. Yes, that’s right, just like on a job application! I always add this document for the past 5 years I applied for a Schengen visa. On this letter, I explain the purpose of my trip to the person looking at my application. I say that I will be going back to my occupation (my work and studies) in my country of residence and I reassure them that the purpose of my trip is only for travel and I don’t have any intentions to overstay, work or live in Schengen states.
Basically, you need to proof that you can financially support yourself, that you will go back to your country of residence and that you provide honest and genuine information.
Book an appointment in advance
Most Schengen states use a third party company to handle visa applications. I personally prefer applying directly with the consulate but no choice sometimes, I have to pay extra fees for these third party companies. They are strict with appointment attendance, so be on time. But before, you need to secure a time slot. Book it in advance because sometimes all the slots gets filled up and no choice but have a last minute appointment which risks not making it for your trip on time.
I personally get organised in advance by booking an appointment around 2 months before the date and at least few weeks before the trip, this gives me enough time to prepare documents and enough time for the consulate to process them and return my passport.
Here’s a list of where you can apply for Schengen visa in main cities around the world. My blog post is only indicative. Click on the link and read official information you need to know about a visa application.:
- TLS Contact London
- TLS Contact Maroc
- VFS Global India
- VFS Global Philippines
- TLS Contact China
- TLS Contact Algerie
- TLS Contact Nigeria
What country gives the longest visa?
This is a question that comes back often. The answer is none. The choice is totally random and depends on case by case basis. In my case, here’s a history of my last 5 years Schengen visas and how much duration I got:
- France: 6 months – multiple entries
- Netherlands: 6 months – multiple entries
- Spain: 7 days – one entry
- Switzerland: 1 month – two entries
- France: 6 months – multiple entries
- France: 1 year – multiple entries
- France: 2 years – multiple entries
As you can see, it is very random and depends on each country and each applicant. However, I can see that I established a relationship of trust with France consulate now. Every new application was rewarded with extra time! It could also be a political move between France and Morocco, so maybe Moroccans benefit of easier visa application with France. You never know what is behind these decisions!
All information provided here is indicative only. You are responsible for your application and I do not take any responsibility if you do not verify information with the consulate where you apply. I give credible information but it is subject to change by the relevant authorities. Bear in mind that applications are evaluated on case by case basis. What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you!
Do you have any questions about Schengen Visa? Leave a comment below!