March 22, 2012

Schengen Visa Application

Travelling to Europe is probably in most people's bucket list and the good news is that when you travel to one or more of the 25 member states of the Schengen Agreement, you only need one visa. Come to think of it, the more countries you visit, the cheaper the visa fee per country will equate to. Now, that's something worth considering right? :)

The following countries are members of the Schengen Agreement: 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 and Switzerland.

The rule is, you apply at the embassy of whichever country you're staying the longest. Or in case of equal stays, apply at the embassy of your first port of entry.

For our trip this summer, me and my two kids will need to apply at the French Embassy Manila. Fortunately, the requirements are pretty much the same as the UK embassy (including the photo specifications) and the only thing we need to add is a travel insurance.

The procedure is pretty much the same as well -- you schedule an appointment to submit your application, payment and biometric data then come back to get your visa (there's no option of having your passport couriered to you).

Schedule an appointment. In our case, we just need to send an email to visa.ambafrance.manille@gmail.com. It was a very efficient process as it only takes them a day or two, at most, to respond. But effective April 10, 2012, appointments for visa applications will need to be scheduled by calling a premium hotline. This is actually sad as I find the current process simple, efficient and best of all free. I wish they just implemented an online booking system where you pay a fixed rate using your credit card. I'm not really a fan of calling premium numbers as I feel that the CSRs are deliberately trying to prolong the conversation to jack up the fees.

Prepare your documents. A complete list of requirements can be downloaded here. You will need to print a blank application form and fill it out manually. 
  • Cover letter - addressed to THE HONORABLE CONSUL, EMBASSY OF FRANCE. Explain the purpose of your trip and include a summary of your itinerary.
  • Trip details - Hotel vouchers, airline reservation, detailed itinerary
  • Proof of employment or business - Certificate of employment (original copy) or business registration for the current and previous years (photocopy).
  • Proof of income - ITR, photocopy of last 3 months bank statement/passbook
  • Proof of Identity - NSO birth certificate and NSO marriage certificate, when applicable.
  • Travel insurance - should cover the whole duration of the trip and valid for all Schengen states. You can download a list of accredited insurance companies here.
Make sure to submit photocopies of important documents (such as business registration) as the French embassy will not return them to you. Just bring the original copies in case they look for it. 

Payment. You will need to pay in cash, in Philippine peso on the day of your appointment. Current visa fee is EUR60 (PHP3430) for adults, EUR35 (PHP2000) for kids 6-11 years old and FREE for kids 5 and below. Rates may vary depending on the conversion rate for the day. Bring lots of change (20s and 50s) as the embassy only accepts exact payment and no coins.

The French Embassy is located at the Pacific Star Building in Makati. Our appointment is at 8:30am and when we arrived, there are already applicants who are already done (they start processing applications at 8am). They have a package counter where you can leave your cellphone.

When your number is called, you will need to submit only the following: passport, itinerary, hotel reservation, airline reservation and exact payment. After which, you will need to wait for your turn to be interviewed.

During the interview, you will need to submit your documents in the exact order written in the guideline. They are very, very, very particular about this so please make sure you arrange your documents properly. It was a quick interview, after which they took our photo and my biometric data. I was given a receipt indicating the date and time we should come back to know the results. The date was 7 working days after our interview. Since we did not apply through a travel agent, they returned our passports. I was also informed that there's no need for the kids to be present during the pick-up date.

There are a number of applicants at the Embassy that time but the process is pretty quick. We finished with a lot of time to spare so I can bring the kids to school.

On our scheduled pick-up date, I went alone with all our passports and receipts. Our pick-up time is at 11:00am and when I got to the embassy there are a lot of people inside. Some of them applicants waiting for their turns to be interviewed and most of them returning applicants like me waiting for the results. You will need to give your passport to the person in window 1 and wait. They'll finish all applicants for interview first before they start distributing passports. It was a short wait until my turn and I was handed our passports with our Schengen visas! Upon receiving our passports, I thanked the Consul, left and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Finally, after two mentally agonizing, not to mention bank breaking visa applications, we can officially get psyched for our trip to Europe!

Just a few notes you might find helpful:
  • Appointments can sometimes take as far as 2 months from the time of booking so plan your travels. Remember though, that you can only send a request 3 months at the earliest prior to your departure date.
  • Make sure you follow the rule on which embassy to apply. It has to be at the embassy of the country you are staying the longest or in case of equal, stays, the first port of entry.
  •  Visa validity. You can only stay at the Schengen area up to the validity of your visa. So even if you are usually allowed to stay for 30 days but you arrived 5 days prior to your visa expiration, you will have to leave before your visa expires.
  • The photo they'll use in your visa is the one they'll be taking at the embassy, not the one you'll submit. So try to look pretty and fresh while waiting for your turn. I hadn't realized how sunburned we are from a recent trip until I saw our pictures.  

At first, I wasn't really sure if it was my daughter on the picture or her shadow! Haha!


French Embassy Manila
Office Hours: 8:00am to 12:00nn
16/F Pacific Star Bldg. 
Buendia cor. Makati Ave.,
Makati City
 


9 comments:

  1. Very informative sis! Thanks for posting!

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  2. Thanks for the information! My family and I are actually planning a trip to Europe this autumn. I really enjoyed my 2-month trip to UK so I'm bugging them to go back to Europe this year.

    One question though, for proof of accommodation- you don't really have to have the hotel booked right away, yes? You just need to give them an idea where you plan to stay? (I didn't give proof of accommodation when I went to the UK since I stayed in my grandmother's house so I have no idea what to do with this. :D)

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    1. Hi. You will need to submit a hotel reservation/voucher, so yes, you need to have the hotel booked already. If you're staying with a friend or relative, you still have to provide a letter of invitation (format downloadable at embassy website) along with their ID/residency card.

      They're pretty strict about this. I remember a few years back, my sister applied for a Schengen visa and she did not include a hotel reservation. Needless to say, she wasn't given a visa.

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    2. Hmm, I see. So we really have to look for a hotel in every country we will go to. Thanks for the info!

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. This is very useful sis!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Have a safe and wonderful trip to Europe :)


    Followed you through GFC. Pls follow mine, too!

    http://carmiscaprice.blogspot.com

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  5. did you go through with the Euro trip? i'm interested to know coz' we're planning a euro trip this Feb and would like to know the places you went to. We are also travelling with two children.

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    1. Hi. Yes we did, spent a week in London and a week in Paris. Places we went to:
      London: Legoland Windsor, Windsor Castle, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Garden, St Paul's Cathedral, Millennium Footbridge, Tate Modern, Coram's Field, King's Cross Station.
      Paris: HOHO bus (great way to see the sights in one go), Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysee, Les Invalides, Notre Dame Cathedral, Saint Chapelle, Latin Quarter, Luxembourg Garden, Euro Disney, Giverny, Louvre, Jardin de Tuileries, Sacre Ceour Basilica, Chateau de Versailles

      Didn't have time to make a post re the trip. But will definitely find the time, not soon though :)

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