Europe is a dream. Something I have been anticipating for decades. And the wait finally ended when I did my EURockMyWorld tour. After getting my UK Visa, I decided to apply for a Schengen Visa, just by the off-chance that it would be granted since I already have a UK Visa and that my planned itinerary included an exit not from a Schengen area, but from London. Since Paris – the Sainte-Chapelle, the Louvre and finally saying “croissant” properly – was the goal, I did my Schengen Visa application via the French Embassy.
What is the Schengen Visa?
The Schengen Visa is the necessary permit in order to visit any of the 26 countries within the “Schengen area” and the associated states, or the “Schengen states”.
The “Schengen area” does not include the following countries in the European Union: United Kingdom, Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria. Conversely, a visa issued by these countries does not authorize entry to France.
Why do your Schengen Visa Application via the French Embassy?
The Schengen Visa can be obtained from any of the embassies of the countries listed above. But, applying via the French Embassy becomes imperative when:
- You are going only to France and will not travel to any other country within the Schengen area;
- You will visit multiple Schengen countries the country of your longest stay is France;
- You will stay in multiple Schengen countries for exactly the same number of days, but France is your point of entry; OR
- If you need to get the result of your visa application within 3 to 5 working days.
For the short-stay type of Schengen Visa, the French embassy has the fastest Schengen Visa processing duration to date. Other embassies would take longer: German – at least 7 working days, Spanish – 5 to 10 working days, Netherlands – 10 to 14 working days, Italian – 15 working days, etc.
Read more: Glorious Travel with iVideo Pocket Wifi
How early should you apply for a Schengen Visa?
Schengen Visa application via the French Embassy can be done as early as 90 days (or three months) prior to the date of departure. Although the visa processing time of the French Embassy could take only 3 days, there should always be an allowance because the embassy might require some additional documents.
In my case, since my itinerary involved travel between the United Kingdom (non-Schengen area) and France (Schengen area), I was asked to submit a transit document, ie, a plane ticket reservation indicating that I am traveling between these two countries.
What is the Procedure of Schengen Visa Application via the French Embassy?
Book an appointment
According to the VFS Global website, Step #1 of your Schengen Visa Application via the French Embassy is preparing your documents, I recommend booking an appointment first to ensure that you get the earliest possible schedule you are comfortable with.
Go to the Appointment System page and click New User if you don’t have an account yet or Log In if you do.
Once signed in, you will be asked to select the application center. Right now, the only option available is France Visa Application Centre, Manila. After selecting this, you will be asked to enter the visa category that you need. Set your appointment and print our your Visa Appointment Letter.
Is your passport validity less than 6 months from your visa application appointment? No worries, according to the VFS, it is still possible to apply for a Schengen visa even if the system requires a valid passport that is 6 months away from expiry. All you need to do is declare the date of expiry to be at a later date to get an appointment. However, remember that the rule about 90 days passport validity after the travel date still applies.
For this article, I focus on the Tourist or Short-Stay Schengen visa.
Complete the Requirements
After selecting your preferred schedule, you now face one of the hardest parts of your Schengen Visa application: gathering your documents. This page lists the kind of preparation you need. And because we, from the third world, have to jump through hoops in order to prove ourselves worthy of setting foot in the Old Continent, the French Embassy is kind enough to provide a checklist of the requirements. For Short Stay Visit or Tourist checklist, you can download it from this link.
As of March 17, 2017, this is the complete list of requirements according to the SCHENGEN VISA – SHORT STAY VISIT/TOURISM checklist provided by the French Embassy. Make sure to arrange your documents according to how they are listed here.
- Signed Schengen visa application form with photo – More details on the photo requirements here.
- Valid passport (3 months’ validity from the end of intended stay), photocopy of the bio page, valid and former visas, pages of the passport with Immigration stamps and previous refusal stamps (if any)*
- Cover letter explaining the purpose of the trip and proposed day-to-day itinerary – Items worth including on the cover letter: duration of the entire trip and a table showing the dates, places of interest (city and country), reserved hotels and contact numbers
- Proof of Accommodation
- For Tourists: Hotel reservations (for the entire stay in the Schengen area) – Because one must not be too cocky in applying for a visa, one should not actually book hotels. Go to hotel booking websites, like Agoda.com or Booking.com, that offer hotel reservations with free cancellations. But, I also recommend closely scrutinizing the hotels you want to make reservations with because you might end up staying there; reserve the hotel you want to actually stay at because prices tend to go up near the stay dates anyway.
- If staying with a French resident: “Attestation d’accueil” – delivered by the City hall where the host is residing (the original must be presented) + copy of that host’s passport or residence permit (if citizen of a country outside the EU) + proof of relationship (if applicable)
- Round Trip Airline Reservation – Like your hotel reservations, do not buy your plane tickets prior to receiving your Schengen Visa. I cannot emphasize this enough. The Embassy and VFS Global are aware that rejection is possible so lessen your suffering by not paying for expensive flights prior to getting a hold of that elusive visa. Here is my golden tip for you: Call the KLM hotline and request for a flight reservation to France. They will hold this reservation for 72 hours – no strings attached. That’s right. You can make your reservation, they will email you the reservation that looks like an actual flight confirmation and you can submit this together with all your other documents. No need to pay for anything. Once the hold period lapses, the agent might call you to confirm your reservation. Note that making a flight reservation online includes a fee.
- Transfer tickets within Schengen countries (train, coach, flight reservations, etc) – If you are visiting multiple Schengen countries, you also need to present transfer tickets. If your trip is like mine wherein a part of the itinerary involves going out or coming in from a non-Schengen area, like the UK, have the foresight to make the transfer reservations to avoid prolonging the processing and waiting time. I suggest making the same reservations via KLM.
- For family visit, proof of relationship with the host (birth certificate, marriage certificate…)
- Certificate of employment with monthly salary and leave of absence approved by employer, or if self-employed, official business registration (DTI Permit and /or SEC papers) for current and previous year
- Latest personal income tax return
- Recent personal bank certification – The bank certificate must be issued within the last month. As a tip, I suggest that you use your oldest bank account for visa application purposes. Newly created bank accounts seem to be questionable to embassies. Concerned about how much “show money” you need? Check out my other post which sheds some official light on this matter.
- Photocopy of the last three months’ statement of account of the same bank account – Make sure that your bank statement is presentable, meaning there are no suspicious deposits of huge amounts during the past three months. On the sticky subject of show money, I suggest making sure that you won’t appear to be “bankrupt” after your Europe tour is done.
- Identity/Marital Status
- If married: photocopy of your marriage contract and birth certificate
- If single: photocopy of your birth certificate
- International travel insurance (medical expenses and repatriation) covering the entire period of the person’s intended stay and valid for all Schengen states. Minimum coverage should be EUR 30,000.
- Visa Fee – EUR 60.00 for applicants aged 12 years and above applying for an ordinary visa. Note that the peso equivalent varies according to the current exchange rate. Other fees can be found here.
- Visa Appointment Letter – This is not really on the checklist but you should print this and present this when you get to the VFS Visa Application Center.
Submit the requirements at the VFS Visa Application Center
On the day of your appointment, head over to the VFS Visa Application Center located at:
VFS Global Office
France Visa Application Centre,
Mezzanine Floor, Ecoplaza Bldg.,
Don Chino Roces Ave. Extension, Makati City
The guard that welcomes applicants is quite strict so be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before your schedule. Also, it is very important to note that the French Embassy does not allow visa applicants to bring anything inside the application area, except for a wallet and cellphone. If you are carrying a handbag or a backpack, you will be asked to deposit this at the locker area and pay a whopping amount of PHP 75.00. Based on my experience, the application procedure was very quick at the French Embassy and I only had to stay for half an hour. I believe that the locker fee is not worth it.
After handing in your documents, you will be asked to pay the visa fee (EUR 60) plus a logistics fee of PHP 1370. There will be the option to receive SMS and email updates for the steep price of PHP 110. Also, if you will not be able to pick up your passport (hopefully with the visa!) from 14:00 to 16:00, Mondays to Fridays, you can avail the courier service for PHP 330.
Read more: 11 Reasons Why Schengen Visa Will Be Denied.
After paying all these fees, it’s time for the biometrics, a.k.a. picture-taking-under-harsh-lighting-and-without-smiling plus taking fingerprints. After this, a claim sheet will be given and you are free to go.
Thus, the agony of waiting starts. At least, when you do your Schengen Visa application via the French Embassy, this should only last for three days.
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