A lot of friends ask me how I obtain visas for my trips. It’s pretty simple, really. So let me guide you through getting a Schengen Visa.
Most of the countries I have visited in the last couple of years are in Europe. Although I have been to some countries in Asia when I was younger, I realized that travelling anywhere in the world has never been easier (for me at least) since I started working in Saudi Arabia. So when my husband and I decided to do our first multi-country trip, we chose Europe as our destination, and it has become our favorite continent since then.
I always say that there are only three things you need to do get a visa :
1. Research. Research.
Since we are Philippine passport holders and we wanted to visit many states/countries on our first European trip, we knew we would need a Schengen visa. This visa is valid in all Schengen states for a stay of up to 90 days within a six-month period for a visit, tourism or business. The Schengen area comprises 27 European countries including Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Austria. There is typically no passport control on the borders between these countries. Applications can be made at earliest three (3) months before the planned entry.
Visa applications must be addressed (and submitted) to the Embassy/Consulate of the country you intend to visit. If your plan is to visit several countries, visa application must be made at the Embassy/Consulate of the main destination country—meaning the length of stay in this destination is the longest. If the length of stay in each country is almost the same, apply at the country of first entry. For our first European trip, we intended to visit Greece, Italy, Paris and Belgium, so we applied at the Greek Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
During our second trip, we wanted to go to Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic and Norway, so we applied at the German Embassy thru VFS Global- Riyadh
My most recent trip was in Spain and Portugal, so I applied at the Spanish Embassy thru BLS- Riyadh (https://saudi.blsspainvisa.com/short_term_visa_tourist.php).
Most consulates and embassies have their own website that is very informative especially regarding visa applications. Our first ever Schengen visa application at the Greek embassy was the easiest of all. Unlike most other embassies/consulates and visa processing offices (i.e. VFS, BLS, etc) in Riyadh, the Greek Embassy does not require an appointment to submit your visa application. Applicants at the Greek Embassy can directly submit the documents required for obtaining a Schengen Visa from 9:30 to 12:00, on working days – Sunday to Thursday.
2. Prepare a complete set of requirements In order to apply for a Schengen visa, the applicant needs to provide the documents enumerated in this list below. Although it is a Harmonized List of Supporting Documents for Schengen Visa Applications, in some individual cases, additional documents may be requested by the embassy or consulate to which your application is addressed to. Presentation of the documents does not automatically lead to the issuance of a visa and possession of a visa does not confer an automatic right of entry. The ultimate decision regarding admission to the Schengen territory lies with the Border Authorities upon arrival.
1. Visa Application Form correctly filled in English and signed.
2. Two recent passport-sized photographs with a white background, not stapled. Full face; no head or face cover(s) that prevent(s) full visibility of the facial features.
3. Original passport valid for further three months period after the intended departure from the territory of the Schengen States and 1 copy of all relevant passport pages (data page, pages containing previous Schengen visas). It shall contain at least two blank pages and have been issued within the previous 10 years.
4. Proof of travel medical insurance covering the entire period of intended stay, valid for all Schengen States and covering any expenses which might arise in connection with repatriation for medical reasons, urgent medical attention, emergency hospital treatment or death during stay. The minimum coverage must be 30.000 Euros. Original For further details please refer to the Travel Medical Insurance Information document published by the Embassies of the Schengen Member States in Saudi Arabia.
5. Copy of flight ticket or flight reservation including return flight.
6. Verifiable evidence of sufficient means of subsistence during intended stay such as a credit card valid throughout the intended stay.
7. For minors travelling without their parents/legal guardian: original authorization signed by their parents/legal guardian and copy of passport(s) of parents/legal guardian.
8. Iqama/ Residence Permit *Note: When applying at the Spanish Embassy thru BLS-Riyadh, you need to submit a valid English Translation for any Arabic document you submit like iqama copy and exit re-entry visa.
9. Saudi Arabian re-entry visa valid beyond the intended date of departure from the territory of the Schengen States
10. Bank statements for the past six months or other verifiable evidence of sufficient means of subsistence during intended stay. *Note: Make sure that your bank statement has a stamp from the bank. Online statements are not usually accepted by consulates/embassies.
11. Original letter from sponsor in Saudi Arabia, stating employment status, position, length of contract and salary, stamped by the Chamber of Commerce. Self-sponsored: valid original trade license and 1 copy thereof with translation
13. For tourism: Proof of accommodation during intended stay: hotel reservation or copy of a rental contract or proof of residential property. Tip: A detailed itinerary of the activities to do and places you wish to visit may come in handy too. I usually attach an itinerary with my application in order to give the consuls an idea of what I’ll be doing during my trip. It also helps to emphasize that I’m just travelling for pleasure.
14. For private visits: Original invitation letter signed by the host covering the intended stay [where applicable: using the official format required by the Member State's national legislation. For further information, please verify the website of the Member State(s) of destination].
3. Submit your application
Whether you are submitting your application directly to the embassy or thru a visa processing offices like VFS or BLS, the key is to review your documents many times and make sure that they are exactly the same as what is required.
If you have an appointment at the embassy or visa office, you have to come at least an hour earlier. Since the Greek Embassy does not have an appointment system, you may wish to come a little earlier in order not to miss the allowed slots for daily application.
When you apply at the VFS- Global Office, you can call or visit them first to inquire about the requirements (you can bring the documents with you) before the scheduled appointment to make sure that you will be submitting all the documents required. Otherwise, you may need to schedule another appointment and pay the fees again if you miss a document.
When applying for Spanish visa thru BLS- Riyadh Office, you should arrive at least an hour prior to your appointment because the queuing is not very organized and you may end up spending many hours waiting for your turn.
In any case, you should be truthful in your application and you should know your itinerary by heart. I won’t say there’s an actual interview during visa application, but most of the time, the visa officer may ask your purpose of visit and a few questions regarding your employment in Saudi Arabia. Just be confident and smile. There’s no reason to be afraid anyway.
Finally, once your application is accepted, it normally takes three (3) to ten (10) working days for the result. I got my first Schengen Visa from Greek Embassy after 3 days, German Visa after 4 days and my Spanish Multi-entry Visa after 7 days from submission.
Hopefully, you can get yours too soon. Europe is a fascinating place to explore and travelling between countries without boundaries is always an overwhelming experience. Seriously, there’s no reason not to go. Happy travels!