Each country in the Schengen region has its own specific regulations when it comes to applying for a Schengen Visa. And these regulations apply differently, depending on the nationality of the person applying. This blog post is aimed specifically at South African citizens, travelling from South Africa. It is based on my own, extensive experience, and is meant to serve as a reference only. Following these tips should steer you in the right direction, but they are not a guarantee of your application being successful.
Making your bookings
Before you think about completing the application form you need to have your bookings done and dusted. You have to have an airline booking showing the date of travel as well as the destination. In most cases, this has to be a confirmed booking and not just an itinerary from the airline. You will also need accommodation bookings but these do not need to be paid for in advance. To that end I use booking.com for all of our bookings. I tend to make one that covers the entire duration of our trip, with free cancellation, to make my life easier. If you are staying with friends it gets more complicated. You will need a letter from them inviting you to stay, and some countries require proof of residence from the invitee. Because of this, we tend not to go this route.
Schengen Visa Application Form
Each country has its own version of the application form so make sure you download and fill in the one specifically for the country you are applying to. In the case of multiple Schengen countries being visited, you need to apply to the country in which you will spend the most time. If you are visiting a non-Schengen country on the same trip, you need to apply for that Visa first. The only explanation I can offer for why this is necessary, is because some countries allow entry with a Schengen Visa even though they are not part of the Schengen area.
No staples allowed
Once you have completed the form it can be printed, dated and signed. Do not use staples to hold the form together. The Visa Application Centre will have facilities to take your photograph and I suggest you have them done there to ensure that they are 100% correct. They will charge you, and you might end up with photographs they don’t use. I have used mine for Visas applications when I have done them 6 weeks’ apart, and for my drivers’ license and passport.
Photocopying a forest
Your next step is to become friendly with your photocopier. There is no such thing as submitting too much information. You will need copies of your passport personal data page as well as all previous Schengen Visas. If, like me, you have travelled often, this amounts to a lot of copies. To make my life easier I have scanned each of these and just print them out as necessary.
Despite the fact you have an airline ticket and accommodation booked, this might not be clear enough to the person approving your visa. You also have to provide written information on the destination and itinerary including hotel names and dates. Be sure to add your flight details and any motivating reason for your trip. If you plan on driving to your destination from the airport you land at, you will need proof of car hire. We use Europcar because of their excellent service. Car hire can be cancelled anytime prior to departure with no penalty, and you pay upon arrival.
The country you are travelling to wants to know if you plan on coming home. So, if you are employed you need a current letter of employment. Dave and I are self employed so we provide a copy of our CK documents as well as a letter from our accountant saying we are coming back to work. I also provide proof of residence to further strengthen the concept we will return to South Africa.
Adding to the pile
If you are married, it is a good idea for you to include your marriage certificate. And given the current pandemic you will need proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid. Travel in future will most likely be determined by vaccination status, as it has been for years with regard to Yellow Fever. If you are travelling to see family or friends get the letter from them about your stay, including the dates of your trip.
Can you afford the trip?
The day before your appointment download 3 months stamped bank statements from your personal account. You can add to this any savings account you have, keeping in mind the statements need to be stamped. And if credit card statements are accepted, your most current credit card statement. Each country has a different Euro value needed for each day of your stay so refer to this site for more comprehensive information.
Can you afford the risk?
Vital to any overseas trip is travel insurance. If you pay for your airline tickets with your credit card, you should get basic insurance free of charge. Since 2010 we have upgraded our insurance to cover cancellation and curtailment. I suggest you do the same. The cost of the insurance is cheaper than the cost of an hotel for even one night. And when Dave had his wallet stolen everything was covered, including the cash he had with him. Once you have the travel insurance you will need an Embassy Letter for the country / countries you are travelling to. The letter needs to state that you have health insurance for the whole Schengen territory, with a minimum coverage of €30 000 in case of any medical emergency such as illnesses, accidents and even repatriation in case of death.
A few more documents
As I said, you can never submit too many pieces of paper when applying for your Schengen Visa. If Dave is not applying for a Visa at the same time (or vice versa) I include a copy of his current Visa. Given the current world wide pandemic I also complete all the health forms that are necessary at the time, and submit copies of those. Because we would like a long term Visa, each time I apply, I add a letter requesting one, with the dates of all our trips to Europe included. At present, these are not being issued which means for the foreseeable future I will have to go through this process each trip.