How to Apply for a Schengen Visa
If you wish to travel easily within most of Europe, free from the need to present your visa as you explore across borders, you will need to apply for a Schengen Visa. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you with filling in the required application forms and collating and presenting the required documents. And, should your Schengen Visa application be refused; they can find out why and have the decision reversed.
What is a Schengen Visa?
The Schengen Visa is the most popular visa issued in Europe. It allows holders to move through the 26 countries that make up the Schengen area, namely: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
If you have a Schengen Visa, you will be permitted to:
- transit through a Schengen State, including transiting through international airports
- visit a Schengen State for up to 90 days in any six-month period (short-stay visa)
Do I need a Schengen Visa?
Citizens of more than 60 countries from around the world can enter the Schengen Area and remain for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without needing to apply for a Schengen Visa. You can find a list of countries where citizens must have a short stay visa to travel within the Schengen area here. You will also find a list of countries whose citizens must hold a Schengen Visa to transit through an international airport of a particular Schengen State.
You will not require a Schengen Visa to transit through an international airport within the Schengen area if you:
- have been issued with a legitimate visa or residence permit issued by a Schengen State;
- hold a visa valid for a Member State of the European Union or the European Economic Area, Canada, Japan or the United States;
- hold a valid residence permit issued by a Member State of the European Union or the European Economic Area;
- hold a residence permit issued by the Principality of Andorra, Canada, Japan, Republic of San Marino, or the United States, that guarantees the unrestricted right of return;
- are a family member of a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland;
- have a diplomatic passport; or
- are a part of a flight crew whose home country is a signatory to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.
Schengen Visa Types & Validity
Schengen visas allow holders to travel to a Schengen country for a short stay of up to 90 days in any 180-day period and gives them permission to circulate anywhere within the Schengen area during that time.
When applying for a Schengen visa as a non-EU national, you will need to select why you are travelling to the Schengen area. There are several types of Schengen visa, including:
- Airport transit
- Visiting friends or family
- Official visit
- Medical treatment
- Cultural, Sports and Film Crews
- Other – if none of the above apply, you will need to explain the purpose of your visit to the Schengen area.
How do I apply for a Schengen Visa?
A Schengen Visa application is made at the Consulate or Embassy of the Schengen State you plan to visit, or if you are spending time in several countries, the State you plan to be in most. For example, if you are visiting offices in Germany for two weeks and Belgium for five days, you would apply to the German Consulate. However, if you plan to visit both offices for an equal number of days, you need to apply to the Consulate of the country whose external borders you will cross first when entering the Schengen Area. So, if you were travelling by Eurostar, you would likely stop in Brussels first (as the Eurostar has no German destinations), so you would apply with the Belgium Consulate.
If the country in which you need to lodge your application (known as the destination country) does not have a Consulate or Embassy in your home State, you will need to file your application with the Visa Centre or Consulate/Embassy that the destination country has outsourced its visa submissions to.
What are the eligibility requirements of a Schengen Visa?
You will need to produce the following documents to apply for a Schengen Visa:
- The completed and signed visa application form
- A valid passport, containing at least two empty pages, which has an expiry date of three months or more from the date you plan to leave the Schengen Area.
- A recent photograph which conforms to ICAO standards
- Proof of medical insurance with a minimum of €30,000 cover, covering emergency medical care, hospitalization, and repatriation (returning your body home if you die abroad)
- proof of payment of the relevant fees
- if your country has an operational Visa Information System, your fingerprints will be taken when you submit your application
- itinerary and details of your flights in and out of the Schengen area (or your train details if you have entered London first and are travelling to the Continent via the Eurostar)
- details of your accommodation
- proof that you can financially support yourself; this can be shown through bank statements, a sponsorship letter, or a combination of both
Each Schengen State also requires documents particular to their administrations, so it is imperative to check with the Consulate of the country you are applying through to ensure you submit everything required.
How can I provide evidence of suitable accommodation and sufficient funds?
Evidence of accommodation may include your hotel reservation/s, a rental property agreement, and/or a letter of invitation from the person with whom you will be staying during your trip.
Proof of sufficient financial means may include your last three months of bank statement showing you have enough money to live on during your trip or a letter from a person in the Schengen area confirming they will cover your costs.
How long does it take to receive a Schengen Visa?
The Consulate will make its decision usually within 15 days of receiving your application. However, if your application is complex, it can take up to 60 days to receive a decision. You must apply for your visa at least 15 days before you intend to travel. The earliest you can apply is six months prior to departure.
Non-EU countries where you can GO with a Schengen Visa
Did you know that it is also possible to travel to non-EU countries if you have a Schengen visa? These countries include:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
- São Tomé and Príncipe
It is important to note, however, that each of these countries imposes its own set of restrictions on the use of the Schengen visa (in terms of who can travel and for how long), hence it is important to check these before you apply.
What if my Schengen Visa is refused?
If your visa application is refused, the reasons for the refusal will be noted in the standard form used by a particular Consulate. This communication will also detail your right to appeal, how to lodge an appeal, and the deadline for submitting your application.
If your visa has been refused, it is always best to seek legal advice. An immigration lawyer will examine the reasons for the refusal and advise on whether you should submit a new application or appeal.
To appeal a Schengen Visa rejection, you will need to submit an Appeal Letter for Schengen Visa. It should contain the reasons why the refusal was incorrect, backed up by statements of fact and law.
Applying for a Schengen visa is relatively straightforward and inexpensive, as long as you follow the correct process and submit all the information required. If you need help with applying for a Schengen Visa or appealing a refusal, speak to our immigration solicitors, who will be able to advise and support you throughout the process.