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Traveling or even the prospect of travel could cost you some good nights’ worth of sleep; especially when it is about traveling to a territory, which requires you to obtain a visa prior to a formal entry . If you are a Pinoy traveler with a Philippine-issued passport, then you’re in for a lot of pre-travel ‘adventures’ just working on the VISA alone.
I applied for several VISAs in the past, and fortunately, I never got rejected in any of those applications. Each application process required effort. I just feel inclined to share with you, the step-by-step process in applying for a Schengen Visa. This Visa is valid in 25 territories, covered by 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.
1. When to apply – at least 90 days before your planned entry to a Schengen territory.
2. Where to file – for multiple destinations, file your visa application to the Consulate of your main destination, or where length of stay is the longest. If length of stay is almost equal, then file application to the Consulate of the first country in your itinerary.
3. Set an appointment with the Consulate / Embassy. Be ready with the following info: applicants name, email address and contact number, purpose of travel, preferred travel dates and length of stay, and preferred schedule of interview.
I applied through the French Embassy – I made an appointment through their visa hotline. Starting April 10, 2012, applicants may reach the Embassy through its call center hotlines: for PLDT/Smart/Touchcard Subscribers 1 (909) 101- 3333;
for Globe/Innove/Touchmobile Subscribers 1 (900) 101- 3333; and for Bayantel Subscribers 1 (903) 101- 3333. Calls are accepted Mondays through Saturdays, from 8AM – 6PM. Call charge is Php 32.00 per minute, excluding VAT and applicable NDD charges for calls made outside Metro Manila. These hotlines are intended for calls made within the Philippines.
The French Embassy conducts interview for Visa applicants, Monday – Friday, 8AM -12NN.
4. Prepare your application form and supporting documents. Please do take note of the turn-around time when requesting for certain documents. Here is the list of the required documents:
* Application form – Formulaire_SCH_eng – you need to fill this up and attach (paste) a 45mm x 35mm ID picture / white background / no face cover / no headgear / no eyeglasses / no frowning / ‘Mona Lisa’ smile only. Clip (paper clip) another copy of the ID photo to the application form.
* Cover letter explaining the purpose of travel and itinerary – I’m posting a copy of my cover letter, for your reference. – Schengen Visa Cover Letter.
* Itinerary – flight reservation (you do not have to buy tickets yet, just contact a travel agent to provide you with a travel voucher free of charge / you may also try http://www.klm.com for free reservation – they could hold the ticket for you for a certain number of days); hotel voucher (you may book through http://www.agoda.com, a good number of hotels allow for free cancellation; and if you’re an HSBC card holder, that’s less 5% for every booking made via Agoda – you need to start browsing from the HSBC website – travel promos, and then follow the link to Agoda website.).
* Travel insurance – a minimum insurance of EURO 30,000, cashless settlement, with toll-free hotline, coverage valid in 25 Schengen territories. For a list of Schengen-accredited insurance providers, you may click on this document – assurances_contacts_site_internet-2. You may also apply online. I applied through http://www.bluecross.com.ph. A Schengen package costs about Php 2,500.00. If you plan to buy a policy from BPI MS, a coverage costs around Php 4,000.00.
* Financial documents / proof income – (1) latest bank certification, (2) bank account statement indicating transactions/balance in the last three months – You have to request for these documents preferably from your branch of account. The bank will require you to fill up and sign a request form, and you have to indicate that the certificate is for your Schengen Visa application. At BPI, they could release the certification in an hour or less – for accounts, which you opened online (example: BPI Direct and BPI Trade – the lead time is about 3 – 5 banking days. You may include your Mutual Fund / Equity Fund Statements, if available. (3) latest Income Tax Return (ITR).
* Proof of employment – (1) Certificate of Employment, indicating tenure / position title / annual compensation; (2) approved leave of absence (I just photocopied my approved VL, as signed by my boss, using our company VL form); (3) For self-employed, official business registration for current and previous years.
* Identity – (1) Passport, valid for at least 6 months from the planned date of entry; (2) photocopy of the first page of passport and all travel visas issued to you; (3) NSO-authenticated birth certificate – a hassle-free request may be facilitated online via http://nso.citizenservices.com.ph/; lead time is 3 – 4 days; (4) if married, bring a photocopy of marriage contract.
* Non-refundable visa application fee, cash basis to be settled in Philippine Peso only – Short stay visa (30 – 90 days), EURO 60.00 (or about Php 3,430, prevailing FOREX rate); Long stay visa (over 90 days), EURO 99.00. Bring smaller bills and coins (P5.00 / P1.00). The French Embassy in Manila accepts exact amount only.
5. Interview – for applications lodged through the French Embassy, interviews are conducted at their office – 16F Pacific Star Building, Buendia cor. Makati Avenue, Makati City. Please be prompt. If your interview is scheduled at 8AM, Pacific Star’s guest registration at Basement 1 opens at 7:50AM. You need to register first with the Admin at Basement 1, before you could go up to the Embassy located at the 16th Floor.
Note: Most of the time, the French Embassy approves/denies application on the spot. For approved applications, the average Visa issuance lead time is 5 working-days. The interviewer will tell you when to claim your Visa. The Embassy may or may not require you to leave your passport while you wait for the Visa.
For other Visa-related matters, you may visit the French Embassy website Visa section: http://www.ambafrance-ph.org/Visas,1261
I hope you find this informative. Don’t get overwhelmed with the requirements. Go through the steps, as if you are in a travel drill of some sort. Patience is a virtue.
In my next blog entry, I intend to write about my experience during the actual interview at the French Embassy. =)