All You Need To Know About Schengen Visa!

This article is originally sourced from Curious Eagle with prior permission.Paris – Approching Pont Alexandre III Bridge, and Eiffel Tower
Recently I had been to France for a short adventure Trip. This was my first visit abroad and hence I was pretty naive about all the formalities required for travel. I will be sharing some important points about French Visa application process for Indian citizens in this post.

In order to travel to France, you need Schengen Visa. The Schengen area comprises of 26 countries in Europe. These countries have relinquished border control at their common (or internal borders). Therefore, these group of countries are equivalent to a single country for international traveler. French Visa Application process is handled by VFS global. They have various centers across India. Currently Visa services are offered at New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore.

Requirements for general tourist Visa:

  1. Passport along with the old passport if any.
  2. Filled application form with declarations
  3. Passport size photograph with face covering more than 80% of the photograph. Photograph should not have spectacles or caps or anything which will hide any part of the face.
  4. A personal covering letter addressed to the visa officer , Consulate of Italy – Bangalore, briefly stating the purpose of visit and duration of stay.
  5. Personal bank statement in original of last 06 months with Banker’s seal and signature.
  6. Personal IT return copies of last 03 years. [If you are corporate employee, then all you need to provide is Form 16 for last 3 years]
  7. Payslips of last 06 months
  8. Leave sanction letter from the employer .
  9. Travel Insurance
  10. Ticket Itinerary
  11. Hotel reservation with day to day itinerary (if going as a tourist visitor)
  12. If the applicant is a self-employed, then the below documents are also required.a) Self-employment proof/ Company registration certificate
    b) company bank statement of last 06 months in Original and company IT return copies of last 03 years
  13. School Bonafide certificate in original if children are accompanying
  14. If any invitee is there , then the below documents are also required :
    For individual invitee:
    a)Invite letter copy
    b)Invitee’s passport copy
    c)Invitee’s residential proof in France
    d)His/Her employment proof.For Professional invitee / Or Organization:
    a)Invite letter copy on his letter head (All details regarding the trip including accommodation (if any) provided by invitee should be mentioned in the invitation letter)

Notes, Dos and Don’ts:

  1. Start the process at least 3 months before actual travel date (gathering documents, taking the Visa application date, etc.)
  2. Before peak travel seasons, you will get appointments on 10th to 15th days after the current date. So, factor in these delays in your application process.
  3. You need to take prior appointment from VFS’s website. It can be taken from here. Take the appointment at least 2 months before the travel date.
  4. You can hire an agent for easy processing and to avoid standing in long queues, however it is not required.
  5. Visa application will take 3 to 5 days to get processed after submission of all documents.
  6. If you are a first time traveller to Schengen countries, most likely (but not necessarily) they will call you for a interview.
  7. If they plan to call you for interview, you will come to know about it 3 to 5 days (in some cases upto 1 week) after document submission date. You need to visit the VFS office and enquire if interview is required or not. If you have hired an agent, keep checking with him after 5 days of application submition. Make sure you are not going out-of-station after submitting visa application. If there is a call for interview, then you must attend the interview on given date and time. Rescheduling of interview can only be done by visiting VFS office in person.
  8. Provide all the necessary documents and your travel booking details. Give as much details as you can. If you can give accomodation and travel details of each and every day/night, Visa processing will be smooth. Authorities need to have clear picture about your whereabouts during your travel duration. Even if you forget to provide details about one night’s stay, they might seek an explanation or call you for an interview. This will delay the whole process.
  9. In case of emergencies, you can request your agent for urgent appointment. (I don’t know if this is possible if you are applying without an agent).

Although I was going with one of my friend who had experiences of travelling to France, I had made few mistakes which created unnecessary headaches. Listing them here so you can avoid them.

  1. I started Gathering documents when it was 2 months to go. Document gathering took significant time due to various reasons ( I did not have format for NOC letter from the employee ready with me, covering letter issues, delay from the authorities, etc.)
  2. I had another long trip planned 1 month before France trip. I came to know from the agent that, Visa application submission dates were available only after 15 days time frame from the current date. That next available date was falling during my long trip days, and if call for interview comes then I would have been out of town. This created panic situation and I had to request agent for urgent processing and pay extra fees.
  3. The Photograph! I clicked new photograph and submitted. Agent accepted the photograph and next day told me it is not good, it needs face to be visible in 80% area of the photograph!! Moral of the story: Do not rely on agent ! Photo rules are listed here.
  4. You need to show account balance to the tune of 150 Euros per day. E.g. If you are staying for 10 days in France, your bank statement should show closing balance of 1500 Euros (~ Rs. 1.10 Lakhs). However, agent insisted to have 1.5 L balance for my 10 day travel to avoid any issues. So, more the better ! (This doesn’t mean that if you are travelling for 1 day you can show balance of 150 Euros (~ Rs. 11K). You need to have money to buy return flight ticket to India if you miss your flight or in case of any emergencies.

Useful Links:

  • VFS global website for India is here.
  • French visa application process for Bangalore center is detailed here. Note: Do not rely upon the timelines mentioned on the page. For examaple, page says, person should appear for the interview on the next day which is not correct. As described above VFS will send interview intimation and give date and time.
  • Schengen Visa forms are available here.
  • Photo rules are listed here.

Enjoy your Trip!!!