I know that Indians are the vulnerable bunch, because of their weak Indian passport. They are required to submit hundreds of documents, prove their existence and go through a process so mentally tormenting, that getting a new birth certificate might apparently feel easier than applying for a tourist visa. And when it comes to Schengen visa things become even more complicated.
Perhaps that’s the reason why a majority of tourists contact a travel agency and pay more money. They do it out of helplessness. For a quick rescue.
They opt for travel packages and pre-paid itineraries, even if that meant bleeding unnecessary money, and exploring silly places abroad.
To tell you the truth, I also considered that option before going through the process myself. But as I pondered upon the idea and calculated the prospects, I realized that it will be a lost deal, especially because I was on a limited budget. I mean we anyway pay over 1500 Rupees to Vfs that is nothing more than a cheap middleman, so why pay more to another travel agency, right?
So if you’re planning to apply for a Schengen visa by yourself, and are firm to save some money during the process, this guide will help you. Right from what documents you need for a Schengen visa to how good your chances are for a successful application, I will answer all your answers, right here.
Tips On Applying For A Schengen Visa For Indians
Understand Your Position
Before I say anything, let me give you a picture of how grim my application looked, when I applied for my short term, single-entry Schengen tourist visa (in March 2017).
I was self-employed for the past 2 years, with almost no regular source of income. Though I filed income tax, every year, my income was less than taxable. I had no employer recommendation letter to provide with my application either. And on top of that, I chose a 2 month travel period – which, more or less, raised doubts about my original intention.
“How can a person with no financial support travel across Europe for months,” I’m sure the Visa officer might have asked the question himself.
But as I submitted the application, there were no questions asked. I was never invited to an interview. And my visa was delivered on my doorsteps in under 8 days from the date of submission. A beautiful stamp on my passport now says ‘valid for SCHENGENER STAATEN’! I like how German sometimes sound!
- If you’re already working and have a decent regular income, there’s no need to be scared. Because if a person with no job since years can get it, why can’t you!
The First Step
My original plan was to backpack across 8 countries for a period of 58 days. Though I was starting from Switzerland, I was spending most of my time in Germany (over 15 days), and this made me eligible to apply for my Schengen Visa at either at Switzerland’s or Germany’s embassy in India.
[I hope you know the rule, which says: you are eligible to apply for the Schengen Visa at the respective country’s embassy where you will be 1) arriving first, or 2) spending most the days, during your travel in Europe]
Now, the reason I chose Germany and not Switzerland is that the Swiss embassy has a bad reputation, as compared to that of Germany’s. Though the German embassy is not so generous either, definitely better than that of Switzerland’s. You can Google for a list of safest countries to apply for a Schengen Visa.
- Apply for your visa from a country with a better acceptance rate.
- Apply from less popular counties like Hungary or Slovenia, than France, or Switzerland.
Start Your Application
Once you’ve made the decision about which embassy you’re going to approach, comes the most important stage – completing your application and submitting relevant documents.
Though different countries might slightly vary in the rules, the supporting travel documents they require are more or less the same. And they are your bank statements, a return flight ticket, confirmed hotel booking, all inside-Europe travel booking, and travel insurance during your time of travel in Europe (with a minimum coverage of 300,00 euros).
Filling your visa application is simple, and takes no more than a couple of hours. If you’ve any doubts, you can also always contact the vfs office but as I said, they’re a cheap middleman and know nothing more than the guidelines already mentioned on a respective country’s website. And I’m saying that out of my personal experience.
So if you have major doubts about your visa application, it’s advised to directly write to the country’s embassy in India than contacting vfs.
- Avoid contacting Vfs, they know nothing more than you do.
The Next Step: Convince The Visa Officer
Convincing the Visa officer that your sole intention is to travel, and travel only is crucial. And this is done by showing more than enough funds in your bank account (explained later in the article how!) and providing other travel documents, including a return flight ticket, all confirmed hotel booking, all inside-Europe travel booking, and the travel insurance.
In my case, I provided proof of enough funds in my account; a 100 percent refundable, but confirmed flight ticket (so that I can later cancel it, if the need be, without losing any money); all pre-booked hotels (with no reservation charges and free cancellation, using booking.com); and the mandatory travel insurance (from Reliance General Insurance, which comes with free cancellation, if the visa is rejected)!
The only required document(s) I didn’t provide was my pre-booked transportation inside Europe – and for that, I clearly mentioned in my STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AND TRAVEL ITINERARY that I didn’t do because I might be hitchhiking and booking last-minute bus/flight tickets to save costs, and it worked just right!
Statement Of Purpose: Make It Convincing, And Clear
For those who don’t know, a Statement of Purpose (with your entire travel itinerary) is a personal covering letter, addressed to the visa officer, which talks about your original intention to travel, places you are going to travel, and for how long.
There’s no harm in going subjective with your thoughts, and I think it only helps you better if you do. Provide as many details as you can, and convince the visa office. I wrote a 3-page long cover letter!
It is moreover a good idea to provide a route-map with all your locations and dates of travel. And I think it’s because of detailed, and a very personal statement of purpose, that the officer felt assured that my sole intention is traveling.
Remember whether you travel cheaper (as was the case with me) or take expensive tours if your application looks genuine to the Visa officer you will be granted the permission!
- Provide a very personal and clearly detailed itinerary.
- Book hotels from Booking.com, with no reservation charges and free cancellations.
- Always book a refundable flight ticket.
Proof Of Funds: Perhaps Most Significant
Unlike hotel reservations and pre-booked transportation, which can be smartly escaped from, here you don’t get much flexibility. You have to have the minimum required money stocked up in your favorite bank, so the visa officer feels confident about your financial situation.
Though different countries have different requirements, the difference isn’t very significant. For Germany, it was somewhere around 65 Euros a day. This means that those applying for the Schengen visa from a German embassy, and for a travel period of 10 days must at least have over 650 Euros in their bank account – unused for the last few months or weeks. This can be your current/savings account as well as fixed deposits.
I moreover think that there isn’t a minimum time duration since you are required to have the money in your account. In my case, I had the maintained balance for less than 3 weeks, and it worked just right.
I personally feel that applying for a visa by yourself is simple, easier and gives you much flexibility to create an itinerary the way you wanted. I paid just a little over 6000 Rupees including my visa fee, vfs charges and for the passport courier service.
The accommodation I’ve booked and the flight tickets I’ve purchased – were also cheaper, at least cheaper than what any travel agent would have possibly provided me with!
Further Reading: Reasons For Schengen Visa Rejection