The Schengen Visa is notorious (after the US H1B) for its rejection rate. It has one of the most complicated visa processes.
This visa is usually required to visit – Spain, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – part of the Schengen area.
For someone who is spending close to 3,00,000 INR, the document requirements and the process seems very tedious. If you are someone who wants to get your hands on the Schengen Visa but doesn’t know how then read along.
How easy it is to get Schengen Visa
With #1 being the easiest, we have compiled the below list using our data and also feedback from other visa agents.
- Folks with fat passports with a lot of visa stampings (including Schengen ones).
- Families where at least one member has travelled overseas before.
- Couples who have been to countries other than Schengen and are salaried.
- Couples where either the husband or wife is salaried and have travelled overseas before.
- Couples who are self-employed and are on their first international vacation.
- Group of friends with prior Schengen Visa/International travel.
- Friends who are first time travellers – this is an interesting bunch, you never know why your visa got rejected but your friends were approved.
- Solo with prior travel – second last is a hugely comforting place to be 🙂
- Solo first time traveller – All the best! It takes a really fat bank balance and compelling reason to get a Schengen visa.
Embassy Toughness Index
The below list is purely based on our experience and stories from folks whose visas got rejected. Processing time and stringent quotient are the two indexes we have used to arrive at this list.
- France/Germany – French and Indian governments have the understanding to process visas in under 72 hours. This is the swiftest of the lot. The complexity of the docs is the same as other Schengen embassies.
- Italy/Swiss/Netherlands – These are colloquially referred to as Honeymoon embassies as most of the honeymoon applications are routed through these embassies. Time to process takes anywhere from 7 to 15 working days and the docs set is standard.
- Greece/Austria – These embassies are known for a higher than normal share of personal interviews. They also tend to process visa as per departure date and sometimes it can so happen that you waitquite a while for your visa.
- Spain – One of the toughest embassies to grant the Schengen. They are most notorious for calling up and confirming if rooms have been booked.
How to improve your success rate
These are some steps that we have seen work in the past. Like all secret sauces, a combination of these steps is what is helpful.
- Write outrageous covering letters
Pitch, Pitch and Pitch. Tell them how much you love their country. Tell them why you are going there just for a trip and tell them that you are not Vijay Mallya. They want to know – will you come back. Give them reasons for that. There are no marks for brevity in covering letters.
- Know the rules inside out
Even cricketers like Shikhar Dhawan fall prey to Visa rules. Do you think we have a chance? Here are some of the most often overlooked rules:
- You need to apply in the country you are staying the longest. If there are two countries that you spend equal time in, then you apply in the country of entry.
- You need to provide photographs of engagement, marriage cards etc if you are not yet married.
- If you are married but don’t have a marriage certificate, then you need a notary attestation (or add your spouse name on the passport).
- If you are travelling with a kid, then you need his/her birth certificate.
- If you are covering multiple countries within Schengen area, more often than not you will need proof of travel (low-cost flights, trains, car rental etc)
- Ensure you put in the hotel’s phone numbers and enter all the hotels you are going to be staying in. Don’t be lazy, ever.
- Leave letter from the company. If you are in-between jobs then offer letter from the new company and relieving letter from the old company, non-negotiable. Ensure you give a landline that’s working – we have had cases where landlines are being called.
- Do not transfer money into your bank account 2 days before the visa appointment. And no, don’t PAYTM it.
- Get your finances in order
ITRs, Bank statements, FDs, House documents – show as much documentation as possible. Don’t think twice as long as it’s clean money 🙂 There seems to be a direct correlation between how much money you have and visa issuance.
Given Indians plan vacations about 45-60 days in advance, you don’t have enough time to move money into your account after you have booked your visa appointment. So plan it in advance. They need to see a working account. Please don’t push money into a dormant account with last entry about 6 months back. This will result in a sure shot rejection.
- Plan your trip smartly
Plan in a such a manner that you end up spending maximum time in the easier countries. An additional day in France or Italy won’t compromise the experience a lot, but can hugely affect your visa success chances.
- Apply with sufficient buffer
This is mostly that one trip that defines that year. Plan well in advance. You not only save on air-tickets but you also have enough time to apply for a visa and go for that personal interview or furnish additional documents.
- Be hawkish about official documents
Classic cases – The embassy calls your office and you are not in that branch. Refrain from sharing landline numbers. Always give a mobile no (preferably of someone who is not always in meetings).
If you are self-employed ensure that your COI, MOAs are in order.
- Push back VFS
We have seen that sometimes VFS can be fussy about things that are not mentioned on their website. As long as you have crossed off every doc in that checklist, feel free to ask them to take the documents. They might scare you saying, they don’t take responsibility if Visa is rejected. The fact is they don’t either-ways, so don’t be coerced. Worst case, ask them to reschedule the appointment for a later date (free of cost). They would mostly oblige.
- Carry additional docs
Additional photos, unfilled forms with signatures of applicants. You never know what they want once you are in VFS.