Europe Travel Guide

How to Apply for a Schengen Visa (2024)

I have just returned from a month-long trip to the Nordics, and it was everything I hoped for and more. Since I have been sharing my journey on social media, I received several questions about how to apply for a Schengen visa. In this post, I will share everything I know, including the requirements, step-by-step guide, and answers to frequently asked questions. This is a comprehensive guide, so grab a cup of coffee and get ready to take notes.

Also, this guide is based on my own experience applying for a visa for tourism purposes only. I have also gathered some information here from my friends who have experienced applying for a visa from different Schengen countries. I hope this guide helps you prepare for your own application. Good luck!

PS. If you are a citizen of a country that doesn’t require a visa to enter the Schengen area, you can skip this post and check out my other travel content instead.

When did you apply for a Schengen Visa?

Generally, you can apply for a Schengen Visa up to 6 months before your trip. My friends and I scheduled our VFS Global appointment a month before our trip. At that point, the turnaround time for visa processing was 10 days. My friends and I decided on this timing, as we though it would provide sufficient time. Our decision turned out to be right, as we received the results after only 1 day from submitting our documents at VFS.

How to Apply for a Schengen Visa?

Step 1: Know your visa type

Before applying, determine the type of visa you need based on your purpose of travel, such as tourism, business, or visiting family or friends.

You must also submit your application to the Schengen country that is your main destination. If you are visiting multiple Schengen countries, apply at the country where you will stay the longest. If your stay is equal in multiple countries, apply at the Schengen country that will be your first port of entry.

For instance, on our month-long journey through the Nordics, we visited six Schengen countries. Denmark was our first point of entry, but we submitted our visa application to Finland, where we stayed the longest.

Step 2: Gather the Schengen Visa Requirements

Now that you know which visa type and Schengen country you need to apply to, it’s time to gather the necessary requirements. Please also visit this link to learn more about the Finland visa requirements.

Schengen Visa Requirements

  1. Completed visa application form (dated and signed)
  2. Recent Photo (no more than 6 months old) > photo specifications here
  3. Current passport (validity must be at least 6 months from the intended departure date)
  4. Certificate of Employment
  5. No objection letter signed by my manager
  6. 2023 Income Tax Return
  7. Proof of financial means (6 months pay slips and 6 months bank statements)
  8. Hotel Reservation
  9. Transportation Reservations (i.e.. ferry, bus, train rides for cross-country travel)
  10. Flight Reservations (I already booked my flights before my visa application so I submitted my tickets.)
  11. Trip itinerary (including all the destinations)
  12. Travel Medical Insurance (minimum coverage must be 30,000 euros)
  13. VFS Global Appointment confirmation (proof you’re submitting your documents on the scheduled day and that the VFS processing fee is paid)

Other documents you can submit to support your application

  1. Cover Letter
  2. Tour Reservation (all our tours were pre-booked as we want to show that we are traveling for leisure only)
  3. Travel History (details of my travel history for the past 10 years)
  4. Bank Certificate and Investment Certificate as supporting financial document
  5. Birth certificate for minors (certified by PSA)
  6. Marriage certificate, if married (certified by PSA)
  7. Other documents proving your personal ties in country of origin/residence, such as title deeds or lease agreement, social security contributions (pension) or other proof of assets

Step 3: Complete your visa application form

Once you have gathered the requirements, the next step is to complete your online application form. Create your account and verify it through your email. Unlike the UK visitor visa application process, the Schengen visa application is not submitted online. Instead, the online application form is for you to easily input your details. After that, you will need to save it as a PDF and then print on A5 paper.

This is the website for Finland online application for Schengen visa.

Step 4: Schedule an appointment and pay application fee

Book an appointment to have your fingerprints and photo taken at VFS Global. On this website, you will only pay the VFS service fee, which is 34 euros or 2,090 pesos. Note that the visa fee, which is 80 euros or 4,900 pesos, will need to be paid on the day of your appointment (cash basis only which is odd).

Step 5: Attend your appointment at VFS Global

Arrive on time for your appointment. Make sure to bring all requirements, which must be printed on A5 paper, except for bank documents, which may have a different size. To expedite the checking of requirements, arrange the documents based on date. For example, group hotel bookings, flights, tour reservation, transportation arrangements by date (Day 1, Day 2, and so on). Then, arrange bank statements by month.

Once document check is done, you will have your biometrics taken. Then, you will be given a piece of paper that you will need to bring once your passport is ready for pick-up.

This is the address of VFS Global in the Philippines:
VFS Global Services (view on Google maps)
6th Floor, Makati Circuit Corporate Center Tower Two, AP Reyes Street, Brgy. Carmona, Theatre Drive Circuit Makati, Makati City, 1630 Philippines

Step 6: Wait for the visa application result

At this point, all you need to do is wait for the visa application result. The first email notification that you will get is once VFS Global has forwarded your application to the embassy. The second one if the notification once your passport is ready for pick-up. You may get additional email notification just in case they have something to clarify with you or request for additional documents from you.

Step 7: Collect your passport at VFS Global or Wait for the Courier

Once visa application result is out, you can now collect your passport at VFS Global or just wait for the courier, if you availed a courier delivery service.

Thoughts about the Schengen Visa Application

At first, I thought the Schengen visa application process would be complicated, but it turned out to be quite straightforward. The application form is surprisingly short, only 6 pages, or technically 4 pages since it includes a 2-page checklist. The list of requirements are well laid out with simple descriptions and specific examples, making it easy to understand what is required. Scheduling an appointment was also easy.

However, there were two aspects I didn’t like. The first was the printing of documents, which was a super tedious task. The second was the payment of the visa fee, which had to be done in cash at the VFS Global office. I believe it would have been more convenient to pay online. Despite these minor inconveniences, the process overall was not complicated. The key is to ensure you have all the requirements and fill out your application form correctly.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much bank balance is required for a Schengen visa?

There is no fixed amount required for a visa application. However, you should demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to cover your stay, typically around 50-100 euros per day, depending on the country you plan to visit. For Finland, travelers will have to show a minimum of 50 euros for each day of stay in the country.

Is a flight ticket required for a Schengen visa?

It is not recommended to purchase a flight ticket before applying for a Schengen visa. However, you are required to provide proof of your travel plans, such as a confirmed flight reservation. This should include passenger name, dates and times of the flights, flight numbers, and confirmation number. You can get a flight reservation through your local travel agency or directly through an airline for a small fee.

How early can I apply for a Schengen visa?

You can apply for a Schengen visa up to 6 months before your planned travel date. I highly recommend to check the current turnaround time for visa processing with the specific country you are getting your visa from. For example, Finland’s current TAT is 10 days, while some embassies can take 30 days to process a Schengen visa.

Is there an interview for a Schengen visa?

There is no interview if the visa application is through a third party such as VFS Global. However, interview may be required if the visa officer considers it necessary. In our case, since visa application for Finland is through VFS Global, there was no interview.

Is a Schengen visa difficult to get?

The difficulty of obtaining a Schengen visa can vary based on individual circumstances. If you meet the requirements and provide all the necessary documents, the process is usually straightforward.

Which country is the easiest to get a Schengen visa for Filipinos?

Getting a visa can vary based on individual circumstances. However, countries like Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are known for having relatively straightforward visa application processes and low rejection rates.

Which is the hardest country to get a Schengen visa?

The difficulty of obtaining a visa can vary, but countries like Spain, Germany, France, and Portugal are often considered more challenging due to their stringent requirements and high rejection rates.

Can I go to VFS Global without an appointment for a Schengen visa?

Generally, it is advisable to go to VFS Global with an appointment. However, they do allow “walk-in appointment” if you need to submit an application on a urgent basis or if you missed or turned up late on your scheduled appointment.

Can US citizens travel to the Schengen area without a visa?

US citizens can travel to the Schengen area for short visits (up to 90 days in a 180-day period) without a visa. However, if you plan to work, study, or live in the Schengen area for an extended period, you will need to obtain a visa.

Do I have to enter the country that issued my Schengen visa first?

It’s not a mandatory requirement that you must enter the Schengen Area through the country that issued your visa. In our case, our first point of entry was Denmark. However, we were staying the longest in Finland so that was where we lodged our application.

Can I change my itinerary after getting a Schengen visa?

Yes, you can change your itinerary after getting your visa. However, it’s advisable to visit the country that issued your visa at some point during your trip. To avoid being questioned on your next Schengen visa application (if you have plans in the future, for example), stick to your itinerary as best you can.

Can I change my hotel after getting a Schengen visa?

Yes, you can change your hotel after getting a visa. However, it’s important to ensure that you have accommodation arrangements that match the details provided in your visa application. In our case, we cancelled some of our hotel bookings just because we found cheaper hotels.

Can I change my port of entry and exit after getting a Schengen visa?

Yes, you can change your port of entry and exit after getting a visa. Make sure to prepare an explanation just in case you get asked by the immigration officer at the point of entry or exit.

So, that’s about it! If you have any questions or need further assistance with your Schengen visa application, feel free to reach out. Remember, careful planning and attention to detail are key to a successful application. Happy travels!

By Project Gora

Hey there! My name is Milet Miranda, and I'm a full-time corporate employee during weekdays and a traveler during weekends (and get the picture). I'm a foodie at heart and I love joining food tours. When I'm not traveling, you'll find me walking my dogs or biking around my neighborhood.