Preparing your Schengen Visa requirements

Sunset in Pisa – one of the most beautiful skies I’ve ever seen

We tried to get a tour company to arrange our tour for the places we wanted to visit, but what they basically did was get my itinerary and place them in time slots, so we decided to do it on our own.

And if you’re applying for the Schengen Visa in Italy (this is important — more on this later!), you have to bring the documents yourself. Even the tour agency cannot be the one to apply for you because the PIASI, thru Via.ph (the contracted agency that files the visa applications for those who apply thru Italy), collects your biometric data (thumbprint and electronic signature). I hope you get a good tour agency because there were tourist visa applicants there who were asked to come back because their documents were inadequate, and applicants said that the tour agency didn’t tell them to prepare those documents.

For this post, I will walk you through the requirements. We applied to the Italian embassy for two very important reasons:

1) It was our point of entry
2) It was the country of our longest stay

#2 is very important, because you MUST apply in the first country of longest stay, even if that country is not your point of entry.

Example: You will be going to Italy (3 days) then to Switzerland (5 days) then to France (5 days), which is the country from where you’ll go back to Manila.

You must apply through the embassy of Switzerland because that is where you’ll be in the longest. Even if the number of days is equivalent to your stay in France, if you’re staying in Switzerland first, then you must apply to the Swiss (Switzerland, not Sweden) embassy.

Note: If applying at the Italian embassy, they will only accept applicants whose trips are within three months of the date you file your visa application.

If you’re applying as a group/family, each person must have the following documents:

1. Valid passport with no less than 6 months’ validity after the visa expiration

  • If your trip will be in September 2016, your passport must be valid until March 2017
  • Must include your current passport and all your expired passports
  • Photocopy the following: Biographical page and back page of each passport (current and expired), any visas you have (even if they’re expired), and immigration stamps
  • Arrange the following photocopied pages by date: Current passport’s biographical page and last page on top > Visa or immigration stamps within that current passport > Expired passport biographical page and back page > Visa or immigration stamps within that expired passport
  • If you have any passport covers, remove them as Via/PIASI will only get the actual passports. They will need this to stamp the Visa. But even if your application is denied, your passport will be returned.

2. Original copy of the COMPLETELY accomplished application form (guide to follow)

OR

Note: Do not paste your picture on the photo box

3. TWO passport-sized or two 2×2 pictures with the following requirements (Original copy):

  • Have been taken within the past three months from the date of filing your application (if you file in July 2016, the oldest date of the photo must be May 2016)
  • Your ears must be showing. A neighbor who filed her application on the same day was asked to return because her photo didn’t show her ears
  • You must be wearing a collared blouse/polo or a blazer. Photo studios usually have blazers you can borrow for the picture-taking, for free.

4. Letter of introduction to the Embassy (Original copy)

  • Address it to the Italian Consul and it must include the address of the embassy.
  • State your reason for applying. Introduce yourself, your job, hobbies, why you want to go to Italy, etc.
  • Your signature at the end must include your phone number and e-mail address
  • If you’re applying as a group/family, each of your letter must include the name of your companion(s). For example, in my letter, I stated: I will be travelling with my mother [name], father [name], and sister [name]. My mother’s letter stated: I will be travelling with my husband [name] and two daughters [name 1] and [name 2].

5. Employment/student record

a: If employed:

  • Original copy of your Certificate of Employment
  • Original copy of your Leave of absence letter from your HR department approving your leave. Ask your HR if they can include in the letter that it is for your vacation, and should state when you are expected back in the office.

b: If self-employed, photocopies of the following (but also bring the original copies):

  • Business license/permits, registration and financial statement
  • This includes your SEC registration, City permit, BIR registration, DTI (if applicable)

I state here to also bring the original copies because another applicant beside us was asked if he can procure the original copies as well.

c: If a student:

  • Certificate of enrolment
  • Approved leave of absence
Hello from Luzern, Switzerland!

6. Declaration of annual income

a. If self-employed:

  • Company’s SEC certificate
  • City license
  • BIR registration
  • Business registration
  • ITR and proof of payment
  • Financial statement and proof of payment

In my case, since I was a self-employed freelancer until the end of May, and started a company in June, I submitted photocopies of my business registration and ITR (including proof of payment) as a freelancer and our company’s SEC, city license, and BIR registration. I stated clearly in my introduction letter my employment history since I didn’t have an ITR of the new business.

Since papa has a small business that has been operating for over ten years, he also had to photocopy his financial statement and proof of payment, aside from his ITR.

b. If employed:
  • Ask from your company a copy of your ITR
  • Photocopy of your payslips at least three months’ worth.

My father and I did not present payslips. Only my mother and sister, who are both employees, presented their payslips for the past three months’ prior to filing their application (i.e. April 30-July 15).

7. Proof of economic means:

  • Original copy of Bank certification for peso and/or dollar (and other currency) accounts
    • This is to be requested from your bank. This is usually processed from 1-3 days, depending on your bank. BPI processed mine in about one-two hours. Metrobank took three days.
    • There is a P100 fee for every certification. Even if your account is in dollar, the fee is still P100. The fee may vary per bank.
    • This must also show that you have the capacity to live in Europe for at least P3000 to P5000 per day, e.g. we were in Europe for 15 days, so P5000 x 15 days = P75,000. We submitted certifications of bank accounts showing an upwards of P100,000 just to make sure we’ll get approved.
    • Don’t suddenly put huge chunks of money into an account! They will wonder where the money suddenly came from and can be a basis for your visa to be rejected, like in the case of a friend of mine.
  • Original copy of your bank statement
    • Ask your bank for a statement of account for each account you had certified. If possible, have at least 6 months’ to 1 year’s worth. This is free, depending on which bank.
      • When my sister and I asked for a statement of account from our bank, we were only given 3 months’ worth. We had to write on the spot, during our Visa application, individual letters to the Italian embassy explaining why this was so. We signed our respective letters with our names and cellphone numbers.
    • The account(s) in your statement’s must show movement, i.e. money goes in and out
  • Photocopy: Passbook records (if available) from 6 months’ up to 1 year’s worth
  • Photocopies: Time Deposits – and statement of account (if available)
  • Photocopy: Your credit card and its statement of account (including proof of payment) at least 3 statements’ worth. Make sure you have good credit! And also that your credit limit is displayed on the page.
  • Photocopy: Land/property/car titles (if available)

8. Original AND photocopy of your NSO-issued birth certificate and, if applicable, Marriage Contract.

  • We applied for this through SM four months prior to our trip. We got it within a week.
  • Your original and photocopied certificates must have the receipt attached.
  • This applies to both male and female spouses.

9. Travel plan

  • A one-sheet basic itinerary
Sample basic itinerary we submitted to the embassy
    • The itinerary I submitted clearly stated where we will be for particular city, and what we will do, e.g. September 5: Rome – Vatican City
  • Confirmed round trip flight booking. Booked, not bought, tickets.
  • I also included a computation of the number of days per country e.g.
    • Italy – 5
    • Austria – 1
    • Germany – 2
    • Switzerland – 3
    • France – 4
    • Total: 15 + 2 days in transit = 17 days

10. Accommodation plan

  • If in a hotel or Airbnb: Hotel vouchers or hotel booking under the name of the traveler(s)
    • We booked a lot of apartments thru Airbnb, and just to be safe in case our visas are not approved, we chose the ones that have Flexible or at least Moderate cancellation policies.
  • If staying with a friend or relative: A letter of invitation addressed to the Embassy, (format of this letter may be secured at the Italian Embassy or downloaded from www.ambmanila.esteri.it). The invitation may be made by an Italian national or a foreign resident legally staying in Italy. A document of identity or permit of stay should accompany the letter of invitation.

11. Travel insurance

  • Make three photocopies of your travel insurance: One to submit to the embassy, one to leave with your relative(s) at home and one to leave in your luggage especially if your insurance covers lost luggage. Carry the original copy of your insurance with you in case of emergencies.
  • Be sure of your dates because once you pay for a travel policy, it will not be refunded even if your visa is denied
  • Must have an additional 15 days after your last day in the Schengen area. Since we were going home on the 19th, our travel insurance was until October 4
  • We bought through Worldwide insurance. They were easy to talk to and their insurance was pretty comprehensive. They also accepted cash on delivery. Our policy only cost us P1,700+.
  • Make sure to only book with a Schengen-accredited insurance company in the Philippines! Even if a Philippine-based insurance company is pretty popular, it might not be Schengen accredited.

l2. Payment

  • You will be told the total amount you will need to bring once you book your VIA application appointment.
    • This includes the Visa fee and Delivery fee of your visa/passport once done
    • You must give the exact amount. Example, I was told that we need to pay P4,362 each, so I prepared 4 x P1000, 3 x P100, 1 x P50 (or 3 x 20) and 2 x P1.
    • Or via a Manager’s check, payable to PIASI — ask them for more details

 

Stopover in Verona. Oh Romeo!

NOTES:
1) For ALL minors: NSO birth certificate, affidavit of Support and Consent from BOTH parents. In addition, a DSWD clearance for minors not travelling with parents. This must be inserted between the hotel vouchers/letter of invitation and travel insurance. We did not travel with a minor so ask PIASI for more details.

2) If not a Filipino citizen, the applicant needs to show proof of permanent residency in the Philippines (ACR). This must be inserted after your travel insurance. We did not travel with a foreign resident so ask PIASI for more details.

3) The office of the Embassy Consul may send you a letter and ask you to submit more requirements or for a face-to-face interview.

4) Even if you’re just required to submit photocopies, bring the original documents anyway, just in case!

5) Back up all your soft copies to your email or cloud storage, in case you forgot/left something and need to print it out. They have a printer, photocopy machine and internet access at the VIA center, and these are available for a fee.

All notes are based on our experience. These are just guides and tips. If you have any other questions, it would be best if you call VIA thru their FREE information hotline 845-9200. If your visa is denied, please don’t blame me. I don’t decide the approval of your visa 🙂


Read about my Eurotrip!
Rome day 1-2
Rome day 3
Florence days 4-5
Pisa day 5
Venice day 6
Austria day 7
Munich days 8-9
Zürich days 10-11
Geneva day 12
Paris day 13
Paris day 14 – Touring the Louvre
Paris day 14 – Seine River Cruise
Paris day 14 – The Eiffel Tower
Paris day 15 – Touring Paris
Paris day 16 – Last day in Paris and a bus tour

 

Other links you might find helpful:

Getting ready for Europe  |  Booking your hotel and plane fare  |  Filling out the Schengen visa form  |  How to apply to the Italian embassy thru Via  |  Cross-country train travel in Europe

2 Replies to “Preparing your Schengen Visa requirements”

  1. Hey Haeja, question about the cover letter and groups. My mom and I are traveling with a tour group. Do I have to include the names of the people in the tour group even if I don’t know who they are?

    1. Hi Alisanne! I think they’ll see in your other papers (like the itinerary) that you’ll be travelling with a tour group, so just say you’ll be travelling with your mother [name] and for what purpose (tourism). Wouldn’t hurt to mention which sites specifically you want to visit. 🙂 Don’t forget to include your contact number!

      Also, when you bring the documents to Via, they will also ask questions and go over your documents.

      Good luck! 🙂

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