Europe has been on the travel bucket list of most Filipinos. I, myself, was dreaming to visit Europe. There was something about it that draws me in, but most of us know how it can be a challenge to apply for the Schengen Visa as Philippine passport holders. It took me a while to gather the courage to finally apply for one and I am going to share the process and tips in this article.
My Schengen Visa application was submitted to the Dutch Embassy. There was no interview done by the Dutch consulate and my application was submitted via VFS Global in Makati. The Embassy of the Netherlands in the Philippines does not accept direct visa applications. Schengen Visa application shall be submitted via VFS Global. They also accept applications for other Schengen member states like Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Malta, Norway, and Switzerland.
NOTE: Though there is no interview and applications are submitted via a middleman, VFS, it is required for applicants to submit their applications personally to VFS Global.
What is a Schengen Visa
Schengen visa is the most common and most needed visa for Europe. It is a short-stay visa that enables the holder to enter and to freely travel within (in a given period of time) the Schengen area which includes the following 26 European countries:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland
Who needs a Schengen Visa to travel to Europe
There is a high chance that you are reading this article because you are a Philippine passport-holder who is interested in applying for a Schengen visa. Philippines’ citizens are required to have the visa to be able to travel to Schengen territories in Europe. For the full list of countries that need to obtain a Schengen visa before traveling to Europe, check this link.
Types of Schengen Visa
There are three types of Schengen visas – National Visa, Limited Territorial Validity Visas (LTV), and Uniform Schengen Visas (USV). If you are looking to travel to Europe, then a USV visa is the right one for you as it allows you to transit and to stay in Schengen territories.
Types of USV Schengen visa:
- A – Airport Transport Visa which allows you to travel through the international zone of a Schengen country’s airport. This is normally obtained by transit passengers who will not go out of the airport.
- C – Short-term visa which allows you to enter, travel, and leave the Schengen area. It has three types – single-entry, double-entry, and multiple-entry. Depending on your purpose and frequency of visit, the Schengen consulate can issue any of these.
NOTE: Most Schengen member states treat each application as a multiple-entry application whether you ask for it or not. For example, in my case, I applied for a single-entry and was issued a multiple-entry visa.
The validity of Schengen Visa
Do not confuse the Duration of Stay (DOS) with Visa Validity(VV). DOS refers to the maximum number of days one is allowed to stay in the Schengen area. The count starts upon entry in the Schengen area. While VV is the period of time you can use your visa. Please note that the duration of stay expires as your visa validity expires. For example, a person is given a DOS of 90 days and VV of 100days and arrives in Europe (Schengen area) on the 50th day of your VV, this means he/she needs to leave the Schengen area on the 51st day (counting the 50th VV day as day1). Please be mindful of this information as this applies to most countries in the world.
NOTE: Schengen Visa has 90/180 rule which means you can only stay for 90days within a 180-day period of time. This applies when longer Visa Validity is issued.
Embassy to obtain a Schengen Visa from
All Schengen member states can issue the visa. As a general rule, you should apply at the consulate of the member state that serves as your point of entry or where you will stay the longest. I submitted my application to the Dutch embassy because my original plan was to enter via Amsterdam.
When to apply for a Schengen Visa
It is advisable to apply for a visa three months (max) or less before the target travel date. There’s good news! The Kingdom of the Netherlands released a new rule that says, from 1 February 2020 you can already apply for a Schengen visa 6 months in advance (this was 3 months). This applies to the application lodged via the Netherlands. Check the other consulate’s news board for updated information.
Process Schengen Visa application through the Netherlands
Fill-out online application form
The first thing you have to do is to lodge your application via the consular services’ website of the Netherlands. Upon completion, print and sign the application form and attach your photo.
Documents required for Schengen visa application
Download the checklist here.
1. Completed and Signed Schengen Visa Application Form
The form will be issued upon completion of the online visa application form on the Netherlands’ consular services website.
2. Appointment Copy
Print a copy of your appointment. Please note that VFS does not allow walk-in applicants.
Passport should be valid three months beyond your intended stay in Europe. If your last day in Europe falls in May, then your passport should be valid until August. It should not have been issued for more than 10 years and it should have at least 2 empty visa pages.
2. Copy of current passport
A passport copy must also be submitted. Make sure to make a copy of the personal details page and the pages with stamps and visas. I just made a copy of my whole passport from the front page to the last.
3. Travel history
Submit a copy of your old passports and other travel documents. Make a copy of the personal details page and the pages with stamps and visas of previous travels. I just always submit a copy of my whole passport. Moreover, if you have electronic visas issued in the past and do not have its sticker on your passport, produce a copy of those, too. For example, an Australian visa, New Zealand visa, and Indian e-visa. If you have been to a country where there is no stamp and no visa required, look for your ticket and it would help to attach it, too.
One piece of 45mmx35mm photo with a white background is required. You are not actually required to wear a collared top but it is better for you to check the updated requirements first. I did mine wearing a plain black shirt. You may the photo matrix guidelines here.
Proof of Travel
1. Travel Itinerary
Print an itinerary of your intended trip including the places you are going to visit, length of stay, or even mode of transfer. It is not required to follow your submitted itinerary on your actual trip. I went a bit extra on my itinerary. HAHAHA. It’s the same format as my itinerary when I applied for my Australian visa and I was given a one-year multiple-entry visa so I thought, why not do the same for Schengen? Here is a copy of my Europe 44-day itinerary.
2. Hotel Reservations
It is also not advisable to fully pay for your accommodations because what if your visa application gets refused? Or you ended up Couchsurfing, right? The good news is, you can have your hotel reservations confirmed without having to pay the full amount as well. In fact, you can get it for free from some websites. Booking.com has listings that offer no prepayment and free cancellation options. You can take advantage of this feature. There are also some travel agencies that do this for a fee and Make Passport Work also does this, just shoot them an email.
3. Flight Ticket Reservation
Most embassies discourage applicants to buy a fully-paid flight ticket. However, it is almost always a requirement to show a reservation that has Passenger Name Record (PNR number). I got mine from makepassportwork.com for only Php1400.
4. Bank Statements for the last 3 months/Bank Certificates
One required document to submit is a copy of your bank statements. It should include all the transactions within the last three months. THE GOLDEN QUESTION IS: HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD ONE HAVE TO SHOW? Well, there is no specific amount required by the embassy. And I have read online that it varies from one consulate to another. But on the average, you must have an average budget of €50-€65/day. So if you plan to have a 2-week trip (14days), you must have around €910 (roughly around Php50,000) in your account. That is excluding your hotels and flights so it is really best if you submit flight and hotel reservations.
You may also get bank certificates if you’d like to do so. I normally just submit certified bank statements so it is like bank statements and certificates in one. For Philippine banks, I am not sure if they do the same thing (let me know if they do). I got a certified bank statement from my bank in Malaysia. The other Malaysian bank, I just printed my online transactions from my online account. For my Schengen visa application, I requested bank certificates from BPI which cost Php200/each. I did not attach any statement for my BPI accounts.
5. Certificate of Employment and Leave of Absence Approval
Okay, so you might be wondering why I put these two in just one item. It is because you can actually request for a certificate of employment stating the purpose and the details of use. I have never submitted separate documents for these two even when I was employed in the Philippines. Just inform the HR to include the purpose of use of the CoE, the intended leave of absence, and the date of return to the office.
Proof of Health Insurance
Travel insurance is a mandatory requirement for the Schengen visa application. As a requirement, travel insurance should have a minimum coverage of €30,000. I got mine from Pacific Cross for Php3,830 ($75.62) with €45,000-coverage for my 44-day trip.
1. Cover Letter
This is not actually a requirement but almost all applicants attach a cover letter to their application. A cover letter increases the chance of visa approval. Be honest in your letter to the embassy! Introduce yourself and give an overview of your travel history. This serves as a promise letter for your Euro trip that you will abide by the laws and regulations and will not violate the terms of your visa.
Payslips are not required as your financial capability will show on the bank statements that you are going to submit. However, it helps to prove that you are getting a regular income from your employment.
You may also attach invoices for side projects that you do if applicable.
A copy of ITR is a great supporting document for freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Submission of Documents
Make sure that all your documents are ready and complete! Go to VFS Global office located at Mezzanine Floor, Ecoplaza Bldg., Don Chino Roces Ave Ext, Makati. If you applied in Cebu, just google for their office. Make sure to arrive at their office at least 15minutes before your scheduled time. They are very particular with time. Better be sure than sorry. I put my documents in an expandable folder just for me to carry them easily, but you will be asked to remove your documents from any envelopes or folders. You won’t be allowed to bring a bag inside but there are lockers available at VFS for a fee of Php100.
At the reception counter, you will be given an invoice for VFS Global service fee, and other fees for additional services that you might avail eg. courier service, SMS notifications, etc. I availed the courier service because I was staying in Batangas and I did not want to go to the Metro just to pick up my passport.
Visa Application Area
You will be scanned for security before entering the visa application area. Once in, you will notice that there will be employees on the side table checking documents, take advantage of them and have them double-check yours! Wait for your number to be called for document submission and payment. After payment, you have to wait to be called again for your photo and biometrics to be taken.
The Waiting Game
And that’s it! You have completed your visa application and you are now on the nerve-racking part of waiting. You will receive an SMS notification (if you avail of this service) about your visa application status. On the same day of my submission, a notification was received saying that my documents were already submitted to the Dutch embassy. Another notification was also received when my passport was dispatched.
I got my passport back (in Batangas) after 5days. If the parcel is thick, that would mean that my application was refused because there might be a letter with it. And if it just my passport, then it’s approved. That was what’s on my mind, but who was I kidding? That did not really work! I was still nervous as sh*t. I was shaking while opening the parcel and browsing through my passport and there it was! An approved multiple-entry Schengen visa for 90days valid for 100days on my first try! I was literally jumping!
This includes the basic cost of a Schengen visa application. I did not include my personal expenses like fares, printing, etc.
Schengen Visa Fee: Php3,700.00
VFS Global Service Fee: Php1,600
Courier Service: Php350.00
Locker Use: Php100.00
Flight Reservation: Php1,400.00
Travel Insurance: Php3,830.00
Bank Certificates: Php400.00 (Php200/account)