Ultimate Guide to Schengen Visa

Ultimate Schengen Visa Guide

By Suneela on Jun. 24th, 2024

Navigating the world of travel visas can often feel like deciphering a complex puzzle, but when it comes to exploring Europe, understanding the Schengen visa is your golden ticket to seamless travel across multiple countries. This guide spills the beans on how to get it done from paperwork to perks, so you can focus on savoring gelato and soaking up sunsets. Ready to make your Euro trip dreams real? Let’s get into it!

What to apply?

Which to apply?

Where to apply?

When to apply?

How to apply?

Schengen Visa

Pronunciation - SHENG-ən

A Schengen visa is an entry permit for non-European nationals* to make a short, temporary visit to a country in the Schengen area. This one visa will give access to 29 countries listed in the Schengen area in Europe. Obtaining a Schengen Visa by an Indian national is not tough but it is cumbersome.

Note There are certain exemptions and exceptions for a few non-European nationals from obtaining the Schengen Visa. Click here to know more

Schengen is named after the town in southeastern Luxembourg where France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands signed the original Schengen Agreement in 1985 to end border checkpoints and controls for travel between those countries.

Schengen Map

Types of Schengen visas(tourist)

  • single-entry visa - allows you to enter the Schengen area once;
  • multiple-entry visa - allows several visits to the Schengen area for as long as the visa is valid;
  • airport transit visa - allows you to connect through the international transit area of an airport in the Schengen area during a stopover or a change of flights. Do note that, it does not allow you to leave the international transit area. Indian nationals will require this visa only if they have a layover of more than 24 hours at an international airport in countries covered under the Schengen area.
    • Note – If the Indian national has to leave the international transit area to catch a connecting flight, then such a person has to apply for a regular Schengen visa. A transit visa will not be allowed.

Tip – Irrespective of the type of visa you applied for, the decision for sanctioning a single-entry or multiple-entry visa lies with the consulate of the country to which the Visa is applied.

Whom to apply for a Schengen Visa

Golden rules to remember when applying for a Schengen Visa

If you are applying for a Schengen Visa for the first time without adhering to the following rules or applying through unreliable sources who tend to make mistakes in complying with the following rules, will lead to straightforward rejection of Schengen Visa. Rules –

  1. If you are visiting only one country in the Schengen area – then apply to that country’s consulate you intend to visit
  2. If you are visiting more than one country in the Schengen area – then apply to the country’s consulate where you will spend the longest time
  3. If you are visiting more than one country & staying equally in all the countries in the Schengen area – then apply to the consulate of the first country you will visit.

VFS Global or GVCW or BLS

You can not apply directly to the particular country’s consulate you intend to visit. You must go through VFS Global (Visa Facilitation Centre) to apply to any consulate in the Schengen area or through GVCW (Global Visa Center World) to apply to the consulate of Greece in the Schengen area or through BLS International to apply to the consulate of Spain in the Schengen area.

Tip – VFS Global is more popular and allows you to book a Visa appointment slot to any consulate in the Schengen area based on availability. If you are unable to get a slot in a particular region or a city, then check the slots for the next available city approachable to you.

Documents required to apply for a Schengen Visa

First things first. Every embassy in the Schengen area has a recommended list of documents specified on their official website. Strictly adhere to the list for arranging your documents.

However, the following are recommended list of documents generally expected by any consulate in the Schengen area for processing your visa application –

  1. Original passport – Remember you must submit your original passport along with other documents. Rule - The passport’s expiry date should be at least 3 months after the date of your departure from the Schengen area. For multiple-entry visas, the expiry date should be at least 3 months after your departure from the last country visited.

If you have any valid active visa (eg - USA or Canada or UK visa) in your previous passport, carry those previous passports along with your existing passport to the application center.

  1. Two passport-size photos as per Schengen visa rules

    • Photo measurements - 35mm x 40mm (3.5cm x 4.0cm)
    • Background - The background should be plain and light-coloured (preferably white or light gray) without any patterns or objects
    • Specification - The photo should cover your face and the top of your shoulders with a neutral expression, eyes wide open, and mouth closed. Check the additional rules here
  2. Visa Application form filled and printed/ filled and submitted online to the consulate of the country in the Schengen area you intend to visit.

  3. Covering letter with documentary proof of complete itinerary -

    • Write a letter covering an introduction about yourself, purpose of the visit, a detailed day-to-day itinerary of places you are planning to explore, and a summary of who is funding your trip. (do comment below if you want a sample covering letter template)
    • Attach your return flight tickets, accommodation bookings, intercity/ intracity/ inter-country flight/train/bus tickets from the beginning to the end of the trip.

The rejection rate will be higher if the documents submitted for the duration of planned visit are incomplete/ vague. If your plan is not finalized as on the day of your visa appointment, try booking accommodations with free cancellation options or pay-on-arrival options.

  1. Medical insurance is mandatory for your complete travel duration in the Schengen area.

It is recommended to take travel insurance covering medical care, emergency hospitalization, repatriation (in the event of death) along with loss, delay or damage in luggage, flight related concerns.

  1. Evidence of your Financial means to support your travel in the Schengen area.
    • Bank statements - Do maintain a steady bank balance and provide at least the last 3 months’ bank statements as proof. Proving any other financial proof is also allowed, but making the document simple to understand is crucial.
    • It is recommended to maintain a bank balance of at least 60 Euros per person per day for the course of your travel.
    • Income Tax returns – A copy of your income tax returns for the last two years.
  2. Evidence of your intention to return to your home country after your stay in the Schengen area.
    • If you are a working employee, then provide proof of employment/ a letter of leave obtained from your employer.
    • If you are running a business or a professional or an independent consultant, then proof of such business registration or GST registration would help.
  3. Carry a copy of your previous Schengen Visa if any.
    • If you have any active visas like USA, Canada, or UK Visas in your passport, carry a copy of them. They can add weightage in processing your Schengen application.
  4. Carry a copy of your identity proof like an Aadhaar card or PAN or any identity to prove your citizenship.

Few consulates in the Schengen area do ask for citizenship proof and few do not. It is always advisable to carry.

List of countries covered under Schengen Visa

As of 31st March, 2024, the following countries are covered under Schengen Visa -


*Bulgaria and Romania joined Schengen on 31st March, 2024 allowing entry through air and water with Schengen Visa. However, they are still working on land border controls and might require additional documentation while entering through land.

Schengen Map

Also, the following list of countries are considered de-facto members of Schengen Visa because entry and exit to these countries are possible only through a Schengen country -

AndorraMonacoSan MarinoVatican City

Even though a Schengen Visa gives you an entry permit to all the countries listed above, one must apply to the consulate of the country they intend to visit. Link for the official list of countries in Schengen Area

Duration of stay allowed

As per Schengen rules, a maximum stay of 90 days in any 180-day period in the Schengen area is allowed. However, granting the number of days of stay is at the discretion of the Consulate to which you are applying.

The duration of stay specified in the Schengen Visa has to be checked to understand the exact time limit you are allowed to stay.

Still not sure how to calculate your stay in the Schengen area, then here is the link that will help you calculate your remaining number of days allowed for stay in the Schengen area.

Time limit for applying a Schengen Visa

You must submit your application to the consulate at least 15 days before your intended journey and not earlier than 6 months beforehand.

Tip - Getting a visa slot for the majority of Schengen countries is quite a task. Don’t wait till the end to apply for a Schengen visa. Start looking for an appointment slot well in advance to avoid last-minute hassle.

Cost of Schengen Visa

The cost of a Schengen visa can vary depending on several factors, such as the applicant’s age, nationality, the type of visa (e.g., short-stay or long-stay), and the specific country where the visa application is submitted. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Adults (Age above 12) - The standard visa fee for adults is €90.
  • Children (age 6-12) -The visa fee for children is usually reduced to €45.
  • Children under 6 years old - Typically, no visa fee is charged for children under the age of 6.
  • Fee Waivers - Some categories of applicants such as students, researchers, and participants in certain exchange programs, may qualify for reduced or waived visa fees. Do check with the specific country rules.

It’s important to note that these fees are subject to change and can vary slightly between different Schengen countries. Additionally, some countries may charge an additional service fee for processing visa applications.

Therefore, it’s always advisable to check the specific consulate website where you intend to apply for the most current fee information and any additional requirements.

Note - The above mentioned fee goes directly to the Consulate of the Country to which you are applying for a Visa. VFS Global charges their fee upon submission of application separately.

Step-by-step process to apply for a Schengen Visa

  1. Finalize your travel plans and arrive at the country to which you are required to apply for a Schengen Visa.

  2. Login to the VFS portal of the country to which you intend to apply for a Schengen Visa, book an appointment slot, and pay the fee to VFS for application submission.

Check the authenticity of the portal through which you are applying. Also, the fee paid to VFS Global for slot appointment is in addition to the Visa cost to be paid to the Consulate you intend to apply, which will be collected upon document submission.

  1. Arrange for a copy of all the supporting documents mentioned above before your application submission date.

If applying as a group or a family, it is advisable to carry a separate set of all the supporting documents for all the members in the group. It again depends on the Consulate’s requirement.

  1. Carry all the documents including the original passport and submit them at VFS Global on the day of appointment.

  2. Your fingerprints (Biometrics) will be collected when you submit your application.

Processing time for Schengen Visa

The normal prescribed processing time for a Schengen Visa is 15 days. But it varies from consulate to consulate, the volume of applications, and many other factors. You can opt for physical collection of passport at the VFS center or get it couriered to your address. Courier charges will be collected additionally.

Note - The above mentioned time limit is based on standard practice. There are instances where the Visa is processed in a day or two.

Acceptance or Rejection of Schengen Visa

Acceptance or rejection of Schengen Visa will be known only upon receipt of courier or upon collection of passport from VFS Global or GVCW.

In case of rejection, no refund of fee (VFS Global fee + Consulate fee collected as cost of Visa) will be given. One can appeal to the consulate in case of Visa rejection. Do refer to the respective Consulates website for further rules on the same.

Cooling-off Period in case of rejection

There is no such thing as a cooling period for reapplying for a Schengen Visa if the Visa is rejected. You can reapply anytime for a visa to any country in the Schengen area.

If you feel this entire process is too overwhelming, we are happy to assist you with your Schengen Visa application. Drop us an email at holistictravelexperiences@gmail.com.