Did you ever dream of going to Europe? To just travel and see the sights, from the tulips in Holland, to the ruins in Greece, the canals in Italy, and the wonderful castles in Hungary? If you have ever wondered how to apply for a Schengen visa in the Philippines, this post can help you.
Like most Filipinos who have to work to make a living, I thought that getting to Europe just to travel is a pipe dream. Getting a Schengen visa, in the first place, is like a roll of dice. Only those who get lucky (like me) get it for the first time. (Of course, Filipinos with millions in the bank or in positions of power are not included in this statement. But they’re the exception.)
But you know what? I applied for a Schengen visa in the Belgian embassy last December, and less than a month later, I got the much-longed for email: “Visa Approval – Embassy of Belgium.” Here’s what I did.
Choose Where to Apply for a Schengen Visa
There are 26 countries which belong to the Schengen area. These are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, German, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. Choosing where to file depends on some factors. If you’re filing a tourist visa, for example, you can file in the country that you’re entering first, or where you’ll be staying longest.
Some people also chose the embassies where they heard were less strict. However, remember that the requirements and the process of filing for a visa remains the same whichever embassy you choose.
I filed in the Embassy of Belgium because my sponsor is a national there.
Types of Schengen Visa
There are many types of Schengen visas. I applied for the short-stay one, which is valid for a maximum of 90 days. Since I had a sponsor, the visa I chose was “Visit a Friend.” Other kinds include Tourist, Fiancee, Family Visit, and Family Reunification visas, among others. There are other requirements for these kinds of visas, so make sure to check the embassy’s list of documents needed. This post is for the visit visa only.
A sponsor can be anyone, not just a partner, as long as they can provide the requirements and the justification for their invitation to you. They also have to give assurance that they’ll make sure you’ll go back to the Philippines before your visa expires. This is very important, as most developed countries seem to think that given the chance, all Filipinos would want to stay illegally outside the Philippines.
Requirements in Filing for a Schengen Visa
In the Embassy of Belgium in Manila (and in others as well), the following requirements are basic:
- Personal appearance to file the visa. Applicants are required to set an appointment through the following contact numbers. Calling to set an appointment costs P35/minute (at least with Bayantel) so make sure you have your passport in hand when you call so that you won’t waste time (and money) looking for them when you get connected. PLDT—1 909 1014545, Bayantel—1 903 1014545, Globe—1 900 1014545.
- Passport (valid for at least 3 months on the date of intended travel)
- Filled up application form. You can download it with your embassy of choice.
- Recent 2×2 photos (2 copies) with white background. It would be best to use a collared shirt when you have your picture taken although it’s not expressly stated in the requirements.
- Visa application fee of 60euros. At the time I applied, I paid P3600.
I also submitted the following which were provided by my sponsor:
- A letter from him explaining the reason for his invitation + an assurance that I will not overstay there.
- Proof of his financial capacity. He sent me his payslips for the past 4 months.
- Original Affidavit of Support certified by his municipality.
- His Family Composition certified by his municipality.
- Photocopy of his Belgian ID card (front and back).
Aside from these basic requirements, I also submitted the following:
- My cover letter stating why I wanted to go to Belgium
- A travel booking (just reservations, not confirmed tickets!)
- My Certificate of Employment (with approved leave of absence; this is very important as well to establish the fact that you would be coming back to the country)
- Payslips for the past 3 months
- Credit card statements for the past 3 months
- Bank certifications (dollar and peso accounts, time deposit)
- Income Tax Return for the past year (ITR)
- Photocopy of my passport + all visas and entry/exit stamps of all countries I’ve visited (China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore)
- Proof of relationship with my sponsor (photographs, etc.)
Once you have all these, photocopy them because the embassy will ask you to bring one original and one photocopy. In my case, I brought three copies because I wanted to keep one for my file. However, the embassy personnel only asked me for the original, so I have two copies with me now (which I’ll bring on my trip, just in case they’re needed).
The Process of Filing for a Schengen Visa
On the day of my appointment (7 December 2011, 9am), I arrived an hour early and had to stay outside the building while waiting for the embassy to open at exactly 9 o’clock. The Belgian embassy is at the 9th floor of the Multinational Bancorporation Building, 6805 Ayala Avenue, Makati. If you’re taking a cab from EDSA, get off at the last bus stop just before Gil Puyat (Buendia) Avenue.
Once inside the small room, you will see two embassy officers; one takes care of the application of seafarers, and the other takes care of the other applicants. Be at your scheduled time because if you’re late, they won’t accommodate you anymore.
When you’re called, submit all the documents that you have. They will look at it first and will call you again. The embassy officer will interview you on the spot (in full hearing of everyone else), so make sure you’re ready to answer questions. Since they are Filipinos, you can also speak in Filipino if you’re not comfortable speaking in English. Some questions that I remember were:
- Purpose of my stay
- My employment
- Details about my relationship with my sponsor, how we met and if we’ve seen each other in person
- My financial status
- My family composition
- Our plans when I’m there
After I paid the visa fee, I was given a receipt. You need to keep this as they’ll take this back when you claim your visa. I was told that they’ll email me the results. I applied on December 7, and got the email on January 3, 2012. The waiting time was almost one month, but it was okay, since they granted me the exact days I applied for—70 days! My dream to backpack in Europe was really coming true! It was the perfect gift for the new year.
Before they issued the visa, though, they asked me to email my tickets and insurance coverage for 70 days. I booked at Qatar Airways (return ticket: P52,000+), and got my insurance with Chartis in Cubao, Q.C. (P5,600).
I’m leaving in less than 2 weeks for Belgium, and it will be an epic journey that I can only be grateful to my sponsor about. When the 70 days is up, I’ll be back in the Philippines, dreaming of (and saving up for!) another trip, perhaps to Australia/New Zealand or India, or perhaps back in Europe again. Only time will tell.
Disclaimer: This post is based on my experience filing for a Visit a Friend visa in the Belgian Embassy in Manila. The details may or may not be relevant to your specific needs. Always check the website of the embassy where you’re applying to make sure you have all the requirements they specify for your application.
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Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!