If you’re a non-European and you want to travel around Europe or even just visit one country, you’ll need to apply for a Schengen tourist visa. The only exception to this is if you’re travelling exclusively to the UK, Ireland, Romania or Bulgaria. These countries aren’t currently part of the Schengen region so you’ll have to follow separate rules to visit them.
How to apply for a Schengen tourist visa
A Schengen tourist visa is valid for 90 days (three months) and you can choose between a single-entry and multiple-entry visa, depending on your plans. The most inconvenient aspect of this visa is that you need to apply for it in person. There’s no way around this, even if you use an online visa agent.
Collect all necessary documents
To apply for a Schengen tourist visa you need:
- Completed Schengen tourist visa application form
- Recent passport-sized photo
- Passport valid for at least three months with two blank pages
- Copy of the reservation of your return flight ticket
- Proof of health insurance policy valid in all Schengen countries to cover expenses up to €30,000
- Proof of accommodation
If you’re a first time traveller, you also need:
- Income tax returns for the previous three years
- Bank statement from previous six months
- Appointment letter
- Reference letter from employer
- Plane ticket reservation
- Detailed itinerary
Depending on the countries you’re visiting, you might have to submit additional documents. For example, some embassies require you to present them with a certificate proving you have no criminal record or pending legal issues.
If you’re concerned about not having the right documentation or filling out the form incorrectly, we suggest you use Visa First to handle your visa application for you. They’ll provide you with up-to-date application forms, a checklist of necessary documents and clear instructions on what to do with them. When you send them your application, they’ll review it, advise you of any necessary changes then book your appointment with the appropriate embassy.
Present your documents
When you’ve got all your documents together, you need to make an appointment at the embassy of the country you’ll be starting your trip or spending most of your time. You can’t apply for your visa more than three months in advance, so time it right.
It can take anywhere between 15 and 60 days for your Schengen visa to be processed, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Within ten days of applying, you’ll be contacted by the embassy, letting you know how long your visa is expected to take.
Visa costs vary according to the age of the applicant, but most travellers can expect to pay €60. The only exceptions to this are children aged 6-12 and nationals from Ukraine, Russia, Kosovo and Georgia who pay just €35 and children under 6, students accompanying teachers, researchers from developing countries travelling for scientific research and representatives of non-profits aged under 25 attending events related to the organisation who don’t have to pay a fee at all.