Europe remains the top favorite overseas destination for US travelers. With its touristic destinations, historical monuments and sites, beautiful mountains and landscapes, the old continent keeps luring travelers across the globe. Almost 16 million US residents entered Europe in 2017 alone. After neighboring Mexico, Europe was the second most visited by Americans within the same year.
For some, traveling is easy. You buy a ticket, and that is it. For others, traveling includes applications and processes that are often confusing and time-consuming, in particular when it comes to traveling to Europe.
If you are living in the United States, and you do not know what procedures you should follow to enter Europe, this article will make it clear to you.
Do I Need to Apply for a Visa to Go to Europe?
Currently, US citizens do not need to apply for a Schengen visa to visit Europe. However, they will need to apply for an ETIAS starting January 1, 2021, in order to be permitted to enter any of the Schengen states. ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System and is quite similar to the American ESTA.
You will have to apply for a Schengen visa from the US prior to your trip if you belong to any of the following categories:
- You have been rejected visa-free entry in Europe despite being:
- A US passport holder
- A passport holder of one of the countries that have a visa-free agreement with the Schengen Area
- You are a national of one of the countries that have not established a visa-free regime with the Schengen states yet
Please keep in mind that you will be able to get a Schengen visa from the US only if you you are a Green Card holder. In case you are there on a visa, you will not be able to apply for a Schengen Visa. Instead, you will have to go to your country of residence in order to be able to apply.
When Should I Submit the Schengen Visa Application From the United States?
You cannot just file your visa application whenever you want to. The earliest you can submit your Schengen visa application is three months prior to your trip to this region. The latest you can do so is two months prior to the date of your planned trip.
However, the most advisable time to file your application is three weeks prior to your trip to the Schengen zone.
How to Apply for Schengen Visa From USA?
Though it might sound like tons of work and requirements; in fact, applying for a Schengen visa from the US is simple, especially if you fulfill the eligibility criteria. As a start, in order to get your application ready, you need to figure out a couple of things as:
- Choose the type of Schengen visa that you need.
- Determine where to file your application.
- Fill the Schengen Visa Application form.
- Book an appointment.
- Collect the required documents.
- Show up at the appointment.
Types of Schengen visas available for applicants in USA
Applicants from the United States can apply for the following visas, depending on the purpose of visiting the Schengen countries:
- Tourist Schengen visa.
- Transit Schengen visa.
- Business Schengen visa.
- Visitor Schengen visa.
- Cultural Schengen visa.
- Medical treatment Schengen visa.
Where to apply for a Schengen visa in United States?
Just because the Schengen states have a common visa policy, it does not mean you can file your visa application at whichever Schengen embassy in the United States. There are strict rules on where an applicant shall file their application. Before you schedule an appointment, decide:
- How many Schengen countries will you visit?
- If you are planning to visit more than one country:
- How much you will remain in each?
- In which country will you step first?
Visiting one country in Europe
If you are going to visit only one country, then file your application at the embassy/consulate/visa center of that country in the United States. For example if you want to visit France, you should submit your application at the nearest French mission (Embassy or Consulate).
Visiting more than one country in Europe
On the other hand, if you will be visiting more than one country, then file your application at the embassy/consulate/visa center of the country in which you will spend most days. If you plan on spending equal time in all the countries that you will visit, then you should apply at the Embassy or Consulate of the country you will land first.
Choosing the mission that processes visa applications
In addition, depending on how your destination country has regulated visa submission, you may have to submit your application at their:
- Visa Center.
- Embassy/consulate/visa center of another Schengen country to which your destination country has outsourced visa submission.
Aside from that, in the US, each embassy and each consulate have their own jurisdiction area. This means that where you need to file your application also depends on the jurisdiction area under which you fall.
Fill in the Schengen visa application form
After determining where to apply, you can download the Schengen visa application form from the Embassy/Consulate website. It is free of charge, so you need to make sure not to get scammed by paying for it.
You will have to answer questions for basic information such as your name, date of birth, country of birth, passport number, and nationality; and questions regarding your trip, such as where will you stay, for how long etc.
Book an appointment
After completing the application form you will have to book an appointment with the embassy or consulate in the United States that will handle your application.
Collect the required documents
Here are the documents that you need to submit to apply for a Schengen visa from the USA:
- Schengen Visa Application Form. The form is the same for all countries in Schengen. Fulfill the form with correct information and print it twice. Sign both copies at the end.
- Valid passport. Your passport must be valid for another three months beyond the date you plan to leave the area. It must not be older than ten years and have at least two blank pages.
- Two identical photos. It must not be older than 3 months and fulfill the requirements for a Schengen visa photo.
- Schengen Travel Health Insurance for Europe. In the minimum amount of €30,000, that covers any medical emergencies and repatriation in case of death.
- Proof of Accommodation. You must submit documents through which you prove where you will be staying throughout your time in the Schengen states. That could be:
- a hotel booking,
- a letter of invitation, or
- a rent agreement.
- Flight Itinerary. A document through which you prove you have a saved seat in your flight from the United States to Europe. It also contains the dates you enter and leave Schengen.
- Cover Letter. A letter in which you explain your whole trip in details, what you will be doing, the places you will be visiting, etc.
- Proof of financial means. Evidence that you have the means to support yourself throughout your whole trip in the Schengen Area.
Depending on your employment status you will have to submit the following documents:
- If you are an employee, you need to submit:
- Leave permission from the employer.
- Employment contract.
- Income Tax Return (ITR) form or Certificate of Income Tax deducted at the source of salary.
- If you are self-employed, you need to submit:
- A copy of your business license.
- Income Tax Return (ITR).
- If you are retired, you need to submit:
- Pension statement of the latest 6 months.
- If you are studying at a US university, you need to submit:
- Proof of enrollment.
- No objection letter from School or University in the US.
- If you are unemployed and married to a US citizen, you need to submit:
- Your spouse’s Confirmation of Employment. This document should be issued by the employer of your spouse and must indicate details as the position held by your spouse within the company, as well as the starting date.
- Spouse’s valid passport.
- An officially translated marriage certificate. If your marriage certificate is not in English, translation is required. This translation must be certified as a true copy by the Embassy of the country where the marriage took place or by the Legalization Bureau of the Foreign Office in US. In case this Certificate was issued outside the EU, it must bear a stamp by the Foreign Office of the issuing country, or its Embassy in the US.
In addition, you will have to gather specific documents depending on the purpose of your visit.
Remember that despite the fact the Schengen states have a common visa policy, some of the countries may have extra requirements.
Show up at the appointment
Every applicant must show up at the appointment on time, and cannot send someone over to attend the interview on their behalf. Underage applicants must be accompanied by their mother/father/legal guardian.
Providing the documents
At the appointment you will have to submit the file of documents that you have collected to support your application. The visa official will go through your file to make sure that you can proceed with the interview.
If you have never applied for a Schengen visa before, you will have to submit your biometrics. You will have your fingerprints and facial image taken.
The visa interview
The interview lasts around ten minutes. Throughout this time, you will have to answer the questions the visa interviewer asks.
They will ask you about your background, the reasons why you wish to visit the Schengen Zone and other questions related to your trip.
Verifying the details
After the interview, the information that you provided will be entered into the online system and you will receive a printed copy of your application. This process usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes. After you get the printed form, you should verify that all the details are correct and sign the form.
Pay the application fee
The fees for a Schengen visa are the same, no matter where you are applying from. Currently, the fee for a Schengen visa for adults is $69 and $40 for children under 12. Children below the age of 6, are exempt.
In addition, there are categories of people who are exempt from paying the fee, or who only have to pay a lower fee. Check the Schengen visa fees for more!
Keep in mind that in case of visa rejection or application withdrawal you will not be able to get your money back.
In Case of Schengen Visa Denial
In case you have your Schengen visa application from the United States denied, you can always reapply by fixing the mistakes made during your application. When you get the news on visa denial, the embassy will also provide you with reasons why you were rejected from getting a visa.
You can also appeal the decision by writing a visa rejection appeal letter.