A Schengen Visitor Visa is a short-stay entry permit issued to visit family members or friends living in any of the Schengen Area member states. It permits its holder to remain in this territory for up to 90 days, within a period of 180 days, and travel throughout the member countries without being a subject to internal border checks.
The Schengen Visitor Visa is issued in the form of a sticker affixed to the passport of the traveler. It should be presented to the border guard at the external borders of the Schengen Zone. The border guard holds the final decision whether the visitor should be permitted to enter or not.
Do I Need a Schengen Visa to Visit my Family in Europe?
You only have to apply for a Schengen visitor’s visa if you are a citizen of any of the countries that have not abolished the visa regime with the Schengen member states The Schengen states have agreed on common rules for issuing short-stay Schengen visas, which are valid within the entire Schengen Area.
Schengen Visa Requirements for Visitors
Here are the documents that you need to submit to apply for a Schengen visitor visa:
- Schengen Visitor Visa Application Form. You can complete the form online and print two copies of it.
- Two photographs in accordance with the Schengen visa photo requirements. They should be not older 6-months, 35–40mm in width, close up of your head and top of your shoulders so that your face takes up 70–80% of the photograph. The photos should be taken in sharp focus, of high quality and with no ink marks or creases, and according to all of the standards set by ISCO.
- Your valid passport. It should have at least two empty pages in order to affix the visa and be issued within the last ten years. The passport must be valid for another three months beyond the intended stay in the Schengen Area.
- Clear photocopies of the 1st and last page of the passport (biodata).
- Previous passports (if applicable) – if you have more than one old passport, do not staple them, instead tie them together with a rubber band and hand them along with the other documents.
- Personal cover letter. In this letter you will tell more about the purpose of visiting the EU, the countries you plan to travel to, the dates, where you plan to stay and other details of your trip.
- No Objection Letter from the employer or education institution. This is a letter from your employer or your school/university which states that you have contractual obligations in your home country and assures the embassy that you will return back to your homeland.
- Schengen area medical insurance that covers emergency medical, hospitalization and in case of death, repatriation. The Schengen Zone member states have agreed that the minimum cover should be 30.000 EUR, and it must be valid for your entire duration of stay in the whole territory of the Schengen Area.
- Proof of booked flight tickets without buying them. However, the embassy wants you to purchase a flight reservation in order to prove your intended entry and exit dates. One way tickets are not accepted.
- Proof of accommodation for the entire period of stay in the Schengen Area. Your relatives or friends must submit proof that they have enough room for you.
- Proof of financial status. You must show evidence that you possess sufficient funds for the visit, that you will be able to financially maintain yourself during your stay in the Schengen territory. You should be able to prove that through a bank statement of the past three months, which must not be older than three days. The minimum amount required is different in each country, therefore you will have to consult with the relevant consular authority in your country. You should also submit documents to prove your working status.
Please take note that you may have to submit some additional documents depending on your:
- the country you where you are applying from.
- the country you wish to visit.
How to Apply for a Schengen Visitor Visa?
To apply for a Schengen Visa for visitors you need to go through the following steps:
- Fill in a Schengen Visitor Visa Application Form.
- Collect the required documents for a Schengen Visitor visa.
- Schedule a visa interview.
- Attend the interview.
- Provide Biometric Data.
- Pay the Visitor Schengen visa fee.
Fill in a Schengen Visa Application Form
The application form for a Schengen Visitor visa contains questions on your personal data, your background, as well as the purpose of your trip to the Schengen territory. Make sure to check the box that says “Visiting family or friends” at the question regarding the purpose of your journey. Answer each of these questions sincerely and correctly. After you complete the form, print it, and sign it at the end. The application form is the first document you will have to present to the consular officer in your visa interview.
Collect the required documents
To visit family and friends in Europe will need to submit several documents as a part of your Schengen Visa application, to prove you meet the criteria set by the Schengen States to get a visa.
Remember that upon the submission of the required document, the visa officer may require you to submit additional documents. Make sure to submit these documents within the given period by the embassy.
Schedule a visa interview
It is best for you, to submit your Schengen Visitor Visa application 4 to 6 weeks prior to your planned trip, in order to give enough time to the embassy to process your visa. The earliest you can apply is six months prior to your trip, and the latest is 15 days before you travel to your destination in the Schengen Area.
Make an appointment for a visa interview at the embassy/consulate/ Visa Application Center of the Schengen country you wish to visit. In some countries, you will have to appoint the interview online meanwhile in others, you will have to show up in person at the facilities of this body, and make the appointment.
- Learn how to apply for a Visitor Schengen visa from UK.
- Learn how to apply for a Visitor Schengen visa from USA.
Depending on the country you want to visit, find the detailed visitor visa guide for each European country below:
- Germany Visitor Visa Guide
- France Visitor Visa Guide
- Iceland Visitor Visa Guide
- Netherlands Visitor Visa Guide
- Switzerland Visitor Visa Guide
- Greece Visitor Visa Guide
- Spain Visitor Visa Guide
Attend the interview on time
Have all your documents ready and organized prior to the day of your interview. On the day of the interview, show up at the embassy on time. Take care to wear responsibly. Do not wear something too shiny or eye-catching, but rather something quite in the middle of formal and informal clothes. Try not to be nervous, and answer all of the questions you are asked.
Provide Biometric Data
As a common Schengen rule, all travelers applying to get a visa to the Schengen Area for the first time will have to provide their biometric data at the body they submit their application. Schengen visa application biometric data includes your fingerprints and facial image.
Pay the Visa Fee
It costs 80 Euro to apply for a Schengen visitor visa. In some countries, you will have the chance to pay the Schengen visa fee online, before attending the interview. In others, you will have to pay the fee in person when you meet the interviewer. Please make sure to have the exact amount of the fee in your hands, since consular officers do not deal with change. If you hand them more money, you will not get any change in return.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Visitor Visa for Europe?
It will take around 15 days to come up with a response on your Schengen Visitor Visa application. While you may get a decision on your application for as soon as three days after the visa interview, this period may also be extended for up to 30 days. Extraordinary cases take two months to be processed by the competent Schengen embassy, due to their complicity and sensitivity.
Schengen Visitor Visa Validity
A Schengen Visitor Visa is valid for up to 90 days within a period of six months, within the entire territory of Schengen. However, it is all up to the Schengen embassy, which processes your application, how long they decide to permit you to stay in Schengen.
Usually, you will get a visa that permits you to remain in Schengen for as long as you require in your application. Still, take the time to read carefully your Schengen visa sticker in order to find out more in this regard.