What is a Schengen Visitor Visa?
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.
Who Needs a Visitor Visa to Travel to Europe?
Citizens of non-EU / non-Schengen countries that have not abolished the visa regime with the Schengen member states will have to apply for a Schengen Visitor Visa to visit their relatives or friends in the Schengen Area. The Schengen states have agreed on common rules for issuing short-stay Schengen visas, which are valid within the entire Schengen Area.
Schengen Visitor Visa Requirements
You 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.
We have written a detailed article on the standard required documents for a Schengen Visitor Visa. Some of the main documents you will be required to submit, are as follows:
- Completed Schengen Visa application form
- Your valid passport
- Medical Insurance for Schengen Visa
- Roundtrip Flight Itinerary
- Proof of Accommodation
- Proof of financial means to fund your trip
- Proof of paid visa fee
Please take note that you may have to submit some additional documents depending on your:
- purpose of entry.
- the country you where you are applying from.
- the country you wish to visit.
Remember that upon the submission of the required document, the visa officer may require from you to submit additional documents. Make sure to submit these documents within the given period by the embassy.
Schengen Visitor Visa Application Process
You will need to follow and complete some procedures in order to finalize your application for any type of Schengen Visa for visiting relatives or friends in Europe. Below, we have listed chronologically and explained each of these procedures with utmost care. Pay attention to each, since every step is crucial for getting your Schengen visitor visa.
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. 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
Gather all of the required documents for a Schengen Visitor Visa according to their specifications as defined by the common Schengen rules. In particular, make sure that your passport has the required validity, which is three more months beyond your planned stay in Europe. Remember that your passport should have at least two blank pages, in order to be able to affix the visa sticker.
Arrange the required documents in the given order, so you will not have a mess in your hands when you met the visa interviewer.
Schedule a visa interview
Make an appointment for a visa interview at the embassy / consulate / Visa Application Center of the country you wish to visit in the Schengen Zone. In some countries, you will have to appoint the interview through the website of the body in charge of applications’ admission. In others, you will have to show up in person at the facilities of this body, and make the appointment.
On the day of appointment
Mark the day of your appointment on your calendar, and prepare for it. Have all your documents ready and organized prior to this day. 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
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.
Application processing time
It will take the embassy responsible on the procession of your visa application, 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.
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 three months prior to your trip, and the latest is 15 days before you travel to your destination in the Schengen Area.
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.