For our Europe trip last October to November 2014, we applied for our Schengen visa at the German Embassy in Manila. Our much awaited and anticipated Europe trip lasted for 30 days and as we planned to spend the most number of nights in Germany, it stood to reason that we lodged our Schengen visa application at the German Embassy. Below is a detailed account of the preparation and the application of the Schengen visa that we did as well as some important notes on what a Schengen visa is. I hope these will help and guide you in your own Schengen visa application.
What is a Schengen Visa?
If you want to visit any of these countries, you need a Schengen visa in order to do so: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithunia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Well, except of course if you’re a citizen of a country where citizens are exempted from securing a Schengen visa, that is. But as for me and my family, we had to because we are citizens of the Philippines.
A Schengen visa allows you to go from one of these countries to the next for a maximum period of 90 days within a 180-day period, without getting flagged at the borders. The visa could be single entry or a multiple one, the latter enabling you to leave the Schengen area and go back again using the same visa within its validity period.
Purpose of Schengen Visa
You may apply for a Schengen visa for the purpose of business, visiting a fair, visiting family, tourism and participation in a language course lasting no longer than 3 months in Germany. Each has its own set of requirements which you can find in detail at the Visa Procedure and Forms page of the embassy’s website. Our trip was for tourism, so we complied with the requirements for the purpose of tourism.
Where to Apply for a Schengen Visa?
If you intend to visit only one country within the Schengen area, you then need to apply to the embassy/consulate of that country.
If you intend to visit several countries, then you need to apply at the embassy/consulate of the country which is your main destination. Your main destination is the country where you’re going to spend the most number of nights.
If you’ll be visiting several countries and you don’t have a main destination or if you’re going to be spending the same number of nights in each country, then you should apply at the embassy/consulate of the country which is your first port of entry.
When to Apply for a Schengen Visa?
An appointment is needed for you to be interviewed and be able to submit your requirements at the German Embassy. There are two ways you can set an appointment: first, you can call the embassy’s call center and book an appointment, or, you can go in person to the embassy and set the appointment yourself. If you choose the first option, these are the numbers you can call:
1-909-101-7777 (PLDT: only landline, SMART: only mobile phone)
1-903-101-7777 (Bayantel: only landline)
1-900-101-7777 (Globe: landline and mobile phone)
(Accessibility: Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.)
Here are the service charges for the call:
LANDLINE – CALL CENTER:
Within Metro Manila:PLDT: 32 – PhP/Min; Bayantel: 32 – PhP/Min; Globe: 32 – PhP/Min.
From outside Metro Manila: PLDT: 37 – PhP/Min; Bayantel: 36.50 PhP/Min; Globe: 37 – PhP/Min
MOBILE TELEPHONE – CALL CENTER:
Within Metro Manila: Smart: 39.50 PhP/Min; Globe: 39.50 PhP/Min
From outside Metro Manila: Smart: 39.50 PhP/Min; Globe: 39.50 PhP/Min
The Germany Embassy requires—and this is also true with other Schengen states—that you set your appointment no earlier than 3 months prior to your date of travel. Please keep in mind that many people apply for a Schengen visa so please arrange your appointment at the earliest possible time within the 3-month time frame to ensure that you’ll be able to leave on your preferred date of departure. See the Visa Appointment System for more guidelines.
We chose to call the German Embassy’s call center as we live outside Metro Manila. Because we intended to travel to Europe on October 2014, we made the call around the third week of July. Our call lasted for around 30 to 40 minutes because there were 3 of us applicants (me, my hubby, and our kid). The call center agent took our passport details (i.e. name, passport number, date of birth, etc.), dates of travel, the name of the hotel where we will be staying in Germany, our job details, addresses, contact numbers, and other relevant information. He gave us an interview date which was almost a month later. That was fine with us since it gave us the time to gather the requirements that we would bring during the interview. He also gave us reference numbers and record numbers.
Tip: Be sure to have your passport and other information on hand during the call to avoid delays and reduce phone charges.
Requirements of a Schengen Visa Application
We went to Germany as tourists and the requirements for Schengen visa for the purpose of tourism are the following:
1. Your identity as a traveler:
- Your original passport. It must be valid for at least another 3 months after the end of your trip and must have two empty pages. Also have a photocopy of the passport (personal information page, pages with visas). Bring other valid/invalid passports. Although in our case, our previous expired passports were no longer asked for.
- Two current passport pictures
Please see the guidelines for passport pictures because the embassy has pretty much detailed requirements on them.
2. Your Visa application form:
- One fully completed application form signed by you. It can be completed online or by the call center.
- Declaration according to §§ 54 and 55 AufenthaltsG, completed and signed by your own hand.
Since we booked our appointment via the call center, we didn’t have to print our application forms ourselves. When we arrived for the interview, our application forms were already ready and all we needed to do was check that the details were correct and then sign them. The details were already taken by the call center agent when we called to set the appointment. Same with the Declaration—all we had to do were tick off the boxes and affix our signatures.
3. Your purpose of travel:
- Details of the travel destination and travel route.
- Proof of reservation of a round-trip airplane ticket.
- Hotel-voucher or confirmations.
The first one contains the places we will be visiting, the dates of our visit in each place, our mode of transportation to and from each place. We also included the name of the hotels where we will be staying.
Take note that you must not yet buy airline tickets. Just make flight reservations and bring a copy of them. I learned that you can do this online for a fee, but we wanted to minimize our expenses so we went to a travel agency that does this for free. Try to look for one, too, as I’m sure there are many around. Also, you have to be sure of the dates of your travel as found in your flight reservations because in our case the validity of the visa given to us was limited to the dates found on our flight reservations.
For hotel reservations, those provided by Agoda.com, Booking.com or Expedia.com after you’ve made your booking reservations are fine. Just print and present them during the interview.
4. Visa fee:
- Children up to 6 years – no fee
- Children from 6 to 12 years – € 35
- Applicants older than 12 years – € 60. These are payable in Philippine Pesos and in cash at the current exchange rate.
We paid the Visa fee of € 60 in Philippine peso cash. They converted it at the exchange rate subsisting at that time. The nice lady gave us a change when we didn’t provide the exact amount.
5. The financial coverage of the cost of your travel and stay
- Copies of your credit cards (no debit cards) and accounts thereof for the previous six months.
- Bank statements for the last six months, along with bank confirmations.
- Formal Obligation (original and a photocopy) according to §§ 66-68 of the German Residence Law, given by your host at the aliens authority “Ausländerbehörde” in Germany that is responsible for his/her area of residence.
You need the Formal Obligation if somebody in Germany is going to sponsor your trip and stay there. We didn’t submit one because we paid for our trip ourselves.
6. Your travel health insurance:
- Travel health insurance that is valid for all areas in the Schengen and during the entire period of your stay. Minimum coverage is €30,000. Insurances from Philippines must be accredited and given in the original with a photocopy, while German insurances are accepted in photocopy, fax or scan.
We got our travel insurance from Malayan Insurance because after asking around, we found out that they offered the cheapest, yet already adequate, coverage. We stayed in Europe for 30 days, but we got a coverage for around 35 days because we were advised to do so and just in case the embassy would want an extra coverage in case of emergency.
7. Your rootedness in your home country (this will be your proof that you will be coming back to your home country because you are attached to something there).
- If you are an employee, you may submit the following: most recent income tax return, certificate of employment (which must include details of your position or professional designation, income, duration of the working relationship), letter of approved leave of absence signed by your employer and other proof of your employment.
- If you are self-employed, please submit proof of registration and commercial activity of your company in the Philippines (i.e. income tax returns, bank certificates, documents of the company accounts and others).
- For students, submit a school certificate or proof of enrolment, and letter of exemption from studies, if applicable.
- Original land titles, deeds of sale.
We are self-employed so we submitted copies of our business permits, DTI registrations, income tax returns, and financial statements. We also submitted photocopies of our profession IDs as well as copies of original land titles and deeds of sale.
8. Additional requirements for children below 18:
- Personal appearance of both parents, if residing in the Philippines, during submission of the visa application. Please bring valid ID.
- Original Birth Certificate of the child as issued by the National Statistics Office on Security Paper (SECPA).
We submitted our sons’s school ID and proof of enrolment from his school. We didn’t have to provide a letter of exemption from studies because our vacation would fall on his semester break. We also presented his original birth certificate. Don’t forget to bring a photocopy because they would give you back the original. Note that personal appearance of both parents is required along with their valid IDs. Also, although it is not stated in the list of requirements provided by the embassy, my husband and I were also asked to submit an Affidavit of Support stating that we are going to support our son during our travel. We didn’t have it at that time, so the consul asked us to mail one after the interview.
There are other requirements for children who are traveling without both parents, so if this is applicable to your case, please make sure to check them out at the list of requirements for Schengen visa application for tourism.
9. Even if not listed among the requirements, if you are married and applying with your spouse, please bring your MARRIAGE CONTRACT along with a copy because we were asked for one ourselves.
How to Arrange Your Documents
Take note that if you are applying as a group, you need to arrange your documents separately. In our case, we prepared three sets of documents, each set with papers particular to the person involved. This is also important because during the interview, each one would be interviewed separately from the others and you have to submit your own set of documents.
If you would be financially supporting your spouse and child during the trip, also include in their own sets of documents the papers that will show your capacity to provide for them during your travel like your personal bank accounts, credit cards, and the like.
How to Dress for the Interview
Go Business Casual. That means dress shirt, open collar, polo shirt, sports coat, sweater, slacks, khakis and loafers for men. An optional tie is okay. For women, a dress, blouse, tailored blazer, knee-length skirt or below, knit shirt or sweater, and dress shoes that cover all or most of the foot.
How Our Interview Went
Our interview was scheduled on the third week of August at 9 a.m. We were advised to arrive within 30 minutes before the schedule and not earlier. We heard stories where applicants arrived earlier than 30 minutes before their schedule and they were not allowed entrance. A friend of ours who was also scheduled on the same day arrived early, too, and she was refused admittance so she had to loiter at the ground floor of the building for a while.
We arrived at the German Embassy at RCBC Plaza in Ayala Avenue just in time: 5 minutes before 9 am. We thought we would be late because of the heavy traffic, but thankfully we made it just in time. We proceeded to the embassy’s reception desk on the ground floor (every office in the building has a designated one). We were asked to leave a valid ID; one for the three of us was enough. We had food with us at that time, but bringing food was not allowed, so we had to leave it at the reception desk. We proceeded to the 25th floor where the embassy was located. At the entrance, we were asked for our passports and then given our numbers and our printed application forms that already contained our details and information. We were told to proceed to the interview room where several applicants were waiting for their numbers to be called. Before entering, we were asked to leave our cellular phones with the security guard by the door. They have these specially-made cabinets that have small compartments just for cell phones. Each phone goes to a slot and it gets a number and you’re given a copy of the number.
At the interview room, we waited for our numbers to be called. We checked the data in our application forms to determine if they are correct and then signed them. We also glued our passport pictures to them. We were called one by one. The persons behind the glass conducting the interviews were mostly Filipinos. My husband was interviewed by a person different from our interviewer. Because my son was still a minor, he was interviewed with me. When my son and I were called, I was asked to give my documents first. The lady interviewer took a look at them and paid particular attention to our itinerary. She asked how many countries we would be visiting, how long our trip would be, and about my job. No other questions were asked. I then gave my son’s set of documents. She went over them and looked for an Affidavit of Support, but we didn’t have one, so she asked us to send over a copy. We then paid our visa fees. She told us that our passports will be delivered at our home and that we need to pay around 120 pesos (if I’m not mistaken) during delivery. Then, we were done.
My husband’s experience was quite similar. He was asked whether we would be joining a tour company and he said no because we were actually just going to backpack in Europe. He was also asked who he was traveling with, how many number of days our travel would be, and about our business. He paid his own visa fee to his own lady interviewer.
Our interview lasted for less than 10 minutes, more or less. It was fast and efficient. The embassy people were friendly and nice.
How Long Will the Visa be Released?
The German Embassy’s website states that the processing of visa applications can take up to 12 calendar days or longer, so please make sure you include this factor in your timetable. Also, please check that your documents are complete and in order so as to avoid delays.
We live outside Metro Manila, yet we got our passports back along with our Schengen visas in just 4 days! Super fast! We were so happy when the courier guy said we have mail from the Germany Embassy! Finally, we’re going to Europe!
It means “Have a nice trip” in German. I do hope this article will help you get that Schengen visa and finally get you to visit Europe!