Update September 2019: There is a new update on Schengen-Visa application thru VFS from the Germany Embassy. Please read it here.
I think I have mentioned before, that while I was growing up, I suffered from severe motion sickness. As a child, I used to fear even a short jeepney/car ride as just the mere smell of gasoline would make my stomach turn. So at this time, my greatest dream was to travel to various parts of the Philippines and maybe the world. Who would have guessed that I would end up miles away from home, definitely not the car-sick little girl me back then?
Now that I am away from home and family, one of my dreams is to be able to show my parents where I live. It would also mean they can go to Paris, where my brother and his family live. Armin and I were thinking of inviting them as early as some years ago but there were things or events that made it not possible at the time. But at last, we were able to do it now. They will be coming over to visit us this July and staying for a month. We would love to have them longer but a month is all they can spare :-)!
So this post is about sharing with you, our experience with acquiring a Schengen Visa - Do It Yourself style!
Of course, being me, I tried to limit the expenses to the minimum that means...no agency. And so we did everything ourselves. I did ask my parents to check and inquire in an agency nearby where they live and they are charging Php3,000 per applicant just for the visa application. But believe me, it is so easy to make it on your own and needs really less time so you can save this money to use for other expenses. The list of requirements they gave is also too generic like one size fits all kind of thing. It is better to get it from the German Embassy's website as they have different requirements for different purposes.
Before we start, here are some facts that I would like to mention that could have been a factor in a quick approval of my parent's Schengen visa application. But maybe I am wrong, maybe these things had nothing to do with their approval at all. I will also include other information we gathered from our experience in applying for Schengen Visa.
My parents are 64 and 63 years old.
Purpose: visiting family /friends
We will be sponsoring my parents' travel (Armin actually because I am no longer employed) so we obtained a formal obligation (Verpflichtungserklärung) from our local alien authority (Ausländerbehörde). This is also the easier route to take if you meet the requirements.
REQUIREMENTS FOR SCHENGEN VISA
Note: This list of requirements is for visa applicants who are visiting a family or friends. I got this directly from the German Embassy's website. There may be changes in their requirements so I would suggest checking their website directly.
For other purposes like for business trip, visitors/exhibitors of fairs, tourism, and participation of language course (< 3 months), the links to requirements are found after this list.
- Original and 1 photocopy of your current valid passport and valid/invalid (old) passports. The passport should be valid for at least 3 months after their planned return.
- Two current passport pictures. Make sure that you comply with the embassy's photo requirements!
- Your Visa application form(*). The form should be filled up online. This can be done by the host in Germany, the applicant/visitor themselves or a relative who has a computer and printer. After the form is completed it should be printed and signed by the visa applicant. Link to the form is https://videx.diplo.de
- Declaration form(*). Print this form, write down the date and place and sign (by applicant).
- Proof of relationship with the sponsor(*)(e.g. birth/marriage certificates, which substantiate the kinship, relationship or friendship). Bring as much proof as you can.
- Formal obligation/ Verpflichtungserklärung(*) Original and photocopy. This is optional. I wrote a separate post about the requirements and procedure for this. Read it here.
- If no formal obligation is submitted:
- An informal invitation by the host, in which information is given regarding the host's exact address of residence, the purpose of travel and the full duration of travel and stay
- Statements of account(s) of the applicant/visitor for the previous six months, with a confirmation by the bank
- Details regarding the means of travel for the outward - and return journey(*). You can give the details of the airline but you do not need to book or reserve a flight yet. The embassy confirmed this themselves when I asked them because I was a bit confused about this. All the articles (blogs or travel agencies) I've read say you need a dummy booking from a travel agency but it turns out you do not need this if the purpose for the Schengen visa application is to visit family or friends. What I did is, I looked for an airline (any airlines) online and entered the travel dates in the booking form and just made a screenshot of the flight details (arrival and departure schedules) then printed the screenshot I made.
- Visa fee - payable in Philippine Pesos (cash) at the current exchange rate
- Children up to 6 years no fee
- Children from 6 to 12 years € 35
- Applicants older than 12 years € 60
- Travel health insurance(*) for the applicant/visitor.
- Proof of rootedness in the Philippines of the applicant/visitor:
- If you own real estate property, e.g. original land title, deed of sale, and
- If you are employed: Proof of your employment, i.e. most recent income tax return, certificate of employment (including your employer’s full name, complete address and telephone number with area code details regarding your position or professional designation, income, duration of the working relationship); letter of approved leave of absence signed by your employer, or
- If you are self-employed: income tax returns, bank certificates, documents of the company accounts, or
- If you are a pupil/student: School certificate / University certificate; proof of enrollment (for students), if applicable: letter of exemption from studies
- Additional documents for children below age 18:
- Personal appearance of both parents (if residing in the Philippines)
- Original Birth Certificate of the child, issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority on Security Paper (SECPA)
- If traveling without both parents:
Declaration of consent by the legal guardian(s), signed in front of a German consular officer as well as
Passports of the legal guardian(s), or
Proof of legal custody (for minors with parents whose marriage was dissolved/ annulled), or
Death certificate of the other parent, or
Travel Permit, issued by the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
The last two are not on the list from the embassy but are also needed:
13. An appointment for Visa Application made online.
14. A printout of the email confirming the online appointment (*). You may only be admitted for your appointment in the Visa Section if you have a printout of this email.
For Schengen Visa application with other purposes (family reunion, tourist, holiday, business, study, work, etc. ), click here for the requirements.
SCHENGEN VISA APPLICATION PROCEDURE - How we did it!
As I said earlier, we did the application for Schengen Visa ourselves. My parents just had to have their pictures taken as one the requirements, sign the papers that need signing and bring all the needed documents the German Embassy for the interview.
I would also like to say that it is better to plan as early as possible. Waiting time for an appointment could take long especially during the peak season from March to August. I suggest that you start planning about 6 months before the planned visit. The processing of a Schengen-Visa application itself, however, takes only one week.
Stuff that can be done ahead like applying or renewal of passports should be done months ahead. Remember also, that booking flights so close to the departure dates could be expensive and more so if you plan to come at peak season not to mention the cost of accommodation in Europe (July to August is the most expensive months) can get tripled. So if you are able to get your visa as early as possible (3 months before planned departure) that would help budget-wise.
The first things you need to know:
Planned dates of visit and the duration (arrival to departure). Should not be more than 90 days.
Which country are they entering and departing? Should be a member of Schengen.
What other countries are you planning to visit? Should be within the Schengen area.
Personal details of the visitors: Name, date & place of birth, nationality, address, passport number
Here are the steps we did in applying for Schengen Visa with some tips and advice so you will not make the same mistake we did:
- Print out the Schengen Visa requirement checklist. I made 2 copies, one for me and one for my parents to serve as a guide. I did this as early as December last year to see what are the things we need and how much time we have to get all the requirements ready for a planned July 17-August 17 visit.
- Apply for/renew the passport if needed (Req.#1). My Papa had to renew his passport but because he is over 60 (senior citizen) he does not need to secure an appointment and was able to get it a couple of days (first week of February 2017).
- Once you have valid passports, book an appointment for the Schengen Visa application/interview. (Req.#13). Setting up an appointment is free and also done online. Click the link from the embassy for the: Step by step procedure for setting a Visa Appointment. Note that each applicant, including children, needs to have their own appointment. The appointment can also be booked by your business partner, friend or relative in Germany or any other person. Once done an email will be sent to the email address you've provided in the booking form. Print this email as part of the requirements (Req.#14) The printout should be done in the best possible quality. Book early! Schengen visa applications may be submitted three months before departure date. During peak season between March and August, the visa section is booked out for several weeks in advance. If you cannot keep your appointment, cancel it immediately (at the very latest 2 days prior to the appointment date). You cannot set another appointment if you do not cancel your original appointment!
- This is where I made a mistake. I waited too long and completed the other requirements first before doing this assuming that I have enough time to book an appointment. I did the booking three months (April 15) before the planned visit and it was almost too late. At this time the earliest available dates are May 12 and 17 and with only one slot available on each day and we had to take them even though it means my parents have to drive two times from Pampanga to Manila. When I searched for a date with two or more slots, it would already be almost mid- June. We wanted to book hotels as early as possible so we could choose a good one with cheaper rates. But by the time my parents got their Visas (May 20th), most of them were already booked out and what's left are the more expensive ones. So my advice is, as soon as your visitors have valid passports and as early as 4 to 6 months before the planned departure, book the appointment (just choose a date up to 3 months before the departure date). You only need the passport number/s to book it anyway and if you are not able to complete all the requirements 3 days before the appointment then just cancel it.
- You can also already fill out and print the online Visa application form (Req.#3).
- Armin and I, as sponsors, set an appointment and went to our alien authority or Ausländerbehörde here in Germany to secure a formal obligation or Verpflichtungserkärung (Req.#6). Note that it should not be older than six months when the visa application is submitted (interview). So you can do this maybe 1 to 2 months before the scheduled appointment.
- Get a travel health insurance (Req.#10) covering the entire duration of the visit. Make sure that this is refundable just in case your application get denied. We used a German insurance called HanseMerkur as they offer more competitive rates than the other insurance company (Germany and Philippines). More details below. The transaction was done online and you can pay with a credit card (Mastercard or Visa) or via Paypal. It was really effortless. They sent us an email with attachment for the confirmation which I printed and this is what we sent to my parents. Do this maybe 1 month before the scheduled appointment. You can just fax or email the document to the visitor if it is from a German Insurance.
- Once Armin and I were able to complete all the required documents from our side (formal obligation & travel health insurance), I also already printed the other requirements (those marked with a (*) in the list of requirements) to be sent one time to my parents in the Philippines. I made two sets of all the documents, one for my Papa and one for Mama. My Papa got the originals because he will be the first one to be interviewed. We had enough time before the appointment/interview so we send the papers with the Deutsche Post/Philpost which only cost 3.70€ plus 2.50€ for a tracking number. They received it in less than 2 weeks.
- Two weeks before their appointment, they had their passport pictures taken. Usually photo studios already know the requirements for these kinds of pictures and I told my parents to ask specifically for a visa photo. They told me that they got the pictures and I, being nit-picky and making sure that everything is done by the book, asked for a chat so I could see them myself. Good, they are not smiling. Then I asked my Papa if the size of the face from the bottom of the chin to the hairline is between 1 ¼ inches and 1 ⅜ inches. Nope, they are smaller. So they went again and the photo studio reprinted them a new set with the correct size for free.
- Although no longer required because we secured a formal obligation, I also asked my parents to request from their bank a statement of account for the last 6 months. Just an extra thing to bring since it is no hassle as they often go to the mall where their bank is anyway.
- Please also note that they do not have any other proof of rootedness in the Philippines as they are both retired and the last property they own was sold just recently. The house where they live belongs to my sister and her husband. The only thing we can think of is the car that was bought a year ago registered to my Papa's name. So I ask them to bring a copy of the registration.
- A week before their appointment, we went through the checklist together one more time to check completeness and I asked them to arrange the documents in the same order as in the list and check if all forms that need to be signed are signed. I told them to date it same day as their interview/appointment date. We also went through some questions that could be asked during the interview.
- Applicant should come on time for the appointment. Wear something casual yet presentable. Only persons with appointments are allowed to go up the German Embassy and only those who have the printout of the email appointment confirmation will be admitted. Get a number and wait until it is called. Submit your requirements to the interviewer and if asked, simply answer the questions with straight-forward answers and politely. The interviews were done in Tagalog/Filipino as my parents informed me. At the end, your biometrics will be taken and you also have to fill-up a shipping form (2GO) to be used for mailing back your passport and hopefully with the Visa.
My Papa was scheduled a week earlier than my Mama. But a few days before his appointment, we did a Q&A to practice and prepare for his actual interview. After he was done, he told me that he was not asked so much, only some basic questions so we were happy and relieved that that went well. When it was my Mama's turn though, expecting that it be the same we no longer repeated the exercise. However, this time, she was asked a lot of questions by the interviewer. Good thing she remembered the things we practiced earlier.
Here are some of the questions that were asked during the visa application interview. The interview was conducted in Tagalog.
- What is the purpose of your travel?
- Who are they visiting in Germany?
- When was the last time they saw us?
- Who is sponsoring their trip? / Who is paying for their visit?
- What is their relationship to the host/sponsor?
- My Mama was also asked when did Armin and I got married and where.
- When are they planning to travel? How long?
- Where is their host/sponsor living?
- Are they traveling with someone else? / Who are you traveling with?
- How many children do they have? How many of them are abroad?
- Have they been outside the country before? If yes, where and why?
- Did they work abroad before?
- Since they are retired, my Mama was also asked about their source of income.
So my Papa's interview was last May 12 and my Mama's was May 17. Both their visas arrived at the same time on the 20th of May.