Many of my long trips over the past five years have been in Europe and since I require a Schengen visa to enter most countries in the continent, I have applied in various embassies here in Singapore. Generally, my experiences applying for a Schengen tourist visa have been very procedural. Several documents are required for presentation but as long as one manages to fulfill them, there are barely any questions asked — unlike the application process for other countries for example.
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What is the Schengen Visa?
Several countries in Europe are part of the Schengen agreement and share a common visa. This means that as long as you are issued the Schengen visa, you can move anywhere within the countries part of the agreement during the duration of your visa. As of this writing, these countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
In addition to the countries formally part of the Schengen area, there are other countries which exempt you from getting their own visas and allow entry as long as you have a multiple entry Schengen visa. These countries are: Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Romania. Besides these, there are other countries that share an open border with the Schengen area, therefore the only way to enter these countries is via other Schengen area countries. These nations are: Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City
All in all, you can enter around 39 countries with a multiple entry Schengen visa which actually makes it quite a powerful visa to hold.
How to apply for the Schengen visa
To know where you should apply for the Schengen visa, the main criterion is the country where you’ll be spending the longest time for your trip. Assuming you are spending the same amount of time in more than one country, then the next criterion you’ll be looking at is the Schengen area country where you first enter.
Many of the Schengen area countries have embassies here in Singapore and to start the application process, most of them require booking an appointment. I have personally applied in the Danish, Spanish and Polish embassies for my Schengen visa.
For larger European countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Germany, the centers to apply in are quite straightforward – either the embassy of the same country or its equivalent processing centers.
First Schengen state of entry is Finland where you spend 2 nights but you are also going to France (3 nights), Norway (1 night) and Denmark (2 nights)
You apply in French Embassy as you are staying in France the longest even though it is not your first port of entry.
First Schengen state of entry is Germany where you spend 2 nights but you are also going to Spain (2 nights), Italy (2 nights) and Greece (2 nights)
Since you are staying the same number of nights in all the Schengen states you are visiting, you then apply for the visa in the German Embassy.
How many entries do you need for the Schengen area?
In the application form, you can choose whether you’d like to have a single, double or multiple entry visa. It is still up to the consul how many entries you will be given. I have received plenty of questions from people who are confused about the number of entries they need. First, you’ll have to note what constitutes the Schengen area. As long as you stay within the Schengen area, even if you visit multiple countries, it still constitutes a single entry as there are no border checkpoints between countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Netherlands, etc. However, if you are going to the United Kingdom (which is not a Schengen state) in the middle of your trip and then returning to the Schengen area again after, then you’ll need a double or multiple entry visa.
Where to Apply Schengen Visa For States With Limited Diplomatic Presence in Singapore
It’s trickier for certain Schengen countries with no or reduced presence in Singapore. Here’s a guide to some of them.
Schengen visa applications for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic are handled by the Hungarian Embassy in Singapore.
Schengen visa applications for Slovenia are handled by Spain through its visa processing center.
Schengen visa applications for Austria are handled by France.
Schengen visa applications for Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland are handled by Denmark, through its visa processing center.
Schengen visa applications for Portugal are handled by the Embassy of Germany in Singapore.
Schengen visa applications for Malta are handled by the Italian Embassy in Singapore.
Cost of the Schengen visa is 60 Euros, payable in its Singapore Dollar equivalent.
Germany – link here
Italy – link here
France – link here
Spain – link here
Switzerland – link here
Hungary – link here
Do note that individual appointments are required. This includes families and even children. For example, if a family of 4 comprising of husband and wife and 2 children are traveling to the Schengen States, 4 appointments are required.
Required documents for Schengen tourist visa if you are applying in Singapore:
Schengen visa application form – It is the same form regardless of the embassy you are applying from. The form itself is quite straightforward.
Passport photo – must be glued to the application form. The photo must clearly show the face, forehead hairline and ears on a white background.
Passport – aside from the physical passport, remember to bring a photocopy of the identity page/s as well. The passport needs to be valid for 3 months after the completion of stay in the Schengen countries and needs to have at least 2 blank pages.
Singapore IC – It can be an employment pass, work permit or a PR card. For the latter, the PR card needs to be supplemented by the Re-entry permit. Remember to bring a copy of the IC. For employment pass or work permit, do note that you departure date from the Schengen area should be at least 90 days from the date of expiry of your pass.
Flight booking – The Schengen countries are quite flexible in the definition of a flight booking. It does not have to be a confirmed flight booking, i.e. waitlisted or tentatively reserved flights are acceptable.
Medical insurance policy – The coverage needs to be EUR 30,000 at least and should cover medical expenses, hospitalization and emergency and repatriation. For the type of insurance that is acceptable for the Schengen visa, you can buy HERE
What I like about this insurance is that it is an all-in-one medical + travel insurance. Flight delays for as little as 3 hours are covered.
Hotel reservation and trip itinerary – Again, the bookings don’t have to be prepaid. Cancellable bookings are perfectly fine. However, the bookings need to cover the entirety of your stay in the Schengen countries. If you are applying for a multiple entry visa, you need to show that you will be leaving the Schengen countries as well. This can be evidenced via hotel bookings in a non-Schengen country.
Proof of financial support – This is evidenced via 3 months bank statements. I typically print out my online banking 3-months transaction history. This should be sufficient as long as your online banking print out includes your full name. If you have a bank account overseas, those are not acceptable. Only Singapore-based bank accounts are accepted and these must be denominated in SGD, EUR or USD.
What to do if you are a student or have someone else sponsoring your trip?
- Get a signed letter of financial support. If your sponsor (i.e. parent) is traveling with you, you don’t need to produce this.
- Sponsor’s 3 months bank statements
- Sponsor’s passport biodata page with the signature page
- Sponsor’s Singapore legal status such as a copy of IC, re-entry permit, etc. If your sponsor does not reside in Singapore, you don’t need to produce this.
- Evidence of your relationship with sponsor (i.e. birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc)
Employment letter – My letter has the following information: my duration of employment with the company, job title, salary and most importantly, confirmation from my firm’s HR that my leave dates were granted for my intended trip.
Tips For Your Schengen Visa Application
- The key to getting a Schengen visa is to have the complete stack of required documents. The authorities are a stickler for rules and as long as you fulfill them, you should not have any problems getting your visa.
- Most embassies don’t specifically state it but for the purpose of a visa, the minimum requirement to travel around the Schengen countries is around EUR 65 per day so your bank balance will need to show at least that for each day that you intend to stay within the Schengen area. For travel to Schengen countries in Scandinavia like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland; the minimum required is S$ 1,400 per week.
- The consul will be more confident in approving your visa if you can show that you have previously visited other industrialized countries. Even if you have an expired visa for USA, Canada, Japan, Australia or New Zealand lying in an old passport, it would be useful to photocopy those and bring them during your appointment
- For first time visitors, most (if not all) Schengen country embassies don’t issue a visa with a validity that’s a little bit more than your travel duration. It becomes easier though to get longer validities from the second Schengen visa onwards. 1-year multiple entry visas are not unheard of. 2-year visas are possible as well but these require permission from the home country and may require a bit of time to process
- If you are applying through an embassy, standard processing time is usually 4 or 5 working days except for other nationalities (refer to this list) in which case the processing time may take 10 to 15 working days. If you are applying via the VFS / BLS; the processing time is usually standardized to 15 working days. But from experience, even applications lodged at the visa processing centres can take as little as 3 to 4 working days to be issued.
- The right kind of medical insurance is important to the Schengen authorities. While there are certain credit cards which supposedly come with travel insurance, these may not meet the minimum inclusion which is required for the visa. To ensure you have the acceptable type of insurance, you can purchase an inexpensive one HERE