Europe, Travel Tips
Comments 29

How to Score a Schengen Visa on an Indian Passport. 

The thought of traveling in Europe fills my head with such dreamy images – colorful towns with cobbled streets, ageless cities in the backdrop of the Alps, the smell of fresh breads at local patisseries, people-watching at charming little cafes – that it often masks the pain of applying for a Schengen visa.

Unlike tourist visas for the US and Canada, Schengen visas for Indians tend to be issued for a much shorter duration. Given my frequent trips to Europe, I’ve scored 8 Schengen visas so far, and only twice have I managed a 1-year multiple entry visa; the other visas have lasted the exact duration of my travels. But I haven’t let that stop me from exploring this unique part of the world!

montenegro, europe visa for indian, schengen visa for indians

Montenegro… someday! Photo by Trish Hartmann; creative commons.

8 successful applications later, I know the Schengen Visa application process for Indians like the back of my hand. Take my tips and tricks, and make your Europe travel dreams come true:

The basics: What’s a Schengen visa and which countries in Europe does it cover

The Schengen Agreement is a treaty signed by several European countries to allow free movement across their borders. As travellers, that means a single Schengen Visa gives us access to most of Europe, without having to apply for individual visas. Armed with my Schengen visa, I’ve never had to think twice about taking a train on a whim from France to Netherlands to Austria.

The Schengen visa allows entry into 26 countries in Europe, including Scandinavia, Iceland and most of the Balkan countries. Even though Croatia and Romania are not part of the Schengen zone, Indian passport holders get visa on arrival in both with a valid Schengen visa.

Which Schengen country’s embassy should you apply to

Where you file your Schengen visa application depends on your travel plans within Europe. Here’s the order of consideration:

  • Apply for your Schengen visa at the embassy of the country you plan to spend the maximum number of days in.
  • If you’re going to spend equal number of days in some countries, apply at the embassy of the country you plan to land in.

If your plans are open and flexible, it’s a good idea to go with the latter and let your accommodation bookings reflect that. Once your score your Schengen visa, you can enter from and travel freely in any part of the Schengen zone.

shivya nath, georgia travel, schengen visa for indians

Longing for a border-less, visa-less world!

Get an appointment with VFS (or BLS for Spain)

Once you’ve figured out which country’s embassy you’ll be applying to, find its corresponding VFS website (for instance, VFS Germany, VFS France, VFS Netherlands) and book an appointment at your nearest centre. There was a time in India when applying for a Schengen visa meant queuing at the embassy all night long, but VFS Global (the official visa application and processing service) has made the whole process much more efficient.

I’ve applied for most of my Schengen visas at the German consulate, so I always book an appointment with VFS Germany; you need to register as a new user, go to ‘Schedule Appointment’, and find a date and time that suits you. Remember that you either need to apply at the VFS Centre that’s closest to the address on your passport, or show address proof of your residence in another part of the country. In my case, my passport address is of Dehradun, so I am required to apply at VFS Germany in Delhi.

[Update: Applications for a Schengen visa from Spain are now processed by BLS, not VFS. The process is pretty much the same; see details here]

The Schengen visa form and checklist for a short-term tourist visit

Fill the Schengen visa form online (here for VFS Germany), save it to see any errors pop up in red, then hit print and save the form as a PDF. When you print it, make sure the barcodes on the last page are clearly visible.

Look for the short-term tourist visa checklist on the relevant VFS website, and start gathering your documents. The checklist is similar for most Schengen countries, and includes your bank statements, income tax returns, travel insurance, and confirmed flight and accommodation bookings.

Flight and accommodation bookings

This is the tricky part; in order to make a successful Schengen visa application, you need show confirmed flight and accommodation bookings for your entire duration of travel. Even though it’s a bit of a risk, I usually book my actual flights before I apply for the visa; the safer option is to make a fully refundable booking on your credit card, and cancel and rebook a cheaper flight once you receive your visa.

For accommodations, I’ve been using booking.com to book hotels that can be cancelled till much later without a fee. However, lately I’ve heard that some non-European embassies have stopped accepting booking.com for visa applications. One (tedious) way around this is to contact hotels/B&Bs directly for a reservation and stall the payment till after you receive your visa.

Annecy france, schengen visa for india, europe visa for indian

The beginning of my love affair with small town Europe – in Annecy, France.

How to make a strong Schengen visa application as a freelancer

As a self-employed freelancer/blogger, I can neither produce a no-objection letter from my employer nor salary slips. In order to make a stronger case, I do the following:

  • Write a cover letter addressed to the visa officer, clearly explaining my work as a travel blogger, outlining some of the countries I’ve travelled to in the past (the US, UK, Australia and Canada carry good weight), and my intentions of visiting Europe.
  • Attach copies of my past Schengen visas and valid US/UK/Canada visas.
  • Attach my visiting card to establish credibility.
  • Include an invitation letter from any tourism board or company I intend to collaborate with.

The idea is to show that you don’t intend to stay in Europe longer than your planned travel dates.

Schengen visa fee and what to expect at the VFS appointment 

The visa fee includes both the embassy see and the VFS fee; at VFS Germany, this comes to almost INR 6,000 – and is similar for other Schengen countries. When I last visited VFS Germany in Mumbai in January 2017, I was able to pay by card, but also told that most VFS counters only accept cash or demand draft.

You are allowed to enter VFS only 15 minutes before your appointment time, and it’s a good idea to do that because you still have to get a queue number inside. A VFS official will check your documents, and if it’s your first visa application, your fingerprints will be taken. The application processing time varies based on the embassy you’re applying to; I’ve been lucky enough to receive my passport back within 2-3 days from VFS Germany even though the official processing time is 15 days.

You can choose to collect your passport at VFS with the receipt and a copy of your ID, or to have it sent it by courier to your address. I prefer the former just to minimize the possibility of it getting lost in transit.

Come with me virtually to Bavaria

I’m excited to share that this time around, I managed to score a one-year Schengen visa and plan to do a big trip to the Balkans this summer. But this week, I’m hopping over to Bavaria, invited by Lufthansa to experience their first A350 flight to India from Munich on 11th February! I hear this plane comes with bigger screens, more leg room, 12 mood lightings… and is 50% more energy efficient than other planes in the same category. Before I board that flight, I’ve decided to spend a few days out in the Bavarian Alps, in search of a dreamy winter wonderland.

bavaria winter, germany winter, schengen visa indians

My dream of winter in Bavaria. Photo by Marco Cortese; creative commons.

Bonus: Win a trip to Germany on the new Lufthansa A350! 

Contest Alert: Lufthansa is giving away 2 return flight tickets from Delhi to Munich to celebrate the launch of their new A350 plane. Unleash your creativity, photograph the number 350 and complete the sentence “This 350 is special because…” to enter the contest. The contest ends Feb 28th, 2017. Read the terms and conditions here. Good luck!

Join my winter adventures in Bavaria live on InstagramFacebook and Twitter! See you from the other side.

Applying for a US Visa? See my tips.

Need a Canada Visa? See my tips.

Traveling to Turkey, Sri Lanka, Vietnam or Cambodia? Get an e-visa.

Feature image by mendhak; creative commons.

29 Comments

  1. Nice informative post! Schengen offers maximum 1year, 3 years and lastly 5 years multiple entry Visa. 2 simple tricks works with them – go for more travel insurance, the longer the better, and second have US and Japan Visa stamped already in your passport …chances are you get longer one then ! 🙂

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    • Interesting. Have you managed to score a 3 or 5 year visa? I’ve never had more luck than getting a 1 year, and only know one friend who managed to score 2 years.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have 1 year now, I will be aiming for more than 1 this year (as I have both US 10 years and 1 time Japan along with shengen travel history). But I know someone who has like 5 years shengen Visa (although it’s business) but when I checked his history he has 1 year japan Visa which was definitely winning deal for him. Japan has the strongest credibility in the world in my understanding so far.

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  2. This came at the perfect time 🙂 I am about to book an appointment at VFS France for my upcoming trip and this post is handy! Thanks and hope you enjoy your Bavarian interlude! I heard the chocolate is nice (not sure about the vegan version)

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    • They do some incredible vegan chocolates in Germany 😀 And that’s awesome, glad this came in handy. Have fun in France!

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  3. Great tips but I would like to point out that VFS is no longer handling visa applications to Spain. Not many are aware of this. BLS is handling Spain visas only in Mumbai and Delhi and the applicant has to travel to these cities in order to apply.

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  4. Nice Shivu!! This came at a perfect time, I am planning for a Denmark-Norway-France-Germany-Finland-Denmark tour. I believe i lucked out to see this post of yours. I bet, it will help my permit approval. Cheers !!

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    • If you are employed, then yes it’s ideal to have one. If you are self-employed or a freelancer, just explain so in your cover letter.

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    • The visa is valid for 1 year and allows multiple entries, but I can only stay in the Schengen zone for 3 months every 6 months.

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  5. Saleh AlAmeri says

    I congratulate you! you are brave and lucky to get out of your everyday life, and achieving your goals and decisions. Even I want to fly all around the world and free of these stupid and meaningless life. hope one day I will do.

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  6. Hello, everyone.

    You would want to apply for your visa to U.S.A, CANADA, U.K, INDIA or to any other country about 2 months before travel, apply directly, contact Alex customer operation team on:onlinevisaapplication.usa@gmail.com and request for visa information Form that has all the step by step process on how to obtain a visa along with requirements for processing.

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  7. Chaitanya Agrawal says

    My advice – never apply for a Schengen visa in Denmark.
    We applied for a Schengen visa last September. We were going to be spending max time in Iceland, and were told Denmark handles all Iceland Visa applications as well. So we applied at the Danish section at VFS.
    We had a terrible time.
    We applied over a month in advance, but got our passport back just 2 days before our trip. It was impossible to contact them and find out the status.
    Unfortunately, our return flight back to India, got cancelled, and we had to extend our trip by 2 days. The visa wasn’t valid for the extra 2 days, and there just wasn’t enough time to apply for a fresh visa.
    We managed to get a fresh visa by visiting the embassy, and by tolerating some very very rude behaviour by the staff there.
    And a final but of inconvenience – while applying for the visa, for some strange reason they wanted a colour photocopy of the entire passport. As far as I know no other country has such a requirement.

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  8. Great tips and tricks. Like you, I honestly believe that the visa process shouldn’t stop us from seeing the world.

    Let’s hope that Schengen starts giving longer term visas like before. So, we can avoid the multiple applications and keep our travels spontaneous.

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  9. Thanks for the informative post. 🙂
    Just want to ask about the Visa/ ease of entrance wrt Romania and Croatia- since they are not Schengen members, I’ve read that if one gets a double/multiple entry Schengen visa, once can travel freely to these countries. However, single entry visa might not yield fruitful results? We intend to travel to east Europe this summer and are thinking of just taking a bus/train from Budapest to Zadar (Croatia) or Bucharest (Romania)- will it be fuss-free with a single entry Schengen visa?

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  10. Ashok Handa says

    We are planning my maiden trip to western Schengen countries in early Oct2017.
    Starting from Switzerland for one week, ending with one week in Spain and have one week available in between. Can you please suggest me the best places we can cover starting from Geneva and ending at Barcelona.We are senior citizen couple and want an economical stay and travel.
    Ashok Handa

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