Sunday, 25 September 2011

Have Visa, Will Travel

I write this for the benefit of the peeps who need some reference for their schengen visa application. This is my blow by blow account on how I went through the whole process.
Some background:

The Schengen Agreement was a set of agreements made by European states which consequently has abolished border controls between EU member countries (and also 4 non-EU countries) for citizens of those countries.  See the List of Current Schengen 25 Countries: -source: wikianswers
General fast-track facts:
1. Where to apply?
You need to apply in an embassy where your stay will be the longest (Say, if in your 10-day travel duration, you'll stay 7 days in France; you need to apply your visa in Embassy of France in the Philippines).

2. Do I need to be there?
Most, if not all, of the embassy (here in Philippines) require personal appearance.
3. Travel Agent, anyone?
It's more efficient to avail a travel agent services. They're more familiar on how the process are so I think if it's your first time, it's more of a need rather than a want.
4. The earlier, the better.
Make it a point to schedule your appointment (3-4 weeks before your expected flight date). This will save you some jittery-moment specially during the interview.
5. Be Prim, Proper and Punctual.
Make sure to verify the proper attire (smart casual is the safest) and do arrive on time.

Specific Inside Tips:
In my case, I need to apply to Embassy of the Czech Republic in Manila. Thank goodness, it's just in a familiar place (30/F Rufino Tower, Makati). Type C Visa. Business.
Here's a list of requirements that you need (though some documents may vary per embassy):

1.  Application form - Downloadable on their respective site.
2. Passport - Should be valid for at least 90 days after the intended departure.
3. One recent photograph - Suggest that you go to Tronix Greenbelt. Had my pic taken there for 2 of my visa appli (taiwan and schengen) -- they know what they're doing promise ;) .
4. Official Invitation form - There's more details here in site but it is up to the host company to furnish you with this document.
5. Official Bank Cert - Particularly for CZ Embassy, they require a clause (some form of a waiver) however, when I requested this in BDO, they declined as they shared that this may violate the Bank Secrecy Law. Workaround : I passed my Bank Certificate (even without the clause) plus the photocopy of my BDO passport for the last 6 months.
6. Accommodation Confirmation - To certify that you will be staying at a specific hotel for your whole travel duration.
7. Round Trip Reservation - In my experience, since my flight date was so close from my application date. The interviewer asked me to re-schedule my flight (hence my tip to be early as much as possible).
8. Travel Medical Insurance - Cost depends how long your stay will be.
9. Certificate of Employment - Including your salary. To substantiate your intention to go back here.
10. Other Documents showing you have some immovable Properties - By chance, I decided to bring Reddie's birth certificate (my car's name). Err.. I mean, Deed of Sale.

Pre-interview:I scheduled an appointment last 6th September (Dad's birthday). I was surprised that my schedule will be on the 8th! I only have less than 48 hours to prepare and my documents were far from ready. Nonetheless, I said: "Sure and thanks Ma'am" blankly. On the 7th, I rushed to Makati, met my travel agent at Mc Do, had some docs printed / photocopied, had my pics taken etc.

During the interview:My schedule was on 8th Sept, 11:20 am sharp. Tip: Do not staple your documents. If you need to sort them, clip them instead. Manong guard asked me and the agent to remove the stapler before I enter. Only applicants were allowed to enter. You need to wait for your turn while seated. A 50-year old plus woman sparked a conversation and asked if I am a student-exchange candidate (flattered) :) I said no politely, and found out that she'll be travelling with his brother who'll attend a convention in Prague.
Then it's my turn, a nice lady with a very, very good English accent checked my documents. 

Questions were (as far as I can recall):
What's my profession and what exactly will I do in Prague?
Who will shoulder my expenses?
How long will I stay there?
Where did I work before my current employment?
Is my bank account my personal savings account?

All went smoothly except my printed flight reservation said 12th to 19th of September (expected flight date). She said they're quite strict on their 2-week rule. She was about to give back my documents but thought for a second. She said she'll be receiving my documents and I can just go back and pass my adjusted flight form. Thank you Lord! :) I ended up going back there on the 12th but I am super thankful for her being so considerate. I know somehow, God touched her heart.

After the interview:Called the Embassy last 19th September and verified that I can claim 'it'. Notice the term. I don't know how to react. Friends know how my stomach turns upside down. I can't even eat and function normally but I know deep in me that if it is God's will things will go well.

Verdict day - 20th September. Went up in Rufino Tower and manong guard asked me to wait in the receiving area. Suddenly the Consul came out and the surging tension in me intensified. Then he said "Magandang Umaga..." (gulp) and I answered back "hello" (bloopers - not again!). He is very nice and seemed to be at home here in Philippines.
Going back, I waited for about 20 minutes while holding my pee (longest 20 mins of my life). Then the nice-girl-with-a-very-good-accent gave me the passport and had me sign on their receiving copy. Passport seems to be 'thicker'. I blurted a big sigh of relief and since the building is overseeing the skies, I say Thank You Lord for this victory and this is God's victory not mine really.

20th September - visa release. 22nd September (10:55 am) FLIGHT! Dates in between went fun and crazy. Again and again, thank you Lord, family and friends for seeing me through this one-of-a-kind experience. ;)

1 comment

  1. Acquiring a visa is a really long process but it really pays off in the end. I wish I could travel like you :)


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