For most of us in the Caribbean, when we think of traveling, the first destination that comes to our mind is the United States and then possibly Canada. However, for the budding traveler who has been bitten by the wanderlust bug, 9 times out of 10, Europe is the desired destination of choice. Naturally this seems daunting, especially for third-worlders with experience trying to obtain a US visa. Here in Jamaica, most people have seen or joined the lines in-front of the US Consulate, with some having their dreams realized or shattered with a “YOU ARE NOT WORTHY to visit our glorious country at this moment.” This experience has made the thought of acquiring a VISA to any other location seem like an overwhelming challenge.
Surprisingly, acquiring a Schengen Visa is quite the opposite. It is potentially one of the simplest VISAS to attain. Below, I have listed some answers to questions that I constantly get asked by friends about traveling to Europe:
What are the steps I need to take?
First, you need to determine:
The duration of your trip
The number of countries you plan to visit
The country you plan to arrive and potentially spend most of your time in. It is always best to apply to the embassy of that country, however if the consulate of that country is not available in your region, you should be able to utilize another European Consulate with no issue.
What documents do I take with me to the embassy?
Your Passport: (must be valid for over 3 months) and a recently taken passport size photo.
Proof of Travel Insurance: is also needed to cover the cost of repatriation and emergency medical expenses whilst in Europe. You can purchase insurance here: https://www.allianztravelinsurance.com. The cost should be around $50usd and offers good coverage for a low price.
Flight Itinerary: You could go ahead and book your flight if you are confident in your chances with getting the VISA, or there are sites such as Visareservation that will provide you with a reservation for a fee of $50usd. You can also book flights with sites such as www.cheaptickets.com / www.cheapoair.com that comes with flight insurance which cost around $50usd, which allows you to cancel the flight and receive a refund should you need to do so.
Why is a flight itinerary required by the embassy?:
Make sure that you won’t be overstaying and will be returning to your country
To determine your length of stay and also the amount of days your visa will be allotted
Determine if you are applying to the appropriate consulate or embassy of your country of landing.
Proof of Accommodation: this is where most people applying experience major anxiety. Relax, the Consulate just wants to ensure that you have adequate accommodations and will be able to afford your stay whilst in Europe. This is the main hurdle that you will have to jump over. and there are two ways to handle this:
If you have a friend or relative that lives in Europe, you can have them write to the consulate stating that they are inviting you to stay with them and will be offering you accommodation for the duration of your visit.
A path I highly recommend is to simply visit a site like say booking.com (which allows you to book hotels and receive an itinerary without paying for it until you arrive). Make a booking, print out the itinerary provided and take it with you. You can also cancel the booking at anytime so that your credit card won’t be charged.
Where does the Schengen Visa allow me to travel?
The Schengen grants you access to 26 countries, these lovely destinations are:
Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
What is the length of stay that would potentially be granted?
The maximum length that is afforded for a Schengen holder is 3 months, however the length of stay normally awarded for the visa is attributed to the length of your scheduled trip. Let’s say you are planning to visit Europe for 2 weeks (14 days), you would be potentially granted 18 – 20 days to account for any eventualities. Once that time is up, the VISA will be expired and you will be required to re-apply for another when planning your next trip. Please indicate to the embassy if you plan to visit other countries in addition to your country of entry.
How long does it take for the Schengen Visa to be granted once approved?
It normally takes 72 hours for the Visa to be processed however, it officially states a period of 14 – 21 days. In most cases, there are less applicants for European Visas than there are for US Visas.
The main take away should be whilst a major determining factor of the US Embassy issuing a Visa is on the applicant not returning to his/her country of origin, the European Embassy’s focus is whether you can afford to travel and cover all personal expenses during your time in Europe.You will have to show that you can afford accommodations, food and travel whilst there. Once able to prove this, you should be issued your brand-new Schengen Visa and be well on your way to an European adventure!
More information can be found here: