Schengen Visa - A Complete Guide

6 minutes read

The Eiffel Tower in France, the Colosseum In Rome, the Alps in Switzerland and more such enticing travel destinations are scattered all over Europe. Planning a single trip to different countries in Europe, leaves travelers with a fundamental question, "Do multiple countries, mean multiple Visas? ". Travelers can sit back and relax, as they do not have to manage multiples Visas, but just one Schengen Visa that covers most of the travel destinations in Europe.

The Schengen Visa grants free movement across the 26 European countries under the Schengen area. (European countries that currently hold a place in Schengen: Wikipedia). These countries do not perform any border control checks such as immigration/passport verification when travelers cross internal boundaries. A treaty to abolish internal borders in Europe was signed and passed in 1985 in the town of Schengen, Luxembourg.  And that's how the Schengen Visa got named!

Even if Schengen Visa is a single Visa that grants privilege to enter and move in the Visa-Free Zone, it has to be applied with one of the Schengen countries. Here comes the most tricky question on Schengen Visa, with the most contradicting answers on the Internet: With travel planned across multiple countries, which country should one apply for a Schengen Visa?

StampMyVisa demystifies this once and for all:

Schengen Rules for Tourist Visa

Rule 1: Apply for your visa from the country where you are staying for the most number of nights. (As hotels stays are measured in nights, it is easy to count your length of stay in terms of nights)

Rule 2: After applying rule 1, in case of a tie between two or more countries with respect to the length of stay, apply for your visa from the country in which you are entering first (out of the countries which have a tie due to the same length of stay)
For instance. If you plan to stay in France and Spain each for 5 days, but amongst those, France is the first country you decide to visit first, apply for your visa at the France Embassy.

Schengen Rule for Business Visa

Rule 3: If you plan to explore neighboring countries in addition to your business trip, then your period of stay does not matter. Apply for your visa from the country which you are visiting for business purpose.  


Our previous blog on 'Schengen Visa Rejection Letter - Explained' throws light on possible reasons for rejection of Schengen Visa. Schengen visa application is one of the stringent visa processes. This makes it a visa with higher rejection chances.  Travelers should recognize this fact, understand the reasons for rejection and then proceed for visa application, thereby avoiding losses due to visa rejection.

StampMyVisa highlights frequent mistakes travelers should avoid while applying for Schengen Visa:

  1. Delay in applying for Visa
  2. Booking flight tickets with heavy cancellation fees ( How to apply for Schengen Visa without a confirmed flight booking: "What comes first? Visa Confirmation OR Flight Booking")
  3. Ignoring bank balance as a crucial criterion for Visa Approval (Readers can refer our blog on "Insufficient subsistence" to understand the significance of bank balance for Schengen Visa)
  4. Taking documentation too lightly
  5. Not knowing the alternate document to be provided in absence of a required document.

StampMyVisa suggests an ideal approach towards a hassle-free Schengen Visa application:

1. Ensure sufficient and healthy bank balance for at least 3 months prior to the visa application: 

Visa applications are reviewed with a presumption, that the traveler is likely to settle in the destination country and never return to their home country. A healthy bank balance stands as a strong defense in negating this assumption thereby increasing changes of Visa approval. Travelers need to provide a bank statement showing a healthy and sufficient bank balance while applying for Schengen Visa.

(To know how much bank balance to maintain, read our blog on "Visa Rejection Due To Insufficient Subsistence")


2. Explain Source for Sudden Deposit of Funds:

In order to show a healthy bank statement, travelers transfer funds into their active savings account from a deposit account, mutual funds or other investments. Such sudden deposits can be considered suspicious by the visa officer, which may lead to visa rejection. Travelers can justify sudden deposits by explaining the source of funds in the cover letter. Sudden deposits in an account can be explained as follows: “An amount of INR XXX was transferred to my account on <date> because I liquidated my fixed deposit which I had invested in for saving towards this trip”.
Wherever possible, StampMyVisa advises travelers to include a statement of the account from which the funds were transferred to the primary account. 


3. Start the Visa Procedure as early as possible: 

Visa processing requires 15 working days from the date of application. Unanticipated delays can add to the visa processing time. It is advisable for travelers to apply for a visa as early as possible. Consulates allow travelers to apply for a visa, three months prior to the trip. 


4. Don’t assume alternate documents: 

Be precise with your documentation. Travelers must ensure that each and every document requested by the consulate is provided with the application. In case a certain document is not available, travelers should not provide another alternate document with the assumption that it may suffice. No, it won’t. In such scenarios, it is advisable to take help from a professional who possesses the right expertise in successfully handling such exceptional situations.


5. Do not over elaborate your cover letter: 

A cover letter is one of the crucial documents to be submitted with the visa application. The Internet is inundated with advice on writing a descriptive cover letter. Travelers planning to apply for a visa, independent of professional help, fall prey to such advice.  Ideally, a cover letter for Schengen Visa should not run into more than one page. As visa officers are extremely busy scrutinizing hundreds of application each day, they do not have the time to read through the entire cover letter. Thus, it is essential to mention only the points important for the application. 


6. Mention document inconsistencies in the cover letter: 

Travelers may not have certain documents owing to a certain legitimate reason. In such a situation, one needs to mention the reason for the absence of the document in the cover letter.
For example, Schengen Visa requires the applicant to submit IT returns for the last three years. In the absence of the same, the traveler could mention the reason as stated: “I do not have Income Tax Returns for the financial year FY 2017-18, because I started working only in June 2018. I have enclosed my latest ITR in my application for your reference”.


Schengen Visa, although a visa with the most stringent application procedure, can be successfully tackled if all the listed requirements are appropriately addressed.  “It is not enough to get things done, they must be done right”, says StampMyVisa.

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