Euro Trip Checklist. Step 1 -VISA

It’s been 4 months since I got back from my radical sabbatical and things have been a whirlwind of crazy activities, hectic schedules and a whole lot of work to do. In fact, I still haven’t completely unpacked. God! I know I should get to it but since I’ll be leaving for two separate trips in the next two months, why even bother.

So anyway, finally, hallelujah, I will be kicking off my Euro Trip posts with a preparation tip/list/checklist. In short, this is all about getting ready.

1. BOOK THAT TICKET

Some people would advise you not to book but just reserve. You have to weigh your options.
Pro: If your visa application doesn’t get approved, no sweat
Con: You’ll miss that awesome cheap deal. Seat sales for international flights don’t come very often. When I saw the $1,100 fare from Cebu to Amsterdam on Singapore Airlines, I could not pass it up.

2. APPLY FOR A VISA

You need a Schengen Visa. Learn more about that here: www.rsonac.org/schengen-visa. Basically, this is the VIP of all Visas because you can get in to all these countries:

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 Switzerland

So what to do?  Apply at the embassy of your main destination or country where you will stay the longest. For me, Amsterdam was my first and last as well as longest stop so I checked out the Netherlands’ Embassy website. Turns out that Netherlands has a VFS Visa Application Centre. You go through the whole visa application process there. The application fee and visa service fee was Php4,540. For more details, visit the website here: www.vfsglobal.com/netherlands/philippines/

When to apply? Visa applications cannot be submitted more than three (3) months before the intended travel date. All applicants are required to schedule an appointment.

The whole process was very easy! I just scheduled an appointment for end of February 2014 (my travel date was May 6), paid the application fee through a Unionbank deposit, prepared all my papers and requirements and showed up at the Netherlands’ Embassy, BDO Equitable Tower, Paseo de Roxas, Makati City, Metro Manila on my scheduled appearance date. I sent several email inquiries to the VFS staff and they were very helpful so props to Robee Soto and his team at VFS Global for the best support ever!!!!

Below is the mandatory list of documents required when applying for a Schengen Visa:

Mandatory document
Original documents and a copy of each document must be submitted.If you do not submit copies your original documents will not be returned.Our offices cannot accommodate in making copies during your appointment.
1. Completed Schengen visa application form. Please sign the form at the consular office.
2. Passport or official travel document
– Validity exceeding the intended stay by at least three months;
– Two blank visa pages;
– Issued no more than ten years ago.In case a minor is traveling alone or with one parent only:
– copy birth certificate;
– copy ID of both parents;
– letter(s) stating the consent of both parents that the minor is traveling;
– (if applicable) court order that states the parent has sole custody.
3. Valid proof of residency in the country of application. (visa/permanent residence card/passport)
4. One recent passport picture (preferably no more than 6 months old) according to these photo requirements. You are encouraged to have your picture taken by a recommended photographer.  Incorrect sized pictures cannot be accepted, and will result in loss of your appointment.
5. Flight itinerary (reservation in your name)Important: We recommend that you do not purchase an airline ticket until you receive your actual visa. Instead we suggest that you make a confirmed airline reservation, which can be cancelled.
6. Visa, residence permit, or passport to enter the next country after visiting the Schengen area.
7. Medical insurance
Official letter in your name from your medical insurance company stating the following criteria:

  • Valid throughout Schengen territory.
    • Valid during the entire travel period.
    • Coverage of at least €30.000.
    • Coverage includes repatriation for medical reasons, urgent medical care, emergency hospital treatment or death.

Note: If your own medical insurance does not provide this letter you can purchase a travel medical insurance for this specific trip with a different provider.

8. Paystubs covering three months’ salary (if unemployed: 3 recent monthly bank statements).
9. Employment verification, stating: position, duration of employment, monthly income, and approved period of leave (students: proof of school registration).If you are self-employed a business license and tax return forms are required.
10. Proof establishing the purpose of your trip:

  • Visiting relatives or friends: submit the Proof of Private Accommodation and/or Sponsorship form completed and signed by your relative or friend and certified by the respective Dutch City Hall and a copy of the Dutch passport or residence permit of the person inviting you.
  • Tourism: submit confirmed hotel reservations, stating name, address and telephone number of the hotel, including confirmation number and/or proof of group travel participation.
  • Business: present an invitation letter from the company in the Netherlands and a letter from your direct employer, stating your position within the company and the reason for your travel to the Netherlands. Either letter should indicate who is responsible for travel expenses and where you will be staying (hotel contact information).
11. Current non-refundable handling fee.Payment is required at the time of application in local currency. All offices accept cash. Personal checks are NOT accepted anywhere.All US and Canadian offices now accept Visa & Master Card.
12. To have your passport sent back to you: Please read the mailing instructions and submit a prepaid self-addressed label.

For my travel insurance, I went with Blue Cross. The staff taking care of me was quite unfriendly and rushed me through the whole process without explaining but I got it in less than an hour. Their office is at Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City, Cebu. It’s at the ground floor of the building beside BDO and across QC Pavilion. For a 45 day duration, I paid about Php 4,000.

3. ACE YOUR APPEARANCE 

• Show up on time
• Have 2 copies of all your documents
• Make sure your documents and requirements are complete
• Smile and relax

4. CELEBRATE

I got my visa exactly 5 days after my appearance and I had to restrain myself from hugging the delivery guy. I was screaming and squealing for a couple of minutes before my dad barked at me to shut up. I was sooooo excited because well, shit just got real. Haha check out my Instagram post of that exact moment when my Visa arrived.

Happy much?
Happy much?

That’s about it for Step 1. I will be posting some more tips on budgeting, hotels, itinerary, planning, packing and more. Watch out for it!

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