Saturday, October 3, 2015

How I Got My Schengen Visa (France) for Philippine Passport Holders

I just captured this part of my visa obviously for personal reasons! Hahaha!

The annoying thing about having a passport such as mine (Philippine passport) is that you have to get a visa to almost every country you go to. I have done the visa application several times already before for Taiwan, China, US (J-1 Visa), and Japan (Friendship Tours and Travel/Reli Tours). Let me tell you: it does not get any easier each time. You just get used to it. Like a homework, as long as you do your research and submit the proper documents, you'll be fine. Well anyways, one of my goals this 2015 was to visit a country that I have never been to before and explore it. I missed traveling so I had to save up as much as I could for this trip. I'm glad that I am getting the chance to explore Europe this time as I wanted something completely different from everything that I know in Asia. My sister in law described to me how beautiful the architecture and weather is in Europe, that I could just imagine myself experiencing that!





Ahhh the Eiffel Tower! It just feels so right to go travel there right now!
Since it was my first time to apply for a visa to Europe, I decided to do my research online not only from the actual French Embassy website and their official Facebook page, but also from personal Filipino bloggers such as Wanderlass Travels. It's also a hassle that UK needs a separate visa since it is not qualified for the Schengen area of Europe. This blogger had the most detailed information on the visa application, so majority of the basic information I got from the Schengen (France) visa application and UK visa application is thanks to this blogger! I will just be providing my personal experience on the whole visa processing for this.

This focus will be only on the Tourist Schengen Visa for Philippine passport holders. If it's a study, working, marrying, or visiting family, the requirements would be different. Sorry, but I cannot help you with that. You may need to refer to another person or information online for that part.

There are several places that will give you access to Europe with the Schengen visa. And again sorry, this does not include the UK and Ireland. You may check out the full list of places included on the Schengen visa countries by clicking this: Schengen Visa Countries List- Schengen Area.

When and Where to apply for Schengen Visa

Visa applications can be made at the earliest 3 months before the planned entry. Visa applications must be submitted at the Embassy/Consulate of the country you intend to visit. If your plan is to visit several countries, visa application must be made at the Embassy/Consulate of the main destination country—meaning the length of stay in this destination is the longest. If the length of stay in each country is almost the same, apply at the first Schengen country you intend to visit. In my case, since the first country I intend to go visit of all the Schengen countries is France, I applied for Schengen visa in the French Embassy. The information about the types of visas the French Embassy provides is here: Embassy of France in Manila.

FRENCH EMBASSY

Beginning April 20, 2012, appointments may be set by calling the Call Centre to book for an appointment to submit their completed visa applications and other supporting documents.

The Embassy Call Centre is available nationwide and may be contacted thru any of the following numbers:

For PLDT/Smart/Touchcard Subscribers 1 (909) 101- 3333
For Globe/Innove/Touchmobile Subscribers 1 (900) 101- 3333
For Bayantel Subscribers 1 (903) 101- 3333

This service is available thru a toll call charge costing Php 32.00 (pesos) per minute excluding VAT and applicable NDD charges for calls made outside Metro Manila.

Customer Service Agents will be available daily, Mondays thru Saturdays from 8am to 6pm except public holidays.


Which Embassy would you have a better chance of getting approved at?

A lot of people normally ask which Embassy would give you a better chance of having your visa granted, and truth is, most Embassy's are pretty much very standard when it comes to procedures and processing. I would agree that there are some consuls that are much nicer than others and also the Embassy staff. Sometimes, your visa can even depend on the mood of the consul or the energy or vibe that you bring towards them. At many times, it's also all about right timing and luck. What a gamble and risk for visa approval, am I right?

The staff are not so friendly when I was in the French Embassy. Most definitely with the Filipino staff towards Filipino applicants. I remember how they asked us many questions regarding personal information and the fact that our point of entry to Europe is UK, and that we still have not applied for UK visa at that time. The consul eventually accepted our documents. The French Embassy asked me and my siblings more personal questions than when I had my US visa interview done! And I know that at times, the US Visa interview can be notoriously difficult for approval! At least the French Embassy had the courtesy to keep our mobile phones without any charge at the guard entrance, unlike other Embassy's. HAHAHA!

How much is the Schengen Visa and where do you pay for the Schengen Visa?

The visa processing fee is EUR 60 (Varies between that day's exchange rate: around more or less Php3,700.) For children ages 6-11 pay EUR 35 (Around Php2,150), and for children under the age of 6 is free of charge. The fee is non-refundable regardless if the visa application is unsuccessful. Payments for this visa application are made at the Embassy/Consulate when submitting your application. I am so glad that we followed Wanderlass' advice by bringing the exact amount of cash when we submitted. We had prepared the amount of cash even before we had breakfast at Starbucks before our application! Bring small bills as much as possible.

What are the requirements in applying Schengen Visas?

1. Signed and filled up Schengen Visa Application Form with photo attached, plus 1 additional photo.
Photo Specification
  • Color photo taken against white background;
  • Clear and of good quality;
  • Printed on normal photographic paper;
  • 45 mm high x 35 mm wide in size
  • Taken with nothing covering the face, without sunglasses or tinted spectacles, or a head covering
  • The subject should have their mouth closed (no grinning, frowning or raised eyebrows) and the applicant should be facing forwarding, looking straight ahead.
2. Valid passport with 3 months validity from the end of visa duration. Photo copy of valid and former visas, if any.
3. Cover letter explaining the purpose of your trip and detailed itinerary. If you don’t have this, you have to write one on the spot before they will accept your requirements. Here is Wanderlass' sample of the cover letter she had made previously, and that I also followed: Cover Letter Addressed to the Honorable Consul
4. Details of your trip
  1. Round trip ticket reservation. Reservations only. Do not book the plane ticket yet!
  2. Itinerary of the whole duration including departure and arrival dates.
  3. Accommodations – hotel vouchers, seriously. If you’re staying with a good friend who is a French resident/national, then you need them to provide you with a document called Attestation d’accueil (Certificate of Board and Lodging) and your host’s national identity card or residence permit.
Why I said good friend?  Because it’s a lot of trouble for them to get this. If you have a French national host, just cut and paste below list for the documents you need from them.  These are basically records of their existence in France such as title of property or contract of lease, utility billing statement as address proof, bank statements, medical records, pay slip, and finally they have to go to the city hall to have all these certified. Like I said, lots of trouble. :)
The attestation d’accueil is a form needed to be presented to the City Hall with the following documents:
  • la carte nationale d’identité ou le passeport, ou la carte de résidence
  • livret de famille de l’hébergeant
  • justificatifs de domicile (EDF-GDF, facture Télécom, facture Eau)
  • titre de propriété (taxe foncière) ou de location (taxe d’habitation)
  • contrat de bail ou descriptif du logement
  • 2 derniers bulletins de salaires ou justificatifs divers de ressources mensuelles (retraite, CAF)
  • dernier avis d’imposition ou de non imposition
  • noms, prénoms de l’étranger, date et lieu de naissance, adresse exacte, n° du passeport et sa copie, copie du document justifiant le lien de parenté s’il y a lieu
  • attestation d’assurance médicale de l’hôte
  • un timbre spécifique dit « timbre OMI » d’un montant de 15 euros, il sera demandé à l’issue d’une réponse favorable. Disponible dans les perceptions et chez les buralistes.(Attention : il faut autant de timbres que de personnes accueillies sauf s’il s’agit de l’accueil d’une même famille avec des enfants mineurs).
*Do you really want to go through the hassle of seriously doing this just to TOUR France????

5. Proof of employment
  • Certificate of employment stating monthly salary and approved leave of absence.
  • If self employed, official business registration for current and previous year.
6. Proof of Income
  • Income Tax Return
  • Recent Bank Certification
  • Photocopy of the last 3 months statement of Account of the same bank account.
  • If someone other than yourself is paying for the the trip, then submit financial document of the sponsor instead.

7. Identity / Marital Status:
  • Photocopy of First page of Passport and all relevant obtained visas
  • Authenticated birth certificate from NSO. If married, bring photocopy of your marriage contract.
8. Travel insurance that covers the entire duration of your intended stay with minimun coverage EUR 30,000. The medical policies must state the following points :
  1. Medical attention and treatment will be given in case of illness or accident
  2. The injured or ill traveller can be transported home for treatment + body repatriation in case of death
  3. The insurance coverage is a least 30 000 euros (50 000 US dollars)
  4. The insurance must be valid for all 25 Schengen member states which should be listed on the policy
  5. The insurance company must be re-insured, the name of the re-insurer and his TOLL FREE phone number must be listed on the policy
  6. The policy must allow CASHLESS SETTLEMENTS of claims. The name of the company in charge of such settlements and their toll free number must be clearly stated on the policy.

Where to Buy Travel Insurance in the Philippines

Travel Insurance is available from your insurance agents. My siblings and I had gotten Blue Cross since it was nearby our workplace, and also that's where my sister-in-law got her travel insurance.

How long does it take for Schengen Visa to be released?

The waiting time: how long must you wait in order to get your passport with the Schengen Visa? Well, this is how my application went. After waiting for around 2 hours with my sister, sister-in-law and her friend, our names were called. We had our interview with the consul who's a Filipino national working for the French Embassy. After rearranging our documents IN ORDER of the list that they provided to us, she asked us some basic questions such as "Why we have not yet applied for UK Visa even if our plane ticket is reserved to fly to London?" Well, we answered: "Because we will book our UK Visa interview after receiving our passports from you guys." Some advice though: make sure to bring your PREVIOUS PASSPORTS to the consul at least 10 years worth of it. They took ours, and they need it as proof that we are capable of traveling to Europe with sufficient support of funds. After finally accepting our documents, we payed for our visa fees and got a receipt or slip stating when we can pick up our passports. Note that they also took our previous passports as well, but promised that they will return it. Since we submitted our documents as a group, we got our passports as a group.

During the waiting time, one of us had to go back to the French Embassy to submit a requirement. It was my sister-in-law's friend who needed to submit another previous passport of hers since her last name changed ever since she got married. They needed her previous one. For claiming passports, one of the applicants can come in to accept ALL of the passports as long as they have been given consent and authority to claim it from the other applicants along with proof of ID and signature in the consent. Usually it takes around 7-10 working days to process the visas, but we got ours earlier. We submitted our visa application to the French Embassy on a Tuesday, July 21, and then picked up our passports on a Friday, July 24!

I was the one who picked up our passports. I was a bit nervous since I saw one Filipina applicant being denied to submit her documents since it looked incomplete, even if it was her second attempt at applying already. Anyway, they announced the name of my sister-in-laws friend on the speakerphone. I was assuming it was a French lady since her accent was really heavy and I could not hear it properly. Since it was only 2 applicants left, and no one was standing, I assumed it was me she was calling. After her announcing the name for the THIRD TIME, I finally got up and went to the consul window. Low and behold, it was a French lady. A blonde and blue-eyed one! She looked at me with an angry face and said: "HEY?! Why did you only come now when I said the name many times?!" And then me with a nervous look said, "I'm sorry, but I couldn't hear it properly," with me pointing to my ear. HAHAHA! But thankfully she gave me back all our passports, including the previous ones. I said to her in a very soft voice: "Merci beaucoup." She then replied "Don't forget your receipt."

When I opened up my passport, I was excited and happy since it was such a success! We got our visas to Schengen France granted! Now I know what it feels like to apply for this visa. Next time, I may try out another Embassy to see whether or not the process or consuls are the same. In the meantime, I will be exploring Europe for the first time in my life with my group of family. And I cannot wait to see the beautiful places that they have to offer! I cannot thank you enough to my family and Wanderlass Travels for all the help and support that you have given me with all the documents and information for this visa processing!

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