schengen visa application for philippine passport holders

Applying for a Schengen Visa in the Philippines

 

I’ve always told the significant other that I choose my battles carefully and I don’t choose them if I won’t win. And when it comes to Schengen visa application, the chances are always 50/50. Oh, the horror stories I’ve heard and read… it made me want to spontaneously combust just thinking about gathering the requirements. But a fearful heart creates a big hole only to get filled with hope. So I decided to ready the ammo and prepare for the quest to get that golden fleece of a visa; a Switzerland visa to be exact.

Just a note: the main purpose of my application was “visit of family and friends.” If you are visiting any Schengen states for any other purpose, you may refer to the different checklists available here.

The Schengen States

The Schengen area is made out of 26 countries with a mutual agreement to allow travelers to freely move from one country to the other without border restrictions. Thanks to the shiny, happy people of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, we only need to get one visa to trot in all the participating countries.

Switzerland Visa Requirements

Do not underestimate the power of the checklist. Let me rephrase that… Do not underestimate the power of reading, understanding, and following the checklist. I had to read and re-read several times before I ever actually got to start the groundwork. If you show up at the embassy short of one item, then all hopes of getting the visa shall be extinguished faster than you could say “Guten Tag!”

  1. Application Form. This has to be properly filled-out and signed. You may get this from the embassy or download it from here.
  2. Additional Questionnaire. This will be given at the time of the application. The additional questionnaire asked for particulars, including some information regarding my sponsor. Yes, I applied for a sponsored visa.
  3. Passport-sized photo with white background. Make sure your face is unobstructed. Do not show your teeth. Smize! (Do a duck pout and you will be escorted out of the embassy)
  4. Valid passport. Mine is about to expire in July so I made arrangements to renew it a few months back to avoid the hassle. Passports must be valid at least three months from the end of the approved duration of stay. Say, if my last day in Switzerland is on August 2, my passport should be valid until November 2.
  5. Photocopy of valid passport. Yes, just photocopy item #4. Also, don’t forget to photocopy the last page of your passport where the important reminders are.
  6. Photocopy of OLD passports. I was horrified with the prospect of having the consul see my old photos… but they were needed… so…
  7. Photocopy of valid visa/s. Thanks to my uber generous office, I have a US visa to show, but it has never been used.
  8. Photocopy of expired visas. I was carefully preparing for this moment for the past five years, amassing immigration stamps from Southeast Asian countries and some others outside of it. Though I’m not sure if this has any bearing in general, I do believe it established that I’m a sucker for travel.
  9. Invitation letter from the host in Switzerland. Raphael drafted two letters; one in English and one in German. The letters included the purpose of my travel, the duration of my stay, and the coverage of his sponsorship. These were printed in Switzerland, signed, and sent to me via courier.
  10. Photocopy of the host’s passport.
  11. Photocopy of the host’s visa when he visited the Philippines.
  12. Host’s bank statements to prove that he can afford to sponsor my stay in Switzerland.
  13. Original copy of my financial resources starting this January. Applying for a bank certificate and statement of account was easy, breezy, beautiful. I went to BPI early in the morning, applied for both documents, and got them the same day. If you have a save-up account like I do, you have to transfer all your money to your main account because BPI won’t be able to provide you with the save-up account bank certificate. Of course, I didn’t know this until I got there. Good thing, the bank representative was nice enough to let me use her computer to transfer all my savings to my payroll account. It is also worth to note that I don’t have a dollar account.
  14. Original copy of my credit card statements in the last three months.
  15. Photocopy of items #13 and #14.
  16. Certificate of Employment. I had to talk to our Compensation and Benefits manager to include my tenure in the company, the description of my position, the number of people I am handling, the complete breakdown of my compensation (including other benefits and allowances), and the purpose for which I applied the document.
  17. Letter to my bosses. Yes, I made a personal letter to my bosses asking for a leave. This included the purpose of my travel, the duration of my leave of absence, and a promise to come back. My initial travel dates were supposedly July to September. My boss asked me to make it earlier.
  18. Leave of absence form. This is the company’s official document showing the exact dates of my travel. This is signed by my bosses, as well as our Human Resources representative.
  19. Photocopy of my payslips in the last three months.
  20. Photocopy of my Income Tax Return (ITR).
  21. Computer print-out of confirmed round-trip air travel reservation. While the embassy discourages the actual purchase of the tickets, I didn’t have a choice but to buy it at the time of booking because of the price and my intended travel dates got earlier. It was a risk I took and was willing to pay for if the visa was denied. Please do not do this unless you are willing to take the risk. The Embassy will not be responsible for any financial losses in case your application is denied.
  22. International travel insurance. I purchased this online through Bluecross. Please note that the Swiss embassy has a specific list of travel insurance providers. Make sure you purchase from them.

Because of obsessive compulsiveness, I prepared A LOT of supporting documents which I never got to show during the interview. Maybe the documents I produced, the ones that are included in the checklist, sufficed. But I had to be ready, just in case.

  1. A company contract stating a mutual benefit agreement. The contract is to be fulfilled on May 2014. This will help prove that I’ve something to come back to in the Philippines.
  2. Other sources of income. I printed fliptravels’ PayPal account and several paid articles I wrote for magazines and other publications.
  3. Documentation that establishes my relationship with the host. Raphael and I have known each other for three years so there was quite a lot of paperwork I had to get ready before the interview…
  • Matching immigration stamps of our holidays and photos taken during our vacations.
  • Print screen of our email correspondence. No, the contents of the email were not shown.
  • Print screen of our Skype communication. I didn’t have any uncomfortable feelings showing this because Raphael and I don’t chat… we talk. All in, I printed 142 pages.
  • Photocopy of phone bills showing phone communication. All in, there were 180 pages.

Visa Appointment

As soon as I got all my requirements, I called the Swiss Customer Service number. I remember placing the call on April 23 and wanting to set my appointment within that last week of April. Tough luck, the representative told me that the earliest time I can go there was May 21; all other dates before then were booked. I almost choked on the ballpen I was uncontrollably chewing during the call. I didn’t have a choice! I had to book the date. As soon as the conversation was over, I sent an email to the embassy asking if they have enough time to process my application given the situation. What I was scared of was that the consul might think I’m too cocky, lodging my application 15 days before my intended date of travel. Normally, one can file for the visa three months before the trip. Unfortunately, I had to make mine earlier because of work.

Anyhow, the vice-consul wrote back and told me to keep my appointment. She assured me that if the purpose of travel is visit of family or tourism, they only need five days to process the application. I felt my soul saved from eternal damnation. I printed the email conversation, just in case…

Visa Interview

After almost a month of gathering requirements, sleepless nights, and teeth grinding… the day of my visa interview came. I wore my usual office outfit: jeans, plain shirt, my wedge (the horror!), and a kick ass blazer which I purposefully bought for that interview to impress the consul. Haha!

I got to the embassy 45 minutes before my schedule which gave me enough time to register at the building lobby where the Swiss Embassy is located. When I got to their office, I gave the receptionist my name and she gave me the additional questionnaire I needed to fill-out and include with the rest of the requirements.

Finally, I got called. First on the consul’s list was to collect the visa fee which is non-refundable should you get denied. As of May 2013, visa fee for Switzerland is 3,300 PHP. I found the consul who interviewed me totally pleasant and nice. He sifted through my papers with optimum precision, checking if everything is complete and in order. He only asked a few questions: How long have I been with my company and the nature of our business, and my relationship with my host. He asked how long have I known Raphael and how many times have we met in that span of time. He never asked for supporting documents. I remember this conversation clearly:

Consul: Is your boyfriend single, divorced, or married?
Me: He told me he is single… I hope he is really single… LAUGHTER
Me: No, I take that back… He IS single. LAUGHTER

I hope I got extra points for having a sense of humor…

After that brief conversation, the consul asked me to go back to my seat. After two minutes, he called me and told me that it seemed like all my papers are in order and that they have enough time to process my application. He gave me another sheet to sign which I did not read because of nervousness. I could be an organ donor now and not know it…

How much is the budget for a EuroTrip?

I feel uncomfortable when people tease me that I am rich because I travel a lot. I AM NOT. I save, that’s why I get to go to places. I never once asked for money from my Mom since I started working, nor did I ever ask for money from Raphael. So while this is a sponsored trip, I made sure that I have enough to last me two months in Europe without asking money from anyone.

My research showed that one has to have at least 50 Euros a day to survive in Europe. Because I am staying there for 58 days, I have to have at least 156,185.39 PHP. This is not an impossible amount to achieve. I started saving three years ago. Every payout, I have to forget that I’m setting aside some money. And I make sure I never touch my savings… It took a lot of self discipline and restraint, but it paid off.

Post Trauma

I had the interview on May 21 and my passport was sent to the office with the visa on it on May 23. I was not expecting that it will get processed in three days, but it did. And I have nothing in my heart but gratefulness.

fliptravels_schengen

Embassy of Switzerland in Manila
24th Floor BDO Equitable Tower, 8751 Paseo de Roxas, 1226 Makati City, Metro Manila, PHILIPPINES
man.visa@eda.admin.ch
www.eda.admin.ch/manila
Visiting Hours: Mondays through Thursdays 09:00 AM until 12 NN / Fridays: 09:00 AM until 11:00 AM

Visa hotline / Visa appointment
8.00 a.m. – 18.00 p.m., Mondays – Saturdays (except during public holidays)
PLDT & SMART subscribers (landline/mobile)      1 909 101 0011
Globe/Innove subscribers (landline/mobile)        1 900 101 0011
Bayantel subscribers (landline)                                    1 903 101 0011

 

Applying for a Schengen Tourist Visa in Singapore

 

Ron booked an appointment at the German Embassy in Singapore for a Tourist Visa. By sheer coincidence, we got the same date. He arrived five minutes late (as always) and waited for 15 minutes to be called.

Following the checklist for “tourism,” he gave the following documents:

  1. Duly filled-up application form.
  2. One Passport-sized photo.
  3. His valid passport.
  4. Employment Certificate (Should indicate: The date he was hired, dates of approved leave, monthly salary and it must be signed using a blue ink pen… don’t ask me why).
  5. Photocopy of his employment pass and passport’s identification page.
  6. Plane ticket and hotel reservations.
  7. Bank certificate (Last three months)
  8. Excel file showing his day-to-day itinerary. Both of us cringed at the thought of this. But since it was asked, he made one.
  9. Travel Insurance. Ron bought an annual plan…

That’s a whopping total of 14 pages versus my 143 pages! Their conversation went something like this:

Consul: How many days are you going to stay in Germany?
Ron: Er, five?!
Consul: OK, you may collect your passport after 2 days”. 

VOILA! Multiple entry Schengen visa! THE FUCK RIGHT?!

Embassy of Germany in Singapore
#12-00 Singapore Land Tower 50 Raffles Place, 048623 SINGAPORE
www.singapur.diplo.de