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One Visa to Visit them All – Your Guide to the Schengen Visa

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Do you remember switching on the TV or going to the theatre to watch your favourite film star run down a green mountain slope, dance on narrow cobbled streets or fall in love near the Eiffel Tower?

Some of the greatest Hindi love stories have taken place across the length and breadth of Europe. Is it any wonder that you want to visit and experience all the magic for yourself?

Now that you’ve made the decision to travel to Europe, the hard part is choosing where to go, and how to get there. Each country has its own unique charms, hidden treasures and distinct culture.

How do you choose? What if you wanted to visit more than one country?

That’s where the Schengen visa comes in.

This one visa gives you access to 26 nations in the Schengen area. Which means you don’t have to choose.

This visa is your gateway to all your childhood dreams, to the land of stunning natural beauty, snowy mountains, shimmering blue coastlines, charming cities and more. So, let’s break down the Schengen visa and the process of obtaining one, so you can start booking your trip as soon as possible.

Schengen Visa- what’s that?

The Schengen visa was introduced in 1985 after the Schengen agreement.

Why is this important to know?

It was this agreement that allowed visitors to move freely across Europe, without facing multiple border restrictions across countries. It also means that you don’t need multiple visas to enter different countries in the region. This is the largest free travel region in the world!

What can I use the Schengen visa for?

As we’ve mentioned previously, the Schengen visa is for people who want to travel in this area. You can now travel across the major countries of Europe, barring the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Croatia and Ireland.

Not only can you use the Schengen visa to travel to different countries, there are different types of Schengen visas you can apply for, based on your travel purpose.

Business Visa: If your sole objective is to conduct business in a Schengen country, then this is the visa you need to submit an application for.

Work Visa: If you’re looking to earn in Euros and build your career in one of these countries, then submit your Schengen visa application for a work visa.

Transit Visas: Many flights have a layover in a Schengen country. You’ll need a transit visa in order to enter the country. In this case, there are 2 types of visas you can apply for: Category A or B.

If you’re planning to simply wait out your layover in the airport, then take an Airport Transit Visa – Category A. Under this category, you will be allowed to wait in the transit area only. This is perfect for those who are travelling on business or prefer a shorter travel time.

However, if you’d like to make the most of your trip and experience a slice of Europe, while en route, apply for a Category B visa, which allows you to reside for up to 5 days in the Schengen area. 

Tourist Visa: Every year millions of people apply for a Schengen tourist visa with the sole purpose of experiencing the magic of Europe. With a tourist visa, you have a limit of 3 months to explore any country in the Schengen region. Once the validity of 90 days expires, you’ll need to apply again to extend your stay for another 3 months. Keep in mind, that with this visa you won’t be able to work or earn any money during your stay – you’ll be visiting purely for personal reasons.

What documents do I need to apply for the Visa?

The Schengen visa might seem vast and complicated, but all you need to do is keep a simple checklist of up-to-date documents ready. Follow the list mentioned below, and the process will automatically seem less confusing or overwhelming. (Do remember to start collecting your documents well in advance of your trip. This will save you a lot of time, effort and panic).

Visa application and photos: Let’s start with the most basic and important document – the Schengen visa application. This needs to be filled, signed and submitted with 2 passport sized pictures. These pictures need to be correctly sized, whole-face capture with a light background.

Passport:  You’ll need to submit a valid passport, with at least 2 blank pages. Your passport needs to be valid for at least 3 months after you return from your trip. Additionally, you’ll need to provide photocopies of the first and last pages of your passport. (Make sure the copies are in good conditions, the details need to be clear and unblurred.)

Travel Insurance: This is an absolute must for all visitors travelling to the Schengen region. You’ll need to apply for insurance equivalent of at least 30,000 EUR, which will cover any emergency expenses, especially medical and hospital care costs. The insurance must cover the entire duration of your stay in Europe. As a side note, if you do have pre-existing conditions, make sure you carry your prescriptions, medical reports and documents in case of an emergency. It never hurts to be prepared! Click our Travel Insurance to check out the options.

A visa cover letter: You’ll need to write a letter to the embassy with the following details mentioned:

  1. The purpose of your visit
  2. Proof of how you will fund the trip
  3. If your trip is sponsored, you will need to mention your relationship with your sponsor and the reason they are sponsoring your trip
  4. An overview of your trip itinerary
  5. Your intention to return to your home country – this is important as embassies check the likelihood of you staying past your visa validity.

Proof of airline reservation for a round trip: You’ll need to provide dates and flight tickets that specify both your entry and exit from Europe. If you’re worried about losing money on booked tickets, don’t be. You can provide the embassy with reserved flight tickets, or you can book tickets that are completely refundable (in case your visa is rejected).  

Proof of accommodation: The embassy of the Schengen country you are applying to requires proof of where you will be staying for the duration of your visit. You can do this in three different ways:

  1. Evidence of a place of stay, such as a hotel booking or reservation
  2. If your trip is sponsored, you’ll need to provide an invitation from your Host along with a copy of his/ her passport
  3. Evidence of a pre-packaged holiday tour with the details of your payment for the tour.

Proof of your civil status: This could include

  1. Marriage certificate
  2. Birth certificate of children travelling with you
  3. Aadhaar Card
  4. Pan Card

So far, we’ve covered the documents required for a tourist visa. However, if you are travelling to a Schengen country for another purpose, there are some additional documents you need to provide.

If you are employed, you’ll need to submit:

  1. Your employment contract
  2. Your bank statement of the last 6 months
  3. A no objection letter from your employer (as proof of leaves from the office)
  4. Income Tax Return form / Certificate of Income Tax deducted

If you are self-employed, you’ll need to provide

  1. Copy of your business licence
  2. The company’s bank statement for the last 6 months
  3. Income Tax Returns

If you are a student

  1. Proof of your enrolment
  2. A no-objection certificate from the institute/ university/ school

If you have retired

  1. A pension statement for the last 6 months

Tips to sail through the Schengen visa process

We’ve provided you a comprehensive list of documents you need in order to apply Schengen visa from India. However, the list can be intimidating. There are a lot of documents you need to collect.

Take a deep breath. We’re here to simplify the entire process. When you apply for a visa with Thomas Cook, we guide you through the entire process, step by step. Furthermore, we also provide you with a few tips to keep in mind when you start the Schengen visa application process.

Start well in advance: This is a visa that requires a great deal of documents. A task that cannot be completed in 1-2 days. If you start the process of collecting your documents at least a few weeks in advance, it will reduce any panic and give you time to make arrangements, in case you can’t provide or find a particular document. Your Thomas Cook visa guide will be there to remind you in case you haven’t provided a specific document, so that you can submit a complete application with ALL your documents ready.

Keep an eye on the details: Your Schengen application goes into specific detail, so its important you keep any eye out when you fill in the application. At the same time, our visa guide will also go through your application and keep an eye out for any mistakes or omissions.

Provide authentic documents: Before you scan and upload your documents, make sure they are all authentic and verified. Our guide will look through all the documents before it goes to the concerned embassy.

Booking your Schengen visa in 4 Easy Steps with Thomas Cook

If you’re looking for a simple way to book your Schengen visa online, then Thomas Cook is perfect for you. With 4 simple steps, and a few clicks, you can complete you visa application process. Our visa guides will guide you through the process, so you won’ be handling this process on your own.   Finally, while you’re waiting for your visa to arrive, we’ll provide real-time updates regarding the status of your visa – something that you won’t get with other travel agencies or agents.

The 1st step – fill in the details of your visa and get the cost.

The 2nd step – pay for your visa online through multiple channels – net banking/ credit card / debit card

The 3rd step – scan and upload your documents online with Thomas Cook or at a selected branch

The 4th step – Get real time updates on the status of your visa until you receive your visa.

The Schengen visa can be vast, and at times overwhelming. However, with Thomas Cook you have a guide by your side. A little bit of research and planning ahead is all it takes. You can then sit back, relax and look forward to the trip of a lifetime.

Check out Part 2 of Common Schengen Visa Questions here.

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