Living abroad has its perks of traveling around especially in different parts of Europe. Being an international student could mean that you might need a visa to get into some of the European countries. You might have come across the ‘Schengen visa’ that basically allows access to about 26 countries that comprise within the Schengen area. I have been through the struggles of applying for this visa and I am here to share some tips to help you get yours with the least amount of hurdles as possible.
- Firstly, find out if you even need a Schengen visa to travel to Europe – you can go to the visa websites where they ask you a couple of questions and guide you if a visa is needed and if so then what kind should you apply for.
- Where you can apply in the UK – Some embassies are in different parts of the UK like London, Manchester, Belfast, and Edinburgh. If you are applying through a country consulate or visa application center, you will find both in major cities throughout the UK — alternatively, most embassies have a consular section which handles visa issues.
- Plan early so you can get an appointment early on – Prior to covid, getting an appointment would not be as much of an issue as right now. When I tried applying for France, they didn’t have spaces available until late summer! So, you need to start looking early on to look for a reasonable date. You can go for premium services however there is still no guarantee that you can get an earlier date. Planning ahead also means getting early bird offers for hostels and flights.
- Look for free cancellations for accommodation – Be on the safer side of things and use the free cancellation filter when booking accomodation. I try to always think positively however I do understand that circumstances can change, so better book free cancellation so that at least you can receive your money back.
- Get your documents freshly stamped – Some embassies are very particular regarding having original documents. When I had applied for the visa, I had my matriculation letter and bank statements freshly stamped as they only accepted original copies.
- Passport pictures – make sure you go to a professional shop to get your pictures sorted as they require different dimensions and backgrounds for different embassies.
- Travel insurance – Many people when applying forget to buy a travel insurance. Make sure to buy one that fits the criteria required for visa application. There are many websites that help you compare insurance prices and coverage for things like replacing valuables and money, as well as for health care if you become ill while you are away.
- Organize your required documents – there is a long list of documents you would need to keep a checklist to have everything ready. If you don’t have certain documents, they might ask you to print at the embassy or visa application center and charge an extortionate price for it. My friend had to pay about 6 pounds to get 1 paper printed off as you had to pay for internet access and printing machine!
- Take your laptop with you when going to these appointments – Sometimes you may miss out some documents when submitting at the embassy. If your laptop is there you can find your documents and print it there yourself.
- Awaiting your decision – it is normal to take about 2-6 weeks for your application result. If its approved you might get an email to pick up your passport or if you have opted for courier service then you will get your passport delivered. Unfortunately, there are cases where visa could be rejected, in such cases you can make an appeal.
I can sympathize with fellow international students that struggle with visa application process. Nowadays, there are various websites online to help you provide step-by-step guidance to fill out forms and apply for a visa. Dundee University has an international advice service that also advises on visa application (https://www.dundee.ac.uk/guides/schengen-visa).