Welcome to another edition of Travelstart’s FAQ Friday with me, Nick Paul. This week we are talking about Schengen Visas. We get asked an awful lot of questions, especially on our blog, about this so we thought we’d clear it up for you. We are going to go through some basic information here and it is important to note that Travelstart is not a visa handling agent. Because we are online, we don’t get to handle the passports and so we always recommend that you deal with the embassy, consulate, or visa handling agent directly.
What is a Schengen Visa?
It is a visa which allows you travel to and within the Schengen Area. There are 26 Schengen States which signed the Schengen Agreement.
What is the Schengen Agreement?
It is a treaty signed in 1985 which, among other things, abolished border checks between member states. Currently the member states include countries like Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Greece, and even countries like Norway, Iceland, Latvia, and Estonia. 4 new members are set to join shortly. These are Bulgaria and Romania by the end of 2014 and Croatia and Cyprus by the end of 2016. Some countries like Montenegro, Croatia and Cyprus currently accept valid multiple entry Schengen Visas provided that you are entering a Schengen State first. Important to note here is that the UK and Ireland are not part of the Schengen Area. The Republic of Ireland is currently visa-free for South Africans but the UK currently requires a separate visa at a cost of around R1500.
Where do you apply?
You need to apply once for each trip even if you’re visiting multiple countries within the Schengen Area. You apply at the embassy of the country that you are spending the longest time in or if it is an equal amount of time in 2 countries, you apply at the embassy of the country that you are visiting first. You need to appear in person to make the application and different embassies have different handling agents whom you have to use. There are occasionally exemptions to appearing in person if you haven’t appeared in person for an application within the last 5 years. This is at the discretion of the consulate in question. It generally takes around 1 to 2 weeks to process a Schengen Visa and you can apply up to 3 months in advance for the visa.
What does it cost?
A Schengen Visa costs 60 Euros which is currently around R850 per applicant. The handling agents charge fees of around R350 and upwards depending on what services you require. If you are married to an EU citizen, you usually don’t have to pay the visa fee – you just need to pay the handling fee. Children under the age of 6 similarly don’t have to pay the visa fee. Children aged 6 to 12 pay 35 Euros for the visa.
What documentation does one require?
These are the general requirements and it is not an exhaustive list by any means. It doesn’t take into account every situation and we always suggest that you check with the official handling agent or the embassy directly when making your application. You will need the following to apply for your Schengen Visa:
- Valid passport valid for 6 months beyond your date of return to South Africa.
- Photocopies of passport.
- 1 biometric passport-size photo.
- Return air ticket.
- Proof of paid for accommodation.
- Proof of paid for local transport where applicable. For example, a Euro Rail pass or ticket.
- 1 completed application form.
- Proof of sufficient funds for the trip on a 3-month bank statement. 50 Euros per day per person is usually sufficient.
- Travel insurance covering at least 30,000 Euros in medical cover and repatriation.
- Letter of employment OR a letter of enrolment into university OR proof of ownership of your own business OR proof of retirement.
- Children under the age of 18 years also need a full unabridged birth certificate.
So that’s it from me for this week on FAQ Friday. If you have any travel-related questions, please ask them in the “comments” section below and please remember to subscribe to our channel. Thanks!