I currently live in Finland, but I was born in the Philippines. We, Filipinos, aren’t that lucky enough to have a powerful passport that exempts us from going through visa processes and charges. Still, that doesn’t stop us from satisfying our itchy feet to travel. So whenever friends and families plan to visit me here in Finland, I get a refresher of what the requirements are for applying for a Schengen visa. Since I need it from time to time, might as well keep my notes available in the internet to keep it accessible for me.
Schengen or EU or Euro-area?
As some travelers tend to misunderstand the terms, though not required, it would still be good to know the differences between European Union (EU), Schengen and Eurozone countries.
Schengen allows free movement within its territories. What does that mean for the traveler? No border checks if you are entering and exiting from the member states. It’s basically as if you are travelling domestically. So an approved Schengen visa enables the holder to visit other Schengen states, as long as it’s valid of course. At the time of writing, Schengen covers these 26 countries:
European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of its member states. It allows free movement of EU citizens, and free trade of goods and services. This means that if you buy from an online store or seller located in an EU state and have that delivered to another EU state, there will be no customs duties to pay.
At the time of writing, there were 28 EU member countries:
Please keep in mind that, unlike Schengen, the free movement covered by the EU states only applies to EU citizens. So even if you have a Schengen visa and the EU state is not a member of Schengen, you will still have to check whether you need to apply for a visa to enter that particular country.
Eurozone countries are EU member countries that have adopted the euro (€) as their common currency. This means that, as a traveler, you wouldn’t have to worry about exchanging in multiple different currencies when visiting these countries. At the time of writing, there were 19 eurozone member states:
Schengen Visitor Visa Application
Now that we’ve settled those terms, let’s get back to the Schengen topic. Since most of those that plan to visit me here who need help with the visa are Filipinos, I’ll be focusing more on that. Most of the Schengen member state embassies request the same requirements and charge almost the same (approximately €60 for adults) for visitor visas.
Here are the Schengen embassies in the Philippines with links to their websites and visa pages:
Austria [link1, link2]
Belgium [link1, link2, link3]
Czech Republic [link1, link2, link3]
Denmark [link1, link2, link3]
Estonia (Processed by the Norwegian Embassy) [link1, link2]
Finland (Processed by the Norwegian Embassy) [link1, link2]
France [link1, link2, link3]
Germany [link1, link2, link3]
Greece [link1, link2]
Hungary (Processed by the Belgian Embassy) [link1, link2]
Iceland (Processed by the Norwegian Embassy) [link1, link2]
Italy [link1, link2]
Latvia (Processed by the Dutch Embassy) [link1, link2, link3]
Liechtenstein (Processed by the Swiss Embassy) [link1, link2, link3]
Lithuania (Processed by the Austrian Embassy) [link1, link2, link3]
Luxembourg (Processed by the Belgian Emabssy) [link1, link2]
Malta (Processed by VFS Global) [link1, link2]
Netherlands [link1, link2, link3]
Norway [link1, link2]
Poland (Processed by the Dutch Embassy) [link1, link2, link3]
Portugal (Processed by the Greek Embassy) [link1, link2]
Slovakia (Processed by the Czech Embassy) [link1, link2, link3]
Slovenia (Processed by the Belgian Embassy) [link1, link2]
Spain [link1, link2]
Sweden (Processed by the Norwegian Embassy) [link1, link2]
Switzerland [link1, link2, link3]
How will you know which embassy to apply to if you are planning to go on a EuroTrip?
If you intend to visit more than one Schengen state, you should submit your application to the embassy of the state where you will be staying the longest. However, if you will spend equal length of time in those states, you should submit your application to the embassy of the Schengen state which will be your point of entry.
Applying for a Schengen Visa to Visit Finland
As I mentioned earlier, I am currently living in Finland, and so I’m mostly interested in making sure I jot down the requirements for my visiting friends and relatives.
Here are the steps and requirements for applying for a short-stay Schengen visa for the purpose of visiting a friend or relative who is living in Finland:
- Visit the “Short Term” visa page of the Norwegian embassy in VFS Global website to get the updated checklist of the requirements and fees. Note that aside from the visa fee (€60), VFS will collect a service fee of Php 1,405 for each visa application. VFS accepts payment in cash at the Norway counter in VFS during your appointment date. Whereas the visa fee must be paid electronically (by credit/debit card) online in the Application Portal.
- Requirements that visitors need to produce:
- Checklist, printed and signed
- Cover letter from the Application portal, printed and signed
- Visa application form, printed and signed
- 1 passport sized photo
- Original and photocopy of valid passport
- If visiting family or relative, NSO-certified birth certificate or marriage certificate to prove relationship
- If expenses are not sponsored by inviting person, original bank certificate
- Photocopy of roundtrip airline ticket reservation (Note that if the application is approved, the visa will be issued according to the airline ticket reservation)
- If you don’t know of any travel agencies to help you out with the ticket reservation, you can try out this service from dreameurotrip.com. My friends have used it before so I can say that it’s legit. With this service, you won’t have to pay for the full price of the flights in case your application gets rejected.
- Photocopy of travel medical insurance
- One option for this would be AXA, as they provide one of the cheapest travel insurance for Schengen countries with as low as €0.99 per day regardless of the age. They also offer a full refund should your visa be denied.
- Another is Care Concept for as low as €1 per day depending on the age and duration. They also allow cancelling of the requested insurance if the visa got denied.
- Hotel bookings for side trips outside of Finland
- Requirements that visitors would need from the person inviting:
- Photocopy of inviting person’s passport
- If visiting a friend, photocopies of passport with stamps to prove time spent together
- If visiting family or relative, NSO-certified birth certificate to prove their relationship
- If not a Nordic citizen, photocopy of resident visa
- Letter of invitation (some examples in this link)
- Must be signed by the person inviting
- For visiting friends and other relatives, the invitation should give details of how much time the parties have spent time together (dates and places, etc.)
- If the inviting person will shoulder all expenses, it must be clearly stated in the invitation letter.
- If covering all expenses, photocopy of Proof of Sufficient funds
- Requirements that visitors need to produce:
- Create a user account in Norway’s Application Portal
- An email containing an activation URL will be sent to your email address after registration. Click on the link to activate the account.
- Return to the application portal to login. The email address provided upon registration will be the username.
- Start filling in your application and proceed with the payment using a credit or debit card.
- After paying, if you will be submitting your application to the Manila office, you will be able to make the appointment by booking any of the available slots from your chosen date. Make sure that it does not fall on a public holiday. If you’ll be applying in Cebu, there is no need to book an appointment. You may hand in your application as walk in. Please take note of their Visa Application submission schedule. For visitor visas, they accept applications from 11:00-14:00 on Mondays through Fridays, except on public holidays.
- A receipt and confirmation will be sent to your email after the entire application is completed.
- As included in the requirements, print out and sign 2 copies of the cover letter found in the summary page.
- Go to the embassy on your appointment date and bring along all the required and supporting documents.
- Once your application has been successfully processed, VFS will issue an official receipt that includes your application reference number and details. The application reference number follows a format similar to this: MANI/15092016/0001/01 (if filed in Manila), CEBU/15092016/0001/02 (if filed in Cebu).
- You can track applications online as long as you have the application reference numbers found in the official receipts and birthdates of the applicants. The processing time for visa applications is approximately 15 calendar days.
- There are two options for obtaining your passport:
- Collect your passport from the Visa Application Center and bring your official receipt and a valid ID. Passport collection is from 14.00 to 16.00 from Monday to Friday, except public holidays.
- You can also avail of courier services, which is to be paid in cash at the Visa Application Center. It currently cost Php370. Passports will be delivered in 1-3 days after receiving the decision for addresses within Metro Manila and 2-5 days for those located in the province. If the mailing address is outside of the serviceable area, you may have to pick up your passport in the nearest courier branch.
How to Read a Schengen Visa
This image from travelvisaguru.com is an example of a Schengen visa granted by Finland. The most important fields would be:
- The first field states which countries the visa is valid for.
- The duration or validity of the visa
- Visa type. C is for short-stay.
- Number of entries
- MULT means that you may enter the Schengen area multiple times, provided of course that your visa is still valid. You would need this, if you plan to visit non-Schengen countries in between your trips to Schengen.
- 1 means that you may only enter the Schengen area once. Once you have exited the a Schengen country, you can’t use your visa anymore even if it’s still valid.
- 2 means that you may enter the Schengen area twice, as long as the visa is still valid.
If you want to learn more about the other fields, France has a detailed explanation for them.