So you have planned to visit Europe; however if you are not a US, Canadian or UK resident chances are you are going to need a visa to enter the Schengen Area. I am not a visa expert/counselor so please take the following as my opinion and information based on my experience only.
The first step is to decide which country you are going to apply to, as the Schengen agreement is accepted by 26 states and you can apply to anyone of them considering that state is going to be your primary destination or first port of entry. I will be talking more about what is best and easiest for Karachites, but most of it will be generally applicable for Pakistanis and residents of a country who require a visa to enter into Europe.
Which country to apply to?
As I mentioned earlier, you should apply to the country you first want to visit. For example you would apply to Spain for a Schengen visa if you wish to start your tour from Spain. My tour did not include Spain and therefore I had the option to apply to Italy, Germany, Netherlands, France or Switzerland, please remember Turkey is not part of the Schengen agreement but yes you can easily get an E-Visa to Turkey if you have a valid Schengen visa stamp on your passport. I applied to Italy for a few reasons, first and foremost Italy has a consulate in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore so if you are called for an interview you will not have to travel to Islamabad where all consulates are of other Schengen states. Secondly relations between Pakistan and Italy are fairly good and lastly it is geographically a good point to start seeing Europe in my opinion.
What is going to be your length of stay?
The duration of stay is an important thing to consider before you apply for a visa. If it is your first time travelling and you have a blank passport, keep your duration as short as possible. A week is good to visit one or maybe two countries of your interest. The more days you apply to stay for, the harder it can be for you to get a visa and you will require to show you can afford your trip for the complete duration of your stay.
Should I apply for Single entry or Multiple entry?
Definitely a single entry visa if you have not been to Europe before.
How to apply?
After selecting the state you want to apply to, you will need to read all requirements to apply for a visit visa, some states require more things than others. For Italy, you should have:
- 6 month Bank statement of all bank accounts you hold against your name.
- Bank account holding certificates of all bank accounts you hold against your name.
- A letter from your employer stating your proof of employment.
- A letter from your employer stating the dates of your approved leaves and rejoining date.
- Tax certificate (Must have)
- A health insurance of upto $50,000 (Don’t be worried it is not so costly to get insured)
- Confirmed travel tickets.
- Confirmed accommodations.
- Past 6 months Salary slips.
- Any property documents you have (optional)
- Recent passport size photographs (white background-non glossy paper)
- Passport valid for at least 3 months after visa expiry date.
Please read the consulates website for any updated requirements or information.
How much money do I need to have in my bank account?
The easy rule is to add up the cost of your air tickets, your hotel accommodations and €100 per day for each travel day for example €1700 for 17 days. The total of all this is the minimum amount you should have in your account.
Am I ready to apply?
If you have all of the above, have been in employment for more than an year and have a bank statement to prove that, then your chances are very good. However, if you don’t have any one of the above even the optional stuff your chances will decline fairly. I personally would not advise students or those who are still dependent on others to apply. Most people do not know that if your Schengen visa is refused your passport is stamped with the rejection and certainly that is bad for any future travel plans you may want to fulfill. So please do consult a a good travel agent before applying and get all documents required.
As most of you have requested me for the travel agency I used, it was Pak Shaheen Aviation. They have been my travel agency of choice for the past 4 years, if you do call them ask for Mr. Amjad Ali (+92-343-2703803). You too can get your air tickets, hotels on promotional prices, travel insurance and any tours your would like from them as I did. If you have any further questions about the visa process, let me know through your comments below and stay tuned!