As a Filipino citizen and bearer of a Philippine passport, I needed to apply for a visa for my recent European trip. It’s a pain in the ass having to go through the visa application process; even worse, there’s always the possibility of having your application rejected, which usually leads to panic and anxiety.
Some countries are more lax with visa applications, while others are stricter. What passport you carry is also a factor in the whole process; sometimes, more stringent rules apply to bearers of certain passports. For example, Schengen visa processing at the German Embassy in Singapore for most nationalities takes four working days, but for Filipinos and other nationalities, it’s 14 working days. Diplomatic relations between countries is also a factor; I recently had a French guest who discovered that French citizens have additional requirements when applying for a Chinese visa.
Thankfully, my Schengen visa application was approved, and the whole process went smoothly. Based on my experience, here are some tips on how to make the visa application process as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
1. Do your research.
Most foreign embassies have information on their websites regarding tourist visa applications and requirements. You can find out everything from application requirements to visa fees, as well as timetables for visa processing. Some countries have specific or different requirements depending on your nationality, so it’s important to know these things beforehand. In some extreme cases, it may be worth it to call the embassy ahead of time. Also, talking to people who have had experience with applying for the visa you want could be helpful; for example, reading forums showed that applying for a Schengen visa is more difficult with the French Embassy than, say, the German Embassy.
2. Make a checklist of requirements.
The German Embassy in Singapore included a checklist of requirements in its Schengen visa application form, and that was quite helpful in taking note of which requirements I had, and which ones I still needed to procure. Not every embassy has that, but it shouldn’t be that difficult to make even a simple one. This also helps when compiling everything for submission.
3. Give yourself enough time.
“Enough time” here is a bit subjective, and really depends on where you are as well as where you’re going. It’s usually best not to be stressing about deadlines being too close for comfort. For my Schengen visa application, I gave myself enough time so that just in case my initial application was rejected, I had enough time to re-apply and get the visa before my scheduled flight. Also, try and take note of when the visa of the country you’re in expires, so you can get your next visa then leave before that date. Which leads me to…
4. Have a Plan B.
…and C. And D. Things don’t always go as planned, so it’s nice to have a back-up plan. If your visa is running out and the country you want to go to next has a long visa turnaround time, go to another country or find a way to extend your current visa (whichever makes more sense). If one Schengen country rejects your visa application, try another one (tweaking your requirements to fit that, of course).
5. Look presentable and act confident on application day.
Some countries require a personal visit for visa processing. Some embassies have a strictly-enforced dress code (like no shorts, or no flip-flops). Some also do an interview as they collect your documents. It’s best not to look like someone who’s going to look for a job or overstay their visa in that country. I put on a nice shirt and acted like I was top dog when I went to the German Embassy. (This tip is probably especially important for citizens of developing nations who want to enter a First World country, and not as crucial for First World country citizens going into a developing nation. It sucks, but that’s life.)