What is a Schengen visa?
The Schengen visa is a visa issued to certain non-EU nationals outside the Schengen area. The Schengen area is an arrangement between 25 member countries (22 EU states and 3 non-EU members) to make traveling in their territory much easier and less bureaucratic.
The Schengen visa enables many non-EU nationals, business people and tourists to freely circulate within the Schengen territory without being subjected to border checks.
With the Schengen visa you can travel to any (or all) the 25 countries using one single visa, thus avoiding the hassle and expense of obtaining individual visas for each country. The Schengen visa is a visitor’s visa, so the purpose of your visit must be leisure, tourism or business.
When to submit an application for a Schengen visa
The general principle is that you must lodge your application at least 15 days before your intended visit. You cannot lodge your application more than 3 months before the start of your intended visit. Processing times vary at different consulates in different parts of the world. We recommend that you apply for a Schengen visa approximately 3 months before your intended travel.
The general processing time for deciding on a visa application is 15 days after the submission of the application; nowadays, a decision may be taken earlier than the 15 days stated in the Visa Code. In individual cases where further scrutiny of the application is needed by consulate, the time may be extended to 30 days. In exceptional cases, an application may take up to 60 days.
How to submit your application
Some consulates allow for walk-inns while others allow submission of application by appointment only. Many consulates now allow for the submission of your application by appointment only. However in justified cases of urgency, your appointment may be given immediately or direct access for submitting your application may be allowed.
A situation may be considered as one of urgency where you could not have been applied for your visa earlier for reasons that could not have been foreseen by you.
Personal appearance of applicant
As a general rule you must submit your application in person. The objective is to allow the consular officer to gain an impression of the substance of your application and ask questions about the purpose of your travel. Your biometrics and photo will also be collected as part of your application. However persons who are known to the consulate for their integrity and reliability may be exempted from appearing in person. Such persons may submit their application through a third party or by post. This exemption cannot be granted to first time travellers.
Although the Visa Code states that your personal appearance for making your application is different from your personal appearance for an interview, you may do yourself a lot of good if you prepared yourself well to respond to the officer’s questions at the time of making of your application. A decision on your application will likely be made from your documents and statements made by you at the time of making your application; seldom will you be called for a personal interview.
Submitting your application
For the consulate to accept your application for processing you must satisfy the following: You must submit a completed and signed application form, a photograph that meets standard requirements, a passport or travel document with at least two blank pages and a validity period of not less than 3 months after the intended date of departure from the territory, payment of visa fee, and the collection of biometric data.
Where the consulate accepts your application, they will stamp your passport to indicate that your application is admissible. Unfortunately, many applicants interpret the affixing of the stamp as an indication of a refusal of their application. The stamp merely indicates that your application has been accepted for processing; and this is usually done before a final decision on your application is made.
Emmanuel Opoku Acheampong
Disclaimer: This article only provides general information and guidance on Schengen immigration law. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. The writer will not accept any liability for any claims or inconvenience as a result of the use of this information.
The writer is an immigration law advisor and a practicing law attorney in Ghana. He advises on U.S., UK, and Schengen immigration law. He works part-time as a consultant for Acheampong & Associates Ltd, an immigration law firm in Accra. He may be contacted on [email protected] .