Chhavi and I just submitted our applications for a tourist visa to Croatia at the VFS New Delhi and we are now keeping our fingers crossed! In the end we decided to go for a tennis holiday for the summer vacation!
To start the application process I went to the VFS website and thoroughly checked the list of documents required! I found the list quite similar to a Schengen Visa but additional documents are required for a Croatian Visa. I also have to admit I totally missed out on point 14!
Apart from the usual- tickets, holiday booking, income tax returns, bank statement, travel insurance, for Croatia I submitted credit card statement and a copy of the credit card too. They also asked for purchase of foreign currency but I said in my cover letter that I would rather withdraw it from a ATM than purchase it here.
Over the years I have learned the importance of writing a good cover letter. I do not try to be modest in it anymore. I clearly mention that I have traveled to 30 countries and quote our history of taking vacations. I also mention my blog in the cover letter.
I filled the visa application form online using the following link. I also uploaded the documents online, through in the end I had to print the application and submit all the documents to the VFS.
After collecting all the documents, getting the correct photo clicked and printing them, Chhavi and I went to the VFS New Delhi.
I prefer an early morning appointment as the VFS still has some sanity in those hours. Around 11 am it starts resembling a fish market particularly when the summer school holidays are about to start in India! In the process we reached really early and sat down for breakfast. There are a few dining options right next to the VFS. Also, it helps that VFS New Delhi is so easily accessible by the Delhi Metro.
You gain entry by showing your visa appointment booking and passport. For all the previous applications I went alone but I thought this time each applicant was to be present. It was my mistake, I had no need to take Chhavi along. I am glad in a way though that she went, as the experience was educational for her. She never imagined the amount of paperwork it takes to submit a visa application!
And while I am able to submit the application because I have made many in the past, I wonder why section 13- for the documents for minors traveling is so small. There is nothing on a minor traveling with one parent and that is my case almost every time! It is expensive to travel abroad and Seshadri prefers to take a vacation where he can play some music! No, he is not a musician, he is a regular IT guy, but he loves playing violin and has qualifications in that area too! He would be traveling to United Kingdom in August on one such musical vacation.
The staff at the VFS New Delhi was polite as usual. However, there were two surprises for me at the counter. They wanted a photocopy of all the stamped pages of my current and previous passport. I ran out of pages on my previous passport 3 years earlier so that meant a lot of last minute photocopying. I am so thankful that there is a photocopying facility available at the VFS New Delhi. A minor jam developed behind me in the photocopying queue as the gentleman patiently went through my passports. It was my mistake that I did not look at section 14 of the list of documents carefully.
The second surprise was that VFS New Delhi has stopped accepting visa fee by cards! I had to exit the VFS Office, go to the nearest ATM and withdraw cash, come back again and pay the fee. It has happened to me before but it was because of a server error. But this time there was no other way to pay the fee other than by giving it in cash!
I was pleasantly surprised that Croatia doesn’t charge visa fee for kids under 12! So I had to pay only VFS handling charges for Chhavi. The visa fee as of now is 5000 rupees per person, VFS handling charges are extra. We stopped at our favorite mall after submitting the application!
And as I am typing this post, I got a mail from the embassy saying they need a photocopy of the father’s passport. I have emailed it and asked if I need to submit it physically? I hope they will accept it just by email but I am quite willing to do the running around if I need to submit it physically.
The visa application has been made, the wait has started. I have always got a visa in the past. So, I am hoping to get this one smoothly too. After all the visa gods have been kind to me!
As always I will update the post once I get the decision!
It is that time of the year again when my sister Alka and I plan our vacation together in November. It also means applying for visas. I thought we were going to Belgrade till it was time to book the tickets. Try as I might, I could not get a reasonably priced ticket to Belgrade. I gave up in desperation and tried anywhere in the world! And up came Paris with Kuwait Airways at a decent price. That is how we ended up planning a November trip to Paris.
I am no stranger to Schengen Visas, I applied 3 times last year itself; first with Czech Republic then Spain and lastly with Hungary. So, by now I am used to the documentation required for the Schengen Countries.
Filling Up the Form and Collecting the Documents
It was a pleasure to apply with France. The first good bit is that they let you fill the form online. You do need to create an account on the official website. Once you complete it, they mail the document to the email you provide while creating the account. There is a provision of creating a group application too. I created a group application for two.
Once I completed the form, I could see the list of required documents. It is the usual bank statement, income tax return for 3 years, travel insurance up to a certain value, etc.
I now write my cover letter with great care. I also point out my travel blogging credentials and number of countries I have visited. I am not sure if it helps even one bit, but I try to make my case strongly.
Getting an Appointment
After filling up the form I thought I would get directed to the VFS website for appointment but in my case it did not happen. I then called the VFS helpline number but it was a public holiday. I could make an appointment via the IVR but I did not get any SMS or email.
I called the VFS helpline the next day, which was a working day and my appointment was sorted out for the coming Friday at 9.15 am.
Submitting the Documents at the VFS Delhi on a Friday
Alka and I reached about half an hour before the time for our appointment. The France VFS Office is located at Shivaji Metro Station along with many other countries. It is a nice space with many restaurants. After having a cup of tea we headed inside to submit our documents. Our token number was 5 and after a few minutes of wait, we got up to submit the documents.
Our documents were complete and it did not take us much time to finish the formalities.
Paying the Visa Fee
This time I was carrying cash to pay the visa fee. When we were applying via Hungary last year the cash machines at the VFS were not working and I had to run out of the complex to an ATM to withdraw the cash. The VFS was not crowded in the morning and there were no queues at the visa fee counter.
We Did Not Need to Do the Bio-metric
As both Alka and I had done bio-metric last year, she for Hungary and I for Spain, we were not required to do it again. They are valid for 5 years.
Collecting the Visa on a Wednesday
Right from the day one we were getting SMS and email updates about our submissions. France does not charge anything extra for this facility which is a great thing.
To our surprise we got an update on Tuesday itself that our passports were ready for collection! This by far has been the quickest Schengen Visa I ever got as a normal applicant. We went to the VFS on Wednesday after 1.00 pm and happily collected our passports.
Both of us got multiple entry visas, and it was so fast. Applying via France has been my best Schengen Visa experience ever! We both are so excited for our upcoming Paris trip at the end of November.
Hungary is the third Schengen Visa I applied this year. My first one of the year was for Czech Republic. It was for a personal trip with my daughter and niece. The second one was for a blogging trip to Spain where it was easy to get the visa as I was assisted by the tourism board! Still, I had to complete the documentation for Spain. The third one was again for a forthcoming personal trip to Budapest in November with my sister. So, here is what I have learned about how to apply for Schengen Visa at VFS Delhi (Baba Kharak Singh Marg) after 3 attempts in a single year. I have applied for Schengen Visas in previous years too.
Know Which Country You Need to Apply To
For me the choice has always been simple as I visited only one country on each trip. However, if you are visiting multiple countries you have to decide which country you need to apply to. All such documentation is easily available on the net. You need to read it thoroughly though.
Do Your Homework
Once you have decided on the country go to the specific country website, in my latest case it was Hungary. Then you do your research. It feels tedious to read all the requirements and rules but believe me going through it pays off dividends, more so if you are applying for the first time. You will present a stronger application if you read the available information.
Prepare Your Documents Carefully
There is a comprehensive list of documents required to apply for Schengen Visa from India. I strongly recommend that you complete your documentation.
For my Hungary trip my sister and I have planned a vacation. I have a well traveled passport whereas it is the first trip abroad for my sister. I file IT returns whereas she doesn’t. The trip is a gift from me to her and I should have done it long ago actually. So, we decided to show me as a sponsor and her husband in the supporting role. Both of us have documents required to apply for visa. We took a no objection certificate from her husband. We attached both mine and his bank statements and IT returns.
Schengen Countries have a list of approved Travel Insurance agencies, be aware of such details. If you read through the online resources carefully, all this is listed down.
Do remember to carry two photocopies of your passport or else you will need to stand in a long line to get it done at the VFS.
Use Your Cover Letter Wisely
When I applied for the Czech Republic Visa I used the cover letter as a formality. It was a complicated attempt because I was traveling with my daughter and niece, both are minors. As my niece’s parents were not traveling there was a lot of documentation involved. I did all the documents carefully.
But I did not use my cover letter to establish that I am an established blogger and that I have taken my daughter and niece abroad before. I did not mention that they had been to the USA before. My daughter with my husband and my niece on a school trip. I also did not mention that I needed to apply for a visa immediately afterwards for Singapore for a blogging trip.
I was called for a personal interview by the Czech Embassy. When I mentioned my forthcoming blogging trip and need to apply for another visa things started moving. I got the visa via Czech Republic after the personal interview and I learnt my lesson.
This time with Hungary I used my cover letter to establish my blogging credentials. I told them that I was applying early as I may need to apply visa for other trips. I gave links to my blog and media kit!
I also used the cover letter to explain why we would return and that we had money to take this vacation, which brings me to my next point.
Convince Them that You Have Money to Take the Vacation and You Will Return
The Schengen countries need to be convinced about both the above points. It is easy to convince about the money bit, they asked for stamped and signed bank statements of 3-6 months depending on the country.
For the second bit, that we would come back home, I used the cover letter again. I mentioned that my daughter’s age is 9 and my sister’s daughter is 12. One plays tennis daily and the other one sings and auditions for various programs. I heavily implied that our daughter’s need us in their daily life which is 200% true. And we need them equally.
I know you may not have the same reasons to come back, but think about why you would surely come back and use it in your cover letter.
Don’t Falsify Information
This goes without saying, it is obvious. I am sure any such attempt will lead to rejection. I would not even dream of providing any false information.
In theory you can pay with a debit or credit card at VFS Delhi. But the day I went for the Hungary Visa the network was down and I thought I was in trouble. But they allowed me to go out to withdraw money. The staff will tell you where the nearest ATM is. They will let you in again as well with the token number you get for applying.
Good Luck! Now that you have done everything you could, just go ahead take your online appointment, apply and wait for your visa to arrive. We got out Schengen Visa via Hungary in about 10 days. Maybe it was easier because we are two adults, maybe it was my extra preparation that made it smooth this time. I am so looking forward to take a vacation with my sister in November.
PS. We got the visa easily without any hassles. We had a lovely time in Budapest!