It has been two months now since hubby and I got back from our week long trip to Central Europe. However, I decided to write our experience in securing the Schengen Visa needed for the trip to be of help to would be travelers to the European Union in some way.
Schengen Visa is a type of document much like a pass if you are hoping to travel to any member states of the European Union. The European Union is an economic and political union of 28 countries mainly located in Europe. The 28 member states consist of the following countries:
Czech Republic Netherlands
Ireland United Kingdom (unsure if to include or not after Brexit referendum)
The Schengen Visa is mandatory to non-European Union citizens to be able to visit any of the member states. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it is easy breezy because of VFS Global, a third party organization authorized to facilitate visa applications. Their website details the steps you have to undergo as well as the option of making an appointment for the submission of said applications. As an applicant, you have the option to choose to which embassies of the countries you wish to apply to. There are two options to choose from which can help you: 1) the country that is the first point of entry, or 2) the country where you will spend the longest time in. We were going to three countries namely Slovakia (our first point of entry), Austria, and the Czech Republic. But will be staying the most days in Austria, thus, we applied to the Austrian Embassy for our Schengen Visa.
Well, friends, we come to the part of our visa application experience. I now warn you that this is a very long entry. Hehe. So, I hope you can bear with me.
31 March 2016: Our week long trip to Bratislava-Vienna-Prague has finally been booked for the 29th of April! Excited much, of course. Now, the legwork begins. I am incharge of collating all requirements, so it was a busy several days for me.
Accordingly, the requirements for Schengen Visa via Austrian Embassy are the following:
- Filled up Application Form (can be downloaded from the VFS Global website
I highly recommend typing your answers to the application form to avoid confusions or misspellings. When we submitted our visa applications, a lot of applicants submitted handwritten applications.
- Visa Fee is Aed 246 for each application (based on current exchange rate)
- Original Passport and a copy of the passport (must be valid for 3 months more at the time of travel)
- 2 pcs. Passport-sized photo (specifications can be found at VFS Global website)
- Letter from sponsor in the UAE specifying qualification, salary, starting date of employment
- Personal bank account statement for the last 6 months
I recommend including credit card statements for the same period. Be ready to defend account balances during interview, if any. There is no official minimum bank balance required for Austria according to my research and personal experience.
- Proof of Travel Insurance for the travel period in question
In this instance, we used Dnata Travel Insurance. Just make sure that the insurance has a minimum coverage of €30,000.- for medical expenses.
- Proof of Flight Booking or Flight Reservation which includes return flights
- Proof of Hotel Reservation or other Accommodation during travel period
- UAE Residence Visa (must be valid for 3 months more at the time of travel)
- Copy of active Emirates National ID Card
- Valid Contact Information (can be email or street address)
Note that the Austrian Embassy at any time of the application may require for additional documents to help them make their decision so just be ready and always check your email for any correspondence from them.
10 April 2016: Collating the required documents was a bit tedious but I was motivated so I did not mind it that much. Today, I set up an appointment online for the submission of our documents at VFS Global Visa Centre in Dubai. You can choose the time amenable for your schedule, of course.
I would also like to stress out that you should not bring any electronic devices inside the Visa Centre. They are quite strict with this policy. To make sure which devices are permitted inside the Visa Centre do refer to the VFS Global on said restrictions policy.
13 April 2016: Hubby and I were two hours early for our appointment. We didn’t want to be late for any reasons that may jeopardize our getting a Schengen Visa. Talk about over excitement, right? Well, we can’t afford not to go on this trip as everything has been paid for in advance already and leave from work has been filed. Luckily, we were promptly assisted in the Visa Centre that it only took thirty minutes to check our visa applications and accompanying documents.
We opted to have our passports delivered at home to avoid the long travel time since we are staying two hours from Dubai, hence, we paid an additional of Aed 30. Feeling positive that everything was alright, I went shopping after.
14 April 2016: You know that adage about not counting the chicks before the eggs are hatched? Well, it was spot on for us. The Austrian Embassy in Abu Dhabi after receiving our applications emailed my husband to come for a personal interview in Abu Dhabi and bring credit card statements for the last six months. You see, we only submitted bank statements. That’s why I recommended earlier to include credit card statements as part of your proof of funds.
When hubby received the email, both of us thought it was hilarious that he had to go to Abu Dhabi for a personal appearance. You see, we chose Austria over Slovakia in applying for our Schengen Visa because it has VFS Global in Dubai while Slovakia’s embassy is in Abu Dhabi. Our residence is about 3-4 hours travel time to Abu Dhabi. Anyway, we said there’s nothing more we can do but to appear in person. Although, it was only my husband who was supposed to go to the Austrian Embassy, I opted to accompany him during the long drive to and fro.
17 April 2016: Armed with the copies of bank statements the Austrian Embassy required, we were ready for the interview. In fact, we were three hours early. They didn’t give any appointment schedule just so we have to be there between 12 noon and 1pm. A very slim window, don’t you think?
Plenty of people were queuing to the two customer service windows. We were not bothered since our papers were with the embassy staff already. When it was my husband’s turn, I seated myself near the window in case he needed to ask me something. What an experience I tell you it turned out to be! They had these pages of questions for which my husband had to answer to. Every minute detail of our trip such as travel dates, flight details, hotel reservations, itineraries, family tree (yes!), bank balances i.e. deposits and withdrawals, employment history in U.A.E., travel plans in future, among others were scrutinized during the interview. Good thing I brought all the papers but the submitted application form. After about 45 minutes into the interview, we were told to wait for their email on what will be the results for us. So we went home slightly dejected and pessimistic that we will get our Schengen Visa. What else is there to do but wait?
On this very same day, though, hubby and I received a correspondence from the Austrian Embassy in Deutsch. What?! Anyway, I used free language translators via Google and was able to get the gist of the letter. Mainly, they cannot issue us a Schengen Visa unless we write back to them in Deutsch (mind you) stating 1) how we can prove that our funds were enough for the trip, and 2) how we can prove that we have all intention of coming back to the U.A.E. after our trip. And we had one week to send our reply.
Talk about anxiety! Ha! Hubby and I were in a quandary as to what we will do. Using Google again, I tried to formulate our letters. But who will proofread them was the big question. Luckily for us, hubby’s immediate boss is Austrian and he could ask him a favor of correcting the letters I prepared. Overcoming geographical hindrances (hubby’s boss was at that time in Saudi Arabia) and slow internet connection, the boss was able to correct my pitiful, winding letter in Deutsch and create a short, succinct one. So, on the 21st of April, we sent out our replies to the Austrian Embassy; crossing our fingers that we will get our visas in time for our scheduled flight on the 29th. At this time, we already sent out our request to our travel agency to cancel our trip thinking if we get our visas later on we can just rebook. At least by cancelling early, we could still get back 80% of what we paid for the trip.
27 April 2016: Two more days left before our supposed flight. Due to hubby’s insistence, I phoned the Austrian Embassy to inquire on our visa status since in our VFS Global inquiry online said “passport on the way to Visa Centre”, and the Visa Centre cannot confirm whether a visa has been issued or not. Thankfully, I was able to talk to an embassy staff and she confirmed that we have been issued visas for our trip. Because of excitement, after thanking her I just put the phone down and shrieked with joy. Then I phoned my husband to inform him about the good news, but both of us were still skeptical up to this point since we reasoned out that maybe my hearing was impaired. Lol. Good thing, we rescinded our request to cancel our trip with our travel agency a day after we emailed our cancellation request. Hello Europe, we’re coming! Hehe.
28 April 2016: True to form we received our passports with our Schengen Visa via courier.
What an experience, right? But as they say, the rest is, well, history.
I hope I was able to share some valuable points to you all. Thanks for reading.