Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Applying for a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy

My family and I recently applied for a Schengen Visa to visit relatives in Germany and take in some tourist attractions. The Philippines is listed among the countries that must fulfill this requirement to enter and stay in any of 26 European countries that comprise the Schengen area.

I am sharing our experience to provide information that might be helpful to families applying for a Schengen Visa. Even if a visa application is individual, family members will apply for a visa at the same time and show up for a visa interview together, which gives rise to some questions.

Where to apply for a Schengen Visa

A Schengen visa application must be lodged at the consulate of the Schengen state where you intend to stay the most number of days. Although our itinerary covered areas of attraction in Germany and Austria, we filed our visa application with the German Embassy because we intended to spend nine of the 16 days of our trip in Germany.

Important:  Every Schengen-member country has its own requirements regarding the documents needed to obtain a certain type of visa. So check the website of the consulate or embassy of the country where you intend to file your visa application for information on the visa application process and the corresponding documentary requirements. For information on the visa process and requirements of the German Embassy, click here.

The German Embassy encourages visa applicants to start the process at least three months before the planned date of departure.

Steps in Applying for a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy in Manila
  • Book an appointment online. 
  • Fill out an application form.
  • Attach a recent passport picture/s to your application form.
  • Make sure your required documents are complete and in order.
  • Submit the application documents during your visa appointment/interview.
  • Have enough cash (Philippine pesos only) to pay the visa fee. 

Book a visa appointment with the German Embassy here.

Important: Each member of the family must make an online appointment even if everyone chooses the same day and time slot. 

I almost made the mistake of assuming that an appointment made under my husband’s name would suffice for the family. Fortunately, I thought better of it and checked with the Embassy. What’s nice about the German Embassy is that they are very quick to reply to queries, which is why I was immediately able to access the online appointment system and set the same interview schedule for my daughter and myself.

Important:  Each applicant gets a confirmation email, which he or she must print out and bring to the Embassy during his or her scheduled appointment.

Fill out the application form

The link to the online application form is found in the application requirements suitable for the purpose of your trip. We found two separate documents on the Embassy website that addressed our purpose in visiting Germany: 1. to visit family and 2. for tourism. A look at the requirements under both purposes showed that they were quite similar so we decided to comply with the application requirements for a visa for the purpose of visiting family and/or friends in Germany.

When filling out the online form, make sure you are ready with your passport and itinerary as well as the full name, address, contact details and passport details of your contact or relative in Germany (if applicable). 

Note: You will not be able to print the visa application form unless you have filled up all relevant sections.  Print and sign a copy of the application form as well as the Declaration according to Section 54 AufenthaltsG.  Parents of minors must be the ones to sign their kid/s visa application form/s and declaration/s, indicating their full name and relation below their respective signatures. 

Attach a recent passport picture to your signed visa application form. 

GLUE a passport picture on the picture box provided in your application form. Since we were asked to provide two passport pictures each, I used a paper clip to attach the second passport picture to the visa application form.

Make sure your required documents are complete and in order. 

The German Embassy requests that documents be taken out of brown/clear plastic envelopes or clear books upon submission. To keep all papers neat and in order, I used a metallic binder clip which the interviewer easily removed to access all documents.

Important:  Each applicant must have a set of required documents even if these documents are duplicated in the visa applications of all family members (e.g. bank certification, investments, land titles, etc.).

I had wanted to use recycled paper for the photocopies but the Embassy advised that it was best to use new, clean sheets of A4-sized bondpaper. I printed on both sides. 😊

Other helpful information:
  • Blogger Yoshke Dimen of The Poor Traveler offers very smart advice (which I took) for applicants to write a cover letter explaining the purpose of their trip and showing their detailed itinerary. Check out his blog for a sample letter and itinerary.
  • Arrange the required documents in the order stated in the check list provided in the applicable “application requirements for a visa” which can be accessed on the Embassy website. 
  • There is no need for a flight reservation. The Germany Embassy is clear about this. What we did was print out a flight itinerary from an airline that was aligned with our planned dates of travel to and from Germany.
  • Bring the original documents if you can. We had provided photocopies but were ready when the interviewer asked for the original bank deposit certificate, approved leave from the company, certificate of employment, and certification on investment plans.
  • Even if the Embassy does not specify it on their website, think of what you can submit that will clearly show that you can support yourself and fund your trip, and that you have every intention of returning to the Philippines.

Submit the application documents and attend the interview in person.

The German Embassy is located on the 25th floor of Tower 2 of RCBC Plaza along Ayala Avenue in Makati City.

Show up early for your appointment and register first with the German Embassy reception desk located at the ground floor lobby of Tower 2. One member may register for the family.

At the 25th floor, we were directed to a window where I was asked to show the emails confirming our visa appointment schedule and our passports. We were each given numbers then directed to proceed to the other side of the elevators, where a lady guard asked us to deposit our cell phones in a cubbyhole before allowing us to enter the interview area.

If your visa appointment is scheduled at 11:30 a.m., all it means is that you have to be at the interview area before or exactly 11:30 a.m. to be entertained. Applicant number 20 was being interviewed when we entered the interview area. By the time my daughter (applicant 32) was called, it was past 12 noon.

Each member of the family was interviewed by the same Embassy personnel. When my daughter’s number was called, I accompanied her to the window to explain that there were three members of the family applying for a visa. After establishing that both parents were on site, and that we had signed her papers, the interviewer waved us off and talked to my 14-year-old daughter alone. 

Important: Coach your kid/s on the itinerary and travel details as well as past travels outside the country, but encourage them to be honest and admit if they do not know the answers to the questions.

Have enough cash (Philippine pesos only) to pay the visa fee.

The German Embassy does not accept credit cards or Euros as payment for the visa fee of 60 Euros per applicant 12 years and older. Trust me, it is a hassle to run down to the lobby and withdraw cash from any of the ATMs there because of the security checks that you have to go through again. Plus, this oversight meets with disapproving frowns and irritated looks, which you can really do without.

But all's well that ends well. We suspected our visa application had been approved because the interviewer took our passports and made us fill out 2GO delivery forms.  This was confirmed six days later when our Schengen visas were delivered at a fee of P170 each. The multiple-entry visa was valid only for a month, but it was more than enough to cover our trip.