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Schengen Visa

November 3, 2012

Courtesy: http://www.cartoonstudio.co.uk/cartoon-maps.html

The most important step when traveling to Europe – getting the Schengen visa – has been accomplished! We went to the Consulate General of France in San Francisco and getting the visa was a straightforward matter.

The Consulate office is located at 88 Kearny Street, #600, San Francisco.

The Consulate’s website provides comprehensive, excellent information on all required documents, FAQ’s etc.

Click here for information on short stay tourist visa.

Documents required:

The Consulate website has a complete list of ALL documents that are needed when applying for Schengen Visa. Just follow the list and make sure you carry all originals with 1 copy for the Consulate.

Some tips:

  1. Print out ALL prepaid / booked accommodations and flight bookings ensuring they cover all days/dates of your planned itinerary
  2. We bought travel insurance from Travelex. You can get a quote from their website. We got the “Travel Select” option, since it offered really good coverage and trip cost cancellation/interruption coverage as well as medical coverage of minimum $50,000 as required by the French Consulate. The alternative is to make sure your current medical insurance (company/private) has you covered for international travel outside the USA.
  3. We decided to go to the Consulate the week following the visa interview to pick up our passports stamped with the approved Schengen visa. We did not have to use the prepaid USPS envelopes.
  4. The calendar for appointments appeared to be readily available. We booked the appointments a week ahead and found dates/times available in plenty. This depends on the rush and will mostly be filled up during summer months / peak travel season. Plan for it!
  5. On the appointment website, they say each passport that needs to be stamped requires a separate appointment, so Kiran and I made two back to back appointments. However when the visa officer got to know that we will be traveling together as husband & wife, he interviewed us together for the visa which made it more efficient and quick!

 

Single entry versus Multiple entry visa:

A single-entry Schengen Visa is sufficient if you are planning on staying only within the Schengen states/countries during your visit. We are planning to travel only in France and Spain, so we need a single-entry visa. We did some research online and found out that Andorra is a non-Schengen state that is on the border between France and Spain and although border-control procedures might be lax here (source: Internet), it would be risky to go anywhere near Andorra on a single-entry Schengen visa, since entering Andorra would mean we are outside the Schengen territory and will need a new visa to re-enter France or Spain. The French Consulate officer smiled widely when we asked him about this. He reassured us that they would grant a visa that would cover all our travel plans. If we are taking a train from Paris to Madrid, we would not be going anywhere near/into Andorra and other non-Schengen territories involuntarily, so we should be fine. Good to know!

The Visa Interview Experience:

Appointment was at 9AM. Got there 10 mins early. The Consulate office had not yet opened, they open sharp at 9AM! Waited a few mins, then took the elevator to Consulate office. Security person in the Consulate checked handbag and file, along with verifying appointment time/name and passport. We were asked to wait until the officer called us for the visa interview.

Officer promptly called us at 9AM. He was very nice and friendly. Took our passports and other ID documents, original and copies. Asked us to pay the visa fee (60Euros per visa, they accept Mastercard/Visa, they did not accept Cash). Fingerprinting and got a photo taken.  The officer went through the rest of our documents, asking us whether we had been to Europe before, was this our first visit, where we were planning to go, how long we were planning on staying in each country etc. He was very nice and made us feel really comfortable. He went through the hotel reservations and commented that one of the cities we were staying in was his hometown! Another hotel had the name of a city his wife was from! All of France to explore and we choose two cities that he knows very well – crazy coincidence!

He took all the copies of our documents, kept our original passports and gave us a confirmation receipt, which we were supposed to bring back the following week to pick up our passports with the stamped visa. Voila!

We happily thanked him with “merci beaucoup” and he responded with “tres bien!” and a smile … and so begins our next adventure in Europe!

Courtesy: http://www.cartoonstudio.co.uk/cartoon-maps.html

 

For now, it is …

From Black * Eiffel

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From → Europe, France, General, Spain

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