There are a gazillion steps between you saying “I want to see Europe!” and you actually sitting on your hotel bed in Rome, especially if you have a difficult passport like myself. When I started planning my vacation, the only thing I was certain of was my determination to see Italy. Everything else was a “What if?”
Naturally, we started with our visa application process and after hearing countless tales of rejected visas, we weren’t very confident we would make it through. But we did! Based on those tales and my experience (which I discuss here), I compiled some of the simple tricks to get your Schengen in the first try.
Make sure you apply at least 3 months in advance.
Despite all your foolproof planning, things can go wrong. So leave some time to re-apply in case you get rejected. Which is unlikely if you follow the steps below.
Some countries are more lenient with applications than others.
Yes, that is true. Some countries like New Zealand and Italy give Schengen visas more easily than let’s say France or Switzerland. So when you are considering applying, pick the embassy of one of the easier countries. We picked the Italian embassy (because I really, really wanted to see Italy for a reason I discuss here).
Make sure you have all your documents EXACTLY as the embassy requires.
I wouldn’t be able to emphasize this enough even if I wrote it on my forehead and stood outside the embassies for you all to see. This is THE most important thing to do when you’re applying for a Schengen visa. From our experience, I understand that the Schengen visa application is just a bunch of trick questions put together. A friend of mine got rejected because the number of days she said she would stay in Europe was 10 (because she discounted the weekends). When the embassy contacted her cousin in Europe, he said she was staying for 14 days. Smallest inconsistency and she got rejected. So make sure, everything is consistent! To read more about the requirements of the Italian embassy, look at our Schengen Visa Guide.
Dummy tickets is a thing.
This is an unofficial step in the visa application that is necessary if you don’t have relatives/friends in Europe. Dummy tickets are “changeable” air tickets and hotel bookings that you make at your destination and include them in your visa application. None of the embassies will give you a visa if you don’t specify the place you’re staying at. I call it “changeable” because our plan involved multiple cities and countries so our hotel and air tickets were going to change eventually. But we avoided mentioning that in our application, because it only complicates things. So according to our application, we were going to Rome for 14 days and that’s it. More details on dummy bookings here.
Be at the embassy an hour before your appointment.
So once you have the documents ready, you have to book an appointment with your embassy to submit (and interview sort of) your application documents. My suggestion would be to be there two hours before your appointment if you don’t trust yourself and one hour before if you do. Morning appointments on weekdays are the best because:
- The interviewers/guys who take your application are in better moods
- It’s less crowded (people on start coming in after 12 pm)
- It’s just better to get it out of the way before your day starts
Have two copies of everything they requested and carry as many passport-sized photos of yourself as possible (even though they only ask for two). If you’re going with family or another friend, align on the nitty gritties so when they ask you both, you sound consistent and confident. I’d also recommend Skyping with your friends/relatives in Europe the night before if you’re going to see them. Because the embassy WILL call them.
All this plus a tinge of luck should get you your Schengen Visa in the first try. And I’m here to help anyway.