Every time we Sri Lankans’ decide to travel we go through the dreaded Visa process. Sometimes it just sucks that we have to face this! We travelled to Europe this year and I did it all on my own and I am proud to say that. This post decribes the documentation requirements when applying from the Italian Embassy for your Schengen Visa.
When my husband and I decided to travel to Europe last year we were going back on forth on the decision due to the visa process. One of the reasons we were worried was because I was not employed at the time. However, we decided to plan and go ahead.
The first thing I did was check with a few travel agents on available packages and customizations available. None of them had what I was looking for and in terms of visa help, I did not see a benefit in going through them as all they did was double check the documents.
Once our travel plans were done I started getting ready for the visa process. To make it easier to understand I have broken it down step by step below.
- Figure out which embassy you should be applying from. How this is determined is by realizing your main destination that is the country you will be staying the longest for irrespective of the first entry. In the event you are staying in several countries for an equal amount of days then the embassy should belong to the country of first entry. For us, this was the Italian embassy.
- Go to the VFS website. VFS is the visa processing and documentation collection company for almost all visas now. They have a dedicated page for each country you’re visiting and each country you’re applying from. For eg. VFS Italy Sri Lanka. This site gives you all the documents required and application form as well. If anything is not clear then drop them an email and they will get back to you within a day or couple of hours.
- If you are employed and you have substantial savings the process is easy. All you need to provide are:
- 2 copies of your passport both the bio page and alterations page.
- Letter from your employer confirming your leave and your employment details.
- 3 months bank statements (varies from embassy to embassy). This should include your salary account. A balance confirmation letter stating all the account balances as at a particular date.
- Credit card statement in the event you will be using the same to finance your trip.
- Travel itinerary – a very important document. We used ‘Travefy’ to create our itinerary and though a little detailed worked well for our application. The itinerary should contain your total travel plan, inclusive of your modes of transportation, accommodation, countries you will be visiting and attractions.
- Travel insurance can be obtained easily via a travel agent or online. If you purchase your ticket via your credit card you will get this free from your bank for you and your family. Ensure the cover is at least 30,000 Euros as that is the stipulated amount.
- Travel ticket or booking. The embassy does not require a purchased roundtrip trip ticket but we purchased one anyway from Findmyfare. This was done as they had a free cancellation policy and the ticket purchased was a refundable one. If you do not feel comfortable purchasing the ticket before the visa then you may pay one of the travel agents and obtain a booking. Most agents in Sri Lanka charge 5000 rupees for this.
- Completed visa application, you can fill this in via Adobe and I suggest to do that instead of handwriting the application. Ensure there are no errors and recheck ALWAYS!
- Cover letter. This is what you should spend most of your time researching and writing. As the name suggests each applicant needs one. You need to include the purpose of the trip, how long you will be in the region for, your starting and end points, how you will be financing the trip, who you will be traveling with and anything you believe is important are making your case to the visa officer. You can check out my post on writing a good cover letter via this link – Tips to write a great cover letter.
- A copy of your NIC, though it is not stated on the official document list VFS will request for one when you go to handover your application.
- Marriage Certificate, translated and certified by the Foreign Ministry. Translations are 500 rupees from your district’s register general and the same fee applies for the certification from the Foreign Ministry. Do this first as it takes two days for the translation and a whole day of waiting for the certification. The foreign ministry is located next to HSBC in Sir Baron Jayayilake Mawatha Colombo 01.
- 3 months payslips, any tax payment certificates, EPF & ETF statements – these are for first-time travelers to Europe.
Once these documents are put together take copies of all and hand over the copies to VFS along with the originals and they will accept the copies and return the originals back to you. On the date of the visa interview take along the original documents to show your interviewer.
In the event you are not employed provide any connection that you have to Sri Lanka for an example, assets under your name, letter from your university/educational institute. If you are funding the trip by perhaps say a loan please provide a statement of the same showing when the loan was obtained and credited.
I hope this will help anyone thinking of traveling to Europe if you have any questions please do drop me a message!